The qualities of eloquence, creativity, memory emerge from the “river of praise” that is the essence of Sarasvati.
Sarasvati (often spelled Saraswati) is also the name of a river that used to flow in India and is now said to be underground only. Perhaps the underground flow parallels the inner, hidden, subconscious capabilities which we can bring out in the subtle form of music, mantras, and words when we tune inwardly.
Students, poets, musicians, artists, writers, teachers, speakers, and anyone involved in learning and/or expression would be wise to consider the special qualities of nature that are anthropomorphized into the Hindu goddess Sarasvati.
To honor the dynamic feminine expression of creative consciousness, there are many different paths:
- Chant mantras. Any and all mantras, sacred words and formulae in any language are of Sarasvati, but the Sanskrit seed sound Aiṁ is the most compact essence. The single syllable sound stimulates the above-mentioned qualities on a metaphysical as well as physical level when pronounced precisely with full awareness.
The mūla or root mantra for Sarasvati is shown in the image above. Pronunciation tips below!*
- Sing or play a musical instrument. All music is of Sarasvati. Practicing the notes of the scale in various patterns is sometimes referred to as Sarasvati japa. Creative improvisation (as in Hindustanī music, jazz, etc.) is especially dear to Sarasvati, as we must surrender to a flow that is beyond our ordinary mind in order to be an instrument of creative consciousness.
- Learn. All learning is made possible through the stimulation of intelligence, which is Sarasvati’s domain. Higher learning, such as philosophy, musical training, scriptural study, memorization of praise poetry, etc. especially brings one closer to the most subtle and refined aspects of the intellect.
- Praise. All efforts to praise the unpraisable and to fathom the unfathomable will fall short of the greatness of the Infinite. However, the urge to try is the primal thrust of Sarasvati, the motivation for the river of beauty to flow into expression. If you have the urge to praise, the power of Sarasvati will bless you with eloquence.
- Do what you say you’re going to do. The quickest way to drain the sacred power of speech is to compromise your integrity between your heart, mind, word, and action. Therefore, the most practical way to earn the grace of the sacred power of speech, which is also metered by Sarasvati, is to mean what you say, say what you mean, and do what you say you’re going to do.
- Speak sweetly. Another major source of discord can be our habits of swearing, gossiping, finding fault in others rather than focusing on ourselves, and using our words to hurt rather than to heal. If we’re creative (again, Sarasvati!), there’s always a way to speak sweetly, even if sometimes that is to say nothing at all.
There are also many different traditional prayer ceremonies dedicated to Sarasvati, with appropriate offerings and mantras that are usually officiated by a Hindu priest. For those on the inward path, who may or may not resonate with the external rituals, the suggestions above are all practical and penetrating ways to honor the unique energy that is Sarasvati without focusing on any external depictions. It’s possible to avoid what might be misunderstood by some as “idol worshipping,” and instead focus on making an inner connection to that part of ourselves which yearns to creatively express our most profound and elevated experiences.
Auṁ Aiṁ Sarasvatyai Namaḥ!
*Since there are some popular American recording artists who have made songs with this mantra with various pronunciations, here are a few tips to get at least the vowel sounds closer to the full vibration that the Sanskrit intends. First, the “a” sounds in “Sarasvatyai” do not rhyme with the American pronunciation with the woman’s name “Sarah,” or the words “air, bear, hair.” It’s an “a” sound like in “always.” Second, in the “yai” ending, the “ai” sounds like the English word “eye.” Pronouncing it with a sound like “Hey” is common among Hindi speakers, but the Sanskrit way of “yai” is more powerful for some very specific metaphysical reasons.