The name Saraswati consists of two words. Saras means water or the essence of things in the sense that the juice is always the concentrated essence of a thing. And wati means she who possesses. So she is the one who possesses or embodies the essence of things, the one who knows their fundamental meaning. The archetype of Saraswati is found in women who search for meaning, individuality and personal expression in life. Though many may not necessarily be leaders, more often than not, they are thoughtful persons and original thinkers. They want to know how things work and why. And they will not settle for a cursory explanation or patronizing pacification from some so-called authority figure. They will accept only the truth or that being unavailable, something that is useful and practical. These are intelligent and inspired women.

Brahma, the creator, in preparation for creation, went into meditation and sattva or the quality of pure goodness began to well up within his mind. Pure goodness means a state of being wherein the ultimate benefit of everyone concerned is the objective. From that focused goodness sprang a beautiful young girl. Brahma inquired about her identity. She replied that since she was born from him, he must assign to her an identity and responsibilities. Brahma proclaimed that her name would be Saraswati and that her primary position would be to sit upon the tip of everyone’s tongue. And upon the tongues of learned and creative people she would actually be found dancing. Secondarily, she would exist upon the earth in the form of a river. And thirdly, she would live within Brahma, the creator himself, in order to provide ongoing inspiration. It is believed that creation takes place through Brahma’s use of mantra or sound vibration and that Saraswati is born from his mouth through the process of creative speech. As the universe’s original muse, Saraswati’s favorite abode is residing in the hearts and minds of innovative, individualistic and inspired humans. A talented, creative or career-minded woman would do well to borrow a page or two from her book. Those who walk the path of the Saraswati archetype must find a suitable means of expression for their gifts, talents and individuality, be they teachers, scientists, speakers, inventors, artists, actresses, dancers or musicians.

Saraswati represents the union of power and intelligence from which creation arises. Speech is the medium through which knowledge expresses itself in manifestation. Saraswati is the source of speech which is the necessary precursor to any substantiation in form. She is the goddess of eloquence, wisdom, learning, and the patron of the arts and music. She revealed language and writing to man and is the mother of poetry. Since saras means water or fluid, it refers to anything that flows and as such applies to speech, thought and creative composition. These women are gifted linguists, poets and orators. Some enjoy speaking and addressing audiences. They often possess wisdom which defies their age or educational qualification. This is a wisdom or inner knowing which they have developed through the course of previous lifetimes and is not contingent upon their education or life experience in this lifetime. It is a knowing that feels more like an embodiment or possession of truth. It doesn’t reside in the brain but is powerfully felt throughout the entire being. And those who have it know exactly what I’m talking about.

A great sage and author by the name of Yajna-valkya once meditated upon Saraswati for inspiration and she appeared before him wearing ornaments of vowels and consonants and sounding the sacred syllable, om.

As a river goddess, she is recognized for her ability to cleanse and to fertilize. She is the bestower of bounty, fertility and riches. Her waters enrich the land and render it fertile for production. But the land in this sense is the fertile plain of the mind in which we sow the seeds of creativity and genius. Saraswati is also a healer and her purifying power is associated with medicine and healing. Women of the Saraswati archetype are students and practitioners of the healing arts. They may be doctors, shamans, priestesses, naturopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, sorceresses, healers and white witches. They are not stuck in doctrine and dogma with regard to a particular system or method of healing. Rather, they are open-minded and are ready to embrace that which works, even if it may be foreign or unfamiliar to them or judged as unscientific by the prejudicial view of Western medicine (the drug and scalpel brigade). They don’t have a need to conform or to be right. Rather, they prefer to be effective or to find and utilize what is truly efficacious. The Saraswati archetype does not fearfully cling to her own methodology at the expense of higher truth. Rather, she aspires always toward a higher truth with an enlightened willingness to let go of or abandon her own methodology if it does not serve or prove effective in a particular instance.

Rivers are waterways over which a journey may take place. The crossing from one bank to the other is sometimes representative of crossing from this world of material attachment to the world of spiritual emancipation. From ignorance to enlightenment. From the mundane to the divine. One may also journey upon the river in which sense the symbology may refer to the voyage from here to there — from one state of consciousness to another. Along the way, one is required to give up one’s existing state of mind or human limitation by being symbolically drown in the waters of the river. The river offers initiation, transition or metamorphosis to the spiritual aspirant The old self is drown and the new self takes birth from the amniotic fluid of the womb which is the river. Also, from the same point of view as the Christian conception of baptism for the purpose of purification, spiritual pilgrims are required to bathe in the waters of the holy rivers such as the Ganges, the Yamuna and the Saraswati to wash away their sins, that is, the negative karmic reaction to their acts of separation from God or ego-driven acts. By so doing, one comes closer to ending the cycle of samsara, repeated birth and death.

The Saraswati woman is not content to sit home, be solely domestic and live a routine, ordinary life. She is her own heroine on her quest for her Holy Grail. If she is a materialist, then her life is a search for knowledge. If she is a spiritualist, then her life is a search for knowledge, truth and emancipation. And what is she willing to sacrifice or give up for her achievement of her Holy Grail? Anything and everything. This does not necessarily mean she is reckless or injudicious or insensitive. But she will do what is required of her and risk security in favor of opportunity. Does her search end when she finds her Holy Grail? In some cases, yes. In others, she redefines what the Holy Grail is or what it means for her and once again takes up the renewed quest.

In Western mythic tradition, the dragon guards the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail is anything of value that you may want to achieve — your purpose, freedom, fulfillment, love, honor, destiny, etc. In myth, we often find the dragon guarding a treasure or a princess (virgin). Though he may guard these things with tenacity, he himself is incapable of enjoying them. Therefore, he makes a good sentinel. At the same time, he has no intention of letting anybody else take them and use them. Though he has been posted to keep watch over the Grail, he most likely cannot recall who it was who told him to guard the Grail or exactly when he was posted. The dragon can represent society, family values, the hopes and expectations of parents, community responsibility, national identity, racial identity, etc. The dragon protects the establishment and the existing order (or the existing chaos). In the Western tradition, his name is Holdfast which indicates that he holds onto the established order so that the threat of rebellion or change cannot topple the existing regime or state of affairs. The dragon is also the personification of death. For he is ready and able to kill anyone who challenges his authority by trying to seize the Grail. In other words, one must be willing to face death or a kind of death in exchange for gaining the Grail, the attainment of one’s truth. Death is part of the price. And defeating the dragon does not necessarily mean overcoming death. Rather, it means dying as one identity and being reborn as another. It means the ego which is ruled by fear and limitation or the persona which is under the control or the dictates of the established order is sacrificed and undergoes a death. From this, the true self or true nature can then emerge or be reborn which is, in effect, the attainment of the Holy Grail.

Saraswati is the goddess who stands for spiritual goals, ascetic discipline, and the cultivation of the higher side of the mind — the arts, creative crafts, distinctive talents, the sciences and the humanities as well as moral values. She is sometimes juxtaposed to Shri or Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, who represents material power and wealth. Herein we have the polar opposites of mukti or liberation embodied by Saraswati and bhukti or material enjoyment personified by Shri.

Residing in Saraswati is the power of sound or speech known in Sanskrit as shabda-brahma or ‘divine sound.’ It is stated in the Vedas that sound and sound vibration or mantra is the technique used by Brahma to bring about the creation of the material universes. The name of a thing is, in a sense, non-different from the thing itself. If I say ‘rose,’ you think of a fragrant flower with beautiful concentric petals, thorns on its stem in a color that comes to your mind, red, perhaps yellow. The name of a thing invokes its presence or memory. Another example: if I ask what I may bring you, you request a cup of ‘tea.’ I then bring you a cup of tea. Your saying the word ‘tea’ creates its manifestation in your reality and the subsequent fulfillment of your desire. Thus the natural order — thought, then name or word, then physical manifestation. On the heavenly plane or even higher, the spiritual plane, the name and the god or goddess spoken of or invoked are non-different. That is, they are their name. To say or to repeat the name is to invoke or actually associate with that divine being.

In what way would this not work? It all depends on your level of belief or conviction. For example, if you tell me you are planning to buy a Mercedes Benz automobile, you are stating your desire and your intention. If instead you end up buying a Ford Taurus, a much more modestly priced car, then somehow between your speaking your desire and the actual manifestation of that desire into your life, something is lost or at odds. Your belief or conviction or sense of deserving does not parallel your intention. Recall that when Jesus Christ walked the earth and decided that he would heal someone, he had only to speak but the ‘word’ and that person was healed. His intention and manifestation were non-different. They were in complete harmony. Saraswati rules over the ability to create, influence or manifest through the power of speech or mantra.

Speech is a component of communication. However, not all speech is communication. People may speak volumes or even rant and rave at each other without ever coming close to real communication. Further, those who speak angry words are eventually destroyed by the weapon of their own speech. For it is very difficult to remove from the minds and hearts of others the wounds caused by sharp words. Speech seems to be a gift for the human and godly worlds since the animals do not possess it. Speech enables people to transmit ideas, thoughts, revelations, wisdom and cultural understanding. Saraswati is the embodiment of speech and as such, she is present wherever speech exists. But she is even more present or available where real communication takes place. Thus, she is associated with the best that human and divine culture has to offer — philosophy, the arts, literature, poetry, song, education, all the way up to prayer, mantra and sacred ritual.

Women who aspire to the Saraswati archetype speak words that captivate hearts and bring upliftment and satisfaction to others. They express their gratitude for even the smallest benefit. A woman who speaks pleasing words in an effort to encourage others is considered to be a goddess in human form.

The highest form of speech is truth that actually penetrates the soul. For souls are touched by souls that speak to souls. Such a level of communication has lasting effects. It doesn’t dissipate or fade away even after death. It creates an impact upon the soul of another that may rapidly or gradually cause a shift or positive transformation to take place in the life of that person. This then, is the highest manifestation of the goddess, Saraswati, through the medium of speech.

Once, a powerful demon by the name of Kumbha-karna, having performed severe penances, decided to ask Brahma for a boon or blessing which would enable him to defeat the gods by causing them to vanish. At Brahma’s request, Saraswati situated herself upon the tongue of Kumbha-karna and impelled him to ask instead for sleep, simply by causing him to mispronounce the word. The word nirdeva-tva means ‘wiping out the gods’ whereas the word nidrava-tva, means ‘sleep’ which is what he said. Brahma then granted him his wish and he dozed off for six months every year!

Saraswati is also identified with intellect which is the ability to discriminate, and with thought which is the ability to rationalize and reach a conclusion. She grants the aptitude to formulate ideas, the power of memory and the capacity to develop knowledge and understanding.

Saraswati is the muse for all poets, dancers, musicians and writers, as well as scientists and inventors. She provides inspiration for all those who desire to create or discover anything, especially those who wish to share their creations, discoveries and inventions with the world. She therefore embodies and inspires both the arts and sciences throughout the evolution of human spirit and culture. She represents the greatest achievements of all civilizations through the hallowed halls of history.

She is depicted as a graceful woman, white in complexion, with four arms and the mark of a red dot upon her forehead. The red dot is called a bindu in Sanskrit. It is placed upon the position of the third eye or mystical eye within the body. The bindu is the point from which all manifestation begins. It is the original idea or germinating thought produced by the mind or subtle plane whose seed takes root and manifests itself within matter or the physical plane. Mind over matter. The third eye also represents her ability to see past, present and future. Saraswati is white in color since knowledge is light or enlightenment, the antithesis of darkness or ignorance. Vedic gods and goddesses are often depicted with four arms or sometimes eight arms which are symbolic of superhuman or divine powers. Twice as much can be accomplished with four arms as with two, etc.

In her four hands she holds a book which represents material knowledge and learning juxtaposed to a mala (prayer beads) which is associated with spiritual practice and religious rites. The mala consists of 108 beads. 108 is a most auspicious number found throughout Vedic mythology. The number one represents God, the creator. Zero stands for the creation itself as encompassed by the all-inclusive circle. And the number eight represents eternity or infinity since the creation continually rotates through the three states of origination, existence and cessation. The mala is in the right hand and the book in the left which indicates that spiritual culture takes precedence over material knowledge although both have a necessary place. As it is stated in the Upanishads, “Only one who understands the nature of illusion and that of truth can transcend the influence of repeated birth and death and enjoy the full blessings of immortality.”

With the two remaining hands she plays a vina or stringed instrument which represents the arts in general and music in particular. Further, the book and the vina respectively indicate that her learning and knowledge is not simply dry, intellectual or empirical understanding but that it is tempered with heart, sentiment and emotional sensitivity of the poet and the artist. In other words, the calculating intellectualism of the masculine is balanced with the delicate beauty of the feminine muse.

Her predominant mode or intrinsic nature is sattva or goodness, which is a more refined temperament conditioned by knowledge, understanding, happiness and peace. Saraswati’s preeminent themes are purity and transcendence. Her purity or whiteness is compared to the color of newly fallen snow, the jasmine flower or the white water lily. She is said to shine with the brilliance and grace of the moon. We find Saraswati seated either on a white lotus flower or upon her vehicle which is a white swan or hamsa. Spiritual persons are often called hamsa, swan, or paramahamsa, supreme swan, in Sanskrit. A swan has the ability to drink only the milk from a mixture of water and milk, that is, she takes only the purest, most nourishing essence of a thing. Saraswati chooses the culture and cultivation of the mind and spirit over the labors and efforts for the accumulation of wealth and material possessions. Put simply, she chooses spirit over matter. A paramahamsa is one who discriminates between matter and spirit, who accepts the purest essence of everything, and who understands clearly what causes karmic bondage in this world and what leads to liberation.

The lotus is a symbol of transcendence, purity and spirituality. Its roots are found deep within the mud under the water. It sprouts a lily pad or leaf upon the surface of the water from which grows the lotus stem which holds the flower itself far above the water. The lotus is given its birth from the elements of earth and water yet it is never touched by these material elements. It remains above matter or transcendental to it. Saraswati inspires people to cultivate their higher nature so that they may transcend or rise above their physical desires and limitations through the practice of culture, scholarship, artistry, creativity, discovery, prayer, meditation, and an ongoing relationship with spirit or God.

Saraswati is associated with the brahmans who are the head of the societal body and who have a duty and obligation to preserve culture, develop knowledge and to teach and enlighten others. The brahmans lead the way in the performance and execution of dharma — life purpose and social duty, the means by which all persons fulfill their obligation to society for the greater good.
Up until the last couple of generations in our society, the widely held belief has been that women must become mothers in order to be fulfilled as women. This may be true generally speaking, but it is becoming less true particularly as consciousness and awareness is increased throughout the female population. This is very evident among more materially adept and spiritually advanced souls in female bodies who have come into this lifetime with a specific task or mission to fulfill. Their purpose is aimed at the education, upliftment and expansion of awareness among the populace at large. It should be understood that these persons have had previous lifetimes wherein they have had the opportunity to give birth, to mother and to nurture their own children. So this need has been met on several occasions. In their present incarnation, these women find themselves with a greater and more far-reaching role to provide understanding, compassion and nurturing to their extended family consisting of many children (people). Further, they find themselves in the rare position of role model for other women who follow their lead and derive incentive from their achievements in the world at large, not simply in the home and in the kitchen. This is a classical Saraswati archetype and an absolute necessity within our modern-day society to provide impetus for our collective growth by figuratively breast-feeding the populace. These universal nurturers allow us to imbibe the mother’s milk of inspiration, achievement of purpose and spiritual evolution for which we all thirst.

Since Saraswati is said to be ascetic in nature and grants her favor to those who are similarly ascetic, who lead a simple life and who are focused upon higher truths, she is not usually revered in a domestic circumstance nor is her presence likely to be sought in the home. Nor is her favor called upon in the fields by the farmers and sowers of seed. Nor is she worshipped in the mountains, forests and caves where the sages seek liberation from human society and the distractions of its culture. Her presence typically graces schools, universities, concert halls, movie theatres, performance stages, institutions of learning, laboratories, conservatories, and all creative places. She is revered by those whose task it is to further cultivate, refine and civilize humanity and society. And by those who are committed to the continuing quest for freedom and the inspiration of the human spirit. Goddess Saraswati is the original Renaissance woman.