Saraswati = one who gives the essence (sara) of the true self (swa)

Sanskrit Mantra

Yaa Kundendu tushaara haaradhavalaa, Yaa shubhravastraavritha|

Yaa veenavara dandamanditakara, Yaa shwetha padmaasana||

Yaa brahmaachyutha shankara prabhritibhir Devaisadaa Vanditha|

Saa Maam Paatu Saraswatee Bhagavatee Nihshesha jaadyaapahaa||

English Translation

“May Goddess Saraswati, who is fair like the jasmine-colored moon, and whose pure white garland is like frosty dew drops; who is adorned in radiant white attire, on whose beautiful arm rests the veena; whose throne is a white lotus; and who is surrounded and respected by the Gods protect me. May you fully remove my lethargy, sluggishness, and ignorance.”

 Saraswati Vandana is the first ritual performed whenever we hold any educational seminar. She represents the Goddess of knowledge. In Vedantic terms ‘knowledge’ means knowing about true self or the consciousness.

 The Goddess Saraswati is incarnated as a lady figure sitting on a lotus. She has four hands. She holds the sacred scripture (Vedas) in one hand and a lotus or a rosary in the other. With the third and the fourth hands she plays the Indian flute or veena, and sometimes a PEACOCK is shown standing nearby.

 Worshipping Saraswati means, adhering to its principles in day-to-day life. When these principles are applied for self- realization these are called INTERNAL principles and when applied for external knowledge (say your profession), these are external principles. In both situations the basic principles are the same.

 In the process of learning or teaching, the first thing is the TRUTH. Lotus with its white colour and the white cloths of Ma Saraswati in Vedic symbolic language represents TRUTH. What one learns or teaches has to be TRUTH and FACT based. It has to be true to one’s consciousness. One has to get firmly established in it. One has to make TRUTHFULNESS as a vehicle for the journey towards acquiring knowledge.

For acquiring self-happiness (true knowledge) or seeking the acquired knowledge about any subject, one can use either of the two pathways; firstly, the path of knowledge (Gnana Marg) and secondly the path of duty, devotion and discipline’ (Bhakti Marga).

The path of knowledge is important but the most difficult. By reading Vedas alone (for internal) or text books (for external) one cannot acquire the full knowledge. If this was true, no schools or colleges were required and one could have learnt sitting at home. Books and Vedas form the basis for everything but alone are not sufficient. This path of knowledge is shown by the Goddess holding the sacred Vedic book made of palm leaves (a small book) in her left hand.

The second path of learning is the path of doing your duty with devotion and discipline. This basically means listening carefully to the person giving a lecture (teacher or Guru) and sticking to what is said as discipline. With the single pointed devotion to what has been learnt, one can master the subject. The Goddess playing the Veena in two hands represents this path. As while playing or listening veena, you get absorbed in it, similarly during any learning or teaching act, you must get absorbed in it. This is the easiest path to acquire knowledge, as hardly any intellect is required (the earlier path is totally dependent on the intellect.

Once one has acquired the knowledge, implementation of the third and the last path of Karma (Karamyoga) can complete the process of learning.

It is saying ‘what you listen – you forget, what you speak – you remember; and what you do – you learn. Practicing with detachment to its fruits, using the principles of actions, contemplation (doing it again and again at same time) and repeated attempts (again and again over time) makes one perfect.

The Goddess holding the rosary in the right hand represents the path of action (contemplation and repeated actions). In the symbolic representation of the Goddess, the Veena is shown as a big object compared to rosary or the Vedas which convey that the listening of the seminar with full concentration and devotion is more important than reading about the subject or later implementing it.

The four hands have varied interpretations. It means strength and control over the mind, intellect, ego and consciousness.

One cannot create anything unless one has the knowledge of how and what to create. Knowledge is the fundamental prerequisite for creation. In Hindu mythology Brahma represents the creative force. Knowledge and Creation being inseparable, Saraswati is symbolized as being the wife of Brahma.

The peacock is symbolized by vastness (blue color) and loss of ego or pride (vanity). While learning (which is a vast subject) one must become egoless, then only the true learning will be acquired.

Saraswati has been compared to a mother as a mother looks after all the sons with equality. In learning and teaching, one has to treat everyone as equal and give more importance to the weakest students.

Some times she is shown to be sitting on swan which means ‘VIVEK’ or developing the power of discrimination between good and bad. The teacher must have those qualities of what to include in a presentation and what not to include.

If one starts thinking that I know more than the teacher, or the teacher starts behaving as if he is the ultimate, what one gets is a limited knowledge. Learning is an everlasting process and one has to shed his or her ego in this process.

After the Saraswati Vandna in any seminar, the custom is to light the lamp. It means, to initiate the learning process, which is nothing but removal of darkness or ignorance from our mind. Lighting the lamp here means removing the darkness.

Remember two Vedic principles while learning or teaching and ask the following four questions to your mind while making a presentation:

  • Is it necessary?
  • Is it the truth?
  • Will it add to the knowledge of others?
  • Has it helped me in my day-to-day Karmic life?

If the answer to any of the above is no, do not include it in your presentation.