Tejakula is a district in the regency of Buleleng in Northern Bali. I am in retreat here three times over the next three years.
The fundamental principle underlying Hinduism is that there is order in the cosmos, known as dharma. There is also a disordering force, adharma. Hindus seek balance and harmony between these two forces, thus freeing themselves from the never-ending cycle of reincarnation, attaining a state called moksa.
Sarasvati, is a Sanskrit fusion word of saras (सरस्) meaning “pooling water”, but also sometimes translated as “speech”; and vati (वती) meaning “she who possesses” (also found in the name of Parvati, “She who has wings”). Originally associated with the river or rivers known as Saraswati, this combination therefore means “she who has ponds, lakes, and pooling water” or occasionally “she who possesses speech”. It is also a Sanskrit composite word of surasa-vati (सुरस-वति) which means “one with plenty of water”.
Saraswati is celebrated as a feminine deity with healing and purifying powers of abundant, flowing waters in Book 10 of the Rigveda, as follows:
अपो अस्मान मातरः शुन्धयन्तु घर्तेन नो घर्तप्वः पुनन्तु |
विश्वं हि रिप्रं परवहन्ति देविरुदिदाभ्यः शुचिरापूत एमि ||
– Rigveda 10.17
May the waters, the mothers, cleanse us,
may they who purify with butter, purify us with butter,
for these goddesses bear away defilement,
I come up out of them pure and cleansed.
–Translated by John Muir
The goddess Saraswati is often depicted as a beautiful woman dressed in pure white, often seated on a white lotus, which symbolizes light, knowledge and truth. She not only embodies knowledge but also the experience of the highest reality. Her iconography is typically in white themes from dress to flowers to swan – the colour symbolizing Sattwa Guna or purity, discrimination for true knowledge, insight and wisdom.
Her dhyana mantra describes her to be as white as the moon, clad in a white dress, bedecked in white ornaments, radiating with beauty, holding a book and a pen in her hands. The book and the pen represent knowledge
She is generally shown to have four arms, but sometimes just two. When shown with four hands, those hands symbolically mirror her husband Brahma’s four heads, representing manas (mind, sense), buddhi (intellect, reasoning), citta (imagination, creativity) and ahamkāra (self consciousness, ego). Brahma represents the abstract, while she represents action and reality.
The four hands hold items with symbolic meaning — a pustaka (book or script), a mālā (rosary, garland), a water pot and a musical instrument (vīnā). The book she holds symbolizes the Vedas representing the universal, divine, eternal, and true knowledge as well as all forms of learning. A mālā of crystals, representing the power of meditation, inner reflection and spirituality. A pot of water represents the purifying power to separate right from wrong, the clean from the unclean, and essence from the inessential. In some texts, the pot of water is symbolism for soma – the drink that liberates and leads to knowledge. The most famous feature on Saraswati is a musical instrument called a veena, represents all creative arts and sciences, and her holding it symbolizes expressing knowledge that creates harmony. Saraswati is also associated with anurāga, the love for and rhythm of music, which represents all emotions and feelings expressed in speech or music.