Musings by Veronica Yacco
The Goddess/Gods all have a vehicle - some energy that is connected to or representative of an aspect of their Essence. Durga has a lion (or tiger), Ganesha has a mouse, Shiva a bull, Dhumavati (who goes nowhere) a broken cart and two crows or ravens. Saraswati rides upon a swan, symbolizing the power of discernment, the ability to tell what is True or what is Real from what is not. The metaphor is that if you place a cup with water and milk mixed together before a swan, it is able to drink the milk and leave the water behind. A very refined skill for any creature, including humans. Funny thing about swans though - as lovely as they are to watch, they can be pretty mean. Swans, in nature at least (maybe not cosmically), are often aggressively territorial to each other and to anything else that comes too close to their nests. Males will sometimes break up partnerships during laying season and chase females away from their own eggs (so weird right? Typically the males do care for the eggs at least. They aren't left to die). If you met a swan acting like this and then were told that it was a creature carrying the gift of great discernment would you have a hard time accepting that? Similarly if you were aware of the lovely metaphor of the swan or only saw them as a creature of grace and beauty, would you have a hard time accepting that they can also be aggressive? Finding out the Truth means we have to understand that nothing is as it seems at first glance. Just like the glass mixed with milk and water, our perceived reality is flooded with Truth that appears as many things that seem unrecognizable as what we assume Truth will look like.
The world is a difficult place emotionally. This may be true all of the time, but it seems particularly true at the time I am writing this. There is a great deal of pain that is happening and a great amount of ignorance (willful and otherwise). We are in what is considered the Kali Yuga (the Iron Age), a time when its said that right action (notice I didn't say righteous) and understanding are at a low point throughout humanity. Darkness is pervasive. But this is also the time when it said the cosmic energies of Light manifest more powerfully to bring discernment back to human consciousness to remove our ignorance and to set us on the path of action that supports the wellbeing of the world and its beings (dharma). The spark of light exists within a background of darkness, just as a shadow of darkness exists within a background of light. Imagine the symbol of the yin-yang, constantly cycling between the two perspectives it shows. It is a symbol meant to remind us that within the whole of everything that cycle constantly exists, but it does not hinder the wholeness of everything. What we draw from our circumstances, either darkness or light, is what spurs us on the spiritual path or causes us to withdraw into our own darkness and isolation, our separation. Water and milk. We are consuming the experiential basis for either path through the same vessel - the movement of the world. Collectively we experience the same pains and pleasures, albeit in our own personal ways. What either turns that experience into enlightenment or endless rage (or nihilism) is discernment. Are we able to acknowledge that what we immediately perceive or feel in reaction to the world is not the whole Truth? Are we able to stay present with our circumstances and our reactions and find out what value we can absorb, what nourishment (milk) is available in the water? How great can our goodness become in response to the violence and suffering that we see?
Sometimes Saraswati seems to be overly separated from the world. She's connected to the mind and to consciousness, to the transcendental path of enlightenment. But, especially in Navaratri, She is the energy that also asks us to not remain removed in an "ivory tower" of spiritual rejection of the world and it's challenges. She asks us to gaze deeply into the depth of our own consciousness and within that, our own spiritual hearts, and to live from that higher perspective. Her teachings are to guide us to recognize the Truth so that we will live with greater integrity to our spiritual principles - not with arrogance that somehow we have become "not - ignorant", but with the humility of knowing that there is only one principle to be true to and that is Love. Oneness in its fullness can't really be anything except Love (an unconditional love of course). When we are clear on this, then everything else we do is in service to, or a reflection of, how deeply we understand Love. Demons arise in the world through confusion and ignorance and in response to pain. Love is the answer. Love is the basis for compassionate action which can take the form of passing laws, healing wounds, creating systems of support, and advocating for the rights of those who have been excluded. Love is the basis for prayer and community coming together as sanctuary for those that are suffering. Love is the basis for examining our own behavior and how we have participated (knowingly or unknowingly) is situations that have caused pain. Love is what brings the Light out in us to overcome the darkness. It is the way out of our individual suffering, our collective pain - the way out of the Kali Yuga. (Good news is that we are already on the way out, but we are the ones that can either accelerate that process of en-light-ening or slow it down).
The world is a place where nothing is at seems at first. What we trust in often disappoints us and what seems to be an ally one day may appear to be an enemy the next. Discernment, a tool for awakening, is delivered through an aggressive bird. There is much in the world that looks and feels dark. There may be much inside of us that feels that way too. But the spark of Light is also there. Discernment is when we can extract the fuel for our Light from the darkness. They are not truly separate - one feeds the other. When we respond to the darkness and heaviness of the world with Love, in all the ways it can be expressed, and we hold steadfast to the spiritual principles that guide us towards peace, each of us becomes the Savior that relieves the world of suffering. Saraswati's Truth is that we cannot change the nature of the world, but we have the power to constantly create more Love, more peace, more light through our interactions within the world. We can transform the dark into light so that what is left in our wake is the foundation and opportunity for more Love. Remember you are also a vehicle for the Divine. Saraswati is also said to ride upon the breath and the flow of consciousness. She is alive within all of us, bestowing the power to see the Truth of Oneness and to act as a creative expression of that Truth in motion, the spark of light within the darkness, unfaltering Love.