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Re: Saraswati and Sri vaishnavism:Vedic View

From: Sampath Rengarajan (
Date: Thu Feb 08 1996 - 10:12:58 PST

>In Vedas, Saraswati
> is part of a triad.

The other two are: Bharathi and Ila. Bharathi is recognized
> as
> the wife of one of the Adityas and Ila is recognized as the wife of Vishnu or
> Maha Lakshmi.

 As MahaaLakshmi SHE embodies sakthi or the supreme and the ultimate power of
vishnu, this power is necessarily absolute. It is said to be of nature of joy,
which is "nirapeksta yaanada" that is to say, it doesnot depend on anything, is
nitya, or eternal and purna or complete. As per "Ahirbhudniya samihita", this
power (ie the embodiement as Mahalakshmi) manifests itself as the world. As
this absolute power is the creation of vishnu, it also excercised by HIM
through Lakshmi, and hence the two cannot be separated. Ant attempted
refinements of the relations between them can be regarded, as trivial, and

 Vishnu's offerings (gifts) and mercy are granted and transmitted through
Mahalakshmi. Apart from the material prosperity and other such, SHE
(Mahalakshmi) also bestows knowledge. According to Vishnu puraanam, SHE (when
transmiting knowledge) is praised as saraswathi and acknowledged as the second
guru only next to Vishnu himself.(which is also true as per our accepted
sampradayaa of lineage to HIM)

 Although Aditi, Ushas, Ambika, Uma, Nirriti, Lakshmi and Vac (Saraswathi) are
mentioned in vedic literature, the concept of Sakthi or energy as the active
principle and as the progenitor of all the Gods is mainly "post vedic or late
vedic" interpretations only. In kEtopanishad,

"Sa tasminnevaakaase stiryamaajagaama
bahu sobhamaanaam "umaam" haimavateem
taam hovaacha kimetad yakshamiti " (111-12)

 A reference to Srividya or the mother of embodiement of knowledge (knowledge
only, and where as Maha lakshmi is the embodiemnet of the other attributes also
and including knowledge) is made here. This and other reference from rg veda
from where the supporting argument is derived for sakthi worship are to be
understood in the context and comprehensive analysis of the "yaksha" episode
only. It occurs in the context of the explanation of the nature of the
"Brahman" or the "absolute" to the dEvas or minor gods or demigods, who thought
that they had won a victory over the demons, becuase of their own prowess and
without the aid of any superior being. The Brahman as a "yaksha" or "embodied
spirit" appeared before these minor gods, in order to deflate their sense of
their own importance but remained inscrutable. The analogy is that the demigods
are covered by the "vishnu maayaa" and are ignorant of the "supreme being" as
the deliverer in their war against the demons. Since they were still ignorant
(at this instant of appearanc of "yakshaa") it should be concluded that an
attempt was made at this point to "open up" part of their senses and provide
them with "part" of the truth on absloute or "Brahman". It is derived from the
fact that "Brahman" HIMSELF appeared as an "Yaksha" and also as inscrutable to
them. Brahman didnot appear in HIS true form as it is available only for those
who are not ignorant of HIM and HIM only as the deliverer for all. HE also was
humbling their sense of representatives, namely Agni, and Vaayu who tried to
find out what "yaksha" was made of. Indira further attempted to ascertain ITS
("Yakshaas") nature and "Yakshaa" disappeared. Uma (as a component of
Mahalaksmi ) then appeared with extraordinary beauty and showed one of her
thiru gunaas namely "mercy" (Lakshmi's charecteristric in offering
"saraNaagathi" and as a meditrix) and proceeded to expound the "part"
charecteristics of "Brahman". I would like to underline the word "part
charecteristics of Brahman" here. Here "Uma", can also be translated into other
meanings that are solely the derivatives of "Mahalakshmi" only.

	The post vedic interpretation drew a parallel cult from this passage
(that represent only the part charecteristics of brahman) and made it "sakthi
worship" or "sakthi cult" , upholding sakthi herself as the "Brahman" and
absolute as she delivered these to the demigods. However, based on the overall
interpretaions of the widely accepted schools such as advaitin and
vishitaadvaithin this "sakthi specific" and "sakthi as origin",  doesnot hold
grounds for any authenticity. Thus it is wise for one to conclude that the "rg"
vedic verses are to be interpreted in the overall concept and also based on the
focus of vedas only. One should derive "saraswathi" as embodiemnt of knowledge
only. The entire expanse of universe which is the nature of the Mahalakshmi and
as per "Ahirbhudniya samihita", this power ie the embodiement is Mahalakshmi
and the power also manifests itself as the world. Hence SHE (Mahaalakshmi) is
accepted also as one who "hosts" a component embodied in her, representing the
knowledge and derives herself as saraswathi for propagation of this knowledge.

 Continuing the same analogy if applied to the content of the revelations of
"Yaksha", one can derive and conclude that the "complete" nature of the
"Brahman" was not revealed in this episode also. (Even if it was delivered they
(the demi gods) weren't ready to acquire it due to their aNYaanaa). Hence the
implication on Saraswathi such that saraswathi is the embodiement of the
knowedge (only) and is only a part of the whole truth and the total and
complete truth is such that the creator "Brahman" desired to have it that way
and created an entity as Saraswathi for the embodiement of knowledge and also
contained this as a component of the overall embodiement of power or sakthi and
contained them all in a assemblage called "mahalakshmi" (for the later expanse
into Universe and also as saraswathi for propagation of knowledge).
 Swami dEsikan's Hayagreeva sthothram also points to the fact that both
saraswathi and sankaran have their skills supported from Lord Hayagreeva and
that if one needs a "complete" knowledge,  they must find it from Lord

"Sri"man NaaraayanO Charanam saranam prapadyE, SrimatE Naaraayanaaya namah"
Sampath Rengarajan