Sarasvati

I pay homage to you, vibrant, youthful maiden
Your beauty equal in splendour to Mount Kailash,
Your face a hundred times more exquisite than the autumn moon,
Your entrancing eyes as delightful as a cluster of blue lotuses.

I pay homage to you, elegant in your cross-legged pose,
As your hands draw forth sweet harmonies of celestial musicians;
Your voice is a honey-sweet stream,
An abundant elixir for all who hear.

I pay homage to you, Sarasvati, for you bestow
Perfect skill in oratory, debate and composition…
Lucid expression thrills every sharp mind, so I beseech you:
Grant me wisdom in writing, debate, and teaching.

~ The Second Dalai Lama

Sarasvati  (Tib. Yangchenma, “Goddess of Melodious Voice”) is a tantric Buddhist meditational deity, the great female bodhisattva of learning, culture, and music, the peaceful consort of Manjusri, who carries a lute that serves as her symbol. Sarasvati is also called Vakisvari, (Tib. Ngawang Lhamo) or “Lady of Speech” for her connection with seed syllables, music, utterance, and poetry. She is the dakini of the mirror-like wisdom, and the “White-Cloaked Lady” (Ko Karmo) who is dakini of inner heat in the yogic practice of tummo.

Sarasvati is the patroness of art, culture and all fruits of the intellect. She is also the source of Sanskrit alphabet and bestower of poetic skills. She floats in a sonorous cloud of music, rustling silk, and tinkling ornaments as she glides, graceful and serene, on her selectial swan, alighting in heavenly lotus pools. Her moonlike radience quickens intelligence and discernment, her calm smile fosters lucid reflection and creative inspiration. Sarasvati continuously strums an instrument that fills the universe with ethereal song. Worshippers invite her into their hearts in the hope that she will reside there, bestowing a stream of eloquence and a blossoming of literary and artistic creativity.

Her name means “Lady of the Waters” or “Flowing One”. The goddess originally derived her name from river Sarasvati, no longer extant, along which the composers of the Vedas settled and performed their rituals. It has been conjectured that the river was attributed with powers of inspiration because many Vedic hymns were composed on its banks, resulting in the deification of the river as a goddess who vivifies sacred utterance.

In Tibet, the wrathful Dharma protector Palden Lhamo is sometimes regarded as a fierce emanation of Sarasvati.

Signs of success in the practice of Sarasvati iclude, according to a Gelug text: an improved memory, the ability to recite mantras rapidly and clearly, an understanding into the import of many scriptural texts, and even a wish to write poetry. 

Sources:

Dakini’s Warm Breath” by Judith Simmer-Brown

“Buddhist Goddesses of India” by Miranda Shaw