Saraswati Puja

Saraswati Pooja – a time to understand and appreciate the blessing of being educated.

The beginning of spring or the month of magha celebrates Saraswati Pooja – a festival where the goddess of knowledge and creative arts is worshipped across the country. Saraswati Puja will be celebrated on February 8.

She is venerated as a guardian deity in Buddhism who upholds the teachings of Gautam Buddha by offering protection and assistance to practitioners along their spiritual path towards liberation. Saraswati is also known in Japan as Benzaiten.

It is interesting to know how the various adornments of the idol of the deity have a message worthy of reflection though they are based on mythology.

1. Goddess Saraswati endows human beings with the powers of speech, wisdom and learning.
Are we using our gift of speech to connect to our loved ones?
Are we learning anything for the pleasure of learning itself?
2. She plays the music of love and life on a string instrument called the veena.
Have we made any effort to connect to our rich cultural heritage, have we introduced our children to it yet?
3. She has sacred scriptures in one hand and a lotus – the symbol of true knowledge – in another.
Are we sincere in seeking knowledge or are we content in finding quick answers?
4. She is dressed in white, which stands for purity. She rides on a white swan. It is believed that the sacred bird, if offered a mixture of milk and water, is able to drink the milk alone and leave the water behind. It thus symbolizes discrimination between the good and the bad or the everlasting and the temporary.

Do we distinguish between things which cause positive or negative impact in our lives and actively steer away from the latter?

Are our efforts towards achieving things of immediate value or eternal worth?
Knowledge is infinite, so is our ability to learn. The irony is, that our education is limiting. We learn only what we are taught. Formal education is a methodical effort towards learning facts and it focuses on career mindedness and career advancement. It teaches us how to make a living. But does it teach us to live well? Have we come to unwittingly accept literacy for education? To find identity, meaning, and purpose and manage life’s complexities we need the consciousness of a finer being – for which we must learn of our own accord.

The home is the first school where education and learning take root. As parents, we must strive to inspire our children towards scientific reason, fine arts, sports training and other learning which go beyond course books. It is our duty to teach children practical lessons in honesty, discipline, patience, self-control, humility, etiquette; all of which is important to character building. An evolved human being is not the product of a premier institution, but a sublime blend of the environment and culture of his home and education system.

We must ask if our education has:

* liberated us from primitive superstition and is protecting us from the corrosion of material greed?
* taught us the importance of excellence and not merely strive for better grades?
* made us fair in our deeds and impels us to never fall in the trap of the temptation of taking the easier way out.
* enabled us to become morally responsible citizens, sensitive and adaptive to our surroundings?

The answers to the questions are not as important as the fundamental act of asking them to ourselves. For in it lie the beginning of self-evaluation and self-exploration. It gives us a sense of how far we have come and where we are headed. It tells us if were justifying the privileges we enjoy as educated people. Most importantly, it tells us how much more we need to learn. Because, when we are finished learning, we are finished living altogether.

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