Aim 004: Parallel Pen

Aiṃ, a bīja mantra for Saraswatī


More of… Who?


Who? Saraswatī, that’s who!

Yā, or या, is the first word in the first three lines of the Saraswatī Vandana.  And it means “who”, it’s an interesting place to start, or continue, as the case may be.

Galleries Language Saraswatī

Thoughts on AIM, ऐँ


A song of devotion, Saraswatī Vandanā, सरस्वती वन्दना

Saraswati Vandana—A Song of Devotion,

for Beautiful Saraswatī
सरस्वती वन्दना

या कुन्देन्दुतुषारहारधवला या शुभ्रवस्त्रावृता
या वीणावरदण्डमण्डितकरा या श्वेतपद्मासना।
या ब्रह्माच्युत शंकरप्रभृतिभिर्देवैःसदावन्दिता
सा मां पातु सरस्वती भगवती निःशेषजाड्यापहा

Who is dazzling as a garland of jasmine, white as snow, beautiful without adornmentWho evokes a golden melody, borne by a pure and bright lotus flower.  Whom all divine beings adore.  Please Flowing One, illumine my darkness.

~ A song of devotion to Saraswatī (author’s translation)

Below is a transliteration of the song (i.e., Saraswati vandana), a non-literal translation, and a blow-by-blow, word-by-word translation. As my Sanskrit improves, I’d also like to provide grammar and syntactical notes… as my Sanskrit improves… Thanks to Saraswati (Saraswatī सरस्वती)!!!

The transcription, transliteration, and translation of the Saraswati vandana (Saraswatī सरस्वती)

या कुन्देन्दुतुषारहारधवला या शुभ्रवस्त्रावृता

yā kundendutuṣārahāradhavalā yā śubhravastrāvṛtā
Who is dazzling as a garland of jasmine, white as snow, beautiful without adornment

या वीणावरदण्डमण्डितकरा या श्वेतपद्मासना।

yā vīnāvaradaṇḍamaṇḍitakarā yā ṣvetapadmāsanā
Who evokes a golden melody, borne on a pure and bright lotus flower

या ब्रह्माच्युत शंकरप्रभृतिभिर्देवैःसदावन्दिता

yā brahmācyuta śaṁkaraprabhṛtibhiṛdevaiḥ sadā vanditā
Whom all divine beings adore

सा मां पातु सरस्वती भगवती निःशेषजाड्यापहा

sā māṁ pātu sarasvatī bhagavatī niḥśeṣajāḍyāpahā
Please Flowing One, illumine my darkness

Word by word…

या who
कुन्देन्दु kundendu Star jasmine, Downy jasmine, Jasminum multiflorum
तुषार tuṣara ice, snow, dew, spray, camphor
हार hāra garland of pearls, necklace, charming
धवला dhavalā white, beautiful, dazzling white
या who
शुभ्र śubhra bright, white, splendid, radiant
वस्त्रा vastrā dressed, rainment, dress, clothes, robe
वृता vṛtā modestly, concealed, hidden
या who
वीणा vīnā vina, ancient string instrument
वर vara excellent, boon, best, precious
दण्ड daṇḍa sceptre, rod, stick, fine
मण्डित maṇḍita adorned, ornamented, decorated
करा karā Hard, firm, stiff, part of an instrument below the neck
या who
श्वेत ṣveta white, dressed in white, bright, white cloud
पद्म padma lotus, Nelumbo nucifera, lotus-hued
अासना āsanā seat, abiding, stay
या who
ब्रह्म brahma Brahma, sacred wisdom, from the Vedas
अच्युत acyuta Vishnu, imperishable, permanent
शंकर śaṁkara Shiva, beneficent, cause of prosperity, auspicious
प्रभृति prabhṛti attached, offering
देव deva god, heavenly, divine
सदा sadā always, continually, ever, perpetually
वन्दिता vanditā praised, celebrated, extolled
सा with, having, accompanied by, giving, bestowing, granting
मां māṁ me
पातु pātu clever, adroit
सरस्वती sarasvatī saraswati, mythical river, speech
भगवती bhagavatī fortunate
निःशेष niḥśeṣa consumed, , without remainder
जाड्या jāḍyā sluggishness, stupidity, laziness
पहा pahā destroy, annihilate


The Saraswati Vandana Design Details

And a most fabulous real life print (screen print) of the Saraswati vandana on a t-shirt (from our Etsy shop):

Hojo undō Stuff

Breathing is nourishing

That’s right, capital ‘B’ Breath… Breathe… Breathing… Go on, nourish yourself! You know you want to…


The above Chinese characters are from the 玉皇心印經 (Yùhuáng xīnyìn jīng, Jade Emperor’s Canon of Truth). The meaning is pretty simple. Or, is the meaning to embrace simplicity? Lol…simplicity.

呼吸育青  Hūxī yùqīng  Breathing is nourishing.

It’s tough to get simpler than breathing is nourishing. And, as per usual, only simpletons are stymied by simplicity. Ponder this…

Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte. (I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.)

~Blaise Pascal

Or, another way of putting it:

Lo bueno, si breve, dos veces bueno. (Good things, when short, are twice as good.)

Baltasar Gracián

So, paired with this illusive simplicity is quite a dizzying bit of back-story. Around the bend there are tigers, dragons, spirits… Oh my! One set of esoteric symbols lead to one another, then back again. This is pertinent for the practices of Karate-do, Taijiquan, and Yoga, which are intentional and useful applications  stemming from Buddhist, Taoist, and Hindu philosophies, respectively.

Just because breathing is simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy.  The quote below really nails why an “open secret” like this, in this case regarding the breath, is an impenetrably secure hiding place for these gems of esoterica.

This is so simple that it protects itself from being discovered. In fact, it is so simple that unless someone tells you, you would never even think of it, and when someone tells you, it isn’t believed.

~ Stuart Alve Olson, The Jade Emperor’s Mind Seal Classic

So'ham in Devanagari glyphs, in a Phags'pa style
So’ham in Devanagari glyphs, in a Phags’pa style

Like So’ham, this concept is elusive and obscure. And, like so’ham, a small amount of consideration bears many low-hanging fruit for many meditations.

It is difficult to describe my wonder—a concept that is so brief, and at the same time, colossal. I feel this lodestone of respiration, faintly guiding my perception to the barycenter of my firmament. With the breath connecting the polar opposites of ‘self’ and ‘other’.

Just loving those open secrets!

A great quote concerning the rootedness and contentment arising from these open secrets.

The future is a mystery, the past is history. But right now is a gift, that’s why they call it the present. ~Master U-Gui

A Taiji illustration denoting the interplay of tiger and dragon. The primal spirits of the liver and lung, light and dark, push and pull.








Hojo undō Stuff

So’Ham (सोऽहं) should not be thought of as prānāyāma (प्रानायाम).

Mr. B.K.S. Iyengar, a prolific writer on the subject of yoga and prānāyāma (the control of breath), eloquently defines so’ham and, interestingly enough, why it is not considered a prānāyāma. The following two quotes are wonderfully pithy and enigmatic.

In one edition of Light on Yoga, so’ham is addressed as follows:

…the unconscious repetitive prayer that goes on with every inhalation within every living creature throughout life.

~ B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga

When I read this quote, it was the first time I began to consider the monumental gravity of the breath. On a personal level, breathing is very important, of course! Considering the breath outside of myself, where to stop? I imagine the world and everyone in it breathing… If everyone in the world is breathing, can we say that the world is breathing?


In Light on Pranayama, Iyengar further infers so’ham by examining where it is not.

Pranayama is not just automatic habitual breathing to keep body and soul together.

~ B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Pranayama

A very interesting distinction. This wonderful habit all us breathers have is not—repeat, not—prānāyāma… Hmmm…. I can get my head around that. Prānāyāma has the aspect of decision and practice about it. So’ham is more autonomic, like the beating of one’s heart.

The second half of this sentence is what really gets me: to keep body and soul together. So’ham, the glue that keeps the soul in the body. The natural breath, a breath without affectation. I can’t help but think of a Taoist parallel in Chinese medicine, where the two spirits of the liver (魂 hún) and the lung (魄 pò) are kept together during life, and separate when life is not present. This is where so’ham becomes primeval. Where a juggernaut is revealed.