Worship Lord Narayana, and you will find Mother Lakshmi obediently following you
Those of us who live in India or were born and raised in India, have most certainly heard the bazaar usage of the word nagad-narayan. In its simplest and most universal interpretation, nagad-narayan means "hard cash." Even non-Hindus owing allegiance to other faiths have been known to use this phrase. 
Though this usage has evolved over time, and the phrase is colorful and picturesque, a little thought will show that it implies more than just hard cash. The reference to Narayana implies automatically that we are above mundane material dealings. 
The Deeper Import 
Narayana is the expansion of the Supreme Lord Krishna, who resides in His spiritual planet Vaikuntha, accompanied by His eternal consort, mother Lakshmi, as well as His other close and confidential associates. Lakshmi is not satisfied with just standing next to the Lord. Mother Lakshmi insists on residing in the bosom of the Lord. The Lord grants Her this desire since She can see the devotees of the Lord directly from Her position in the bosom of the Lord, and consequently bless them with all opulences.

Nagad Narayan

Lakshmi is the goddess in charge of bestowing material opulences on the trillions of living entities in the material cosmos. The six primal opulences are wealth, power, fame, beauty, knowledge and renunciation. Money appears to be the most eagerly sought for (and fought for) opulence that mother Lakshmi can endow the living entity with. It enables us to very easily obtain the basic necessities as well as luxuries in material life. However as the Lord Himself states in the Gita (7.22), any opulence that is bestowed either by mother Lakshmi or any other demigod, is bestowed with the express sanction of the Lord Himself. There can be no other source of material opulence, and there can be no other arrangement for the distribution of material opulence. Having confirmed that only Narayana is the provider of hard cash, the phrase is not 
Each living entity is reaping the results of his past karma. The living entity or soul, is eternal and imperishable, though his present material body is mortal and temporary, destined to decline and perish in the routine run of time (Gita 2.12). Our present karma determines what opulences we are eligible to receive or be deprived of in future lives. Our past karma determined what we receive in this life. The present condition of each living entity is determined by his past actions, and his future condition is determined by his present actions. Each living entity (soul) has a permanent running account with the Bank of Karma, with a permanent account number (PAN), and unlike banks in material life, there can be no errors in entry, nor can there be any fraud or misuse of the particular PAN issued to a particular living entity. Each PAN number is allotted for eternity and is non-transferable and non-negotiable. Whether we have a large credit, or are deep in debt, ultimately the accounts will tally and we shall have to square off, in this life or in future lives, perforce and without our permission. 
True Credit Balance 
A majority of intelligent persons think that by performing altruistic or charitable activities in between our material activities, we shall remain in credit balance, and perennially be comfortable in this life and in future lives as well. But there is a trap in this. Material life being what it is, and the pulls and pushes engineered by maya (the external illusory potency of the Lord), every moment of happiness is interspersed by some moments of anxiety or distress. In fact, in material life, more often than not, the absence of misery is construed as happiness (no news is good news). There are innumerable pitfalls to negotiate in material life, most of them encouraging us to deviate from the path of goodness (sattva-guna). Since these pitfalls are engineered and executed by maya, it is not possible for ordinary mortals to overcome or surmount this powerful energy on our own steam and with our own puny talents or will power. Furthermore, even if we are born with considerable assets of good karma, and are endowed with the opulence to enjoy very high standards of luxury, in material life we all have to perforce pass through the pangs of birth, aging, disease and death. Every living entity has to undergo these mandatory sufferings irrespective of the temporary nagad-narayan credit he might be holding. There can be no lasting or satisfactory happiness in material life. Therefore it is imperative to give less importance to the temporary form of nagad-narayan, and focus instead on eternal and permanent asset building of transcendental nagad-narayan credits. 
Once we take refuge in the Lord, desiring to serve Him in whatever ways, maya leaves us well alone and allows us to gain transcendental credits by pure devotional service (bhakti), in this and in future lives. These transcendental credits will be carried forward into future lives, protecting us from maya and enabling us to rise still higher in devotional service. This is confirmed and elaborated in the ens (6.40-45). 

Lakshmi with Lord Narayan

It therefore follows that material altruistic or charitable activities, though in the mode of goodness, will be tinged with some passion or ignorance, if Lord Narayana is excluded from the consciousness of the performer, and the false ego and desire for sense gratification of the individual automatically and invariably comes into play. But once the Lord is included in the consciousness of the performer (such as Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra), such actions become acts of bhakti, offerings to the Lord in pure transcendental consciousness. The credit points accumulated thus are transcendental credits, and are permanent and eternal. With a surfeit of such transcendental credits, a living entity can not only surpass the temporary miseries of the material world (Gita 4.39-41), but comes under the direct protection of the Lord's internal spiritual potency, and earns a permanent transfer to the spiritual planet Vaikuntha, where there is no anxiety, pain or anguish (Gita.18.56). 
The Change in Perception Whenever we see hard cash, or nagad-narayan, we should think not about the tasty meal or the new shirt we are about to buy with it, but the tremendous power behind Narayana represented in a tiny way in the purchasing power of the cash in hand. We should think of Narayana, or Vishnu, who creates and supports all moving and non-moving entities in the world, makes the planets and other heavenly bodies float in space and move in predetermined orbits, and who supports and sustains life on earth for all living entities without favor or bias. 
We should understand that the nagad-narayan we are holding in our hand has been earned by our past karma and the grace of Narayana. Whatever ordeals we underwent to obtain this nagad-narayan are also a result of past karma. As long as we remain in this cycle of rebirth, embroiled in birth, aging, disease and death, we shall continue to undergo the mandatory sufferings on the basis of our material mentality and unwillingness to connect with the Lord and surrender to Him. At a particular point of time in the past, the living entity, or soul, rebelled against the Lord, and desired to enjoy matter separately from the Lord. Respecting this desire of the living entity, the Lord put it into play in material nature with all its attendant distractions and miseries. Thus, unwittingly, we became unwilling playthings in the hands of maya, to be tossed about in the ocean of material life and to undergo continued misery and unhappiness. 
The moment we focus on the Supreme Lord Narayana Himself, we shall automatically obtain all the nagad we need in life by His grace, without our even seeking it. By His grace, we can also earn several opportunities to connect with Him in loving service, our only chance to gain transcendental and eternal credit points, to remain connected to Him and move closer to Him, thus creating favorable conditions to be freed from this cycle of birth and death and from becoming playthings in the hands of vicious maya. Once we obtain the grace of the Supreme Lord Krishna, who resides in Vaikuntha in His four-handed expansion, Lord Narayana, maya will automatically leave us alone, enabling us to serve the Lord without distraction or difficulties, and we can practice our devotional service with ease, earning transcendental nagad Narayana for eternity.
Gautam Saha graduated in chemical engineering from IIT Mumbai. He is engaged in business development and investment in a few African and Asian countries. He is guest speaker at Mumbai University's Centre for African Studies, and frequently contributes articles and poems to BTG.