Most of the time, we are running after money (dhana). Money is what makes the world go round, or so it appears, at least in many cases. Money enables us to buy food, clothing, and other basic necessities, as well as luxuries, if we are fortunate. Since Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth, we worship Her so that She will bless us with Her favor and benediction.
Because we are mostly obsessed with money and its acquisition, we do not realize that Lakshmi may also benedict us with beauty (saundarya), strength (bala), fame (kirti), knowledge (jnana), and renunciation (vairagya). Renunciation is also a sign of Lakshmi's opulence, being one of the opulences She bestows, but since many of us are so blinded by gross materialism, we do not give much importance to the spirit of renunciation and detachment.
In the Indian psyche, the image of goddess Lakshmi is one of serenity, beauty, chastity, godliness, dignity, and of course all the material blessings one could imagine. Lakshmi is the quintessential image of the ideal Indian woman, venerated by one and all. Every traditional Indian householder lady desires that her daughter or daughter-in-law be like Lakshmi, This is based on the belief that when the daughter or daughter-in-law has the qualities of Lakshmi, the home is filled with all blessings, peace, and opulence.
All universal material affairs are under the care of the various demigods (devatas and devis) who are exalted devotees in their own right. Each of them have been entrusted administrative charge of separate "departments" by the Lord. The goddess Lakshmi is in charge of bestowing material opulence on the living entities. However, no devlor devata can bestow boons on any living entity without the sanction of the Supreme Lord. The Lord states:
"Those whose minds are distorted by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures. I am in everyone's heart as the Super soul. As soon as one desires to worship the demigods, I make his faith steady so that he can devote himself to some particular deity. Endowed with such a faith, he seeks favors of a particular demigod and obtains his desires. But in actuality these benefits are bestowed by Me alone. Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet." (Gita 7.20-23)
Lakshmi, the Eternal Consort of Narayana
The goddess Lakshmi is the eternal consort of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Narayana, Sri Narayana is one of the innumerable integrated expansions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna (one of His vishnu-tattva expansions). In His spiritual planet Vaikuntha, the Supreme Lord Narayana resides with His eternal consort Lakshmi, in His sac-cid-ananda-vigraha (His eternal form, full of knowledge and bliss). The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana, desires nothing from Lakshmi, because He is complete by Himself. In the Bhagavad-gita (10.8), the Lord declares, "I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts." Hence the Lord is the Supreme creator and proprietor. Everything belongs to Him and rests in Him. When the Lord desired to create Brahma, the first living being, Brahmana was born from the lotus stem that first grew out of the navel of the Lord in His Garbhodakashayi Vishnu expansion, while He was lying down in the vast causal ocean, on the bed created from the body of Sesa-naga (or Sankarsana, the multi-headed serpent, the Lord's first expansion).
The Lord could very well have begotten Brahma or other living beings from the womb of Lakshmi, who is serving Him eternally and most lovingly, but He created Brahma independent of her, proving His total independence and omnipotence. Hence the Lord is fully self -sufficient and does not need any benediction from the goddess Lakshmi. The goddess Lakshmi, on the other hand, cannot for a moment be separated from the Lord, her dearest husband. Incidentally, the concept of Narayana being daridra (poor) is nonsensical and has no scriptural basis. Narayana may have at times appeared to be a poor person while enacting His many pastimes, playing a role, as when he appeared before Bali Maharaja as a mendicant brahmana, and requested three steps of land. But any person who knows the opulence of Lakshmi cannot for a moment be under the illusion that the Supreme Lord Narayana, whom she is serving eternally, could be in want of anything. The Lord is eternally full with the six primal opulences.
When the Lord descended to earth as Krishna, the cowherd boy, Lakshmi also appeared on the earth as Rukmini, and subsequently lived as His first queen in Dvaraka, during the Lord's final pastimes on earth. When the Lord descended to earth as Ramachandra in eons gone by, Lakshmi descended as Sita and became His wife during the Lord's pastimes as an ideal man (Purushottama) and an ideal king.
Most persons, while worshiping or aspiring for Lakshmi, either forget or ignore Her beloved husband, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana Himself, whom She cannot be separated from for even an instant. If you were to revere and invite a self-respecting lady to come to your home and at the same time ignore her dearly beloved husband, do you think that this lady will be pleased with you and be favorably disposed towards you, or for that matter, think to visit you at all? Besides, even if a devotee of Lakshmi directly asks her for some boon, and Lakshmi grants that boon, that material opulence is short lived, as Lakshi is by nature capricious (cancala).
Radharani represents the pleasure potency of the Lord and hence is inseparable from the Lord in His original form as Krishna, The other exalted consorts of the Lord, such as Lakshmi, are all expansions of Radharani and represent the Lord's energy. Hence Lakshmi and Radha, being the energy of the Lord, are inseparable from Him, just as any energy is inseparable from the source of that energy. Hence, worship of the energy while disregarding its source is not very wise. Lakshmi and Radha and Their expansions are wholly busy in serving the Lord. Any devotee who also wants to serve the Lord, immediately catches the eye of Lakshmi, who intervenes on his behalf and seeks the Lord's mercy for that devotee. Lakshmi leads us to the Lord in a most compassionate and helpful way. Let us not waste our and Lakshmi' s time by asking for an insignificant or temporary boon when the treasure house of the Lord's love is available to us for the asking. Srila Prabhupada therefore states:
"According to the desire of Lakshmi-devi, the goddess of fortune, the Supreme Personality of Godhead made His bosom her residence so that by her glance she could favor everyone, including the demigods and ordinary human beings. In other words, since the goddess of fortune stays on the bosom of Narayana, she naturally sees any devotee who worships Narayana, When the goddess of fortune understands that a devotee is in favor of devotional service to Narayana, she is naturally inclined to bless the devotee with all opulences. The karmis try to receive the favor and mercy of Lakshmi, but because they are not devotees of Narayana, their opulence is flickering. The opulence of devotees who are attached to the service of Narayana is not like the opulence of karmis. The opulence of devotees is as permanent as the opulence of Narayana Himself." (Bhagavatam 4.4.25, purport)
During His pastimes on earth, the Supreme Lord Krishna showed how a poor and penniless brahmana like Sudama, who pleased the Lord immensely by offering just a few grains of chipped rice, unfit even for human consumption, could become unfathomably wealthy as a mere byproduct of devotion. In reciprocation for Sudama's love-filled offering, Krishna contrived to make the goddess Lakshmi so obligated to Sudama that she would have to grant him, life after life, with opulence unimaginable even by Indra, the king of the daveiss (demigods). This is the power of the Lord's pleasure potency. When one offers Narayana some simple food or some service, and the Lord is pleased and accepts the service as a benediction to the devotee, the goddess Lakshmi becomes immediately obligated to that devotee and must travel to the devotee's home personally. When Lakshmi enters one's home, there can be no doubt that one's home becomes opulent.
We Should Please Narayana
Instead of running after Lakshmi, we should run after Narayana Himself. Instead of trying to secure Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, who comes and goes as per Her whims and fancies and can desert us at anytime, we must ensure that the Supreme Lord Narayana takes up residence in our home. And we can imprison Narayana in our home with our pure love and devotional service (bhakti). Though the Lord is unconquerable, He nevertheless allows Himself to be imprisoned by His devotee. He does not desire very expensive gifts from us. If we offer him, as an expression of our love, a tulasi leaf, a flower, or a glass of water every day, the Lord will not only gladly accept the offerings but will also enjoy them with great pleasure. He says, "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it." (Gita 9.26) He will reside permanently in our home, though this fact might not be apparent to our gross imperfect senses.
It goes without saying that when the Supreme Lord Narayana resides in our home, captured by our love and devotional service, Lakshmi cannot be far away. In fact, a team of horses or a fleet of tractors couldn't drag Lakshmi out of our home. In whichever form the Supreme Lord Narayana appears to our senses and intelligence, such as Lord Krishna or Lord Rama or Lord Narsimha, Lakshmi is not very far away. In fact, unknown to our gross imperfect senses, Lakshmi is always standing next to the Lord, waiting for an opportunity to bless any devotee who is serving her beloved husband.
The Change in Perception
At the end of this life, we shall be torn from all our material possessions and relationships. Yet we contrive every moment to collect more. Our eternal connection is with the Lord only, as He is our only true friend and well wisher. All other worldly relationships are temporary, like strangers briefly passing in the street.
Each new life is a playground of new relationships with a different set of eternal living entities, completely different from the set of souls we have been thrown in with in this life. The Lord also tells us, "Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be." (Gita 2.12) Time and again, the Lord stresses the eternity of our existence, and hence, the futility of amassing material gains in this life, which will inevitably end with the last breath of this material body.
All our wealth should be used for bringing us nearer to our only hope for eternal happiness, continued association with the Lord. Money used for any other purpose will only pull us lower and lower in our spiritual consciousness and inexorably draw us away from the Lord, who is our only hope for salvation.
An intelligent devotee therefore does not ask for anything from the Lord except for the opportunity to serve Him. This ensures that the Lord stays with the devotee permanently. The presence or absence of Lakshmi becomes to the devotee a matter of indifference. He or she begins to see Lakshmi not as a donor or best over of material opulence, but as an exalted devotee of the Lord to be admired and respected not for what she can give to us but for the exalted qualities she has amassed just by serving the Lord with unsurpassed love and devotion, qualities we can ourselves emulate in order to get nearer to the Lord.
Gautam Saha is an alumnus of IIT Mumbai, having graduated in Chemical engineering. He is presently engaged in business development and investment in some Asian and African countries. He is a frequent contributor to BTG.