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LAKSHMI: GODDESS OF HEALTH, WEALTH & PROSPERITY
Goddess of Divali
When I shop for groceries in an international food market called Little India, I often see pictures of goddess Lakshmi on the food products' labels. There is even one brand called Lakshmi. It makes sense because she is very much about health, wealth and spiritual and material prosperity. She is also connected with light, wisdom, Bhakti, fortune, fertility, generosity, courage, beauty, grace and charm. Her name in Sanskrit means to "perceive or observe." The Vedas describe her as the "one whose goal is the upliftment of humankind." Her consort is Vishnu, the preserving and sustaining aspect of the Hindu Trinity. Vishnu is also called the savior of humanity. Laskhmi is a shakti of Vishnu, so he can not do anything without her. None of us can do anything constructive without understanding and living our feminine aspects and powers. This is what empowerment is about: using our inner and outer resources to the best of our abilities.
Lakshmi is described in the Devi Mahatmya as an eighteen-armed being carrying and bearing the following items: a string of beads, an axe, a mace, an arrow, a thunderbolt, a lotus, a waterpot, a crudel, a lance, a sword, a conch shell, a bell, a wine cup, a trident, a rope and a discus. These symbolize different powers & aspects of this great goddess.
She sits on a lotus and her transports are the elephant and the owl. The owl in Hinduism symbolizes royalities, pentrating sight and intelligence. The owl is also very important in the Native American traditions where it is connected with protection, fertility and death.
Lakshmi is very much about living love through Bhakti or devotion to God/dess. It is the most important virtue because it is through Bhakti that the atman or soul is able to experience or obtain God/dess. All the other virtues are realized through living Bhakti. Spiritual love is experienced through the heart. When you live in your heart, you most completely tap into your feminine aspects and powers. Intelligence is important, too, but without the heart you can not be as effective in life. Lakshmi's love is unconditional and felt through the heart. You see the divinity in each person, despite the actions of the individual. Many of the saints of India and all over the world are female. It is easier for us females to tap into our feminine aspects and powers and live spiritual love. This does not mean that males do not become saints or live in the heart. It is just harder for them to do so. Many of us have experienced mystical and other encounters with the Divine. A pandit I talked to about these experiences told me when you see God/dess in some form this means God/dess is breaking through in your life. Mothers have felt children in their wombs, and this makes it easier for them to love universally because of this type of experience. Using our hearts is more encouraged for females in all societies. Often we are discouraged from using our masculine aspects, so expressing all our capabilties takes more effort unless we have tapped into them through our own efforts, a teacher's guidance, Goddess' help or through family/friend or environmental influences. My family environment encouraged me to tap into both aspects, but I did not use them as effectively until later in life when all those other aspects came into play. Men are often discouraged from living in their hearts. This may partially explain why as a group they die in higher numbers at an earlier age of heart disease than women do.
Lakshmi's first appearance happened when she came out of the Ocean of Milk when the devas and the asuras were churning the Ocean of Milk in an effort to obtain the nectar of immortality. Vishnu appeared as a turtle (Kurma) to help the serpent Vasuki churn the Ocean of Milk. Then Vishnu appeared as a beautiful woman to help the devas obtain the nectar of immortality. The asuras got distracted by her charm and beauty and lost the chance to obtain the nectar. When we get distracted by something attractive but not good for us, we lose spiritually.
Laskhmi is a very powerful goddess because without her nothing material or spiritual can continue to prosper or function. She is also one of the most important goddesses of Divali. It is during this five-day Festival of Lights, which occurs in October or November, that Hindus place oil lamps outside their homes in order that Lakhmi will bless them. The conch shell is not blown on Divali because it is from the ocean where Laskmi first appeared. Accountants and business people worship their account books during Divali to acknowledge that their prosperity comes through the graces of Laskhmi. The cows are also worshiped because they are thought to be incarnations of Mother Lakshmi. Farmers worship their crops and the dunghill, which is the collection site of manure used to fertilize crops in their fields.
Ganesha often appears with her because he is affiliated with wealth and good luck. One of her transports is the elephant, and Ganesha is the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati.
I mentioned to some of my friends that I seem to have a lot of spiritual wealth in the various creative gifts given to me, Bhakti towards God/dess and the people in my life. Material wealth is something which I have not had in abudance yet. At times I have struggled to obtain the basics. A couple of the friends told me that spiritual wealth is all you really need. They are right. It is the most important aspect of wealth. The Beatles sing this song called All You Need Is Love. That is what Lakhmi has taught me this Divali: that love is the greatest virtue in life. When you live in love, all the other virtues are obtained. It is all you really need. Have a Happy Divali!
JAI SHRI LASKHMI!
JAI SHRI DIVALI!