“People in the material world are very fond of the goddess of fortune, and they want her favor in the form of riches. They should know, however, that the goddess of fortune is inseparable from Lord Vishnu. Materialists should understand that the goddess of fortune should be worshiped along with Lord Vishnu and should not be regarded separately.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.15.3)
Their murtis are popular and prevalent during Diwali time. The sweet and snack shops keep them in higher stock. The owners understand the nature of the season; people worship for particular things. Respect for traditions. Lord Ganesha removes obstacles from the path to success. Shri Devi, who is also known as Lakshmi, gives wealth and opulence.
There is more to Shri, however. She is a goddess, after all. Though prominently worshiped in the Vedic tradition, there is quite often a key component missing in the worship. She has a husband, who is known by names like Narayana and Vishnu. Shri is the goddess of fortune, and her husband is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. According to the acharyas of the bhakti tradition, the proper way to worship Shri is to have Vishnu there with her. There are many reasons for this.
1. Material opulence is fleeting
The worship of Ganesha and Lakshmi on Diwali is a recurring thing. It’s something like getting a pay check from the office. The deposits into the bank account occur on a regular basis. This is needed because of expenditures. I get money today, and almost immediately it is gone. I have responsibilities for home, family, and travel. There is so much to maintain. Another name for Shri is Chanchala, which means “always moving” or “unsteady.”
A wise person asks, “What is the purpose? Why do I have to keep worshiping? Is what I am asking for making me happy? Shouldn’t happiness be the goal of life?” The opulence that Shri gives lasts only for a short time, as the human existence is itself temporary. When compared to the complete timeline of creation, one birth is a blip on the chart, a dot so small that it is barely perceptible.
2. The gifts from Shri are an extension of herself
Shri is not just some random goddess appointed the role of fortune-giver. She is a distinct personality. She has a spiritual form, and she has a nature. When worshiped with material motivations, she is seen seated on a lotus flower distributing coins out of her hands. When understood properly, she is seen massaging the lotus feet of her beloved husband. Her only desire is to please Vishnu.
A clearer picture of her nature appears during the pastimes of the incarnations. Both Lakshmi and Narayana descend to earth now and then. The princess of Videha, Sita Devi, is fully dedicated to Shri Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. Sita is fortune herself, yet she does not mind renunciation. She is prepared to follow her husband anywhere.
3. Everything is meant for service to God
These fingers which I am using to type. The voice I use to speak. The eyes I need for seeing. The ears which catch so many sounds. Everything in this world has a specific purpose. The various uses come together in the life known as bhakti, which is devotion. To be fully conscious of God, especially at the time of death, is the perfection of existence.
If enjoyment of the senses is the desire, then other forms are more suitable. The dog, the monkey, the crow, the cat – these have no way of understanding God. The limitation is set on the type of body. The human form is meant for the higher purpose.
It stands to reason, then, that even material opulence should be used for furthering that goal. The gifts from Shri should help in becoming more devoted to her husband. She is giving the gifts, after all. Wouldn’t she want them to be utilized for the right purpose? Shouldn’t any opulence we get be purposed for making the benefactor happy? We know that the way to please her is to be devoted to her husband, which can be accomplished in any of several different moods.
4. Don’t want to go the way of Ravana
The evil king of Lanka from an ancient time period was actually a devotee of the Supreme Lord at heart. He descended to earth to play the role of adversary, to teach so many valuable lessons. Ravana was wicked by nature, and yet he had so much opulence in Lanka. He even had a fountain of Lakshmi Devi in his kingdom.
Ravana had the special distinction of trying to literally steal Lakshmi. He showed what results when there is greed towards someone that belongs to someone else. Sita and Rama were living in the forest of Dandaka, and Ravana hatched a plan to steal her away in secret.
It worked. He had won, at least for a time. He stole the goddess of fortune, but she wanted nothing to do with him. Ravana’s lust drove him to desperately desire Sita as his chief queen, and she repeatedly refused him. In the end, his sinful act led to doom. The entire city was destroyed. Ravana fell to the ground for good through the arrows released from Rama’s bow.
The historical incident is a lesson of what can happen if the goddess of fortune is worshiped improperly. Shri Hanuman worshiped Sita as a devotee, not wanting anything from her. Today, all his needs are provided for by her. He doesn’t even worship her for such benedictions, but he receives them since his lone desire is to continuously serve Rama in devotion.
Along with diyas in homes to shine,
Lakshmi and Ganesha at Diwali time.
For obstacles there to be none,
And for great wealth to come.
But wise proper way knowing,
Not for personal comfort going.
Instead always happy with Him sees,
In bhakti fortune’s goddess to please.
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