• Item #: 0591
LAKSHMI What is the purpose of life? The answer according to the Veda is fourfold: dharma, artha, kama and moksha, which means righteous conduct, economic activity, pleasurable pursuit and spiritual practice. Ecomonic activity has been given great importance in the Hindu scheme of things. It is second only to dharma, that ensures social stability. With social stability comes prosperity and with prosperity comes pleasure. To drive this idea home, ancient seers visualized a goddess called Lakshmi. She embodied the principle of kama. Lakshmi is one of the most popular Hindu goddesses. Her stories, symbols and rituals are widespread and they contain the Hindu understanding of wealth. Unfortunately, these were passed down orally within the household tradition. They were neither complied nor commented upon in the single scripture. As a result there is great misunderstanding on how Hindus regard wealth. Some believe that Hindus look down upon wealth. The belief stems from the popularity of Indian monastic philosophies like yoga and Vedanta. Others believe that Hindus think wealth is evil. This belief is based on the association of Lakshmi with asuras and rakshasas, the ‘demons’ of Hinduism. An examination of the mythology of Lakshimi helps us appreciate that none of this is true. Not only did Hindus revere Lakshmi as the foundation of things material, they also believed she was vital to all things spiritual. Only by truly appreciating the nature of Lakshmi can one hope for moksha, release from the cycle of rebirths. A study of Lakshmi throws light on the fact that there is no concept of evil in Hinduism. Evil is a Judeo-Christian-Islamic concept to explain negative acts that are unholy, inexplicable and unredeemable. In the Hindu scheme of things, where everything is governed by the law of karma, all events are essentially reactions. Nothing is spontaneous. Everything is a manifestation of God. The reason why Lakshmi is closely associated with asuras and rakshasas has nothing to do with evil. It has everything to do with the movement of wealth between realms above the ground and below, between wild nature and domesticated culture. Although eternal enemies of gods and humans, neither the asura nor the rakshasa is evil. Asuras are subterranean forces that have the power to regenerate wealth, hence necessary components of the cosmos (without their help, the devas cannot churn Lakshmi out of the ocean of milk).
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