One of the important aspects of Diwali is the worship of Maha Lakshmi. Goddess Mahalakshmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity, bestowing these abundantly upon her devotees – pujas and rituals dedicated to her are performed in many Hindu and in business establishments on the day. On Diwali we pray to her for prosperity; we ask her to lavish us with her blessings. However, what sort of prosperity are we praying for? All too often, we infer wealth to mean money, possessions, material pleasures. This is NOT the true wealth in life; this is not what makes us prosperous. There is almost no correlation between the amount of money we earn, the number of possessions we buy and our sense of inner bliss and prosperity. It is only God's presence in our lives which makes us rich.
On Diwali, we must pray to Goddess Lakshmi to bestow real prosperity upon us, the prosperity that brings light to our lives and sparkle to our eyes. We must pray for an abundance of faith, not money; we must pray for success in our spiritual lives, not a promotion at work; we must pray for the love of God, not the love of the beautiful girl (or boy) in our class.
There is another point about Maha Lakshmi that is important. We tend to worship only her most prominent of aspects - that of bestowing prosperity upon her devotees. However, she is a multi-faceted goddess, filled with symbols of great importance. As we worship her, let us look more deeply at her divine aspects. First, according to our scriptures, she is the divine partner of Lord Vishnu. In Hindu tradition, there is almost always a pair - a male and a female manifestation of the Divine, and they play interdependent roles. In this way it is said that Lakshmi provides Lord Vishnu with the wealth necessary in order to sustain life. He sustains, but through the wealth she provides.
Therefore, in its highest meaning, Maha Lakshmi provides wealth for sustenance, not for indulgence. Our material wealth and prosperity should only sustain us, giving us that which is necessary to preserve our lives. All surplus should be used for humanitarian causes. She does not give wealth so that we may become fat and lazy; yet, that is what we tend to do with the wealth we receive. Let us remember that Maha Lakshmi's material wealth is meant for sustenance and preservation, not for luxury and decadence.
Additionally, we worship Maha Lakshmi who is the divine symbol of purity and chastity. Yet, in our celebration of her, we frequently indulge in frivolity and hedonism. How can we worship her while engaging in the opposite of what she represents? We must re-assess how we pay tribute to this holy Goddess!
Swami Chidanand Saraswati
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