by Karina Guthrie.
Within the yoga tradition, the roll of the divine feminine is to confer power upon the divine masculine (consciousness). Shakti, after all, means ‘power’. Without Shakti, Shiva (the divine masculine) cannot manifest its consciousness in the world, because ‘he’ is missing an essential creative spark. The way each goddess confers her power is unique. For example, fierce goddesses, like Kali and Chinnamasta, go to battle for us in a very real way. Their power is explosive, even wild, as they wage war against the ego. The wisdom goddesses, like Saraswati, on the other hand, express their power through insight and inspiration. They are the spark of an idea or the flow of creativity. The queenly goddesses, like Lalita Tripura Sundari and Lakshmi, are different again. They express their power through the trappings of worldly and spiritual success. They have a providential sort of energy, spreading beauty, love and harmony in our lives.
Lakshmi means ‘auspiciousness’ and in the old mythic texts it is said that when the energy of Lakshmi is present in our lives we have everything we need for a beautiful life in both the worldly and spiritual planes. It is also said that without her energy our lives become barren, impoverished, dull.
Another way of understanding the goddess’s name is that it is derived from the Sanskrit, laksme, which means ‘goal’. From this perspective, the name ‘Lakshmi’ points to the fact that the overarching goal of life is cultivation of material and spiritual prosperity. In yogic mythology, Lakshmi is the consort of Vishnu who is ‘the sustainer of worlds’, however, it is only through the power of his consort – his Shakti (the creative energy of the divine feminine) that this can actually happen. This means that Lakshmi’s creative energy is what allows Vishnu to manifest his particular flavor of consciousness in the world by maintaining and preserving creation.
Lakshmi and Abundance
Throughout history, Lakshmi has been invoked for the boons of fame and prosperity, however, fame and prosperity in the historical sense, had different meanings than they do today. In times gone by, fame and prosperity were not a reference to Hollywood fame or social media notoriety. Rather, someone would invoke Lakshmi for ‘good reputation in their village’, or because they wanted to be known as generous or fair or compassionate. Lakshmi’s blessing would confer upon someone, not wealth in the form of cash or cars but, in the form of gold or grain or beauty. For a woman, Lakshmi’s gift was the good grace of having many sons and the luck of being cherished by her family.
In contrast, today we might see Lakshmi’s modern manifestation – wealth, a love for the arts, the spark of romantic attraction, beauty in all of its forms – she is, after all, the goddess of good taste. She is the goddess of money insofar as money is a symbol for what we value. She is also the principle of reciprocity, her energy found in the exchange of giving and receiving.
Having said this, in cultivating Laskhmi’s energy, it can be easy to become blinded by the luster of superficial things and miss the fact that the real Lakshmi treasure lies beneath. Although Lakshmi does manifest as beauty and abundance and good fortune, her more valuable boons include the capacity for loving-kindness, well-being, purity of motive and vitality. Graced with her energy we are not just auspicious on the earthly place, we are also graced with spiritual ‘success’ because our words and actions are attuned to, and reflective of, the intrinsic goodness of the universe. Dharma itself, the principle of righteous action, is Lakshmi’s ultimate gift.
And so, the less flashy, but ultimately more nourishing, manifestations of Lakshmi’s energy are the ability to access a feeling of trust in the fundamental goodness of the universe, an inner feeling of contentment that isn’t pegged to anything external, a heartfelt sense of self-worth, a sense of optimism, an feeling of inner fullness and a sense that life is both sweet and harmonious.
Giving and Receiving
As the goddess of reciprocity, Lakshmi acts on the cosmic level too. She does this in the following way:
The heavens offer gifts to the earth in the form of sun and rain, fertile crops and sustainability. These gifts are what allow us, as humans, to feel safe in, nourished by, and at ease alongside nature.
In return, we have an obligation to reciprocate. We do this by being at the vanguard of efforts to preserve the earth and by recognizing that we have a great responsibility as the custodians of this planet to do the right thing in the time that we have.
On an interpersonal level, we must also understand that there’s an energetic exchange whenever we use our wealth (in whatever way that manifests) to help others who are less fortunate than us. It manifests in our decision to tread the path of dharma by offering ourselves in service to the greater good. It manifests as kind words to others and as the decision to dedicate our hearts and minds to Lakshmi through prayer or worship or simple gratitude.
These commitments grow into appreciation for the fact that life occurs as an energetic exchange. If we choose not to play a part in this exchange we suffer. Without giving we become narcissistic, proud and entitled. Without receiving we come to feel that life is barren and that at our core we are undernourished.
Recognizing that we (and everyone else for that matter) are worthy of receiving is the first step toward an auspicious state of being, where Lakshmi’s energy flows through us in service of this symbiotic exchange.