Saturday, April 17, 2010

Finding Gold

Sita Devi “Then a voice, sounding like a human being, was heard from the sky which said, ‘O king, this child is rightfully your daughter.’ Thereupon my father, the righteous King of Mithila, was greatly pleased. Obtaining me as his daughter, that ruler of men felt highly blessed and fortunate.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.31-32)

These statements are part of the story of how Maharaja Janaka found Sita Devi while ploughing a field. Janaka was a great king who ruled over Mithila a long long time ago and Sita Devi was an incarnation of the goddess of fortune, Lakshmiji.

Lakshmi Narayana Lakshmi is the wife of Lord Narayana, the four-handed expansion of Krishna residing on the Vaikuntha spiritual planets. Vaikuntha means a place free of anxieties and doubts. Such a place can only be found in the spiritual world, for the material planets are places full of miseries, dukhalayam. The only way to be free of anxiety is to be connected with God, who is a person. According to the Vedas, the original form of God is Lord Krishna who resides on the spiritual planet of Krishnaloka. His immediate expansion is Lord Narayana who is also known as Lord Vishnu. Vishnu is almost identical to Krishna, thus the two names are often used interchangeably. Lord Krishna’s immediate pleasure potency expansion is Shrimati Radharani. She is representative of an energy known as hladini-shakti. Krishna is the energetic and Radha is His energy. In Vaikuntha, Radha takes the form of the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi.

Depending on a person’s angle of vision, Lakshmi can be considered to be a demigod, but in actuality she is a devotee of God. Though there is only one God, He deputes various other exalted living entities, known as demigods, to manage affairs in the material world. Lakshmi is given the task of providing wealth and fortune to those who please her. She is depicted as sitting on a lotus flower which is floating on water. While sitting on this flower, she is distributing money to her devotees. It is often seen in marriages that the wife will stay at home and manage all the affairs of the household. This includes managing the finances by paying bills and ensuring that the family adheres to its monthly budget. Lakshmi plays a similar role in that regard. People generally don’t worship Krishna or Vishnu for any personal or material benefit. Even if they do, God isn’t required to oblige such requests. The demigods, on the other hand, are required to give benedictions to their devotees, regardless of the motive. Lord Shiva, Krishna’s guna-avatara who manages the mode of ignorance, has given out boons to demons on several occasions, such as with Vrikasura and Ravana.

Shri Lakshmi Knowing that Lakshmiji gives out wealth, it is not surprising to find that she is one of the more popular demigods. Along with Ganseha, her picture is seen wherever there is any reference to Hinduism. This should make sense to us. Almost everyone lives on the platform of karma, or fruitive activity. We work hard day and night so that we can have enough money to support our family and then engage in sense gratification. Even those who are a little advanced are still primarily concerned with dharma (religiosity), artha (economic development), kama (sense gratification), and moksha (liberation). In this sense, Ganesha and Lakshmi are treated as order suppliers. “Please give me this, give me that.” Lord Ganesha is the son of Lord Shiva and Mother Parvati, and he removes obstacles from the path of his devotees. So the general routine is to pray to Lakshmi to give us money and then to pray to Ganesha to remove our obstacles towards economic development and sense gratification.

This kind of worship certainly isn’t bad. Those subscribing to this type of worship at least understand that there is a higher power that has control over their lives. But worshiping Lakshmi for the purpose of obtaining money to be used for our own sense gratification doesn’t elevate us to the highest platform of worship. In actuality, the money and fortune bestowed by Lakshmiji should only be used to serve Lord Krishna, or God. Lakshmi is always serving Lord Narayana. Her only business is to see to it that her husband is happy. So when she gives us money, it is done with the understanding that we will use it in the same way that she does. Originally everything belongs to God. We may lay claim to our wealth, but that money is actually just on loan from Lakshmiji. She is the owner of all wealth and fortune.

“Generally, the wealth of misers never allows them any happiness. In this life it causes their self-torment, and when they die it sends them to hell.” (Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.23.15)

Lakshmi and Ganesha If we spend her money for other purposes, it leads to trouble. The practice of feverishly working to amass large amounts of money falls into the category of the mode of passion. Three modes govern the material world: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Passion manifests itself in fruitive activity. One is advised to rise to the mode of goodness, which is any activity done in accordance with the injunctions of the scriptures. Goodness means knowledge. The highest knowledge is that which leads us towards devotional service to Lord Krishna. The mode of passion, when left unchecked, can lead to greed, lust, and anger. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Lord Krishna tells His friend Uddhava that too much wealth can lead one to hell in this life and in the next. Often times we see that the wealthy become obsessed with their net worth and become afraid of losing their fortune. In this sense, they live a life of hell since they are always worried about losing the money they worked so hard to acquire. At the same time, their trepidation leads them to act miserly, which in turn causes them to go to hell in the next life.

God is so nice. All we have to do is love Him and we’ll be happy. If we are blessed with great fortune from Lakshmiji, we don’t need to artificially renounce it. Rather, we can use everything at our disposal for God’s happiness. This will benefit us in the long run. This is the lesson to be taken away from Sita Devi’s statement. Janaka was so pious that he was rewarded with the goddess of fortune herself as a daughter. As a great king, he already had every material facility available to him. He didn’t need Sita to help him amass anymore wealth. Finding Sita was good fortune for Janaka because it ultimately led to him getting Lord Rama as a son-in-law. Coinciding with Sita’s appearance, Lord Vishnu advented on earth as Lord Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. Sita and Rama were married at a grand ceremony held by Janaka. The above referenced statements by Sita were made to the great female sage Anasuya. She had asked Sita to narrate the story of her marriage to Rama.

Marriage of Sita and Rama The highest reward in life is to have association with a saintly person. There are varying definitions of what makes a person a saint, but in the Vedic tradition, a saint is any person who is a pure devotee of Krishna. Sita Devi is the purest of the pure, the mother of the universe. If we show the same love and respect to Sita as Janaka did, then there is no doubt that we too will be blessed with the greatest fortune of all, eternal devotion to God.