“Lord Vishnu, the Supreme, cannot exhibit His power everywhere without His principal energy. It is said, shakti shaktiman abheda: the power and the powerful are identical. Therefore mother Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune, is the constant companion of Lord Vishnu; they remain together constantly. One cannot keep Lakshmi in one's home without Lord Vishnu.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.19.6 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
“Wow. I can’t believe they came through for me. I was desperate. I needed help. I went to them, because I knew I had the best chance with them. They have been coming through since the beginning of time. Worship of that kind is mentioned in shastra; followed by people from every different persuasion. Good and bad. Rich and poor. Man and woman. I guess they knew what they were doing, as good fortune has come my way as well.”
Illusion is a powerful thing. It makes us forget so much that is important. No matter how successful I become through hard work and perseverance, there are other forces at play whose cooperation is required. I can never do anything completely on my own. This truth is nicely addressed in the Bhagavad-gita.
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
The living entity is not the doer. The spirit inside decides to act, but the result is not guaranteed to manifest. The three modes of material nature must first give their sanction. On a higher level of understanding, there is the Supersoul, who oversees everything. He gives permission for outcomes, and He can see everything by remaining inside the heart of every living being.
In the hypothetical situation described above, how should a person move forward? They have received good fortune, but now what? A wise person acknowledges the help they have received from others, which actually begins from the time of birth. Each step of the way there is help, and in receiving good fortune, it is a wise practice to not forget the benefactor.
1. Basic respect
The fortune was never mine. Someone else gave it to me. Even in a civilized society, where property rights are respected, there is the government which gives protection. If they administer justice fairly and without prejudice, then they have a right to exact taxes. Taxes are a form of respect, acknowledging vital services rendered.
A person who receives good fortune respects the benefactor. To do otherwise is to behave like the thief. Some classic examples from Vedic literature are Hiranyakashipu and Ravana. They both received boons from the creator, Lord Brahma. This was the result of dedicated and extended worship.
After receiving what they wanted, the two gave no thought to Brahma. In fact, they acted in ways completely opposite to the interests of their benefactor. They were quintessential thieves in this regard.
2. No one gives to be forgotten
A hospital is being opened. It will serve the community, for at present the closest hospital is far away. The project is expensive, and so it is open to donations. You decide that you want to help. You make a hefty contribution, but you prefer to remain anonymous.
Even in this situation, you don’t wish that your interests be forgotten. The hospital should do as expected. If after a few years the board of directors does an about face and turns the building into a casino, you won’t be happy. Your contribution essentially goes for naught.
In the same way, the person receiving good fortune should stop and think why they are receiving it. The benefactor doesn’t prefer to be completely forgotten; at least as it relates to their desires. Parents don’t give loving gifts so that the children will eventually forget about them.
3. Think of the higher purpose
Fortune in Sanskrit is known as Lakshmi. This is actually a goddess as well, who is the benefactor to those who are lucky. Lakshmi Devi has been worshiped for a long time, by both good and bad alike. Each year during the time of Diwali, her statues are prominent, along with Ganesha’s.
The aforementioned Ravana was also a worshiper, and yet he completely forgot the benefactor. He literally stole her and brought her to his home in Lanka. Lakshmi was on earth in the incarnation of Sita Devi, the wife of Shri Rama. Lakshmi’s position is that of dedicated servant to her husband, Narayana, who is God. The singular Divine has various spiritual manifestations that can be worshiped for the higher purpose of bhakti, or devotion.
A wise person thinks of the higher purpose to any gift. If I come into money, what should it be used for? Should I live like the animals, who get what they need but don’t need to worship? The gifts from Lakshmi are meant for pleasing her. She is made happy by service to her husband. There is really no other use to good fortune. The gifts coming are an extension of Lakshmi, and when she is separate from Narayana, the results are not good.
Ravana eventually lost everything for his horrible deed. For others, the end result is rebirth, which represents a lost opportunity in the valuable human form. Only through service to God can the individual break away from sense attachment and find the higher life. The true purpose to an existence is to feel the bliss of surrender to the Divine, who has the most benevolent eternal consort.
Serving her husband, happy is He,
Most kind benefactor is she.
As Lakshmi Devi is known,
Favor to good and bad alike shown.
But when receiving how to use,
For senses or higher purpose choose?
Best when in mindset the same,
For pleasing husband of Vishnu the name.