Modern English dictionary defines wealth as “an abundance of valuable possessions or money” or “a plentiful supply of a particularly desirable thing.” Father of Capitalism – Adam Smith – in his book “The Wealth of Nations,” described wealth as “the annual produce of the land and labor of the society.” This “produce” is “that which satisfies human needs and wants of utility.” In popular usage, wealth is understood as an abundance of items of transactional value. Unfortunately, in today’s world wealth has become synonymous with money and property; the reason why a large part of populace suffers poverty and the rich become corrupt.
Vedic philosophy has a unique understanding of “wealth” which it refers to as Lakshmi. Lakshmi is not simply the “Goddess” depicted in temples across the country. Although this science certainly inspired the image of the Goddess, Lakshmi in the real sense is the Vedic science of wealth that enables people to understand, attain and sustain abundance and prosperity, at both outer and inner levels of life.
The word Lakshmi is derived from the Sanskrit terms: lakṣ and lakṣa – meaning respectively “to perceive, observe, know, understand” and “goal, aim, objective.” The word Lakshmi can be better understood as knowing and following one’s goal. Lakshmi finds mention in Rig Veda only once, but the related term Sri is common for wealth and abundance. In Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda, Lakshmi becomes a complex concept with plural manifestations.
Vedic teachings define four primary objectives of human life: Dharma (Duty), Artha (Wealth), Kama (Desire) and Moksha (Liberation), to be pursued in that order. Vedic wisdom suggests that an individual must address one’s desires during youth years and then become detached and strive towards liberation as one grows old, though there are exceptions to this rule. Liberation is best attained with full renunciation but to renounce one must have achieved something in the first place. Although Moksha is not earnestly sought after by many people today; Artha and Kama are eagerly sought by the majority of people, often without any concern for either Dharma or Moksha.
Lakshmi, or wealth, is best understood in her eight forms, namely:
- Adi Lakshmi (Primary wealth): No matter how, where and when you are born you have some wealth and resources with you. Primarily this is your health, family, culture, and education. Vedic teachings say that you must first be aware of what you have, then understand how to build on it for further wealth. If you do not know what you already have – you will never understand what you need to get or how to achieve it We often find that people who complain, cry and curse their “fate” remain losers in life. Those who work without complaints or doubts, on the other hand, make great strides and go far, regardless of the unfortunate circumstances they may have to face. Adi means first, so the first step for wealth is to understand yourself, then the people and things immediately around you.
- Dhana Lakshmi (Monetary wealth): Understanding the things around you, you are better placed to make the use of it to generate a product or a service which will help you achieve monetary gains leading to Dhana Lakshmi so that you are not dependent upon anyone and have time and resources to do what you want
- Dhanya Lakshmi (Wealth of Grains): With the money, you can buy the necessary food to give you physical strength and vitality for more significant efforts in life.
- Veera Lakshmi (Wealth of Courage): With your body strong and knowledge and money by your side, to attain greater abundance in life you must have the courage and be willing to exert yourself. It takes great courage to achieve something that people around you consider you are incapable of achieving. By having knowledge, food, and money with you already, you are in a better position to attain the wealth of courage.
- Gaja Lakshmi (wealth of power and prestige): Through the appropriate application of knowledge, money, food and courage – the wealth of power becomes accessible to you. This power can be social, political, intellectual or even spiritual, allowing you to influence the world for good or bad.
- Santana Lakshmi (wealth of offspring): With knowledge, money, food, courage, and power you are in a better position to take of others and gain a following: to have a progeny (Santaana) in the broader sense of the term. It is only by having the right progeny that you can create a sustainable family as well as a supportive society, allowing your influence in the world to be perpetuated. So you seek Santana Lakshmi.
- Aishwarya Lakshmi (Wealth of affluence and endowment): Having a following it becomes necessary that you provide them with adequate resources to secure their future. You can be a helpful benefactor using the wealth that you have acquired. For this, you ask and work towards Aishwarya Lakshmi. You can help bring the wealth of Lakshmi to others.
- Vijaya Lakshmi (Wealth of victory): Once you’ve attained the previous seven aspects of Lakshmi, you are in a great position to pursue anything in life, and Vijaya Lakshmi is all by your side in your pursuits. You can overcome all opposition and go beyond every obstacle. You can even conquer your desires.
In Lakshmi’s iconography, she is either sitting or standing on a lotus and typically carrying a lotus in one or two hands. The lotus represents reality, consciousness, karma (work, deed), knowledge as well as Self-realization – the desired goal that you wish to unfold. The lotus, a flower that can blossom in dirty water, symbolizes purity and beauty regardless of the good or bad circumstances in which it grows. It is a reminder that wealth and prosperity can bloom even in difficult surroundings. Therefore, if you so desire you can create wealth even in an economy where good opportunities seem bleak. And you can achieve an inner sense of abundance regardless of your circumstances. Such is the wisdom of Vedic wealth – Lakshmi.