I have always loved autumn, and one of the things I love most about this season is the holiday of Thanksgiving. In my family this holiday has always been celebrated as a harvest feast and I love the emphasis on gratitude, slowing down and spending quality time with loved ones. Of course, I also love that we get to eat all my favorite autumn foods.
This morning as I walked my dogs in the brilliant autumn sunshine I reflected on how Thanksgiving is a true Lakshmi holiday. Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of beauty, pleasure, abundance, refinement, and delight. I believe we invoke her presence whenever we recognize and celebrate these things in our lives. In other words, we are invoking Lakshmi when we take the time to clean our home and make our living spaces pleasing to the eye. We invoke her when we enjoy sensual pleasures such as warm sweaters on a cold day, the comfort of a steaming cup of tea, or the smell of burning leaves in the air. It is said that we honor Lakshmi greatly when we express our gratitude for all the blessings that we receive each day, not just the large and obvious ones but also the simple ones we may tend to overlook such as a bed to sleep in, food to eat, and people that care about us- so simply by giving thanks we are engaging in Lakshmi sadhana.
Lakshmi is most often portrayed as a highly adorned goddess who is clothed in gold and red with heavy coins falling from her hands. The obvious wealth of her imagery speaks to the richness of our material reality, over which she holds sway. And yet there is a subtlety to her too, which we often miss when we overlook the simple abundance of our everyday lives.
There is a story about Lakshmi’s blessings that I love. It begins with the great sage Durvasa who was known both for his terrible temper and his generous boons. It was him that gave Kunti (the mother of the great Pandava brothers) the boon that she could beget a child by a god whenever she desired- but that’s another story, for another day….This story begins when one day Durvasa was given a garland by one of his students. The garland was of such rare beauty that he saw at once that it embodied the auspiciousness of the goddess Shri, another name for Lakshmi. As Durvasa was a renunciate and was not in need of material wealth or pleasures he decided to offer the garland to Indra who was the lord of Swarga Loka (heaven) and who presided over the material realms of earth. When Durvasa came to Swarga and was given audience to Indra he presented him with the garland. Indra, who was daily given gifts of great beauty and richness, received the garland but took it in a way that was quite careless. He thanked Durvasa, but in a distracted way, as he was very busy, and then tossed the garland over the neck of his white elephant Airavata.
Upon seeing this Durvasa became enraged and cursed Indra that all auspiciousness and blessing would retreat from his life. In moments the seas began to dry up and the leaves fell from the trees before their season. The migratory patterns of animals became confused and the crops in the fields began to rot rather than ripen. The beauty and the luster withdrew from the world and it became a grey place without music, comfort, or joy.
Indra immediately saw that all he had taken for granted was actually what made life worth living. He immediately invoked the goddess Lakshmi and praised her for her beauty and her generosity, entreating her to once again offer her gifts to the world. He bowed low before the sage Durvasa and thanked him for showing him how his carelessness had blinded him to the riches that he received each day. He vowed to never again take for granted beauty, goodness, or a humble gift, and so enjoyed the blessings of Lakshmi to the end of his days.
This weekend is the perfect time to honor Lakshmi’s presence in your life so that she will bless your own home with her abundance all year long. Celebrate the love and material comfort that you have been gifted with and be generous with what you have. Share your time, your attention, and your table with those you love. And if you have extra, give some to those who do not. There are many people who don’t live in the fullness of Lakshmi’s blessing and through giving you can embody the generous power of this goddess and bring some pleasure and comfort to the lives of others.
When you sit down to your own harvest feast this weekend, no matter how simple it is, take a moment to reflect on all that you have received in the last year and give thanks by raising your glass in celebration, and honoring Maha Lakshmi in your own way.
Om Shri Maka Lakshmyai Namah!