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Friday, May 25, 2018

Where Lakshmi resides - Maha Bharata series 77

In Book 12, Section 227 and forwards, Goddess Shri appears before Indra and Narada. We are given several names for Her, including Padma, Bhuti, and Lakshmi. In this section, Lakshmi is equated with Brahman, the Supreme. She is Immutable, Intelligence, Affluence and Victory. She says that she was associated with the Daityas and Danavas, as long as they followed virtuous ways. Now, that they have lost those virtues, She is leaving them.

The virtues Lakshmi associates with include piety, faith, compassion, respecting elders and ancestors, non-injury (ahimsa) and truth-telling. The list of items included in the behavior of people who have left virtues is given in Section 221 of the Sanskrit version and Section 228 in the English version. This includes greed, lack of respect for elders and those with wisdom, respect for those who do not deserve it, not caring for the children and the aged etc., and ends with “transgression   of all boundaries and restraints”. 

The list is long and, it is frightening to find all the weaknesses of modern life mentioned in that list. For example, Lakshmi says that “the Danavas have last their virtues and morality; have been swayed by lust and wrath; and in their world, persons of inferior attainments were showing animosities towards seniors and those with superior qualifications, and were ridiculing and laughing at them; those amassing great wealth by doing unrighteous and censurable deeds were being held in high esteem; sons were bossing over their parents, and wives dominated over their husbands; there was no respect for mothers, fathers, aged seniors, preceptors, guests, and guides for their status; people did not bring up their own offspring with affection but began to abandon them; people appropriated wealth to their own use shamelessly without offering anything to the ancestors, the gods, guests, and reverend seniors; disputes and quarrels raged  in every house, day and night; Both, those that deserved respect and those that deserved no respect, were treated equally”.  

Lakshmi continues: “Further, they (danavas) began to indulge in sports and diversions in which their women were dressed as men and their men as women. When friends sought help, they were only frustrated more. Traders and merchants were interested only in taking the wealth of others. Teachers began treating disciples as friendly companions. Fathers and mothers were worn out with work, and in old age, were forced to beg for their food from their own children. Daughters-in-law, in the presence of their husbands' mothers and fathers, lectured to their husband's and rebuked them. Victims of crimes could not expect any help but only laughter and mockery. They have transgressed all bounds and restraints. Because of all of these and other indications of wicked conduct and the reversal of their former nature, I decided not to live among them any more and have come to you”. 

Did Vyasa and our ancestors know what was coming? If their prophecy is correct, Goddess Lakshmi must be getting ready to leave us also soon!

In another list, Goddess Lakshmi lists eight Lakshmi’s who live with the righteous. This list includes Lakshmi of Hope, Faith, Intelligence, Contentment, Success, Advancement, Forgiveness and Jaya (Victory). But this list does NOT correspond to the traditional Ashtalakshmi.

1. Aadi-Lakshmi (The Primeval  or the Great) or Maha Lakshmi
2. Dhana-Lakshmi or Aishwarya Lakshmi (The Goddess of Prosperity and Wealth)
3. Dhaanya-Lakshmi (Goddess of Food grains)
4. Gaja-Lakshmi (The Elephant Goddess)
5. Santana-Lakshmi (The Goddess of Progeny)
6. Veera-Lakshmi or Dhairya Lakshmi (The Goddess of Valor and Courage)
7. Vidya-Lakshmi (The Goddess of Knowledge)
8. Vijaya-Lakshmi or Jaya Lakshmi (The Goddess of Victory)

Section 242 gives a detailed description of how a disciple should behave towards his teacher during gurukula vasam (living with the preceptor). Many of our teachers still demand the kind of obedience from their students as described in this section. Some of the expectations are demeaning and dehumanizing. I do not know how these ideas developed. I am all for respect to our teachers. But, that does not mean that the teachers can treat a student like a slave or expect blind obedience.  

This is another opportunity for me to point out how all of us hang on to some areas of the scriptures and ignore others. The same teachers who demand blind obedience and treat students not too kindly forget the liberal minds of our great masters and acharyas.  The great masters such as Yagnavalkya and Pippalada answered only when asked and appropriate to the level of the student’s ability. They did not demand that the students follow blindly what they were told. In Gita, Krishna asks Arjuna to reflect on what he was told and act appropriately. In Yoga Vasishta, Vasishta tells Rama to reflect and act. Buddha clearly stated that the pupils should think on their own and act.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I find the selective acceptance of the "Gurukula" features to be in appropriate. But it has always been the way of people with self urges to conveniently interpret the message, without context to the essence of what is being conveyed. This is the cyclical "waxing & waning" of scriptural precepts from one era to another. This shall also pass.
We as individual have to guard and progress with sincere faith and acceptance.