27: Prosperity and Poverty
Righteous people who follow the path of dharma are wealthy and prosperous, a form of ‘Devi Laxmi.’ To those who are immoral, ‘Devi Laxmi’ comes to them in the form of ‘poverty and suffering’ also named ‘Alaxmi.’ Wealth and prosperity’ is a form of ‘Laxmi.’ ‘Devi Mahatmya’ is a section in the Markandeya Purana. It puts forth an exceptionally beautiful definition of ‘Laxmi’ ‘One who blesses those who are righteous.’ ‘Laxmi’ also means ‘wealth,’ ‘prosperity.’ Goddess Laxmi has two forms: ‘Laxmi’ and ‘Alaxmi’.
Actions that follow the laws of Dharma are considered moral or righteous. Actions that are not according to the laws of Dharma are considered immoral or unrighteous or sinful. Righteous people enjoy prosperity or ‘Laxmi’ while sinful people suffer from poverty or ‘Alaxmi.’
The Shastras explain that one must make the best use of the circumstances one is in, be it wealth or poverty. One experiences miseries that are also called ‘Narak yatana’ if one ignores this aspect. Let us look at a metaphor. Two men meet in hell. They great each other and the one who is poor asks the other, “Where are you from?” The other man, “I come from prosperity. How about you?” The poor man answers, “I come from poverty.” The rich man says, “I was blinded by wealth, I did not believe in God and spent all the wealth lavishly. Eat, drink and be merry was my motto. But you were poor. How come you are here?” the poor man lamented, “I was blinded by poverty. My motto was that whatever must happen will happen, why struggle? I had an opportunity for self-improvement but wasted it. I suffered while I was poor and now, I am suffering here too. Oh, I should have strived to make something out of my life.” Both the rich man and the poor man met with the same fate and there was no one to blame but themselves.
Thus, to free ourselves from such a sorry plight, in the Shrimad Bhagwat Purana, Bhagawan Vamana advises King Bali, “If man treats Goddess Laxmi the consort of Lord Narayan as his servant, she will leave him.” Hence let us all pray to Her –
‘O Devi Laxmi, please bless us. We pray for you to be content with our services. We bow to you.”