Lakshmi is the divine power that transforms dreams into reality. She is prakriti, the perfect creation: self-sustaining, self-contained Nature. She is maya, the delightful delusion, the dream-like expression of divinity that makes life comprehensible, hence worth living. She is shakti, energy, boundless and bountiful.
- Shri Vaishnava Tradition Pt.5
In the twelfth century AD, a new form of Vaishnavism called Shri-Vaishnavism evolved in South India. Like other Vaishnava orders, it visualised Vishnu as the embodiment of the supreme divine principle. However, this order was unique as it refused to acknowledge Vishnu independently. It insisted on the presence of Lakshmi beside him.
For Shri-Vaishnava scholars, such as Vedanta Deshika, Lakshmi is indispensable while approaching Vishnu. He represents righteousness; she represents compassion. She is like a mother intervening between a stern father (God) and an errant son (the devotee).
Maha-Lakshmi, the Great Goddess
In Tantrik texts, which were composed around the same time as the Puranas, Lakshmi acquired supreme importance. She was Maha-Lakshmi, the Supreme Goddess.
Lakshmi is often differentiated from Maha-Lakshmi. While the former is the consort of Vishnu and the Goddess of wealth, Maha-Lakshmi is viewed as an autonomous entity, the supreme embodiment of the Mother-Goddess. When worshipped as Maha-Lakshmi, Lakshmi is not visualised as a beautiful goddess seated on a lotus, pot in hand, but like a Virginal Warrior-Goddess riding a lion, much like Durga. This form of the Goddess is especially popular in Maharashtra.
Ancient Pancharatra texts that adore Maha-Lakshmi consider her to be the root of all creation. In the beginning, they say, the cosmic soul—the unfathomable unmanifest Narayana—desired to create the cosmos. But he did not have the resources to do so. As he pondered over this problem, his dormant energy, his shakti, burst forth in a blinding light, manifesting as Maha-Lakshmi.
Maha-Lakshmi placed the seed of divine desire in the palm of her hand and unleashed the dynamic forces of creation until the three worlds took shape and all forms of life came forth.
In the Lakshmi Tantra, the Goddess says:
“I am inherent in existence. I am the inciter, the potential thattakes shape. I manifest myself. I occupy myself with activity andfinally dissolve myself. I pervade all creations withvitality, will and consciousness. Like ghee that keeps a lamp burning, I lubricate the senses of livingbeings with the sap of myconsciousness.”
Lakshmi is the divine power that transforms dreams into reality. Lakshmi is prakriti, the perfect creation: self-sustaining, self-contained Nature. She is maya, the delightful delusion, the dream-like expression of divinity that makes life comprehensible, hence worth living. She is shakti, energy, boundless and bountiful.
To realise her is to rejoice in the wonders of life.