The Significance of the Sri Sukta
The Sri Sukta of the Veda is recited with benefit especially on Fridays, together with formal worship of the Goddess, for peace, plenty, and all-round prosperity. Lakshmi, who is usually identified as the Spouse of Vishnu, or Narayana, represents the glory and magnificence of God. Narayana and Lakshmi, actually, stand for Being and Becoming. The Creator in all His glory manifests Himself in the variety in creation.
Generally, spiritual seekers make the mistake of imagining that God is outside the world and the world has to be rejected in spiritual pursuits. This is an inadequate view, because the world is the glory of God, as light is the glory of the Sun and light cannot be disassociated from the Sun. The values and glories and the abundances of this vast creation cannot be separated from God, the Almighty, even in our love for God.
Narayana represents God, and Lakshmi represents the magnificence, abundance, plentifulness and grandeur of Narayana. The tradition, among the Vaishnavas especially, is that Narayana cannot be approached except through Lakshmi, even as some devotees hold that Krishna cannot be approached except through Radha, or Rukmini. This is to say that the Absolute can be reached only through the relative. The Invisible can be contacted only through the visible. The universe of perception and experience includes the very meditator, the seeker, the student or the devotee. Only an over-enthusiastic devotee can imagine that he is outside the world and then erroneously reject the values of life, forgetting thereby that in the act of such rejection he has rejected himself also, since he is a part of this creation. A truly transcendent devotion to God is impracticable, for God is not merely transcendent; He is also immanent.
The four Purusharthas—dharma, artha, kamaand moksha—mentioned in the scriptures, very wisely lay down the principles of an integration of living, so that we have to be properly aligned inwardly not only in our body, mind and spirit, but also outwardly in respect of the manifold articles of creation—animate, inanimate, organic or inorganic. The prayer to Lakshmi in the Sri Sukta is a supplication to God through the visible form of His magnificence and glory which is this indescribable universe. Lakshmi is prosperity, and all the wealth of life is nothing but prosperity. By wealth we are not to understand merely gold and silver, and the like. All forms of happiness, satisfaction, abundance and status come under Lakshmi, the Divine Glory. Any form of superior grandeur, greatness and glory is Lakshmi. Who can say that these are undesirable, when they are reflections of God himself? Has not Bhagavan Sri Krishna told us in the Gita that wherever there is glory, grandeur and excellence in a superb form of manifestation, it is He that is manifest there? Actually, in the end, there is nothing in the world that deserves our rejection. We have also to learn that meditation, or yoga, is not a rejection of realities but an inclusion of all existence, a harmony established between ourselves and the vast atmosphere around us. So the glory of the earth is not always an obstacle to God-realisation; but, rather, the great values of life are actually indicators of the majesty and beauty of God. As the ray of the Sun gives us a suggestion as to what the Sun is, the world points to us what God could be. Prakriti and Purusha are not two different things. The world and God are inseparables.
Narayana and Lakshmi, says the Vishnu Purana, are like fire and heat, flower and fragrance, oil and greasiness, water and liquidity, sun and light, etc. And by such comparisons it is made out that the two are in fact One Being envisaged as twofold for meditation and worship. The Sri Sukta is the invocation of God Himself as the great glory of His creation, His lordliness, sovereignty and supreme suzerainty. The emotions of man, when they are religiously roused, have a tendency to consider the world as an evil and God as an other-worldly goal of life. This is an overestimation of the path that is to be trodden and an underestimation of the world. Neither is it advisable to overestimate the world, nor is it advisable to underestimate supersensible realities. The path of truth is a via media, or a golden mean. May we humbly surrender ourselves to this great mystery of God’s Glory as Lakshmi, revealed to us as prosperity all round, through which we reach the Eternal Abundance, Narayana.