If you truly get in touch with a piece of carrot, you get in touch with the soil, the rain, the sunshine. You get in touch with Mother Earth and eating in such a way, you feel in touch with true life, your roots, and that is meditation. If we chew every morsel of our food in that way we become grateful and when you are grateful, you are happy.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Saraswati, Laksmi and Alakshmi
Today was a very peaceful day marked by the first rain. As the clouds settled, eclipsing the once lit sky, I headed up the road to a little French Bakery called, Chamiers. That is right, a French Bakery. With an umbrella in hand I marveled at the unusual stillness of the city. The air elicited a freshness that I had been yearning for since my arrival. The combination of a watering sky and fewer gas fumes was exactly what the doctor ordered.
I ordered my chai, a staple of South India, and pulled out my book. Since my arrival I have been soaking up information. The apartment where I am living is a yogi’s heaven with hundreds of books, ranging from Vedic scripture to children’s folklore. Everyday I have had my head in something new. Even before arriving at bakery, I had spent all morning with a book called, “The Art of War,” by Sun Tzu. The book is an aphoristic essay rich in symbolism drawn from Chinese military strategy over 2000 years ago. The very same concepts can be superimposed onto modern day economics, psychology and business which made the read quite gripping. Although captivating, I wanted to switch to something a little more inspiring and heartfelt, so I sipped my tea over the Puranic tales of Vishnu. It was in one story revealing the tales of Vishnu’s two wives, Lakshmi and Saraswati, that gave my day real meaning. The story follows:
Lakshmi is the wife of Lord Vishnu. Lakshmi symbolizes wealth and prosperity. She, like many other Gods, are worshiped all over the world. Saraswati is the wife of Brahma. She is revered for knowledge and peace. It is said that any time the two are together, Saraswati enters the room first. When guests lie eyes on Saraswati, they are drawn to her sense of calm. Lakshmi enters the room next. Lakshmi’s beauty is so captivating that all eyes are drawn from Saraswati, onto her. Saraswati is not one to fight for attention, so after she feels neglected, she leaves. Lakshmi has a sister named Alakshmi. Alakshmi hates to see her sister alone, so when Saraswati makes her exit, she comes by her sister’s side. Alakshmi symbolizes the qualities of hatred, misfortune and strife. After some time passes, the infatuation with Laksmi begins subside. Partly because of her sister and partly do the boredom. It is only at this point do they notice Saraswati is gone.
This story paints a vivid picture of our pursuits in life and the potential downfall if we are not careful. Most of us begin our journey seeking out peace and happiness. With peace and happiness, comes prosperity and wealth. When the desire for wealth surfaces, we begin to neglect the happiness that originally brought us there. With no peace, hatred ensues. Only then do we beg for Saraswati to return.