The pursuit of pleasure is oft-neglected on the spiritual path, considered vulgar at worst and material at best. But we are spiritually built to enjoy all kinds of pleasure: sensual, carnal, material, and spiritual. In fact, the oldest wisdom tradition coming out of India—the Vedic tradition, first developed between 3500–1100 BCE—describes in detail a divine feminine deity known as Goddess Lakshmi, who, along with her chief incantations Durga and Saraswati, comprises "Shakti," the divine feminine mother goddess. While Durga represents courage and Saraswati, wisdom, Lakshmi is generally associated with wealth, fortune, beauty, and, yes, pleasure.
What can Lakshmi teach us about pleasure, and how we may pursue it on the modern spiritual path?
Goddess Lakshmi Is Pleasure Incarnate
Goddess Lakshmi is said to be playfully present in every pleasure possible—be it through delicious food, the arts, or sex. Lakshmi herself is beauty incarnate, adorned with the finest silks, gems, and rubies. She is typically depicted in a lush red or golden sari with golden ornaments, surrounded by lotuses and butterflies.
In fact, if not for Goddess Lakshmi’s unsurpassed and infinite blessings, it’s believed that you and I would not be enjoying any pleasures in life, whether small or great. Every pleasure we have ever enjoyed on this planet—every petal of every flower we have ever smelled with delight, every bead of every necklace we have ever worn with a smile, every tickle of spice we have enjoyed in food, every delicious sweet fruit we have bitten into, every puddle of rain we have playfully splashed in, every warm body we have ever embraced in joyful sexual ecstasy— is said to be a gift from Goddess Lakshmi.
Lakshmi’s Four Hands
In the Vedic tradition, pleasure-oriented faculties of human life are no less important than securing our life materially and advancing our consciousness spiritually. This includes finding a sexually satisfying partner, pursuing the art of lovemaking, and maintaining one’s love life at a high caliber. That is why it is said that Lakshmi’s four hands—an expression of her superpowers—represent the balanced quest for four universal goals of human life:
- Artha: seeking out material prosperity
- Dharma: cultivation of a personal code of higher ethics
- Moksha: spiritual liberation and divine consciousness
- Kama: pursuing worldly and bodily pleasures
Goddess Lakshmi’s teachings are clear—the first three goals must not be secured at the cost of neglecting or sidelining the fourth goal of kama. Human pleasures such as singing, dancing, playing, and sex play an important role in the overall health and wellbeing of an individual and a society. In fact, if the sexual instinct is forcefully suppressed, it leads to mental perversions and countless physical diseases. A pleasurable life feels prosperous as well. When the mind feels pleasured, positive, and happy to be alive, research supports that our physical health and immunity soar as well.
Enter Goddess Rati
A goddess incantation inspired by Goddess Lakshmi is Goddess Rati, whose name means “to delight” or “to enjoy in.” Goddess Rati is the goddess of love and passion. She represents lust and sexual pleasure for pleasure’s sake—not pleasure “justified” by childbearing and motherhood. In fact, when you are truly aroused and experiencing your sexuality with abandonment, it is she, Goddess Rati, who is said to become awakened from inside you. It is she along with you who enjoys your orgasm. It is she along with you who surrenders in the sweet embrace of a lover, only to become the dominant one, seeking indulgence and fulfillment of her desire.
With all this in mind, it’s no wonder that in her legends, Goddess Lakshmi demonstrates, again and again, the importance of unapologetically yet mindfully cultivating kama, or sexuality and earthly pleasures. She invites us to become comfortable with sensuality, delight in it, not sabotage it, nor suppress it, nor least of all shame it.
12 Ways to Please Your Inner Lakshmi
Besides enjoying sexual pleasures without shame or obligation, try any of the following activities to cultivate pleasure in your life:
- Clean and beautify your home regularly and keep it lovely and serene enough for Lakshmi to come pay a visit. This doesn’t necessarily mean buying expensive items to decorate. Your intention to keep it vibrationally pure, clean, and organized matters.
- Adorn your home with store-bought or wild-picked flowers, burn incense, light candles (especially at dawn and dusk), and decorate with natural objects like rocks and crystals when possible.
- Pick up after yourself and share the delight of a spacious, uncluttered home with family members. If they don’t cooperate right away, start with your personal space. Even if you live in a cramped space, you can still pick up after yourself, mindfully.
- Pleasure your body by feeding it fresh-cooked foods, set the table nicely, and eat with pleasure and good company when possible. If you can invest in whole organic foods, grow them yourself, or even barter for them, that will give your body extra Lakshmi energy to shine!
- Take up a daily self-care ritual like gazing at the rising sun, meditating under the moon, self-massaging your body with warm oil, or beginning an exercise or yoga routine. Once again, this need not tax your budget or your time. Simple choices lead the way to pleasurable self-care.
- Wear clean clothes, made of natural fibers when possible. Even if you have few clothes, regularly wash, iron, and wear them with a goddess smile.
- Adorn your body with beads, ornaments, essential oils, and perfumes more often, suitable to your taste and budget.
- Try to grow flowers, vegetables, or herbs! Take care of them, like you would take care of your own children. When you are visited by birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees, kama energy will exponentialize in your home.
- Savor music, painting, singing, or some other form of pleasure-giving artistic activity. Anything that makes you feel relaxed and uplifted will work.
- Spend time walking or meditating outdoors, listening to bird calls, and watching trees dance to the tune of the breeze. Spending time with Mother Nature is akin to spending time with Mother Lakshmi herself!
- Invite a friend or two who are respectful to your inner child—and fun to be with—for cozy meals and chit-chat. Plan picnics, camping, or movie marathons together.
- Open your heart and home to pets—dogs, cats, frogs, bunnies, hamsters, or reptiles. These creatures, representative of Lakshmi, fill our hearts with delight.
All in all, don’t neglect having fun in your life. Surround yourself with pleasure-imparting friends, lovers, pets, hobbies, and activities, and make time to be sweetly indulgent of yourself out of sheer pleasure. This is one true way to worship your inner Lakshmi.
This article is adapted from the forthcoming book, Roar Like a Goddess: Every Woman's Guide to Becoming Unapologetically Powerful, Prosperous, and Peaceful (Sounds True, 2022)