The 4 Arms of Lakshmi
by Rebecca Barry
The goddess Lakshmi personifies good fortune, wealth and prosperity, as well as delight, splendor, health, and charm. Her graceful four arms represent life pursuits which, if in balance, lead to a healthy, well-lived and prosperous existence. They are: moksha, dharma, artha, and kama. Together, they are called Purusartha.
Lakshmi loves beauty, grace, lovely things and bright colors. She is happy to dole out money for delicious food, sumptuous textiles, flowers, entertainment, and whatever supports one’s family and life’s work. What she asks for in return is that we treat the earth and all of her splendors with tenderness and respect, that we notice and delight in the wonder around us, the people we love, and that we listen to and follow the longings of our souls.
Here’s how the arms work:
Lakshmi’s front two arms represent material world pursuits: artha and kama. In the artha, or lower left hand, she often holds gold coins, representing money, financial support, and the things that allow a person to make a living.
The kama arm, on the lower right, signifies passion, heart’s desire, the enjoyment and delight of things we can experience with the senses. This hand is held in abhaya mudra, indicating no fear! Trust your heart’s yearnings! Enjoy what the senses bring you!
Kama can also represent art, music, dance and nature.
Her back two arms represent the spiritual realm. The upper left hand stands for dharma, which is often referred to as duty, or “right-living.” We like to interpret it as aligned-living, or following a path which supports your soul’s greatest good. In this hand she often holds a half-opened lotus.
The upper right hand indicates moksha—liberation, salvation, or the freedom that comes through a connection to the Divine Self. This hand holds a fully opened lotus, indicating evolution, full bloom, or self-actualization.
The beauty of Lakshmi’s four arms is that each one is necessary for the others to function well. Without the spiritual support of dharma and moksha, a life lived in pursuit of artha and kama creates chaos.
On the other hand(s), material wealth plays a big role in protecting and nurturing life on this planet. Without artha’s financial support, how can you follow your dharma, and have time for your family and spiritual practices that lead to moksha? How can you tend to your health, your children’s health, or your home?
And without devotion to the pleasures of this life, how can you enjoy your moksha, or your connection to the divinity that lives in all beings? What’s the use of money if there’s no enjoyment of it? And what’s dharma without passion and delight?
Keeping the four arms of Lakshmi in balance is a dance that we’re constantly engaged in in the search for a soul-aligned, purposeful life; one that is rich with pleasure, abundance, and whatever we need to be able to care for the earth and those we love.