In this issue, LILLIAN TOO introduces readers to Chinese Wealth deities and Tibetan Wealth Buddhas also known as Jhambalas. Prayers to them are wondrously beautiful, particularly when one stays mindful of the motivations behind the wish to get rich – not just to benefit oneself but also to generate a philanthropic and generous nature.
There are many different wealth deities in the different Asian traditions. The Koreans and Thais have their wealth Buddhas. The Tibetans have their five Jambhala wealth gods. Chinese Taoists have several Wealth Gods and also regard the 8 Immortals and Laughing Buddha as auspicious beings whose presence in the home either on paintings or on decorative items attracts wealth luck. The most popular wealth Gods are the three star gods known as Fuk Luk Sau who signify wealth, health and longevity.
My favourite wealth god is Tsai Shen Yeh who is usually depicted offering an ingot of gold and stepping on or sitting on a fierce tiger. I have two particularly beautiful signature pieces, one standing and holding an ingot which I place near my SE front door, and the other dressed in green dragon robes and sitting on a tiger. I place this one directly facing my SE door. I have had both these wealth Gods for some time now.
Since I am a practising Buddhist who follows the Tibetan Gelugpa tradition, I also have what we describe as a Jambhala waterfall. The Tibetan Wealth Buddhas – Jambhalas – are unlike Taoist Wealth Gods in that they are consecrated and then placed on special altars where there is a flow of clean water falling on the crown of their heads. The belief is that Jambhala carries a mongoose (which looks like a Rat) which spews forth precious jewels that signify wealth. Placing the Jambhala in the home attracts a continuous stream of wealth luck.
Displaying wealth deities in the home, especially facing the main door, is believed to transform incoming chi into auspicious energy. They can also be placed in an elevated place (on a side board or table) in the dining or living room.
Chinese business people swear by their private wealth gods which they usually display in the inner sanctums of their offices, and these are usually placed behind them to symbolically “support’ them in their business endeavours. The consensus is that the larger the Wealth God, the more powerful they are. Fuk Luk Sau for instance is simply a must in many Chinese homes. These not only look after the material side of life for residents, they also afford general protection against bad people.
The Chinese differentiate between civilian and military Gods of Wealth. The most important of the Wealth Gods is Zhao Gong Ming. The civilian Gods of Wealth are Bi Gan and Fan Li, while the Warrior God of Wealth is Kuan Yu. Then there are the informal Gods of Wealth, Wu Lo Chai Shen and Li Shi Xian Guan and the God of Wealth associated with the three-legged-toad called Liu Hai.
Tsai Sheng Yeh
He is the most influential and popular Wealth God respected and worshipped by Chinese all over the world. Also known as Zhang Gong Ming, he is a powerful deity who brings good fortune and protection from disasters. He is described as being so benevolent and compassionate that he will answer all prayers and invocations made to him. He is like a wish-fulfilling jewel making the monetary wishes of his devotees come true.
Tsai Sheng Yeh is usually depicted riding a black tiger. Sometimes he is shown with a thick beard and a dark face. In his hand he holds a whip, although in recent times he has also been increasingly shown holding a gold ingot. Legends describe him as a former general of ancient China. Buddha appointed him as “Xuan Tan Zhen Jun” to take charge of the distribution of wealth and good fortune amongst the people. Since then he has been distributing the treasures of the earth, in the process bringing good fortune to those who invite him into their homes.His presence is said to ensure that businesses will be free of bad debts. Little wonder then that most businessmen usually have an image of Tsai Shen Yeh in their homes and also on their business premises.
The famous Kuan Yu also known as Kuan Kung is one of the most popular Wealth God among businessmen. Kuan Kung’s presence not only protects, but also helps overcome the competition. If yours is a business threatened by many competitors, you need the fiercest of Kuan Kung images, the Nine-Dragon-robed Kuan Kung. Placed inside the home or business premise and directly facing the door, Kuan Kung does not just attract wealth luck, he also protects. In the times of the warring states, Kuan Kung was said to have been a righteous, faithful and brave general.
There are many outstanding images of Kuan Kung but the standing Kuan Kung and Kuan Kung on horseback are said to be the most suitable for businesspeople. The standing posture emphasizes his courage and tenacity in the midst of great odds and is thus suitable for business people who are going through hard times. The Kuan Kung on horseback brings speed and swiftness of response in tight situations. The Horse is a noble creature who has the power to help you overcome the competition. Kuan Kung should look fierce and his eyebrows are depicted turned upwards to accentuate the ferocity of his expression.
The way to choose a suitable figurine of Kuan Kung is to examine the expression on his face. The angrier and more ferocious he looks, the more effective he is in helping your business to turn around. As for size, the bigger and heavier he is, the more powerful will be his energy. Invite Kuan Kung into your home on an auspicious day that does not clash with your animal sign. Do not place Kuan Kung on the ground. He is best elevated facing the door from whichever wall gives him the best view of the entrance.
Civilian Gods of Wealth
There is Bi Gan whose provenance goes back to the Shang Dynasty. Bi Gan was the uncle of Emperor Zhou. He took charge of the Imperial finances and was known for his impartial distribution of the Emperor’s wealth amongst the people. Bi Gan was so popular that in time he came to be revered as a civilian wealth deity.
There is also Fan Li who was a distinguished politician, strategist and a profitable businessman. He was talented and wise, credited with helping the Emperor build and train the army. Fan Li retired and moved his family to the country where his ability with finances helped him to accumulate great wealth. He became very rich and distributed much of his wealth to the people. He soon became a legend for his philanthropy and over time came to be revered as a Wealth God.
Wealth Gods of the Five Directions
The five wealth gods come from five directions – East, West, South, North and the center. According to legend, when you invoke the blessings of the five Wealth Gods, collectively referred to as Wu Lo Chai Shen, no matter where you live or travel to, you will experience wealth luck. Businessmen like to receive Wu Lo Chai Shen on the 5th day of the Chinese New Year so if you are at a loss what to give to your friend, this is one of the best gifts possible. Bring him to visit your friend on the fifth day of New Year. It is believed that when you place Wu Lo Chai Shen on your altar and make offerings daily, your business will prosper with great speed. When you invite this Wealth God into your home he will help increase your income for the coming year.
Li Shi Xian Guan meanwhile, is the deity that accompanies the God of Wealth. “Li Shi” means profit from transactions. Amongst the Chinese, the custom is to stick his image on the inside of the entrance door of business premises to signify an abundance of profits.
Another Wealth God is Liu Hai whose nickname is “Hai Chan Zi”. The “Chan” here refers to the famous three-legged-toad whose mere presence is said to attract money. This toad is also said to cure poison on the body and strengthen the heart. In the old days, the toad was regarded as a precious source for curing sickness and bringing good fortune luck.
Legend describes Liu Hai as having used a string of coins to pull the 3 legged toad from the sea. This rare toad was believed to bring good fortune and money. Liu Hai tamed the toad causing it to sprinkle money each time he dangled coins in front of the toad. This way, Liu Hai helped many poor people and as a result, both Liu Hai and the toad have been immortalized as powerful and auspicious symbols of wealth.
Legends of the Jhambala go back to the time of Shakyamuni Buddha
The story goes that Lama Atisha, a very revered high lama of the Gelugpa tradition, was walking in Bodhgaya when he encountered an old man dying of starvation. Moved by the old man’s suffering, Lama Atisha immediately cut his flesh to offer the old man. “How can I eat a monk’s flesh?” the old man shakes his head. Lama Atisha lay down, feeling sad and helpless when a white light suddenly appears before him. It is the Thousand-Armed Chenrezig, the Buddha of compassion who says to Atisha, “I will manifest as Jambhala, the Buddha of wealth to help suffering beings. I shall alleviate their poverty so they will not be distracted from practising the good heart.’
Jhambala (also spelt Dzambhala) is thus believed to be an emanation of Chenrezig, the Compassionate Buddha, manifesting as the wealth-giving Buddha. The Indian origin of the story of Jambhala is different and is reflected in the appearance of this deity. Over time there evolved not one but five wealth Jambhalas, each with his own mantra and practice to help eliminate poverty and create financial stability.
Of the five, I am familiar only with the practices of the White Jambhala and the Yellow Jambhala, both of whose practices I received through the great kindness of my precious guru. I have also been extremely fortunate indeed to receive the initiation to the White Jambala practice from Rinpoche.
Yellow Jambhala sits on a lotus, sun and moon disk. He holds a mongoose in his left hand and from its mouth spews forth precious jewels.
White Jambhala sits on a snow lion, although some artists depict him sitting on a dragon and in his left hand there is also a mongoose that spits out precious diamonds and ornaments.
The other three Jambhalas are Black Jambhala who is depicted standing with a wrathful expression and surrounded by a ring of fire; Green Jambhala who is usually shown in tight embrace with his consort; and Red Jambhala who is shown with the head of an elephant. Some say that Red Jambala is indeed the Hindu God of Wealth, the popular Lord Ganesh. All five Jambalas carry the jewel-spouting mongoose in their left hand. It is this mongoose that causes wealth to flow into your home when you do the Jambhala practice with an altruistic motivation.
As everyone knows, when one is rich, it is easier to be unselfish and to develop an attitude of generosity. So the purpose of practising Jambhala is to eliminate the insecurity of worrying about money so that one is not distracted by poverty and lack of funds. The best way to request help from the Jambhalas is by making continuous water offerings to them. If possible, do also try to simultaneously recite the appropriate mantras, and then the practice will be extremely powerful.
Someone once explained to me that when Devadatta, the jealous cousin of Shakyamuni Buddha threw rocks at the Buddha, the Jambhalas were around and the rocks hit White and Yellow Jambhalas on their heads and hit Black Jambhala on the stomach. This is why White and Yellow Jambhalas feel bliss when water offering is poured on their heads. This eases their pain. For the same reason for Black Jambhala, water should be poured onto his stomach.
One way to invite Jambhala into your home is to look for a small image of White Jambhala and place under falling water in a six-level waterfall. Place this in the SW sector of your living room. If you do this on the first day of the New Year, you will be activating the most auspicious sector of that day.
Indian God of Wealth
Elephant-headed Lord Ganesh
In Hindu mythology, Lord Ganesh is the younger son of Shiva and Parvati. Several legends describe the origin of Lord Ganesh’s elephant head, the most popular of which relates how Parvati, when taking a bath, asked Ganesh to stand guard. When her husband Shiva wished to enter the bathroom, he was stopped by his son. Enraged, Shiva cut off Ganesh’s head. Distressed by her husband’s behavior, Parvati asked him to replace Ganesh’s head. Shiva did so with the head of the first living being he encountered, namely an elephant.
In the second legend, the origins of Ganesh’s elephant head relates how Parvati, admiring her son’s handsome looks, asked Saturn (Sani) to gaze at her son. She forgot that the effect of Sani’s glance was to burn the object he gazed at to ashes. In her distress, Parvati went to Brahma, who told her to replace Ganesh’s head with the first head she could find, which was an elephant. The sacred “Om” sign with which Ganesh is associated points to a third myth about his birth. According to this story, one day Parvati saw the “Om” sign, which she transformed into two elephants and from their intercourse emerged Ganesh. They then resumed the form of “Om”, but ever since, “Om” has become known as the sign of Ganesh.
The elephant-headed god Ganesh also known as Ganapati is worshipped extensively by the Hindus, especially by those in business. He is generally revered as the God of Wisdom as well as the Remover of Obstacles. His image in the home is consequently regarded as the presence of auspiciousness.
It is customary to begin cultural events by propitiating Ganesh, and older Sanskrit works invoked his name at their commencement. In the most common representations of Ganesh, he appears as a pot-bellied figure, usually yellow in colour. In his four hands, he holds a shell, a discus, a club and a water lily. His elephant head has only one tusk. Like most other Indian gods, he has a ‘vehicle’ - in his case a rat. This rat is usually shown at the foot of the God, although sometimes Ganesh sits astride the rat.
He is unquestionably the most lovable and mischievous of the deities with his protuberant belly and the twinkle in his eyes. There are many festive occasions on which Ganesh is honoured and he has an abiding presence in many Hindu households. There is no medium — stone, glass, cloth, paper, bamboo, wood, bronze, and numerous others — in which artists and craftspersons have not offered representations of Ganesh.
The following article is taken from the "Feng Shui World (January/February 2007)". To subscribe, please click here.