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​The Guardian Deities of Wealth Revered in Buddhism

In Buddhism, there are guardian deities (dharmapalas) of wealth. Different Buddhist traditions venerate their own dharmapalas and methods to invoke their blessings.

In Chinese Buddhism, the male and female guardian deities of wealth are Vaiśravaṇa, or Hearer of Many Teachings (Chn. Duōwén Tiānwáng多聞天王), and Lakṣmī (also known as Śrī) respectively. Vaiśravaṇa, one of the Four Heavenly Kings (cāturmahārāja), is the protector of the north, the god of knowledge, and is also considered a god of warfare. In comparison to Vaiśravaṇa, Lakṣmī is more widely recognized because of the Chapter of the Increase of Wealth by the Great Goddess Śrī of the Golden Light Sutra, which includes the Dharani of Sri Devi. As the great goddess Śrī stated in the Sutra, "Oh World-Honored One! If one recites this holy dharani to invoke me, as I hear their plea, I will visit them to fulfill their wishes." Therefore, for those seeking fortune and a smooth career, reciting the Dharani can help fulfill their wishes. However, their initial aspirations for the wishes must be righteous, such as making donations to propagate the Dharma, so that Śrī will fulfill their wishes.

As the beliefs of Vaiśravaṇa and Śrī were introduced to Japan, they developed differently from those found in China. The common name for Vaiśravaṇa was changed into Bishamonten (毘沙門天), and Śrī was replaced by Benzaitennyo (Saraswati, the goddess of eloquence) as the goddess of wealth. The latter is also called Benzaiten (辯財天 or 弁財天). Many temples enshrine Benzaiten for followers to worship and pray for wealth. Both Bishamonten and Benzaiten have later become the members of the Seven Lucky Gods, with Benzaiten being the only goddess among them. She is worshipped as the goddess of wealth, language, music, and talents. People believe that the goddess can ward off evil, dispel misfortune, and bring prosperity and good fortune to their families.

In Tibet, the most well-known guardian deities of wealth are the Five Jambhalas: Yellow Jambhala, Red Jambhala, White Jambhala, Black Jambhala, and Green Jambhala. Each Jambhala is in charge of five respective forms of worldly wealth—fortune, respect and popularity, wisdom, power, and physical well-being—to fulfill people's various wishes. Among them, Yellow Jambhala is the chief of the Wealth Gods controlling infinite treasuries, well-known for his ability to eliminate poverty and sufferings in the six realms of existence, help people gain blessings, longevity, and wisdom, as well as fulfill all physical and mental needs. Additionally, Vasudhārā, also known as Norgyunma and Dolma Sermo, is the goddess of wealth in Tibetan Buddhism.

In fact, all guardian deities of wealth, regardless of their traditions, share an ultimate goal in common—urging people to practice giving while praying for the fulfillment of their wishes. Through giving, we practice letting go of what we are attached to, and transform worldly wealth into Dharma wealth that nourishes our spirituality, thereby eradicating our greed within and attaining freedom and ease of mind.

Related articles:

Buddhist Perspectives on Wealth

The Financial Quotient of Buddhism

How Can Gold Turn Out to Be a Poisonous Snake?

The Guardian Deities of Wealth Revered in Buddhism

Commonly Asked Questions about the Buddhist Perspective on Wealth

Resource: Issue 394 of Humanity  Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Translation: Sinag-ling Li (李祥苓)
Editing: Keith Brown, Chia-Cheng Chang (張家誠)