As you exit the Universal Wisdom Hall, towards the rear door of BTRTM, you will see the Yellow Dzambhala, in a special altar. You will see many devotees offering their prayers for blessings from Yellow Dzambhala.
Yellow Dzambhala appears with a big belly and a small body frame, strong arms and golden skin. His right hand holds a precious “mani” citron fruit, whilst his left hand grasps a mongoose spouting jewels from its mouth.
He wears a 5-leaf crown just above his hairline, depicting wishfulfilling jewels with a jewelled headband, clad with celestial costume for his lower body and heavenly ribbons draped around his upper naked body, adorned with blue lotus flowers and ornaments of various jewels, such as pearls and jade. The crown is secured by two straps: one round the back of his head and another around his topknot. With a bulging forehead, he sports thin slender curly moustaches and goatee, long hair and studded beards originating from both his ears down to his chin. His thick knotted eyebrows frame a pair of wide open eyes gazing intently in front. He has long earlobes with big oval eyerings resting on his shoulders and wears two thick ornate necklaces, anklets, bracelets and armbands.
With “upala” prayer beads hanging on his neck, he is seated in a relaxed and peaceful manner on a lotus pedestal with a moon disc with his left foot folded and his right foot stepping on a precious conch shell.
Yellow Dzambhala, (Sanskrit: Jambhala; Tibetan: Dzambala Tsepo, Zambala, ཛམ་བྷ་ལ་; Chinese: Yellow Wealth God), is one of the five Gods of Wealth who takes care of fortunes. He is also chief of the yaksas and is parallel to Pancika, Kubera and Vaisravana. Dzambhala is the kulesa or emanation of Buddha Ratnasambhava. He is able to help beings by getting rid of poverty, and leading them to abundance of wealth.
It is said that there was a time at Grdhrakuta Mountain, when Buddha Shakyamuni was giving the teaching of Maha Prajna-paramita Sutra, some demons and maras came to interrupt by trying to shake and collapse the mountain, all at the scene were terrified. At such instance, Yellow Dzambhala manifested himself and protected all from the disaster. After which Buddha Shakyamuni entrusted Yellow Dzambhala to help all beings overcome poverty and to be the great dharma protector in future.
Yellow Dzambala is the foremost amongst the 5 Dzambalas (Wealth Dieties). His main function is primarily to confer wealth to sentient beings so that they can have the financial resources required to lead a happy life.
A magnetizing practice, Yellow Dzambala practice helps its practitioners to be free from obstacles such as enemies, thieves, and illnesses, and increases their wealth and material well being.
If one is able to do this practice with the altruistic Bodhichitta motivation, to help all sentient beings to be free from poverty, one shall enjoy an unlimited supply of wealth and merits. For those who are constantly experiencing financial difficulties due to past life negative karma, Yellow Dzambala is undoubtedly their best source of support. A person who does the practice of Yellow Dzambala regularly shall be free from economic pressures and hardships, their wisdom, store of merit and life span shall also increase.
Buddha Shakyamuni emphasised the greater importance of inner over outer wealth and encouraged His followers to moderate or even eliminate their desires for external wealth and resources. For example, in His own life story which was meant as a model for His disciples, He renounced the riches of His own kingdom in search of the path to full enlightenment. He also rejected King Bimbisara’s offering of half of his huge kingdom.
Notwithstanding examples from His life story, He has also sacrificed his outer wealth in many previous lives in the pursuit of Dharma. In The Lotus Sutra, He explained that in a previous life as a king, He has forsaken material posssessions and even His own body for sake of receiving Dharma instructions which He viewed as more important than anything in the world:
Through innumerable eons in the past, I tirelessly sought the Dharma Flower Sutra. Throughout those many eons I was a king who vowed to seek unexcelled awakening. Never faltering, and wanting to become fully developed in the six transcendental practices [paramitas (sanskrit) or Perfections], the king diligently and unstintingly gave alms—elephants, horses, the seven rare things, countries, cities, wives, children, male and female servants, attendants, and even his own head, eyes, marrow, brain, flesh, hands, and feet—not sparing his body or life
—The Lotus Sutra, Chapter 12, paragraph 1
External wealth, albeit is essential to sustain ourselves, is only of use to us in this life. We cannot take it to our future lives. If we spend much time and energy in accumulating wealth and resources, we will have little time left for Dharma practice. Moreover if we are wealthy, we may find ourselves in personal danger with much anxiety. In order to protect, maintain and increase our wealth, we have to work hard, sometimes even having to deceive others.
However if we devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the Dharma, even when we are poor, eventually—either in this or future lives—we will attain real Dharma jewels which is the only wealth we can carry with us. These are the true wealth of a pure practitioner.
Off all wealth, contentment is supreme,
Said he [Buddha] who taught and guided gods and men.
So always be content; if you know this
Yet have no wealth, true riches you’ll have found.
Kind Sir, to own a lot brings so much misery,
There’s no such grief for those with few desires.
—Nagarjuna, Letter to a Friend, verses 34-35
With the wealth of Dharma, even without much resources, we can be happy and benefit countless others, just like the great Tibetan meditator Milarepa (c.1052 – c.1135) who, following Buddha’s example and realising that practising Dharma is singularly most important, spent most of his life in solitary retreats in the Himalayas. Even though he is materially destitute, he is undeterred and he finally attained the supreme wealth of Buddhahood in one short life.
In his acclaimed The One Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, he exhorted the advantages of having little wealth and possessions:
For possessions I have no desire.
Since I never strive to make money,
First I do not suffer
Because of making it;
Then I do not suffer
Because of keeping it;
In the end I do not suffer
Because of hoarding it.
Better far and happier is it
Not to have possessions.
— The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, p.288
On another occasion, he explained the disadvantages of wealth:
Wealth, at first, leads to self-enjoyment,
Making other people envious.
However much one has, one never feels it is enough,
Until one is bound by the miser’s demon;
Hard it is then to spend it on virtuous deeds.
Wealth provokes enemies and stirs up ghosts.
One works hard to gather riches which others will spend;
In the end, one struggles for life and death,
To amass wealth and money invites enemies;
So I renounce the delusions of Samsara.
To become the victim of deceitful devils,
I have no appetite.
— The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, p.122
According to karma, wealth and resources are a result of the inner wealth of generosity. If we face poverty in this life, it is because of our miserliness committed in previous lives. We should not be disheartened but strive to practise giving. If we are rich in this life, it is the result of dana or giving in previous lives and we should continue to improve our practice of giving so that the good karma we have will not be exhausted and that we continue to experience wealth in future lives.
Ultimately, Yellow Dzambala is a protector of our inner wealth of Dharma. If we engage in his practice and devote ourselves to him sincerely and with strong faith, he will arrange sufficient external conditions for us so that we will have everything we need to practise. These may not necessarily correspond to what we think we need. We may not be wealthy but as our practice progresses, he will bestow his blessings upon our minds so that our true wealth—the inner Dharma realizations—do not degenerate but always increase.
Appearance: One face, 2 arms, 2 feet. His face is more gentle looking, and he wears a Five-Buddhas Crown.
Clothing and Ornaments: Wears a heavenly robe, body is decorated with a garland of blue lotus flowers and adorned with all kinds of jewels and ornaments. In front of his chest hangs a set of Upala prayer beads.
Hand Implements: His right hand is in the gesture of giving and holds a wish fulfilling citron fruit, the fruit of the jambhara (jambhala, jambhira) tree (Blyxa octandra), the symbol of wealth and abundance. His left hand is gently carrying a mongoose spewing jewels from the jaws, symbolizing a bountiful and unlimited supply of jewels, wealth and auspiciousness. The mongoose is the enemy of the snake, a symbol of greed or hatred; the ejection of jewels represents generosity.
Sitting Posture and Leg Rest: He sits on a lotus flower and moon disc in the lalitasana posture of royal ease, left leg drawn in and right leg lightly stepping on a precious conch shell. Sometimes shown to trample on Sankhamunda and Padmamunda.
His images are found from the 8th century onwards, in India, Indonesia, Tibet, Nepal, etc.
The BTRTM yellow Dzambhala incorporates the features of this gilt bronze statue that belongs to our museum.
This specially carved wood statue is from Mr Zhan Weichen of Yueqing Global Arts and Crafts Factory of Zhejiang Province, China.
It was then painted and decorated with jewelry, etc.
1. Lokesh Chandra, Dictionary of Buddhist Iconography, International Academy of Indian Culture and Aditya Prakashan, 1999, Vol 5, pages 1500 – 1514 (Jambhala)
2. Louis Frederic, Buddhism, Flammarion Iconographic Guides, 1995, ISBN 2-08013-558-9, page 245
3. Meher McArthur, Reading Buddhist Art, An Illustrated Guide to Buddhist Signs & Symbols, Thames & Hudson,2002, pages 66 – 67
4. Charles F Chicarelli, Buddhist Art, An Illustrated Introduction, Silkworm Books, 2004, ISBN 974-9575-54-7, pages 209 -210
5. Robert E Fisher, Art of Tibet, Thames and Hudson, 1997, ISBN 0-500-20308-3, pages 118 – 122
6. Gene Reeves, The Lotus Sutra, Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2008, p. 247.
7. Chang, Garma C. C. 1962.The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books. Reprint, (2 vols. in 1), Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1999.
8. Nagarjuna, Nagarjuna's Letter to a Friend, with commentary by Kyabje Kangyur Rinpoche, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group, Snow Lion Publications, 2006, p.41.