In chapter ten of my book, Shiny Objects, I talk about the Prosperity Gospel (PG). In its simplest form, the PG argues that tithes and donations given to a church will result in a financial windfall for the giver. Commonly described as the “Name It and Claim it””, or more pejoratively, the “Blab It and Grab it” Theology, the PG has a large following in the U.S.
Given the long-entrenched U.S. consumer culture, it wouldn’t be a great leap of faith to think that the PG was birthed in the U.S. This thinking, however, would be erroneous. People of cultures and religions that pre-date the U.S. by thousands of years have long looked skyward for a little help with the family finances.
Take for example, Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of wealth and prosperity – both material and spiritual. Since Shiny Objects addresses how our love of money and material possessions impacts our happiness, we will focus on material prosperity in this posting. Lakshmi has existed for thousands of years. A 1,400 year old statue of the Hindu Goddess was discovered and her visage graces coins that date from the first century BCE.
She is typically seated on a Lotus blossom and holding a Lotus bud that represents beauty and purity. The Goddess has four hands and is usually depicted with gold coins cascading from each hand. The red in her gold embroidered clothes symbolizes activity and the gold, prosperity. Often, two elephants are situated next to Lakshmi spewing water into the air. 1
I like the elephants because spewing water represents the ceaseless effort needed to achieve material prosperity. So, one must pray to the Goddess Lakshmi for wealth but a little hard work can’t hurt. And, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, when cultures place a high value on something they come up with a lot of names for the particular venerated object. It is claimed that Lakshmi has 108 names and is worshipped daily. October is Lakshmi’s special month, “On a full moon night following Durga Puja …. It is believed that on this full moon night the Goddess herself visits the homes and replenishes the inhabitants with wealth”.2
In what I think is a fascinating detail regarding money and Lakshmi is the custom (in many areas of India) of apologizing by the use of a hand gesture if one’s foot accidentally comes into contact with money – believed to be a physical manifestation of Lakshmi. The offending person asks for forgiveness by first touching the money in question with the finger-tips of their right hand and then touching their forehead or chest.1