Plants, Paws, and Pot Bellies: Pick A Plan For Prosperity.

It can be argued that one can be too rich, too smart, or too good-looking, but one can’t ever be too lucky. Luck is the one thing we all can use a little bit more of. But how can we bring more good luck into our lives? Throughout the ages people have believed that good luck can be found, bought, made, or even grown.

Well, if you want to grow your own luck, you have the choice of either tending to a plant or caring for a pet animal. It depends on your temperament which one you’ll find to be more fun or less demanding. If you prefer a good luck charm that doesn’t move about too much and sprouts leaves instead of fur, then you’ll be better off growing a Money Tree or a Good Fortune Tree. This unique tree’s scientific name is Pachira Aquatica. The legend goes that there was an old farmer from Taiwan who never seemed to get any luck. He had worked hard his whole life with nothing to show for it. But one morning, he found a strange new plant growing near his fields. It was a hardy, resilient tree that didn’t seem to need much care or water. The plant began to sprout multiple stems that then grew charming light-green leaves. He decided to collect the tree’s seeds, grow them and sell the young plants at market. They were a big success and he soon grew very prosperous. From then on the plant became known as the Good Luck Money Tree or Good Fortune Tree. They are now being sold around the world. The luckiest plants are said to be the ones with 7 leaves on each stem. They are very easy to take care of as they thrive even in low light and dry conditions. They only require watering around once a month or when the soil they are planted in has completely dried out.

If you want a more interactive good luck charm though, then you might consider taking care of a Good Luck Cat from Thailand. Many Thai superstitions are focused on the spirituality of animals. The Thai people have an ancient belief that certain types of cats bring good fortune to those who look after them. The Tamra Maew or Cat Book of Poems, which was written in the 1300s, lists and contains paintings of 17 kinds of “good luck cats”. It also advises the reader to:

Hurry and find a good cat to prosper and gain results, rank and slaves because of the good cat with the correct characteristics…

two eyes like diamonds business meets success with prosperity, like a priceless jewel…

…white whiskers, as if applied so fine-luck is not slow coming to the house

This ancient manuscript was recovered from Ayudhya, the capital of what was then Siam, and shows how long cats have had a special relationship with the Thai people. Their King Rama V adored animals and was known to hold a state funeral when one of his cats died. Siamese cats were rarely sold to foreigners, but because they are considered good luck they are a favorite gift to visiting dignitaries. And in Thailand, if a pair of good luck cats is given to a bride on her wedding day, it is said to ensure a happy marriage.

This maneki neko beckons customers to purchase...

This maneki neko beckons customers to purchase takarakuji tickets in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you don’t have a green thumb or the space for a pet, then growing your own luck could be a problem. No need to fret though as there are a few things you can buy to improve your lot. If you still want a good luck cat but don’t think you can manage to take care of a real live one, then you might be content to keep a Golden Lucky Money Cat or a Beckoning Cat. These cat figures are popular in Chinese and Japanese businesses. You can usually find them prominently displayed, one paw auspiciously raised up, as if hailing you to “live long and prosper”. The left paw is to beckon customers, the right paw attracts money and good fortune. They may also come in different colors for different kinds of luck. Black is to ward off evil, pink is for love, gold is for money (of course), and red for good health. These lucky cats are customarily “fed” with coins and paper bills. In China there is a charming legend told about the arrival of a cat who fought the rats and protected the silkworms that a family depended on for their wealth. Traditionally, cats also symbolize protection from evil. This is supposedly because they can see in the dark and frighten away bad spirits.

Budai - Laughing Buddha

Budai – Laughing Buddha (Photo credit: Natesh Ramasamy)

But if you’re after a more anthropomorphic symbol of good luck, then a Lucky Buddha could be what you’re looking for. Also known as Hotei in Japan, Pu-Tai in China, Laughing Buddha or Happy Buddha, these Buddha figures always feature a big smile and a large belly. His fat stomach is a symbol of happiness, generosity, and the good life.  Legend has it that if a person is to rub his belly, it brings forth wealth, luck, and prosperity. It is said that the Hotei is based on a Buddhist monk by the name of Pu-Tai. Because of his benevolent nature, he was regarded as an incarnation of the bodhisattva (the future Buddha Maitreya), but due to his fat stomach and jolly personality, he was caricatured as the “Laughing Buddha”. The name Hotei actually means cloth bag or glutton. Another item that is usually seen with the Hotei figure is a begging bowl.  This represents his Buddhist nature. Many Buddhist temples will have Hotei located at the entrance or in the courtyard. Most of these figures depict Hotei as a wandering monk who goes around and takes away the sorrow from those he passes.

Once we’ve chosen a charm it is best not to question its powers too much if we want to see any effects. Falling prey to skepticism and pessimism just won’t do you any good. At the very least, it’s always a good idea to hold on to something that makes us feel better about our chances in life. Taking care of a tree or a pet cat is always a worthwhile endeavor, and can also be very enjoyable. If you believe that keeping a lucky figure makes you feel more fortunate, or adds a more prosperous tone to your home or business, then by all means get one and display it in full view. And who knows, seeing Buddha laugh and rubbing his fat belly everyday might be just what you need to put a smile on your face and some stuffing in your bank account. As long as it makes you happy and brings you hope, who is to argue? In the end, we only have as much luck as we believe, but every little bit helps.

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published in Manila Bulletin, 2003

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