Dhanteras [in Hindi], is the 3rd day of the celebration, and the thirteenth day of the fortnight. In Sanskrit, the name for this day is Dhana-trayodaśī. On this day, we honor all the forms of wealth in our life.
Generally, when we hear the word “wealth”, we think of money. However, while money is a potent form of wealth, the true nature of wealth is about so much more than just having money. It is a sacred power unto itself, and a deep experience of the inherent abundance of this universe.
What’s interesting is that the word धन dhana, wealth, shares the same Sanskrit root as the word for blessed, धन्य dhanya. To have wealth is a form of blessing; to feel blessed is the greatest wealth. And, often all that it takes to feel wealthy is to remember our blessings.
धन – Wealth धन्य – Blessed
Traditional Forms of Wealth
The first traditional wealth is simple – good health! Think about it: if you were sick, how much would you be able to enjoy having anything else? Have you noticed how when you’re not feeling well, all you want is to feel better again? In fact, today is the day that we honor Dhanvantarī, the cosmic healer. He is an incarnation of Lord Viṣṇu, the sustaining power of creation, and you can learn more about him in the next lesson.
The second traditional form of wealth is the obvious one: money! And, money isn’t just limited to bank notes; traditionally, money was measured by gold and jewels. Not only are these high value in terms of trade, but they physically embody the beauty, light, and effulgence of Śrī, the cosmic power of abundance. They are the wealth of this planet, and we are thankful to be able to adorn ourselves and our lives with the earth’s splendor.
Another type of wealth is having children, and living elders. To be able to have children is a great blessing; similarly, to have elders in your family and/or in your home is also considered a form of great wealth.
Fifth, the scriptures refer to this as the greatest wealth of all: विद्या vidyā, knowledge/wisdom. If you have wisdom, you have everything you need to handle anything. You have freedom, and you have power. And unlike money, health, and your relationships – wisdom will stay with you always.
Sixth, a genuinely awakened guru and friends who support your sādhanā, your spiritual life, are also tremendous forms of wealth. There are countless songs and verses of people singing “dhanyo’ham! dhanyo’ham!” (I am blessed! I am blessed!) because of the gift of spiritual initiation from a true guru and the family of fellow truth-seekers. By following the guidance of the teacher and other awakened beings, inner emptiness and the suffering of lifetimes can be transformed and released.
Lastly, being both able and motivated to live a life of dharma is a great, great, great, form of wealth. Dharma is the sacred and natural principle that upholds all creation. Dharma contains everything and flows through everything; attaining dharma is attaining the universe. As mentioned in the last lesson, Śrī is married to dharma (Mahālakṣmī and Bhagavān Viṣṇu).
Reflect on the forms of wealth in your life – can you feel the blessings that shine through them?
The primary practice on dhanteras is to do pūjā, ritual worship, of all your wealth – to sanctify it and express your gratitude for it. The photo above is from a Dhanteras pūjā in India (read on for basic instructions on how to do this pūjā).
Secondly, it’s an auspicious day to give or receive gold or jewelry – to share wealth and to receive more into your life. (In modern India, jewelers have learned to commercialize and promote Dhanteras for this reason). However, the original spirit of this day is to honor wealth in all its forms and its nourishing, beautiful presence.
Thirdly, Ayurvedically speaking, we are still in a very fiery and hot season. We need to be able to calm and soothe the body. There’s a tradition on Dhanteras of drinking coriander seeds soaked in water. Incidentally, the word for coriander in Sanskrit is dhānya – that which contains dhana. (In Hindi, it’s dhaniyā). These are very cooling and very healing for the body.
1) Gather all your representative forms of wealth. You can start with jewelry and money (coins or notes are fine). If you use credit cards a lot, you can include those as well (just don’t get them wet, obviously). You can also include anything that you consider to be your wealth – for example, if you have any sacred books or scriptures (even chanting books with hymns are fine), and even small gold or silver icons of deities are included.
2) Clean them. If it’s metal, it’s traditional to actually wash it until it’s clean (also a good day for polishing all your jewelry and silver, if you have the energy). If you are inspired, you can wash it with the five sacred offerings of milk, sugar, ghee, yoghurt, and honey, and then wash it again with water to clean. If it’s paper or something delicate, you can dust it off.
Anytime we clean something we not only physically connect with whatever we are cleaning, but we also connect with its power inside of us. For example, cleaning our jewelry and money is an opportunity to “dust off” the part of us that is abundant, beautiful, and sparkling. The act of cleaning is revered throughout the tradition as being a way of inviting Śrī into our lives.
3) A traditional way to honor anything is to mark it with a spot of kumkum powder, which is red and represents the living Śakti, living consciousness – pure life force energy. It is a way of acknowledging the divine life within something. This is done with the ring finger, which represents fire and its purity. It also “marks” it/blesses it with the power of Śrī.
4) We also offer a few grains of rice to each object we are doing pūjā to. The rice represents nourishment and abundance (again, another form of Śrī, but this time as food and physical sustenance). It’s also an act of generosity on our part – a ritual “feeding” – which is our way of indicating that we want to nourish and sustain whatever we offer rice to.
5) Finally, you can wave a flame in a clockwise circle three times in a practice called ārati. This is another way of saying that your inner divine light sees and honors divine light in the other, and that this light is one (hence the circle).
6) If possible, offer some flowers, fragrant oil, or fruit to your various forms of wealth. Flowers represent beauty, life, vitality, and joy. Fragrant oil delights the senses and makes an otherwise inert object come alive. Fruit is sweet, nourishing, and tasty!
7) As part of the pūjā, you can sing hymns to Śrī or Mahālakṣmī, and/or meditate on Her form. Recognize that all of the everyday objects that you use to sustain and beautify your life are all manifestations of Her. Let deep gratitude arise. Know that you are blessed.