Goddess of Mercy and Compassion
Kuan-Yin or Guan Yin
Known as one of the "four great Bodhisattva"
(Shambala Dictionary of Buddhismand Zen, 119)
of Buddhism, Kuan-Yin is an important element of Buddhism.
Ever-present in temples and iconography, she is venerated throughout Asia.
|Kuan Yin (also spelled Kwan Yin or Quan Yin and known as Kuan Shih Yin), is known as the Goddess of Compassion & Healing. She is one of the most popular deities in all of Asia. Her name in Chinese roughly translates as "The One who Hears the Cries of the World". She is the most beloved and revered of the Chinese dieties. Kuan Yin is the Divine Mother we all long for: merciful, tender, compassionate, loving, protecting, caring, healing, and wise. She quietly comes to the aid of her children everywhere. Her mantra is 'Om Mani Padme Hum.' (that is, 'Hail the Jewel -or pearl- in the Lotus.') Many believe that she is the female representation of Avalokitesvara, who is the Tibetan and Nepalese God of Compassion. In Asia, statues of Kuan Yin can be found in front of, or on the grounds of, many Buddhist temples. |
Just as Catholic Christianity has provided an antidote to pure theological patriarchy by encouraging the reverence of the Virgin Mary, so Chinese Buddhism evolved a feminine bodhisattva, or Buddha-to-be, named Kuan Yin. And just as Mary captured the hearts of Catholic worshipers, so Kuan Yin far outstripped the male bodhisattvas in popularity. Both in Japan (as Kwannon, who is often pictured as male) and in pre-revolutionary China, this semidivine being was honored in virtually every home; she was the most powerful being in the entire Chinese pantheon.
|Kuan Yin is depicted in various forms and poses. She always appears cloaked in white, the color of purity, and her gowns are long and flowing. Often she will be holding a rosary in one hand, a symbol of her devotion to Buddhism and its tenets. She will also have either a book (The Lotus Sutra, which refers back to her origins), or a vase, which symbolizes her pouring compassion on to the world. |
Other times, she might be holding a willow branch, which is a symbol of being able to bend (or adapt) but not break. The willow is also used in shamanistic rituals and has had medicinal purposes as well. Often, she will be seen holding a child, a reminder of her role as the patron saint of barren women.
Another common appearance of Kuan Yin is one having a thousand arms, with eyes in the palms or holding different objects, such as those mentioned above. Her arms allow her to help stop the suffering of those all around the world, while the thousand eyes help her see anyone who may be in need. (The story of how she got those thousand arms appears below.) Or, you might see Kuan Yin standing with a peacock, since the spread tail feathers of a peacock look like they have eyes in them.
|There are numerous other forms of Kuan Yin throughout Asia; in Japan alone there are 33 different manifestations. You will find shrines dedicated to her not only in China, but in Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam. You will find images of her not only at Buddhist temples, but also in Taoist and Confucian temples.|
Kuan Yin is a Bodhisattva.
BODHISATTVA (also spelled Boddhisattva): Literally means "enlightened being"; a soul who, through compassion and altruism, has earned the right to leave this world of suffering and enter nirvana, but has chosen instead to stay on Earth to instruct others until all beings are enlightened. A Bodhisattva acts as the key figure in Mahayana Buddhism
" Na Mo Quan Yin Boddhisattva"
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