Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kuan Yin

Quan Yin is considered to be one of the most universally beloved of deities not only from the Buddhist tradition, but many other traditions as well.
She is also known as Kuan Yin, Quan'Am (Vietnam), Kannon (Japan), and Kanin (Bali), She is seen as the embodiment of compassionate and loving kindness in its purest form.
One of the aspects that I personally find interesting about Quan Yin, is that she represents the Goddess and Divine Mother aspect of Buddhism. Buddhism is not considered a religion but rather a spiritual path to enlightment. Kuan Yin epitomizes the ideal of "Mahayana Buddhism" in her role as "bodhisattva" (sanskrit). Bodhisattva literally means "a being of Bodhi, or enlightenment," who is destined to become a Buddha but who has foregone the bliss of Nirvana with a vow to save all of the children of God.
And thus this description exemplifies the aspects associated with Quan Yin.
I don't agree with all of the parameters of Buddhism, but as with all beliefs religious and/or spiritual, there are certaun aspects which one can find personally appealing.
When one looks at Tibetan Buddhism it is found that Quan Yin is seen as Avalokitesvara, which is her male form of embodiment. It is thought that the current Dali Lama is an incarnation of Avalokitesvara. Buddhist mythology tells of Avalokitesvara being born from a ray of light that sprang from Amitabha Buddha's right eye. He immediately spoke the words, "Om Mane Padme Hum". This is one of the mantras by which one invokes within the Buddhist tradition. According to my research there are 357 such incantations that are attributed to Avalokitesvara. This is confirmed by the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra (Sutra of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma).
Amitabha is the principal buddha in the Pure Land sect, a branch of Buddhism found in East Asia.
It is thought that the female form of Avalokitesvara, or Quan Yin, originated in the twelfth or thirteenth century CE in both, China and Japan. It is believed that the Buddhist monk and translator Kumarajiva was the first to refer to the female form of Kuan Yin in his Chinese translation of the Lotus Sutra in 406 CE. Because there were thirty-three appearances of the bodhisattva referred to in his translation, of which seven are female, the number thirty-three has come to be associated with Kuan Yin.)
An interesting parallel here is that the male aspect of Kuan Yin in the Christian religion; Jesus Christ, chose to briefly serve as a matyr before moving on to the concept of pure enlightment, whereas Kuan Yin is committed to her responsibilities until the very last human has reached enlightment before her.
Thus the christian aspect has the male form putting himself first while the Buddhist female aspect waiting to serve alll others prior to herself. An interesting parallel in self sacrifice and endurance to service.
One of her most noted positions in the celestial sphere is as a member of the board of karma.
As the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Kuan Yin is compared to or identifies with many compassionate female figures found within many divergent belief systems, including the Virgin Mary from the Christian belief system.
She is often depicted as carrying the pearls of illumination and is sometimes shown pouring a stream of healing water, the "Water of Life," from a small vase. It is said that with this water, devotees and all living things are blessed with physical and spiritual peace. She is also depicted as holding a sheaf of ripe rice or a bowl of rice seed as a metaphor for fertility and sustenance. The dragon, an ancient symbol for high spirituality, wisdom, strength, and divine powers of transformation, is a common motif found in combination with this Goddess .
Other associations or depictions include her image as a many armed figure (a depiction often found in Buddhism), with each hand either containing a different cosmic symbol or expressing a specific ritual position, or "mudra". This is intended to characterize Kuan Yin as the source and sustenance of all things. Her cupped hands often form the "Yoni Mudra", which symbolizes the womb as the door for entry to this world through the universal female principle. Many miracles have been ascribed to Kuan Yin over the ages. As a virgin Goddess she naturally protects women and will offer them a servitude in the form of religious life as opposed to marriage. She is also a patron of childbirth.
And again, unlike her male counterpart in the Christian belief system, she is the ultimate Goddess of Mercy. She demands nothing in return for such mercy other then a spoken request. She does not seek servitude as a prerequisite for such acts of mercy, but gives it freely without any constraints.
Her love for humankind is unwavering and without strings. A lesson that humankind would do well to understand and indeed to institute as a tenet of our characterization as a species.
And in fact if there are any prerequisites to following this particular deity, it is the desire to devote oneself to becoming more loving and compassionate with both the self and towards others.
Coincidentally, another name for Kuan Yin is "Kuan Shih Yin", which means literally "the one who regards, looks on, or hears the sounds of the world", for a ccording to legend, Kuan Yin was about to enter heaven but paused on the threshold as the cries of the world reached her ears.
During the twelfth-century there was a legend of the Buddhist saint "Miao Shan". She was a Chinese princess who lived circa 700 CE. and is widely believed to have been Kuan Yin, which reinforces the image of the bodhisattva as a female. During the twelfth century Buddhist monks settled on P'u-t'o Shan, the sacred island-mountain in the Chusan Archipelago off the coast of Chekiang where Miao Shan is believed to have lived for nine years, during which she performed healings and saved sailors from shipwrecks. And as a result, devotion to Kuan Yin spread throughout northern China.
In modern times Kuan Yin is embraced not only by Mahayana Buddhists, but by the Taoists as well.
I personally have nothing but the deepest respect for Kuan Yin. While I personally follow the Celtic pantheon, I cannot offer s single Goddess from that pantheon that personifies the ideals of love and merciful compassion that Kuan Yin represents. I say this because she has no other aspects associated with her that may offset such attributes. In my personal opinion she is the purest form of forgiveness, slefless compassion for others, and love in its purest un-egotistical form...