Susan Morgaine June 1, 2015
Kwan Yin, The Goddess of Mercy and Compassion
(This column is dedicated to my dear friend, Denise M.)
I think that, at least one time or another, we all need a little mercy and compassion in our lives. When times are such that this is what you need, look no further than Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion.
She is known by many names in many place – Kannon in Japan; Gwan-Eum in Korea, Kuan Im in Thailand; and other similar pronunciations in bordering countries.
A mind perfected in the four virtues,
A gold body filled with wisdom,
Fringes of dangling pearls and jade,
Scented bracelets set with lustrous treasures,
Dark hair piled smoothly in a coiled-dragon bun,
And elegant sashes lightly fluttering as phoenix quills, Her green jade buttons
And white silk robe
Bathed in holy light;
Her velvet skirt
And golden cords
Wrapped by hallowed air,
With brows of new moon shape
And eyes like two bright stars,
Her jadelike face beams of natural joy,
And her ruddy lips seem a flash of red.
Her immaculate vase overflows with nectar from year to year,
Holding sprigs of weeping willow green from age to age.
She disperses the eight woes;
She redeems the multitude;
She has great compassion;
Thus she rules on the T’ai Mountain,
And loves at the South Sea .
She saves the poor, searching for their voices,
Ever heedful and solicitous,
Ever wise and efficacious.
Her orchid heart delights in green bamboos;
Her chaste nature loves the wisteria.
She is the merciful ruler of Potalaka Mountain,
The Living Kuan Yin from the Cave of Tidal Sound.
Because there are different interpretations of Kwan Yin in different countries, there are several stories of her origination. I will share two of them here.
The Story of Thi Kinh
Thi Kinh was a young girl who lived with her parents in a small village. Her father owed money to his landlord and gave his daughter to the landlord’s son to marry. One night as her husband was sleeping, she took a scissors to cut a hair out of a mole on his face. He awoke and thought that she was trying to kill him. She was thrust out on her own, with no family and no where to go. She decided to shave her long hair and dress as a monk so that she would be able to stay at the Buddhist temple. One of the village girls saw her (dressed as a monk) and became infatuated. One night she saw someone she thought was him (really her) and invited him in, whereupon they had sex. When she became pregnant, she named Thi Kinh as the father.
Thi Kinh was banished from the temple, once again becoming homeless, never telling anyone that she was a woman, so as not to shame the young pregnant village girl, even though it would exonerate her. She chose to live her Buddhist beliefs and forgive the young girl, protect her and suffer the abuse of the village.
The child was given to Thi Kinh to raise. She went from village to village begging for food for the child, and was abused at each place she stopped for shaming Buddhism But she continued on, until at one village, she was beaten to death. When her clothing was removed, it was discovered that she was, indeed, a woman and could not have gotten the young village girl pregnant. The villages then revered Thi Kinh for what suffered on behalf of this young girl. Her spirit became Kwan Yin.
The Story of Princess Miao Shan
At the time of Miao Shan’s birth, her mother the queen, dreamed about the moon; the earth shook and the child was born amidst the smell of flowers. She was enveloped in a radiant light and all knew she was a Goddess. However, her royal parents had wanted a son.
She was extremely kind and patient and refused to marry as her father insisted. As he grew angry, he made her do the worst chores around the palace and barely gave her food; he then sent her to a nunnery, insisting that they continue her punishment for disobeying him. She did all of them without a complaint. The Master of Heaven, seeing her, sent animals and birds to help her. When she still refused to marry, her father sent his men to kill all of the nuns by setting fire to the nunnery. When the nuns turned on her for bringing this upon them, she felt responsible and punctured the top of her mouth and spit blood into the air, praying to the Buddha. The blood turned into water and put out the fire. Her father then brought her back and had her executed. The Master of Heaven sent a giant tiger to bring her body to him. She came back to life after living in heaven for a while, and went to live upon a mountain. Her evil father was constantly ill due to the vileness of his nature. While he lay dying, a strange monk came and told him if he could “take the arm and eye of one who is without anger”, he should combine them and apply them to become well. No one was without anger, and no one would sacrifice themselves for this evil man. The monk told him that someone such as this lived on the nearby mountain. Her father sent a message, not knowing it was the daughter he had killed. When she heard her father was dying, she gouged out her eyes and cut off both of her arms and her father was cured. Her parents traveled to visit this person and recognized her as their daughter and begged her forgiveness.
She rose into the air to become the Thousand-Armed and Thousand Eyed Guan Yin, for she now would have 10,000 eyes to see the suffering of the world, and 10,000 arms and hands to help those in need.
In Talmage, Mendocino County, California is the international Buddhist community known as the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. In the Buddha hall, there are really 10,000 small buddha statues in niches in the walls. This hall is for meditating and chanting and is dominated by a large golden statue of Kwan Yin.
Kwan Yin is a manifestation of the Divine Mother, the nurturer, the caregiver, the comforter, the one who hears the cries of all those who are suffering. She is sometimes seen as holding a willow branch, which she uses to heal illness and to fulfill the requests of her followers. She is also seen with a vase symbolizing the nectar of compassion and her wisdom. Most often, she is seen as sitting upon a lotus blossom. The lotus is an amazing flower, which grows from the mud, opens and blooms each morning and closes each night. The lotus symbolizes rising to the occasion and blooming to your true potential.
(Hail to Kwan Yin Bodhisattva)
May the blessings of the Goddess be upon you.