“Bodhisattva” literally means “enlightened being”; a soul who, through compassion and altruism, has earned the right to leave this world of suffering and enter Nirvana (Paradise) but has chosen instead to stay on Earth to instruct others until all beings are enlightened.
Kuan Yin (Quan Yin or Kwan Yin) is known as one of the “four great Bodhisattva” of Buddhism and is adored throughout Asia as the Divine Mother we all long for: merciful, tender, compassionate, loving, protecting, caring, healing and wise. Along with Buddhism, Kuan Yin’s veneration was introduced into China as early as the 1St century CE and reached Japan by way of Korea soon after Buddhism was first introduced into that country in the mid-7th century.
She is “Mother Mary” in a white flowing robe usually wearing necklaces of Indian/Chinese royalty. Often she will be depicted holding the pearls of illumination. She may be carrying (The Lotus Sutra which refers back to her origins) or a water jar which symbolizes her pouring compassion onto the world. Other times, she might be holding a willow branch that is a symbol of being able to bend (or adapt) but not break or a sheaf of ripe rice or a bowl of rice seed as a metaphor for fertility and sustenance. She is often depicted as seated or standing on a lotus blossom which is one of the main symbols of Buddhist purity, since it is a beautiful flower that grows out of mud. The meaning is that our hearts should be pure like the lotus flower, even though our lives might be surrounded by dirty or impure people and situations.
Kuan Yin is actively worshipped by a vast following in the Far East –Taiwan, Japan, Korea and China, but there is also an implicit trust in Kuan Yin’s saving grace and healing powers in the West as well. She is the protector of women, sailors, merchants, craftsmen and those under criminal prosecution, and is invoked particularly by those desiring progeny. The “Kuan Yin Sutra” (25th chapter of the ancient Lotus Sutra) describes thirteen cases of impending disaster in which the devotee will be rescued if his thoughts dwell on the power of Kuan Yin, but many believe that even the simple recitation of her name will bring her instantly to the scene.
Kuan Yin’s goal is to liberate all beings from suffering, no matter who or what they are, and thus building a relationship with her involves little. There is no required ritual or dogma, merely an emulation of her virtues in your own life. These affirmations may be helpful:
– I forgive
– I radiate love
– I am tolerant of everyone around me
– I have great joy, and therefore great energy
– My peace is shared peace
– I am weightless and free of burden
Kuan Yin’s birthday is celebrated on the 19th day of the 2nd, 6th and 9th moons (count 19 days including the day of the new moon in these three months). A propitious mantra to repeat especially on these days is “I have compassion for myself and others every day of my life.”
The acknowledgement of Kuan Yin can help you release factors that inhibit you and prevent you from connecting with others; melt those walls of ice around your heart; forgive the person whom you feel has committed a grievance against you; open your heart and radiate love so that love can come back to you; and may even bring to you the child you so desire.
Kuan Yin Legends
There are many legends surrounding Kuan Yin. One story describes Kuan Yin as the daughter of a cruel father who wanted her to marry a wealthy but uncaring man. She is known as Miao Shan and her father’s realm Sumatra. Miao begged to be able to enter a temple and become a nun instead. Her father allowed her to work in the temple but asked the monks to give her very hard chores in order to discourage hr. The monks forced Kuan Yin to work all day and all night while others slept in order to finish her work. However, she was such a good person that the animals living around the temple began to help her with her chores. Her father, seeing this, became so frustrated that he attempted to burn down the temple. Miao Shan put out the fire with her bare hands and suffered no burns. Now struck with fear, her father ordered her to be put to death. After she died, she began the journey to heaven but as she was about to cross over into heaven, she heard a cry of suffering back on earth. She asked to be sent back and vowed to stay until all suffering had ended.
There are those who believe that Mother Theresa is the most recent embodiment of Kuan Yin.