Kuan Yin does not come hither; I do not go thither;
the water is in the basin; the moon is in the heavens.
When the water is clear, the moon appears;
when the mirror is bright, the image emerges.
— Su Tung-po – 11th Century poet
Today is the 19th day of the second moon of the new lunar year, a day on which Her faithful traditionally pay homage to Kuan Yin. In Sanskrit, her name is Padma-pâni, or “Born of the Lotus.” Kuan Yin (also pronounced Guan Yin) is the Tao and Buddhist Goddess of compassion, the Japanese Bodhisattva Kannon or Kanzeon, and also the great Tibetan Goddess, Tara, in Her many forms.
Regarded as the Goddess of mercy, She was originally considered to be male. Her prototype, Avalokiteshvara, was “the merciful lord of utter enlightment,” an Indian bodhisattva who chose to remain on earth to bring relief to human suffering rather than enjoy for Himself the ecstasies of Nirvana.
Similarly, through great love and sacrifice during Her mortal life, Kuan Yin was said to have earned the right to enter Nirvana after death. However, like Avlokiteshvara, while standing before the gates of Paradise, She heard a cry of anguish from the earth below. Turning back to earth, She renounced Her reward of eternal bliss.
By the 5th century She was nearly universally considered female (although sometimes androgynous), and was known as Kuan Yin, the One Who Hears the Cries of the World. It was not long after that, that She became the embodiment of mercy and compassion and is one of the most beloved Deities, by more people, of all time.
In China, She is considered the very essence of Beauty and has many names, such as “great mercy, great pity; salvation from misery, salvation from woe; self-existent; She of a thousand arms and thousand eyes.” She is one of the San Ta Shih, or the Three Great Beings, renowned for their power over the animal kingdom or the forces of nature.
British scholar John Blofeld notes, “Rocks, willows, lotus pools or running water are often indications of Her presence. In the chime of bronze or jade, the sigh of wind in the pines, the prattle and tinkle of streams, Her voice is heard.”
She is said to be able to take any form and will come to the aid of those who call upon Her. In fact just saying Her name is said to be a profound blessing.
As one Chinese devotee writes, “One moon imprints a thousand streams, and all the thousand streams reflect the one moon; one Springtime nurtures a myriad of flowers, and all the myriad flowers are endowed with the wonder of Spring.”
So it is that Kuan Yin keeps Her vow: “A guard would I be to them who have no protection, a guide to the voyager, a ship, a well, a spring, a bridge for the seeker of the Other Shore.” The idea isn‘t that we need go anywhere. According to the Lotus Sutra, the Pure Land to which She offers passage is within ourselves. The qualities of mercy that Kuan Yin represents are within the heart of every being: “In every corner of the world She manifests Her countless forms.”
May the compassion and beauty of Kuan Yin fill your heart this day. May the cries of a suffering world be heard, and healed by Her eternal love and mercy. May we remember that She lives within each one of us.
Kuan Yin Mantra:
Namo Kuan Shi Yin Pu Sa (Nah-moh Kwahn Shee Yin Poo Sah)
“Salutations to the most compassionate and merciful Bodhisattva Kuan Yin.”