As you may remember, for most of last year, I celebrated “Goddess Sundays” here on my site. One of the Divine Ones to whom I am devoted is the Goddess Kuan Yin. You may recall I wrote about Her here.
Just this week, some of those blessings were returned when I received several emails from Rev. Kōten Benson, who has been the Prior of Lions Gate Buddhist Priory in Lytton, British Columbia since 1986.
Rev. Kōten is the Dharma Heir of Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett, founder of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives (a form of Sōtō Zen). He was ordained in 1978, and then recognized as a Buddhist Master in 1983.
He shared the lovely artwork I’ve featured today, plus the poetry and contemplative teaching posted below.
Thank you, kind teacher, for allowing me to share your gifts with my readers today. May you, your temple, and your work flourish by the grace of our dear Goddess of Mercy and Compassion.
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I saw the Kwan Yin article on your website and thought that you might like this. It is a hymn to Kwan Yin that we use here in our temple.
Regarder of the Cries
You weep in all the sorrows of the world,
rejoice in all its joys.
In life you’re present in all suffering
and cry in all the cries.
Rejoice in all the sorrows of the world,
you weep in all its joys.
Oh weep in all the sorrows of the world,
oh joy in all the joys.
In every being’s secret, silent heart
you have your dwelling place
and you cannot be moved or grasped or fixed
by mind in any space.
All those who say they know you not at all
for all that know you well.
You are the secret yearning of their hearts
and this they dare not tell.
You are compassion’s source, the going out;
you are the coming in.
No thing escapes you or impedes your work,
you are the wondrous truth.
To you we turn, you are the way, the goal,
the journey and its end.
Regarder of the cries, oh guide our hearts
to peace, our reaching home.
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The Joss House
by Kōten Benson
This is a story that the land told me:
Winter 1883 – nineteenth day of the second lunar month at the joss house in Lytton – just after dark.
The two men are speaking in a dialect of southern China. If we listen carefully with our hearts maybe we can understand.
“Come in, it is good to be warm.”
One man is sitting in his small room next to a woodstove. He beckons to another man who has just opened the door from outside. Both men are Chinese, one in his twenties. The older man, the caretaker, is in his forties.
“The women back home will be praying to Kwan Yin for us, in front of the tablets with our names.”
“It is Her Festival! People have been coming here all day to make offerings.”
“Whatever made them put up a temple to Kwan Yin here in the first place?”
“Well, it is an auspicious place. You’ve seen the two rivers coming together? Well, one of our people was panning, all by himself, down there – gold – in the early days. All of a sudden, felt something that made him look up. He said he saw Her, Kwan Yin, white and blue robes, vase and willow twig, as She is in the temples back home. She was hundreds of feet tall, standing on the mountain, above the town.
“He saw Her bless the confluence of the rivers. She poured Her water of compassion into the rivers’ meeting place.
“Others of our people have seen Her as well, over the years. Whether any of the white or red people have, I do not know. When the epidemics happened and so many died, among the red people as well, this was the obvious place to pray. The building of the temple followed soon after.”
“The epidemics are over,” the younger man makes a gesture.
“People still come here to seek medical advice, ask for healing, or just to tell their troubles to the One Who Listens.
“Sometimes they go down to where the rivers come together and pick up one of the pretty round stones – some of them are ‘stone of heaven’ – jade.
“Some of us, who have the chance to go back home, put the stones at Kwan Yin’s feet in the village temple in thanks for a safe journey.”
The younger man speaks forcefully: “So the Embodiment of Kindness dwells here, does She? I certainly haven’t encountered many kind people in this land. That hasn’t been my experience at all!”
The caretaker is quiet for a moment: “My own experience is that if you look for kind people you’re bound to be disappointed. Look, instead, for kindness in people. Everyone has at least a little bit of kindness in them. That’s Kwan Yin, you know, that bit of kindness in the human heart, always there, not always seen. But you can find it if you truly listen with your own heart.”
He turns to the stove and is again quiet. The younger man speaks no word in reply and the Joss House returns to silence.