Kuan Yin

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Kuan Yin – The Goddess of Mercy and Compassion

Kuan Yin - Goddess of MercyKuan Yin is the most well-known goddess in the Chinese population.

Her name means “One who hears the cries of the world”.

 She is probably the most valued and honored of all the gods among the Chinese.

This goddess also goes by the names Kwan Yin, Guanyin, Quan Am in Vietnam, Kwan Eim in Thailand, and Kwan Um in Korea.

Today a great deal of Westerners have also discovered this goddess and taken her to heart.

The Goddess Kuan Yin Supplies Ultimate Protection

She is the giver of good luck, fortune and success. Kuan Yin is called upon for prosperity in business.

This goddess works what seems like miracles.

Kuan Yin - GuanyinThe goddess is ready to help anyone who calls out to her. She provides protection to anyone who is in need of her.

The goddess Kuan Yin protects from all kinds of threats and attacks.

She can cure illnesses and bestows good health. Women longing for a child may call out to the goddess.

The goddess shows special attention to the helpless, especially children and women. She helps to solve family problems.

Kuan Yin is also a favorite among fishermen and seafarers. She helps those who are in danger at sea.

Those who travel by air and believe in the goddess know that she pays special attention to make sure they are safe on their journey.

Finally it needs to be said that the goddess Kuan Yin can break the cycle of punishment and reincarnation.

Kuan Yin Transferred from Male to Female

Kuan Yin was originally the male Buddhist bodhisattva named Avalokitesvara. Avalokitesvara is also a patron saint in Tibetan Buddhism.

 In China Kuan Yin (also spelled Guanyin) is the Chinese name for Avalokitesvara. Actually it is Kuan Shih Yin, but the name is popularly shortened.

It was sometime during the eighth century that the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara transformed to a female. How this exactly came about is uncertain. Maybe it was the need of a strong female deity?

Some believe that the goddess Kuan Yin will sometime in the future transform back to become a male.

What is a Bodhisattva?

A bodhisattva is someone who has reached enlightenment. This person could enter Nirvana and thereby end the circle of reincarnation, yet chooses not to.  The bodhisattva has chosen to remain in this world in order to help those who are suffering.

Bodhisattvas are very important in Mahayana Buddhism. Mahayana means “Great Vehicle”.

There are two major forms of Buddhism; Theravada and Mahayana.

Theravada Buddhism demands a firm understanding of Buddha’s teaching. It is a long, challenging and very personal struggle to reach enlightenment.

In Mahayana Buddhism salvation is more accessible for all the masses. In this form of Buddhism the bodhisattvas play a major role in helping and assisting all who believe.

Images of the Goddess Kuan Yin

Kuan Yin is most often shown as a woman dressed in a white gown.

Sometimes she is shown carrying a child or being accompanied by two children.

Kuan Yin 1000 armsOther times you may see images of her with a “thousand” eyes and a “thousand” arms. This symbolizes that she sees everybody and everything.

She is there for the masses no matter who you are, rich or poor. She helps not because who you are, but because who she is.

Sometimes the goddess holds a vase which is a symbol of harmony. The vase contains the “Dew of Compassion”. Kuan Yin may sprinkle a few drops of the nectar on whoever is in pain and calls out to her to ease the pain or cure an illness.

Her sacred tree is the willow. She is often seen holding a willow branch. The willow symbolizes beauty. The willow is also used to keep evil and demons away. That is why braches of willow are often used to sweep graves.

Kuan Yin is a Vegetarian

Kuan Yin Bergen Norway
Kuan Yin statue at China Palace Restaurant, Bergen, Norway

There is a wide acceptance that the goddess is a vegetarian.

This is the reason offerings to the goddess consists of fruit, tea, flowers, small pieces of gold sheets and sometimes money.

There are those who will offer her a little piece of meat claiming even the goddess must enjoy some meat at least once a year. This may occur on her birthday.

Kuan Yin’s birthday is on the nineteenth day of the second Chinese month.

Kuan Yin’s Oracle

There are 100 poems attributed to the goddess.  Each poem contains a message that must be interpreted. They are used in very many Chinese temples.

Most often in temples they will have 100 small sticks in a container. All wooded sticks are numbered. Believers will ask their question or prayer and shake the container until one or more sticks fall out. The number on each stick refers to a poem.

Ever since the goddess has gained popularity in the Western world, oracle cards have been mass produced.

The book “Kuan Yin – Myths and Prophecies of the Chinese Goddess of Compassion” by Martin Palmer and Jay Ramsay contains the complete translation of the one hundred poems. Those of you who would like to learn more about the goddess should consider reading the book.

An example taken from the book: Poem # 10 called “It’s you”.

“There’s a treasury full of jade and jewels: it is in you. Don’t go searching far from home for it – it’s here, or you’re like the man with a lantern looking for light, and can’t you see what a total waste of time that is?”

The Legend of Kuan Yin as Miao Shan

There are many varieties of this story, but essentially it goes something like this:

Miao Shan was the third daughter of an ancient king in China. The king is anxious to marry her off as he has done with her two older sisters.

Trouble starts when Miao Shan refuses to marry the man her father has chosen for her. She insists she wants to join a nunnery. Her father is outraged.  He does all he can think of to make her change her mind, but Miao Shan does not budge.

Her father finally gives in and sends Miao Shan to a nunnery. The king is by no means a loving and understanding father. Quite the contrary he is determined to take revenge on his daughter for not honoring his wishes.

Miao Shan at the Nunnery

He really wants to teach her a hard lesson. The king orders the abbess to assign only the hardest and most degrading tasks to Miao Shan. By making her life miserable at the nunnery, the king is sure his third daughter will soon change her mind and marry the man he had picked out for her.

Quite the opposite was the case. Miao Shan worked hard on all the difficult and low class assignments she was given. The gods saw her hardship and sent help to ease her workload. She completed all her chores with a happy and grateful heart.

The king received news that his plan to break down Miao Shan had failed. In an outrage he ordered the nunnery to be burnt down. Panic spread as the flames increased in volume around the nunnery.

The gods once again came to assistance and the fire ceased. Now the king had had just about enough.

What happened when Miao Shan Died

In some versions of the legend the king ordered the death of his daughter and she was strangled. In other versions of the legend Miao Shan committed suicide and hung herself.

Either way Miao Shan woke up in Hell. She was shocked at the misery around her. Immediately she did all she could to spread love, peace and tranquility. Soon hell was transformed to a quite pleasant place.

The King of Hell was not so happy. He complained that there could not and should not be two places of paradise. He demanded that balance be restored. Both Heaven and Hell was needed to keep the stability.

Miao Shan was then sent back to the world of the living by the Buddha of the West. She spent nine years on the island of Putuo .

Miao Shan Saves Her Father

It was then her father became seriously ill. A monk informed him that the only cure was that if he received an ointment made from the hand and eyes a person totally without anger. There was such on person on the island of Putuo.

Miao Shan had no hesitations and allowed her eyes to be ripped out and her arm to be cut off.

Her father was cured. He then discovered the truth. It was the daughter he had treated so badly who had made this sacrifice. Full of remorse he turned his heart to Buddhism and spent the rest of his life as a devoted Buddhist.

Kuan Yin and the Pearl

The pearl is sacred to Kuan Yin. There are a variety of legends about this matter.

When Miao Shan was living in Putuo she could see what was going on in the world with her spiritual vision. One day she saw a disturbing sight; the third son of the Water Dragon King was swimming along as a giant carp. A fisherman caught the carp in his net and was on his way to sell the catch.

Miao Shan felt pity for the son of the Water Dragon King and decided to rescue him. She sent her boy disciple to the market to purchase the carp and bring the fish back to the sea. So he did. The third son of the Water Dragon King was free again.

The Water Dragon King heard what had happen. He was deeply moved. He decided to give Miao Shan a pearl which shone so brightly it would enable her to read at night.

The daughter of the Water Dragon King was given the honor of presenting Miao Shan with the pearl. She was immediately taken to Miao Shan and requested to stay with her as her disciple.

Miao Shan wore the sacred pearl for the first time on the nineteenth day of the ninth lunar month.

The young boy and the young girl remained by Kuan Yin side ever since and regarded each other as brother and sister.

Another legend connecting the goddess to the pearl is the following:

Kuan Yin and the Oyster

There was an Emperor named Wen Tsung who loved oysters and could not get enough. He forced the fishermen to fetch oysters without pay.

Not only did they work for nothing, they also risked their lives. The method they used was terrifying. The fishermen were attached to heavy stones and ropes. They sank straight down to the bottom of the sea. After a few minutes workers would haul them up again. Many died.

Once an enormous oyster was found and served to the Emperor. No matter how hard he tried he could not open it. He gave up. Then suddenly like magic the oyster popped open all by itself.

Inside was a mother of pearl image of Kuan Yin, the goddess of compassion. The Emperor finally realized how cruel and selfish he had been towards his people.

The emperor changed his ways and became a good leader. He also made sure images of Kuan Yin were placed in every single Buddhist temple in the entire empire.

Putuo Shan – Mount Putuo – Sacred Mountain

Kuan Yin Statue PutuoMount Putuo is sacred to the goddess Kuan Yin. It is an island in the South China Sea southeast of Shanghai in China.

This place has been visited by pilgrims for centuries. Many claim to have seen the goddess standing on a sea monster riding through the waves.

The island attracts millions of tourists. Some come for the beaches and entertainments. Others come as devotees of the goddess.

As you gaze upon the 108 foot (33 meters) statue of Kuan Yin you are reminded of the influence Kuan Yin has to millions of devotees.

There are actually shrines devoted to the goddess on all four of the Buddhist sacred mountains; Mount Putuo, Mount Wutai, Mount Jiuhua, and Mount Emei. She also has shrines on the four Taoist sacred mountains; Wudang Shan, LonghuShan, Qiyun Shan and Qingcheng Shan.

Kuan Yin Gave the Humans Rice

There are several different legends about how the human population was gifted rice. One of the legends involves the goddess Kuan Yin.

There was a time people were suffering great hardship. There was not enough food to feed the growing population. Daily many died from starvation.

The goddess Kuan Yin heard the cries of the desperate people. Naturally she answered their cries for help. Her solution was to squeeze her breasts. Milk flowed from her breasts and filled the ears of the rice plants.

She was eager to help absolutely everyone so that no person need go hungry to bed anymore. She kept squeezing her breasts so hard that finally drops of blood were mixed in with the milk. That is why there is both white rice and red rice.