Sunday, March 18, 2007
In recognition of Mothers' Day, and mindful of mothers everywhere, an image of Kwan Yin (Avalokiteshvara). When I visited prisons as Prison Chaplain, Women prisoners were very fond of seeing the Kwan Yin rupa on our shrine.
Kwan Yin (also spelled Kuan Yin or Quan Yin and known as Kuan Shih Yin), is known as the Goddess of Compassion & Healing. She is said to be one of the most popular deities in all of Asia. Her name in Chinese roughly translates as "The One who Hears the Cries of the World". As possibly the most beloved and revered of the Chinese dieties, Kwan Yin is described as "the Divine Mother we all long for: merciful, tender, compassionate, loving, protecting, caring, healing, and wise". In Asia, statues of Kuan Yin can be found in front of, or on the grounds of, many Buddhist temples.
Just as Catholic Christianity has provided an antidote to pure theological patriarchy by encouraging the reverence of the Virgin Mary, so Chinese Buddhism evolved a feminine bodhisattva, or Buddha-to-be, named Kuan Yin. And just as Mary captured the hearts of Catholic worshipers, so Kuan Yin has far outstripped the male bodhisattvas in popularity, especially in Taiwan. Both in Japan (as Kwannon, who is often pictured as male) and in pre-revolutionary China, this semidivine being was honored in virtually every home; she was the most powerful being in the entire Chinese pantheon.