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The Legend of Quan Yin

The Legend of Quan Yin

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Published by Pearl Khoo

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Published by: Pearl Khoo on Jan 12, 2012
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The Legend of Quan Yin

One of the deities most frequently seen on altars in China's temples is Quan Yin (also spelled Kwan Yin, Kuanyin; in pinyin, Guanyin). In Sanskrit, her name is Padma-pâni, or "Born of the Lotus." Regarded by the Chinese as the goddess of mercy, she was originally male until the early part of the 12th century and has evolved since that time from her prototype, Avalokiteshvara, "the merciful lord of utter enlightment," an Indian bodhisattva who chose to remain on earth to bring relief to the suffering rather than enjoy for himself the ecstasies of Nirvana. One of the several stories surrounding Quan Yin is that she was a Buddhist who through great love and sacrifice during life, had 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 bliss eternal but in its place found immortality in the hearts of the suffering. In China she has many names and is also known as "great mercy, great pity; salvation from misery, salvation from woe; self-existent; thousand arms and thousand eyes," etc. In addition she is often referred to as the Goddess of the Southern Sea -- or Indian Archipelago -- and has been compared to the Virgin Mary. 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. These three Bodhisattvas or P'u Sa as they are know in China, are namely Manjusri (Skt.) or Wên Shu, Samantabhadra or P'u Hsien, and Avalokitesvara or Quan Yin. Quan Yin is a shortened form of a name that means One Who Sees and Hears the Cry from the Human World. Her Chinese title signifies, "She who always observes or pays attention to sounds," i.e., she who hears prayers. Sometimes possessing eleven heads, she is surnamed Sung-Tzu-Niang-Niang, "lady who brings children." She is goddess of fecundity as well as of mercy. Worshipped especially by women, this goddess comforts the troubled, the sick, the lost, the senile and the unfortunate. Her popularity has grown such through the centuries that she is now also regarded as the protector of seafarers, farmers and travelers. She cares for souls in the underworld, and is invoked during post-burial rituals to free the soul of the deceased from the torments of purgatory. There are temples all over China dedicated to this goddess, and she is worshipped by women in South China more than in the North, on the 19th day of the 2nd, 6th and 9th moons. (For example, it is a prevalent birth custom in Foochow that when a family has a daughter married since the 15th day of the previous year, who has not yet given birth to a male infant, a present of several articles is sent to her by her relatives on a lucky day between the 5th and 14th of the first month. The articles sent are as follows: a paper lantern bearing a picture of the Goddess of Mercy, Quan Yin, with a child in her arms, and the inscription, "May Quan Yin present you with a son"; oysters in an earthenware vessel; rice-cakes; oranges; and garlic.) Worshippers ask for sons, wealth, and protection. Her temple on the island of Putuoshan, in the Chusan Archipelago, is sacred to the Buddhists, the worship of Quan Yin being its most prominent feature on account of the fact that the

This means of coercion failed. nursing a baby. white flowing robes. gracious woman dressed in beautiful. The full name of the island is P'u t'o lo ka. standing on a fish. Yama. and one head or eight. Quan Yin is frequently flanked by two aides. and informed him that were he to swallow an eyeball of one of his children. looks down upon mankind. brought it about that the sword which was to descend upon her should break into a thousand pieces. No other figure in the Chinese pantheon appears in a greater variety of images. in the Lamaistic form she is often entirely naked.) She stands tall and slender. and a maid demurely holding her hands together inside her sleeves. In order to convert her blind father. which which she strives to alleviate the sufferings of the unhappy. or forty hands. in her transformation as Avalokiteshvara. of which there are said to be thousands of different incarnations or manifestations. It is related that she was a pious follower of Buddha. her gently composed features conveying the sublime selflessness and compassion that have made her the favorite of all deities. holding a basket. a barefoot. She then persuaded her father to join the Buddhist priesthood by pointing out the folly and vanity of a world in which children would not even sacrifice an eye for the sake of a parent. Her principal feast occurs yearly on the nineteenth day of the second lunar month. a man of tender heart and some forethought. According to one ancient legend her name was Miao Shan. Miao Feng Shan (Mount of the Wondrous Peak) attracts large numbers of pilgrims. Her father thereupon ordered her to be stifled. His children would not consent to the necessary sacrifice. (However. Her bare feet are the consistent quality. and symbolises the divine supremacy exercised by Quan Yin over the forces of nature. who use rattles and fireworks to emphasize their prayers and attract her attention. As the story goes. one atop the next. shirtless youth with his hands clapsed in prayer. As related in yet another legend she was said to be the daughter of a sovereign of the Chou dynasty. Quan Yin is usually depicted as a barefoot. she visited him transfigured as a stranger. she forthwith went to Hell. which somewhat resembles a Buddhist lion. There are nearly a hundred monasteries and temples on the island. eighteen. with a white hood gracefully draped over the top of the head and carrying a small upturned vase of holy dew. his sight would be restored. the presiding officer. whence the Goddess. who strenously opposed her wish to be a nun. whereupon the future goddess created an eye which her parent swallowed and he regained his sight. but on her arrival the flames were quenched and flowers burst into bloom. and she was the daughter of an Indian Prince. She is frequently depicted as riding a mythological animal known as the Hou. She may be seated on an elephant.Goddess is said to have resided there for nine years. a figure of infinite grace. with over a thousand monks. and her father then ordered her to be executed for disobedience to his wishes. looked on in dismay at what seemed to . and four. from Mount Pataloka. and was so irritated by her refusal to marry that he put her to humiliating tasks in the convent. On public altars. having six arms or a thousand. But the executioner.

One day her father fell ill and according to a Chinese custom. As well. and in his gratitude her father ordered her statue to be made "with completely-formed arms and eyes. many thousands of statues of Quan Yin have been carved in jade. Home An Interview Kuan Yin's Universal Gate Cosmic Connections . the Observer of All Sounds. and marvel-working power. A cure was effected. near Ningbo. speaking in the same manner of her various metamorphoses. her image is carved on small jades which Chinese women offer faithfully at the temples dedicated to her. her purity. Quan Yin is also worshipped by the Taoists. Quan Yin is a favorite figure in domestic shrines.be the summary abolition of his post. wisdom. The image of this divinity is generally placed on a special altar at the back of the great Shakyamuni Buddha behind a screen." Owing to a misunderstanding of the orders the sculptor carved the statue with many heads and many arms. and facing the north door. in the second half of the Buddhist monastery. From early Ch'ing times to the present. and in order to keep his position he sent her back to life again. Carried in the fragrant heart of a lotus flower she went to the island of Putuo. the Protectress of Children. The Maternal Goddess. her disposition to save the lost. and so it remains to this day. she cut the flesh from her arms that it might be made into medicine. and they imitate the Buddhists in their descriptions of this deity.

Goddess of Mercy In the Surangama Sutra Legend of Miao Shan Loving and Kindness Mother Figure The bodhisattva of Great Compassion In the fifth century Friend of Mankind Everyone can be a Kuan Yin Jeffrey Pears Beloved Mother Kuan Yin's Prayer Benefits in reciting and holding the great comapssion mantra Act for the benefit of others Spiritual practice of compassion Compassion Ration In times of trouble How to win an argument with a meat eater Kanzeon is the Bodhisattva of Compassion Mother of Mercy Compassionate Saviouress Mary Heath Who hears the cries of the world Chris Waldherr From the Lotus Sutra Virgin Mary Encyclopedia Mythica MoonFae The Compassionate Saviouress The One Who Regards More legend of Kuan Yin Goddess of Compassion and Mercy Bethleen Cole Kuan Yin Meditation Significance of OmMaNiPadMeHum Spiritual development of a child .

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