GODDESS OF MERCY – (“KUAN YIN” IN CHINESE)
Kuan Yin has three special dates in the Chinese calendar:
19th of the Second Lunar Month - Her Birthday
19th of the Sixth Lunar Month - The day she acquired Tao
19th of the Ninth Lunar Month - The day she returned to Heaven
Attainment of Tao
The goddess, Kuan Yin is claimed as a patron deity
by both the Taoists
and the Buddhists and her image is to be found in most temples in Asia.
She is worshipped by women seeking offspring, seafarers, farmers,
travelers and merchants. In fact, the name "Kuan Yin" shows the
universality of her influence as it means, "One Who Sees and Hears
the Cry from the Human World."
The Chinese legend concerning Kuan Yin tells the
story of the king
of a small country, located in southwestern China, around 300 B.C.,
who had three daughters, Kuan Yin being the youngest. As Kuan Yin,
whose mortal name was Miau Chan, grew up and showed extraordinary
talent in studying the mystery of the universe and exhibited a great
compassion for all sentient beings.
Her father planned to marry her off to some
distinguished man in the
hope of their son becoming the future king. Miau Chan absolutely
refused to be married and, at length, received her father's permission
to enter the Nunnery of the White Sparrow in Lungshu Hsien.
Although having given his permission, he was none
too pleased with
the idea of his daughter becoming a nun. Therefore, he commanded
that she be given the most difficult and degrading tasks to do. Miau
Chan's determination to pursue the religious life, instead of being
weakened by these tasks, became even stronger.
In his anger and frustration, ordered that she be
executed. When the
executioner struck Miau Chan with his sword, the sword broke into
a thousand pieces. Seeing this, her father ordered her to be strangled,
thus succeeding in her murder. Reaching hell, her soul not only did not
suffer the anguish of the netherworld, but rather, because of her goodness,
changed hell into paradise.
Yama (the king of hell), not wishing his realm to
be destroyed, immediately
sent her back to life and had her transported on a lotus flower, to the island
of P'ootoo, near Ningpo. Here Miau Chan lived for nine years perfecting
her cultivation, healing disease and saving mariners from shipwreck. It
was during this time that her father was stricken by a mortal illness
which could only be cured by the two hands and eyes of the "Never Angry One."
Miau Chan, on hearing this, allowed her hands to be
cut off and her
eyes gouged out. Reduced to an ointment, these parts immediately
produced a cure. The king, discovering that he owed his life to his
daughter, long thought to be dead, left his kingdom to his chief minister
and adopted Buddhism. Sacrifices to Kuan Yin consist only of fruit and
vegetables as it would be blasphemy to offer her meat or wine.
If you are at a temple when she is being
worshipped, you will hear her
devotees solemnly and lovingly chanting her name, over and over again.
She is said to be able to protect people from danger and to grant children
to those who pray to her. It is as a patron of love, conception and children
that she is most well-known. To see how important these qualities are to the
Chinese let us look at the "Sutra on the Great Love of Parents."
At this time the Buddha preached the law as
follows: “All ye
good men and
good women; acknowledge your debt for your father's compassion;
acknowledge your debt for your mother's mercy. For the life of a human
being in this world, has karma as its basic cause, but parents as its immediate
means of origin.
Without a father, the child is not born. Without
a mother, the child is not
nourished. The spirit comes from the father's seed; the body grows within
the mother's womb. Because of these relationships, the concern of a mother
for her child is without comparison in this world.
From the time when she receives the child in her
womb, during the passage
of nine months, going, coming, sitting, sleeping, she is visited by suffering.
She ceases to have her customary love for food or drink or clothing and
worries solely about a safe delivery. The months are full, and the days
sufficient. At the time of birth, the winds of karma hasten it on, her bones
are racked with pain. When the child is born and dropped upon the grass,
the boundless joy of the father and mother match that of a woman who has
found the omnipotent magic jewel. When the child utters its first sounds,
the mother feels that she herself is born anew. Her chest becomes the child's
place of rest; her knees, its playground, her breasts, its source of food; her
love his very life. Without his mother, the child cannot dress or undress.
Though the mother hungers, she takes the food from her own mouth and
gives it to her child. Without the mother, the child cannot be nourished ...."
Images usually portray Kuan Yin seated on a lotus,
holding a vase.
The vase symbolizes harmony and Kuan Yin's hands are said to contain
the Dew of Compassion. Stories tell of her appearing at the bedside of
the seriously ill and sprinkling a few drops of this nectar on their heads.
This has always resulted in a miraculous cure.
The lotus has been used by the Chinese as an emblem
of summer and
fruitfulness for centuries. With the advent of Buddhism, it took on the
additional symbolism of purity because it grows out of the mud but is
not soiled by it. The petals of the flower are seen as the spokes of the
wheel of continued existence to which all unenlightened beings are
bound until they reach the stage of awakening and pass into Nirvana.
Kuan Yin's birthday is celebrated without the
continual explosions of
firecrackers that accompany the birthdays of the other gods. This is due
to the fact that Kuan Yin is so pure that it is unnecessary to ward off evil
spirits, as none would dare to approach her.