Yin is known as the Chinese Goddess of Compassion, or
"she who hears the cries of the world".
Some religious historians have compared her to Mary,
the mother of Jesus in the Christian belief system.
She is also compared to the Tibetan saint, Tara.
She is widely known and very popular throughout the
Buddhist community in Asia but depending on the country,
Kwan Yin will be referred to variously as Guanyin, Kannon
(Japan), Kwan Um (Vietnam), Chenrezig (Tibet) and
We often see her depicted as a
beautiful Asian woman holding a small vase or bowl that
represents growth. Historians
tell us that Kwan Yin has been shown in female form since
the Tang Dynasty. Prior
to that in India, the figure was depicted as the Buddha of
Compassion, a male figure.
Kwan Yin has a home in China on Potala
Mountain, near the city of Ningpo, in Chechiang Province on
the East China Sea. One
legend exists in which a Japanese monk took a statue of Kwan
Yin from central China to bring back with him to Japan, but
near this island, his boat stopped moving and he took this
as a sign that the statue should remain in China.
Today, the island of Potala is dotted with temples
dedicated to Kwan Yin.
What do we know about the role
of this famous figure in the Buddhist tradition? In the Buddhist tradition, the role of Kwan Yin is as a
bodhisattva, which is a being who has delayed her own
enlightenment and who has vowed to continue in the cycle of
birth, death, and re-birth until all beings are enlightened.
Her goal is to liberate all beings and to end
is common to see another symbol for wisdom, strength,
transformation and deep spirituality - the dragon - pictured
along with Kwan Yin.
Kwan Yin has long been one of
the most popular goddess figures in the eastern world.
There is a popular Chinese saying goes:
"Everyone knows how to chant Amitabha Buddha, and every
household worships Kwan Yin."
interest in Eastern spirituality, coupled with the women's
movement and interest in goddess-centered spirituality have
brought the figure of Kwan Yin to the west.
Kwan Yin is an accessible
figure and there is not much dogma or ritual associated with
developing a relationship with the Queen of Mercy, as she is
also known. One
of the reasons she may be so popular is that she is depicted
in female form and is reminiscent of the feminine qualities
of compassion, empathy and unconditional love of a mother.
She is the embodiment of pure, perfect compassion for
every being, everywhere without exception.
There are many stories and anecdotes of people who
have simply called upon her for help - and have received her
blessings in the form of assistance with the life issues
they were dealing with.
Kwan Yin has the ability to
transform herself into any form - a child or a monk or a
king if the occasion merits it!
She is said to take the form that will make it
easiest for us to relate to her, so she can teach us and
guide us along the path to liberation.
It is said that any living being who calls her name
will be free from fear and danger.
Additionally, Kwan Yin will awaken a person's
spiritual awareness within them.
What Kwan Yin provides us, among other things, is an
example of how we can better treat each other.
There is a saying in Buddhism, "First you
cultivate compassion, and then compassion cultivates
Yin calls out to that part in all of us that aspires to
treat our neighbors as we ourselves would like to be
for our fellow man is a concept that is universal and found
in all religious doctrines but owned by none.