Urban Dharma Newsletter... October 21, 2002
The Twelve Vows of Kwan-Yin Bodhisattva
2. The Story of Qwan Yin
Quan Yin: The Goddess Of Compassion ...adapted from an essay
by Bethleen Cole
KUAN YIN ...Avalokitesvara Boddhisattva ...By Lin Sen-shou
Book Review: Discovering Kwan Yin
...by Sandy Boucher
Temple/Center of the Week: Dharma Zen
The Twelve Vows of Kwan-Yin Bodhisattva
respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, with the title
Boundless Understanding, the name Great Liberation, who raised
the Immeasurable Vow.
respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, of one thought
and a mind of no obstacles, who vowed to stay always in the
respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, who vowed to stay
in samsara, in the realm of darkness, listening to the cries
and rescuing sentient beings.
respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, the conqueror of
raksas and destroyer of evil spirits, who took the vow to end
all troubles and difficulties.
respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin the Tathagata, who holds the bowl
of pure water and willow branch, who took the vow to sprinkle
sacred water to calm the mind of humankind.
respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, the great compassionate,
forgiving one, who took the vow to practice equanimity at all
respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, who day and night
is the destroyer of obstacles, who took the vow to destroy the
three realms of suffering.
respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, who faces south,
diligently practicing, who took the vow to cut all fetters and
respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, the maker of the
dharma boat which rows in the suffering ocean, who took the
vow to save all sentient beings.
respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, with streamers
in front and a canopy behind, who took the vow to guide beings
to the Western World.
respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, who resides in
the Realm of the Buddha of Unlimited Life, who took the vow
to be the helper of Amitabha Buddha.
respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, the honorable one
with a body without imperfections, created by the twelve great
The Story of Qwan Yin
Kinh lived in a village with her parents. Her father, a farmer,
owed money to his landlord and was unable to pay. As he could
not make good his debt to this rich family, Thi Kinh's father
offered his daughter in marriage to their son. The family did
not particularly like Thi Kinh, but they took her because she
was all they could get. Thi Kinh did not love the young man,
but, as Luong says, "in the old days marriage was arranged
by the families, and so you were expected to learn to love the
husband as time went on." Thi Kinh married the young man,
and they lived together, but, to his disappointment, she did
not become pregnant and produce a child.
husband had a mole on his cheek with a hair growing in it. One
day as Thi Kinh was sitting sewing, she looked over to her husband,
who was napping on the couch, and saw the hair in his mole.
She was holding scissors, so she reached over to cut off the
hair. Just then her husband woke up, and, startled, he accused
her of trying to kill him with the scissors. Probably he only
told that story to get rid of her because she had not produced
a son for him. If she had tried to kill him, she would be sent
away, and he could marry someone else.
rich family threw Thi Kinh out of the house. The neighbors all
gossiped that she had tried to kill her husband, and they would
not help her. Her own parents did not want to take her back
because they believed her quilty of such a crime. "For
thousands of years," says Luong, "if a woman was thrown
out of her family, what was she to do? Who was going to take
her in? How was she to survive?"
with no help from any direction, Thi Kinh hit upon an idea to
save herself. She dressed in the robes of a monk and shaved
off her long hair so that she looked like a man. Then she went
to the Buddha temple and asked if she could stay there. She
was accepted in the temple as a man, as a monk, and she began
to work there and practice Buddhist meditation.
one of the girls in the village who often saw the monk passing
thought "he" was handsome and she developed a crush
on "him." The girl, whose father was an important
man in the village, longed for Thi Kinh, not knowing she was
a woman. One night the girl heard a man passing her house and
thought it was the monk; she invited him in and they had sex.
When the girl became pregnant, her father was enraged. He beat
her so that she would tell him who had fathered the child, and
she did not know what to do. She told her father that the monk
at the Buddha temple had made her pregnant.
the people of the village heard this, they set out to punish
Thi Kinh. She was thrown out of the temple and was once again
in the meantime," Luong explains, "she remained silent.
She did not say, 'I am a female, I cannot make her pregnant';
she said nothing. Now if she were to say, 'I am a female, I'm
a woman,' then she would bring shame and embarrassment to this
girl and her father. I would get her off the hook, but she had
promised to Buddha that she would take to heart the Buddhist
teaching to forgive and be patient and find peace. So she could
not do this to this girl or her father." Silent, Thi Kinh
endured the abuse of the whole community.
the girl gave birth to her baby, the family gave it to Thi Kihn
to raise. Now Thi Kinh faced another difficutly; How was she,
a homeless monk, to care for a newborn baby: She set out with
the child, going from village to village to beg for milk. The
pople were outraged at the shame Thi Kinh had supposedly brought
on the name of Buddhism, in getting a girl pregnant. They threw
mud at her, they threw rotten fruit and rocks at her.
Kinh remained steadfast; she did not flinch before the abuse
or renege on her vow of silence but went on trying to care for
the baby. Finally, in a particularly vicious attack Thi Kinh
was beaten to death, and the baby was taken off to stay at the
the villagers removed Thi Kinh's clothes to wash her body and
bury her, they discovered she was a woman. Finally, they understood
that she had been protecting the young girl, not wanting to
shame or betray her. They reverd Thi Kinh for the pain she had
endured on behalf of another person.
Kihn became a spirit then, and the spirit was Kwan Yin.
Quan Yin: The Goddess Of Compassion ...adapted
from an essay by Bethleen Cole
Yin is one of the most universally beloved of deities in the
Buddhist tradition. Also known as Kuan Yin, Quan'Am (Vietnam),
Kannon (Japan), and Kanin (Bali), She is the embodiment of compassionate
loving kindness. As the Bodhisattva of Compassion, She hears
the cries of all beings. Quan Yin enjoys a strong resonance
with the Christian Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the Tibetan
many images She is depicted carrying the pearls of illumination.
Often Quan Yin is shown pouring a stream of healing water, the
"Water of Life," from a small vase. With this water
devotees and all living things are blessed with physical and
spiritual peace. She holds a sheaf of ripe rice or a bowl of
rice seed as a metaphor for fertility and sustenance. The dragon,
an ancient symbol for high spirituality, wisdom, strength, and
divine powers of transformation, is a common motif found in
combination with the Goddess of Mercy.
Kuan Yin is represented as a many armed figure, with each hand
either containing a different cosmic symbol or expressing a
specific ritual position, or mudra. This characterizes the Goddess
as the source and sustenance of all things. Her cupped hands
often form the Yoni Mudra, symbolizing the womb as the door
for entry to this world through the universal female principle.
Yin, as a true Enlightened One, or Bodhisattva, vowed to remain
in the earthly realms and not enter the heavenly worlds until
all other living things have completed their own enlightenment
and thus become liberated from the pain-filled cycle of birth,
death, and rebirth.
are numerous legends that recount the miracles which Quan Yin
performs to help those who call on Her. Like Artemis, She is
a virgin Goddess who protects women, offers them a religious
life as an alternative to marriage, and grants children to those
who desire them.
Goddess of Mercy is unique among the heavenly hierarchy in that
She is so utterly free from pride or vengefulness that She remains
reluctant to punish even those to whom a severe lesson might
be appropriate. Individuals who could be sentenced to dreadful
penance in other systems can attain rebirth and renewal by simply
calling upon Her graces with utter and absolute sincerity. It
is said that, even for one kneeling beneath the executioner's
sword already raised to strike, a single heartfelt cry to Bodhisattva
Quan Yin will cause the blade to fall shattered to the ground.
many stories and anecdotes featuring this Goddess serve to convey
the idea of an enlightened being who embodies the attributes
of an all pervasive, all consuming, unwavering loving compassion
and who is accessible to everyone. Quan Yin counsels us by Her
actions to cultivate within ourselves those particular refined
qualities that all beings are said to naturally possess in some
the Goddess of Mercy involves little dogma or ritual. The simplicity
of this gentle being and Her standards tends to lead Her devotees
towards becoming more compassionate and loving themselves. A
deep sense of service to all fellow beings naturally follows
any devotion to the Goddess.
such an easy and comfortable way of thinking the world slowly
and inevitably becomes a better place.
KUAN YIN ...Avalokitesvara Boddhisattva
...By Lin Sen-shou
seen alone or next to a statue of Amitabha Buddha, Avalokitesvara
Bodhisattva--in Chinese also known as Kuan Yin, the Goddess
of Mercy--is the most popular and most venerated Buddhist figure
besides Amitabha Buddha and Sakyamuni Buddha. A popular Chinese
saying illustrates this aspect: "Everyone knows how to
chant Amitabha Buddha, and every household worships Kuan Yin."
is this bodhisattva popular in so many Chinese families? It
may be because Kuan Yin is represented as a female with an appearance
that embraces the qualities of compassion and motherly love.
In addition, because many Buddhist scriptures state that one
can invoke Kuan Yin's assistance by simply calling out her name,
people feel that this bodhisattva is very approachable.
to the Huayen Sutra (Buddha-vatamsaka-mahavaipulya Sutra), Kuan
Yin uses all kinds of ways to attract people: she makes gifts,
uses words of love, and transforms herself into persons like
those that she deals with. The "Universal Gateway"
chapter in the Lotus Sutra lists thirty-two typical forms in
which Kuan Yin may appear. For instance, if a boy or girl is
about to gain some enlightenment, Kuan Yin transforms herself
into a boy or a girl to teach the child. If a monk is about
to attain some enlightenment, Kuan Yin transforms herself into
a monk. In short, she can appear as a monk, a nun, a king, a
minister, a celestial being, or a normal person like you and
me. The purpose of such transformations is to make people feel
close to her and willing to listen to her words.
am cultivating this method of great compassion and hope to save
all living beings," Kuan Yin said. "Any living being
who calls my name or sees me will be free from all fear and
danger. I will activate that being's spiritual awareness and
maintain it forever."
Buddha confirmed Kuan Yin's vow: "If a suffering being
hears the name of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and earnestly calls
out to the bodhisattva, Avalokitesvara will hear the call and
redeem that being from his suffering" ("Universal
Gateway," Lotus Sutra).
other words, this bodhisattva's main attraction for people lies
in her efforts to eliminate suffering and to make people live
in peace and harmony. This kind of immediate benefit and the
ability to receive protection or help simply by calling the
bodhisattva's name, similar to children receiving an instant
reply when calling their mother, have contributed to Kuan Yin's
the other bodhisattvas I have introduced so far, Kuan Yin also
has a sacred place in China: Potala Mountain. This mountain
is located near the city of Ningpo, in Chechiang Province on
the East China Sea. It is actually an island with a radius of
about thirty miles. Nowadays the island is full of temples.
It is said that during the Liang Dynasty (A.D. 520?57), a Japanese
monk by the name of Hui Erh stole a Kuan Yin statue from Wutai
Mountain in central China, hoping to take it back to Japan.
But when his boat approached the island of Potala, it simply
stopped moving. Feeling that it was the bodhisattva's will,
Hui Erh presented the statue to the islanders. Later, more and
more Buddhist temples were built, and more and more stories
of Kuan Yin's miraculous interventions circulated among the
people, making Potala Mountain the sacred ground for this bodhisattva.
because of Kuan Yin's great compassion, a quality which is traditionally
considered feminine, most of the bodhisattva's statues in China
since the Tang dynasty (A.D. 618?07) have appeared as female
figures. In India, however, the bodhisattva is generally represented
as a male figure.
Chinese art before the Tang dynasty, Kuan Yin was also usually
perceived as masculine, though literary and anecdotal evidence
from as early as the fifth century points to a sexual transformation
of this bodhisattva. By the tenth century, Kuan Yin's statues
were becoming increasingly feminine, and by the Ming Dynasty
(1368?644), the transformation into a female deity was complete.
the end, what is Kuan Yin, male or female? In Buddhism, the
universe is divided into many realms. For instance, there is
the Realm of Desire, the Realm of Form, and the Realm of Formlessness.
The Realm of Desire includes the human realm with all living
beings on earth. Above it is the Realm of Form, and above that
the Realm of Formlessness. The beings in these latter two realms
are considered celestial beings. The beings in the Realm of
Form have outward appearances but no desires, and the beings
in the Realm of Formlessness, have, as the name implies, no
outward appearances. Without physical forms, the beings in the
Realm of Formlessness have no gender distinctions. However,
the beings in all three realms still undergo reincarnation.
Arhats, bodhisattvas and buddhas (beings who have reached three
progressive stages toward enlightenment), on the other hand,
have jumped out of the cycle of reincarnation and no longer
have true physical forms. A bodhisattva like Kuan Yin may therefore
appear in either male or female form. Statues of these beings
merely help us feel their presence.
Kuan Yin statue
Yin may be shown either in a standing or in a sitting position,
but on top of her crown there is always an image of a buddha,
which is generally thought to be Amitabha Buddha. In her hands,
Kuan Yin may hold a willow branch, a vase with water, or occasionally
a lotus flower. The willow branch is used to either heal people's
illnesses or bring fulfillment to their requests. The water
symbolizes the cleansing of people's sins or illnesses. Kuan
Yin's right hand often points downward, with the palm facing
outward, the posture of granting a wish. This is the typical
image of Kuan Yin in China and Taiwan.
other forms also exist. The expression "thirty-three forms
of Kuan Yin" in Sino-Japanese Buddhist art refers to thirty-three
different appearances of the bodhisattva. For example, besides
holding a willow branch, Kuan Yin may also be depicted as standing
on a dragon's head in a cloud. However, these other forms have
no basis in Buddhist scriptures.
Manjusri, Kuan Yin may have once been a buddha with the name
of "Brightness of True Dharma." However, there is
little information on this topic.
most scriptures refer to Kuan Yin as a bodhisattva, some entries
reflect a different view. The Peihua Sutra tells a story about
a father-son relationship between Amitabha and Avalokitesvara.
When Amitabha was a ruler in a previous incarnation, he had
a thousand sons, and the eldest was named Pu-hsun. Pu-hsun vowed
before the buddha of his time that if suffering people would
call his name, he would hear them or see their suffering, and
he would try to eliminate their misery. When the buddha heard
Pu-hsun's vow, he praised him by saying that he would be named
"Avalokitesvara." He also said that when Amitabha
Buddha entered into nirvana in the future, Avalokitesvara would
succeed him and become a buddha who would be known as "Universal
Light-Issuing Tathagata King of Merit Mountain."
people can simply call Kuan Yin's name for help without having
to go through any ritual or ceremony, this bodhisattva is the
most popular figure in China and other East Asian countries.
One of the most well-known forms of the bodhisattva is the one
with a thousand eyes and a thousand hands. The thousand eyes
allow the bodhisattva to see the suffering creatures in this
world, and the thousand hands allow her to reach out to help
them. Thus, this depiction is a popular symbol for the Tzu Chi
Foundation, which tries to relieve the suffering in this world
through the "thousand eyes and hands" of its volunteers.
everyone can be a Kuan Yin. You may say that you don't have
a thousand eyes or a thousand hands or that you lack magic powers,
but it is your compassion that can transform you into a Kuan
Yin. With your eyes and hands you can help others, and with
your compassion you can bring peace and tranquility to this
Discovering Kwan Yin- Buddhist Goddess of Compassion ...by
Reviewer: Jessica Levine from Berkeley, CA United States...
In her book, Sandy Boucher celebrates the goddess Kwan Yin,
who is known throughout Asia as the Goddess of Compassion. Boucher
begins by giving a short and accessible history of this goddess
and then tells stories about women from both Eastern and Western
cultures who have found support in her. She includes both classic
rituals used to honor Kwan Yin and contemporary songs and poems
written in her honor. This book will inspire a broad range of
spiritual seekers including Buddhists, mystics, people struggling
with illness and adversity, and women looking for positive role
models. Kwan Yin is, in Boucher's book, an entity one can dialogue
with and get comfort from. This is a beautifully written and
Description ..."[This book is] rooted in the struggles
of everyday life." —Shambhala Sun
Boucher, celebrated author of Opening the Lotus and Turning
the Wheel, now offers American women their first opportunity
to share in Kwan Yin's illuminating wisdom. In this lovely illustrated
volume, the author recounts the stories of this bodhisattva
(one who delays her own full enlightenment to work for the liberation
of all beings) and explains Kwan Yin's role in Buddhism. At
the same time, Boucher provides meditations, chants, and prayers
devised by Buddhist devotees of Asian and Western heritage so
that all readers can par ticipate in and even create their own
rituals. Discovering Kwan Yin is sure to become an important
spiritual touchstone for those who seek to celebrate the goddess
in their lives, to give and receive the loving power of her
ongoing effort to promote feminine images of the Divine has
taken another step forward with the publication of this quietly
moving book." —Yoga Journal
Boucher skillfully and engagingly brings the goddess Kwan Yin
in her many guises from the East to the West —and into
our hearts —in this wonderful book." —Rick
Fields, author of How the Swans Came to the Lake: A History
of Buddhism in America
fascinating introduction to Kwan Yin, the most revered goddess
of Asia." —Values & Visions Reviews
Dharma Zen Center
Teacher: Zen Master Seung Sahn
Teachers: Zen Master Ji Bong and Paul Park, Ji Do Poep Sa Nim
Practice Advisor: Mu Sang Sunim
Dharma Teacher- Algernon D'Ammassa
Zen Center was founded by Zen Master Seung Sahn in 1974 as a
place where monks and lay people from all countries can practice
Zen together and find their true selves. We have formal meditation
practice - bowing, chanting and sitting Zen - in the mornings
and evenings for both our resident Zen students and outside
members. During the day, our lay residents go out to their jobs
or to school. Visitors as well as our outside members are welcome
to come for daily practice and join in our monthly Zen meditation
retreats, Dharma talks
Zen Center is located at 1025 S. Cloverdale Avenue, two blocks
west of La Brea Avenue, just south of Olympic Boulevard, in
the pleasant Mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles. Telephone: (323)
934-0330, email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Center is a branch of the Kwan Um School of Zen, head temple,
the Providence Zen Center, located in Cumberland, RI. The School
sponsors 90-day winter Zen meditation retreats (Kyol Che) at
the Providence Zen Center, at Hwa Gye Sa Temple in Seoul, Korea,
and at Kye Ryong Sahn International Zen Center in Chunchong
Nam Do, Korea; as well as a month-long summer Kyol Che at PZC
and 90-day summer Kyol Che's at Hwa Gye Sa and Kye Ryong Sahn
International Zen Center. The School also publishes a quarterly
journal, "Primary Point."
Master Seung Sahn has encouraged his students to live together
in Zen centers where they can derive strength and support from
each other's continuing practice. The regular schedule of practicing
and working together acts as a backdrop for seeing our karma
appear and disappear. We use the analogy of washing potatoes
together in a big pot of water. As the potatoes bump into one
another, they clean each other more quickly and efficiently
than if each potato was cleaned individually.
the Zen center, we can see clearly how our opinions create problems,
by coming between us and the situation that we find ourselves
in. When we let go of these opinions it is possible to live
our every day lives with clarity and harmony. As we learn to
cooperate, to see clearly and to accept people and situations
as they really are, our minds become strong and wide. Then it
becomes possible to act harmoniously and help other people with
no trace of ourselves.
forms and temple rules we use are designed to help us see our
opinions and our inattentive minds in each situation. When we
use these forms and rules as a mirror to see our minds clearly,
we see the cause our suffering and our hindrances. With sincere
effort and patience we can also find the way to get relief from
our suffering and overcome our hindrances. In our Zen center
this is the work we are all doing together.
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