QUAN-YIN is one of the “four great Bodhisattva”, enlightened beings.
BODHISATTVA Literally means “enlightened being”; a soul who, through compassion and altruism, has earned the right to leave this world of suffering and enter nirvana, but has chosen instead to stay on Earth to instruct others until all beings are enlightened.
Ever-present in temples and iconography, she is venerated throughout Asia.
She is known as the Goddess of Compassion & Healing.
She is one of the most popular deities in all of Asia.
Her name translates as “The One who Hears the Cries of the World”.
Quan Yin is the Divine Mother we all long for: merciful, tender, compassionate, loving, protecting, caring, healing, and wise. She quietly comes to the aid of her children everywhere.
Kuan Yin is depicted in various forms and poses. She always appears cloaked in white, the color of purity, and her gowns are long and flowing. Often she will be holding a rosary in one hand and also have a vase, which symbolizes her pouring compassion on to the world.
Other times, she might be holding a willow branch, which is a symbol of being able to bend but not break. The willow is also used in shamanistic rituals and has medicinal purposes. Often, she will be seen holding a child, a reminder of her role as the patron saint of sterile women.
Quan Yin: Her Story
In 7th century China, a king had three daughters, the youngest named Quan Yin. At the time of her birth, the earth trembled and a wonderful fragrance of flower blossoms sprang up around the land. Many of the local people said they saw the signs of a holy incarnation.
While the king and queen were amazed by this blessing, unfortunately, they were corrupted and saw little value in a child who appeared pure and kind. When Quan-Yin got older, the king wanted to find a husband for her. She told her father she would only marry if she would be able to help alleviate the suffering of all mankind.
The king became enraged and forced her to slave away at menial tasks. Her mother, the queen, and her two sisters admonished her, to no avail.
In desperation, the king decided to let her pursue her religious calling at a monastery, but ordered the nuns there to treat her so badly she would change her mind.
She was forced to collect wood and water, and tend a garden for the kitchen. This would be impossible, since the land around the monastery was sterile.
To everyone’s amazement, the garden flourished, even in winter, and a spring welled up out of nowhere next to the kitchen.
When the king heard about these miracles, he decided that he was going to kill Quan-Yin. But as his henchmen arrived at the monastery, a spirit came out of the clouds and carried her away to safety on a remote island.
She lived there on her own for many years, pursuing a life of of religious dedication.
Several years later, her father became seriously ill. He was unable to sleep or eat; his doctors believed he would certainly die soon. As he was about to pass, a monk came to visit the king.
He told the king he could cure him, but in order to make the medicine, he would have to grind up the arms and eyes of “a human being free from hatred”.
The king thought this was impossible, but the monk assured him that there was a Bodhisattva living in the king’s domain who would gladly surrender those items if asked.
The king sent an envoy to find this unknown bodhisattva. When he made the request, Quan-Yin gladly cut out her eyes and severed her arms.
The envoy returned and the monk made the medicine. The king instantly recovered, he thanked the monk but he said:
“You should thank the one who gave her eyes and arms” and suddenly, the monk disappeared.
The king believed this was divine intervention and ordered a coach to be prepared for his family to find and thank the unknown bodhisattva.
When the royal family arrived they realized it was their daughter who had made the sacrifice.
Quan-Yin said: “Mindful of my father’s love, I have repaid him with my eyes and arms” and then, the bodhisattva was gone.
To honour her, the royal family built a shrine on the spot, known as Fragrant Mountain.