You might see her sitting inconspicuously in the corner of a Chinese restaurant. Dressed in white and sometimes with children about her, she’s always poised and calm and ready to assist anyone in need.
And some credit her with miraculous healings and intercession–rising up into the air over Taiwan in World War II, for example, and wrapping her radiant white garments around a dropping bomb, deactivating it.
Of course, I’m talking about Guan Yin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy aka the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Her name is also rendered Kuan Yin, Kwan Yin, or Quan Yin, which literally means, “observe sound.” Devotees traditionally might translate that “one who hears the cries” or, as Guan Shi Yin, “one who hears the cries of the world.”
Prajna-paramita Hrdaya Sutram (The Heart Sutra)
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Guan Yin, Male & Female
While many, East and West, revere her as a type of Madonna figure or saviouress, she’s also esteemed as a role model for Earthly responsibilities such as being a parent, as well as a role model and inspiration for those seeking the Bodhisattva path.
But there are other ways to view and understand this profound Being who was first known in India as the male Avalokiteshvara but was increasingly experienced as female in China, given the Tibetan esoteric teaching that the female consort or shakti of Avalokiteshvara is Pandaravasini-the “White Robed” or White Tara.
The Lotus Sutra also confirms with vivid examples that Avalokitesvara can manifest in any form, male or female, young or old, spirit or animal, as the situation calls for.
Asian art records this transition from male to female with some pivotal images showing Guan Yin with characteristics of both sexes–such as a female form, yet bearing a mustache.
Guan Shi Yin/Guan Yin as Male/Female in Theosophy
“Kwan-shai-yin [Guan Shi Yin] is often confused with Kwan-yin, the Chinese goddess of compassion, the feminine Logos and counterpart of Kwan-shai-yin,” explains Helena Blavatsky in the Theosophical Glossary, “but ‘Kwan-shai-yin — or the universally manifested voice ‘is active — male; and must not be confounded with Kwan-yin, or Buddhi the Spiritual Soul … and the vehicle of its ‘Lord.'”
“It is Kwan-yin that is the female principle or the manifested passive, manifesting itself ‘to every creature in the universe, in order to deliver all men from the consequences of sin’. . . while Kwan-shai-yin, ‘the Son identical with his Father’ is the absolute activity, hence — having no direct relation to objects of sense is — Passivity.”
“Kwan-shai-yin, the Voice or Logos, is “the germ point of manifested activity; — hence — in the phraseology of the Christian Kabalists ‘the Son of the Father and Mother,’ and agreeably to ours — ‘the Self manifested in Self — Yih-sin, the ‘one form of existence,’ the child of Dharmakaya (the universally diffused Essence), both male and female.” (Mahatma Letters No.59).
Guan Shi Yin and Future Buddha Maitreya Are One
“As this Bodhisattva is said ‘to assume any form he pleases’ from the beginning of a Manvantara to its end, though his special birthday (memorial day) is celebrated according to the Kin-kwang-ming-King (‘Luminous Sutra of Golden Light’ [Jin Guang Ming Jing]) in the second month on the nineteenth day, and that of ‘Maitreya Buddha’ in the first month on the first day, yet the two are one,” Madame Blavatsky says.
“He will appear as Maitreya Buddha, the last of the Avatars and Buddhas, in the seventh Race. This belief and expectation are universal throughout the East.” (Secret Doctrine 1:470).
Let us be mindful this day of Guan Shi Yin and Guan Yin, and the hope of the future Buddha.
Imee Ooi – Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva (Chanting)
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Guan Yin Pledge:
“Never will I seek nor receive private, individual salvation; never will I enter into final peace alone; but forever and everywhere will I live and strive for the redemption of every creature throughout the world from the bonds of conditioned existence.” — Kwan-Yin
Mantras associated with Guan Yin:
© Kara LeBeau 2009 All rights reserved