goddess of limitless compassion
When autumn storms are blowing and howling over the fields it is time for tales and myths.
So let us make a journey to ancient China, where in temples and farmhouses people love to listen to the storyteller; and one of their audience’s favourite stories is the tale about the transformation of princess Miao Chan into the goddess Kwan Yin, goddess of mercy, of limitless compassion and saviour of souls.
How the princess Miao Chan became a goddess
Once upon the time there lived a king, who had three daughters. The youngest of them was Princess Miao Chan, who had been a lot more interested in meditation and studying of the sacred writings of the Buddha than in the how-to-be-a-princess lectures, which her parents wanted her to learn.
So the king decided to pretend accepting his daughter’s decision to become a nun. He had her brought to a monastery and secretly he ordered the inhabitants to have the princess doing the hardest work with nearly no time to sleep or rest for her.
But happily Miao Chan fulfilled all the tasks, which had been given to her. She never complained, and the animals, who were seeing her working day and night without slumber, decided to assist her in doing all the hard work.
The king, when realising, that his plan did not work, furiously ordered his mem to burn down the monastery.
But his daughter put out the fire with her hands, and not a single flame left it’s singe on the maiden’s flawless skin.
Her father threatened her and had her beaten, but the princess still refused to marry, and still she wanted to live her life dedicated to the teachings of the Buddha.
As neither threats nor violence would change the girl’s mind, the king decided that the disobedient princess has to be decapitated. The small company had reached the place of the execution; the hangman lifted his axe.
At this moment the sky darkened, and only the vivid flashing of lightnings illuminated the place.
The tutelary deity of the place appeared in the shape of a giant tiger with glowing green eyes. Miao Chan mounted the tiger, and together they disappeared in the darkness. The tiger carried the princess to his residence, the fragrant mountain forest.
But she couldn’t enjoy this beautiful place for long, as Yama, god of the dead and lord of the underworld kidnapped her and brought her to his hell. Not unlike the purgatory of Christian belief or the dark home of the goddess Allat in Babylonian mythology the home of Yama is a playing ground of demons, a place of punishment, of torture and of suffering.
Now Miao Chan, instead of being tortured by the demons, enchanted them by playing beautiful tunes on her flute, and flowers were growing from the hellish ground, and they began to bloom, wherever the kidnapped princess sat her feet.
Seeing the suffering of the tortured souls, Miao Chan released all the good karma, which she had accumulated by her spiritual practice in many lifetimes, so that the unfortunate inhabitants of Yama’s realm were released for another cycle of incarnations.
Now the Lord of the underworld had to witnesses with disgust how by the mere presence of the princess his hell was beginning to change into a paradise, a place of beauty with blossoming flowers breathing their fragrance and radiating in most beautiful colours, birds singing in the branches of trees, loaded with all kinds of fruits. Yama, fearing that his hell might be ruined completely by that young female, spreading her flower-power, peace-love and compassion magic, sent her instantly back to the place in the fragrant mountain forest, where he had found her.
Again the princess followed her spiritual path – reciting her favourite sutra, the lotus sutra, and meditating in the forest, when Buddha appeared to her to give her the advice to go to Potala, the Blessed Land, and to give herself up in meditation there.
He presented his loyal acolyte with a peach from the garden of the deities. The magical fruit did not only preserve her from hunger and thirst for a whole year; eating from that peach also assured her eternal life.
The friendly spirit tiger appeared once again and carried Miao Chan to the place, which the Buddha had recommended to her.
Having reached the destination the princess stayed there for nine years meditating and practising compassion. She healed her father from a deadly illness, and finally her parents took refuge to the Buddha.
This is one version of the popular tale about how the princess Miao Chan became the goddess Kwan Yin, saviour of sentient beings, removing all obstacles to their attaining of Buddha Amitabha’s paradise. The goddess herself refused to stay there as long as any sentient being is excluded.
Bits of history and a scandalous outfit
The legend of Kwan Yin had been written down in 1102 AD. Buddhist, Hindu and Taoist deities appear on it’s stage; and indeed Kwan Yin is a goddess, who is worshipped by Chinese Buddhists and followers of the Tao likewise.
Her name Guan Yin is the Chinese translation of Avalokitesvara – literally he, who looks down upon sound, meaning ” he, who perceives the cries of the sentient beings who need help”.
Avalokitesvara is one of the Boddhisattvas, worshipped in Mahayana Buddhism and being able to appear in male or female form.
photo above by Jean Pierre Dalbera Continue reading “Kwan Yin”