Kwan Yin – Compassionate Mother, Attending to those who are Suffering, the Feminine Face of Compassion
Reflection by Mary E. Latela, M.Div., January 29, 2017
Two bunches of reeds, leaning against one another long enough they become connected. When Grandpa tended his grape vines, he carefully wound the little tendrils close to one another… about the time the grapes were ripe, the vine looked like a mass or purples or green, depending on the variety
After the busy quality of last weekend, the D.C. politics, the marches, there is a natural kind of quiet that settles in. It is a bit lonely, unless we see that this perception of loneliness is just that, perception. Perhaps the emotions were too much, or perhaps we are a bit exhausted from what appears to be a roller coaster of emotions. That is our perception, but we don’t need to get stuck there.
That’s okay. Some strands of Buddhism teach that our lives are constantly developing in a dynamic way, in a synergy of the internal causes within our own life (our personality, experiences, outlook on life and so on) and the external conditions and relations around us. Each individual existence contributes to creating the environment which sustains all other existences. All things, mutually supportive and related, form a living cosmos, a single living whole.
Our lineage went through periods of dualism – two main streams – physical and mental, where even the deep thinkers could not quite explain – and total wholeness of one separate, yet integrated self, always putting off regular self-care.
I don’t remember when I bought my Kwan Yin statue. A friend had given me a little book, the story of Kwan Yin. The human story is about a selfless woman who gives all of herself to help others who are suffering.Through time and practice, many Buddhists began to think of her as a feminine type of goddess, though she was a fully human entity.
We all know women like this who take on the suffering of others, not because they are unbalanced or wanting to have suffering, but because they see that there is a seed of compassion which connects one person to another, and each of us to all others. After all, equilibrium leans toward a balance of self-care without damaging others to get a better spot at the spa. The legends about Kwan Yin say that all this compassion was too much for one woman to carry, so she was given additional arms to carry the suffering of brothers and sisters, human beings, to help them to get through the hard times and to relish the delightful sunny days.
This manifestation moves me. I must spend some quiet time with Kwan Yin this week.
Porcelain figure by Chaozhong He,
photographed by Mountain at the Shanghai Museum, photo modified.