Sunday, 9 December 2012

A Snippet on Kuan-Yin

Greetings readers!

This post will be much less theoretical and more of an explanation as to why I think Kuan-Yin is incredibly important to Buddhist thought and to comparative studies/incorporation into other traditions.

Firstly, those who do not know much about Kuan-Yin, I will give a brief introduction to her:

She is a Chinese Goddess of mercy and compassion and is also an incarnation or potentially transgendered God by a different name. There are legends of Kuan-Yin changing into other animals and people in order to help those who were crying or in need of safety. In Mahayana Buddhism (which Zen would fall under) she is regarded as the top Bodhisattva.

I do not believe that there is a need to compare religions for the sake of quality comparison but rather because as an understanding on differences, similarities that go beyond the basic but into the ontological as well. I promised I wouldn’t make this post theoretical however I may have lied.

Please forgive me.

Kuan-Yin would be an embodiment of mercy and compassion? Something that could be looked at in a more Western/Christian way, right?


Although there is potential to see things that way, it would not be very Buddhist because most Buddhism does not have the idea of embodiment. That’s not true in all cases but the basic reasoning behind it is that embodiment of anything would create more potential for there to be a noticeable “self” that is not interdependent, or impermanent.

The correlation between the adjectives that describe “self” and “self” are very important in that statement because most of us do think there is some sort of recurring pattern that we can at least call a “person.” I won’t begin to get into that so we can just leave that one open for discussion. 

Kuan-Yin’s recurring pattern and person would thus be known as Mercy and Compassion. They are not an embodiment because they are plainly within Kuan-Yin. Despite the two, Kuan-Yin’s “person” and those concepts being irreducible, it’s not quite safe enough to go as far as the Platonic notion of embodiment. 

Kuan-Yin shows that it is very natural, very human, very universal to have mercy and compassion and that anybody at all is capable of such practices.

These practices would be practices in the person’s own way.

In the shared experience and world of with whom or what the experience is with.

Would influence the rest of the Cosmos because all is connected and has influence

and would also then influence Compassion, Mercy etc in others.

Is that the same as Embodiment?

It’s damn close but the one other distinction between Christian embodiment and this Buddhist idea is that the “full embodiment” of Being/Love which is found in Christianity is not found in Buddhism. Kuan-Yin’s Mercy and Compassion are virtues that are planted, and mustered along the way through effort and strife making them ever so much more desirable, beautiful, and Zen.

So what then exactly is her importance?

As obvious as it sounds, she’s a woman.

The importance for there to be a religious figure with such importance who is a woman is very important, cannot be forgotten and must be celebrated. I won’t go into this too far but feminism is imperative for a successful globe which is pragmatic, progressive, pluralistic and loving.

Also Kuan-Yin shows us that these giant virtues are there at the palm of your hands in one way or another. One of my favorite statues of her is her holding a tea leaf which is a basic plant in the East yet has become a mystical ceremony. The basic”ness” of Compassion and Mercy are met with the mystical female figure who has reached Sainthood just by living. That’s something we can all strive for!

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