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Tuesday Theology 2/22/11

Kwan Yin – Mother of Mercy, Compassion and Love

Saturday, February 19th, was the birthday of my Patron Goddess, Kwan Yin, also known as Guanyin, Kannon, and Avalokitésvara, among others.

My Goddess has a murky past.  Doing some research this weekend, I learned that there are many people that believe that the deity began as a male god.  Others believe that KwanYin was a hermaphrodite, being both male and female at the same time.  Still others say that Kwan Yin was a real person that lived in the Shang Dynasty in China (1600 BC–1046 BC).

My favorite story of Kwan Yin involves the legend of Miao Shan.  In this legend, she was a Chinese princess, raised by a cruel man that wanted her to marry well.  Miao Shan told her father that she would marry, only, if the marriage eased 3 misfortunes:  1.  That her marriage would ease the misfortune of the suffering that people feel when they age.  2. That it would ease the misfortune of the pain people feel when they fall ill.  And 3.  That the third misfortune it would heal was the suffering caused by death.

When her father asked who she could possibly marry that would ease these misfortunes, she replied “A doctor.” 

Her father, furious, wanted her to marry someone of wealth and power, not a “healer” of no note, so he threatened her, locked her up and took away many of her privileges. 

Miao Shan didn’t balk or back down, though.  Instead, she begged her father to let her live in a temple, as a nun.  Finally, he let her go to the temple, but told the monks there to give her only the worst jobs, thinking that would soon bring her home to do his bidding.

Instead, Miao Shan worked tirelessly, until finally, even the animals began to love her, and help her with her chores. 

Her father was enraged when she refused to return and marry as he wished, so he ordered the temple burned.  Miao Shan put out the flames with her own hands, but suffered no burns.  Frightened, her father then ordered her executed.

There are many tales of how she was executed, but they basically all tell the same story, Miao Shan was first sent to the Buddhist version of “hell”, where, through her compassion for the suffering she found there, she released all the good karma she’d built up over her many lifetimes, freeing so many souls that she turned hell into a paradise, and was kicked out by the ruler there. 

As she began her ascent to “heaven”, Miao Shan/KwanYin heard a cry of suffering, and turned around to see what was happening.  Upon seeing someone crying out, she decided that she could not ascend to heaven until all the suffering on the Earth was cured, and descended back to help.  Thus, she became a revered “bodhisattva”, which is a semi-divine Goddess. Forever between Earth and heaven, she hears the laments of the world, and seeks to comfort all.

Is it any wonder, that she is my Patroness? 

Happy Birthday, Blessed Kwan Yin.

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15 thoughts on “Tuesday Theology 2/22/11

  1. Wonderful post. I love learning about all types of mythology. I primarily work with Celtic Gods and Goddesses and I know very little about Chinese so I’m grateful to you for posting Kwan Yin’s story. I’d love to learn more.

    • Aw, thanks! I am a total mythology junkie, I love learning about the lore and legends- but KwanYin is my special favorite!

  2. Fascinating post! I must admit, I have seen that statue many time over the course of my life and never had a clue as to the significance of who it was. Now I know. Thanks! 🙂

  3. Awesome story! Thanks for sharing! I love reading peaceful stories. P.S. Loving the book. want some more!!!

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