goddess kuan yin, goddess Tara

Avalokitesvara and the origins of
the goddess Kuan Yin

The god Avalokitesvara was born from a ray of white light emanating from the eye of Amitabha, the Buddha of Boundless Light. In a mystical or spiritual sense, he was also the father of the Goddess Kuan Yin (alternately spelled as Kwan Yin and Quan Yin). Kuan Yin is considered to be the feminine form of Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva* of compassion in Indian Buddhism, akin to the goddess Tara in Tibetan Buddhism.

 * Bodhisattva: An "enlightened being"; a soul that, by having shown great compassion and altruism in his or her life, has earned the right to enter Nirvana, but has instead chosen to remain in the world to instruct and serve those who are suffering.

So determined was he that when Avalokitesvara first embarked on his mission of compassion he made a vow that he would attend to the suffering of all sentient beings and that, if ever he failed, he would shatter into a thousand pieces.

It was centuries later that Avalokitesvara's image became feminized, he was now represented as a beautiful goddess wearing the white robes of purity. Chinese Buddhists believed in Avalokitesvara's ability to assume innumerable forms -- including the woman in white robe and the one with a thousand hands.

Here's how Avalokiteshvara became The Woman with 1000 Arms:

Avalokitesvara despaired as he looked down into the hells which were rapidly filling up again even though he had emptied them many times through his teachings.

He became so disheartened that his body shattered into thousands of pieces, true to his original vow.

He cried to the Buddhas for help.

Of the ones who came to him, one was one was Amitabha Buddha, who became his teacher and helped him take on a new form a female one with a thousand hands to provide aid to those who suffered, and with the eyes of Wisdom in each of the palms.

And thus Avalokitesvara became the goddess Kuan Yin.

She would, this time as a female, renew his vow to bring compassion, mercy, and forgiveness to all.


   Avalokitesvara as Kwan Yin  

The worship of the god Avalokitesvara was introduced into China in the third century.   The female form of Kuan Yin first appeared in a Chinese translation of the Lotus Sutra. Seven of the thirty-three references to the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara the book contained told of his appearance as a female having the name of Kuan Yin

In all likelihood, it was realized that a feminine image would best embody Avalokitesvara's compassion and his desire to listen to people's pleas and to answer their prayers more quickly.

The devotional following of Kuan Yin quickly became widespread in China. It is reported that by the ninth century there was a statue of Kuan Yin in every Buddhist monastery in China.

Kuan Yin is known as the protectress of women and children, merchants, sailors and fisherman, and those who are imprisoned. Now worshipped by Taoists as well as by Buddhists, her religion spread throughout Asia.

The myths of the god/goddess Avalokitesvara remind us that when suffering and spiritual setbacks occur in our own lives we should face them as opportunities to learn and grow.

Since we all experience burnout at times, we should remember to be compassionate with each other . . . and especially with ourselves.



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Read the myths of the: 
Goddess Kuan Yin (Kwan Yin)

Symbols and Names of Goddesses Embodying Kuan Yin


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