|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
Here's how Avalokiteshvara became The Woman with
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
|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
She would, this time as a female, renew his
vow to bring compassion, mercy, and
forgiveness to all.
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
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.