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The Goddess Kwan Yin

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Kwan Yin, Goddess of Compassion

The goddess Kwan Yin knew all about suffering.

In her first life in India she was born as a male named Avalokitesvara, who sought to help poor lost souls be reborn to a better life on their journey to enlightenment. But he was overwhelmed and anguished when more lost souls kept coming in what seemed an endless cycle. In his despair he shattered into a thousand pieces.

Avalokitesvara as Kwan Yin  

From his remains they shaped him as a woman, a goddess -- more suitable for bringing compassion and mercy into the world, they thought.

They gave her a thousand arms and eyes in the palms of each of her hands so that she would always see the people's distress and be able to reach out to encircle them.

Then they sent her back to earth to do her work. So successful was she at comforting the people, that word of her began to spread to other lands and other religions. "We need her here," the people cried.

And so she went, reincarnating herself wherever she was needed. Known by many names and stories in many places, she was revered as a Buddhist deity and then a Taoist one.

She is known as the goddess Tara in the Himalayas and Mazu in her incarnation as the goddess of the Southern Seas, but she is best known by her Chinese name, Kwan Yin (also spelled Kuan Yin), the Goddess of Compassion.

Statue :: Goddess Kwan Yin
Porcelain figure by Chaozhong He, photographed by Mountain at the Shanghai Museum, photo modified.

And she knew suffering in that life too. Rejected at birth and abused by a father who had wanted a son, Kuan Yin wanted only to become a nun. Eventually her father relented and she was allowed to pursue her dream of religious life.

But her suffering did not end there. Her vengeful father even hired a man to kill her, but she forgave him. In the end, her great love and mercy saved his life and reconciled her parent's to her divinity.

Depicted in statues and paintings, the Goddess Kwan Yin often appears as a calm, gentle woman of middle-age who radiates serenity. She is sometimes referred to as an Asian madonna.

She is a protector of women, especially those who yearn to have children.

Kwan Yin is also worshipped as a protectress of sailors, merchants, and those who are imprisoned.


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Learn more about Avalokitesvara, the God:Goddess of Compassion

Learn more about Kuan Yin (Kwan Yin): Goddess of Compassion
See the symbols of Kuan Yin (Kwan Yin): Goddess of Compassion

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