Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Goddess and the Lotus

This image from the Flower Essence deck I've been working on has been hanging in the spiritual counseling office I share with Paul for more than a year and it's amazing to me how often clients need to hear some message related to this Goddess.

Quan Yin (Kuan Yin) is the Buddhist Goddess of Compassion and Mercy, a Bodhisattva, a being who has achieved enlightenment who gave up nirvana to attend to the cries of the suffering back on earth. Her plight in her life was to have been born to a mean-spirited king who insisted she marry a wealthy man against her will. She agreed on one condition, that her marriage was arranged to ease three misfortunes: the suffering of people as they aged, the suffering of people when they became sick, and the suffering people experienced at the time of death. Otherwise, she insisted, that she be allowed to be a nun and live a religious life.

Only a healer would fit such a role for her life but that did not please her father. He wanted her to marry a man of wealth and power and punished her with hard labor and reduced food and drink. But she would not give in.

She then entered a temple with the intention of becoming a nun but her father convinced the monks to work her day and night to change her mind. But Quan Yin was a special being, a person so loving that the animals around the temple came to help her get the work done. Then her father burned down the temple in a fit of rage but she put out the fire with her bare hands.

Her father decided to have her put to death. There are a variety of stories about the trials that happened to those who tried to carry out this request but they all end with the future Bodhisattva going to the Chinese version of hell. But unlike others who would have been tormented there for eternity, Quan Yin's presence turned the place into a paradise filled with flowers.

In variants of the story she returns to earth to live on the Fragrant Mountain. In a twist of fate her father then became ill with jaundice. In Chinese medicine liver disorders are caused by excessive anger and, according to the legend, only the arm and eye of a person completely free of anger could cure him. The monks told him such a person could be found on the Fragrant Mountain and, when asked, Quan Yin willingly made the sacrifice. Her father was cured, discovered who it was who had saved him, and begged for forgiveness. She was turned into a Goddess at this point and was just about to enter nirvana when she heard the cries of the suffering on earth and returned, never to leave until all suffering was ended.

I chose Quan Yin to represent the Lotus in my Flower Essence deck because so many people approach spiritual practice as if its purpose was to live apart from this world. People get inflated with spiritual pride, thinking that enlightenment experiences or even choosing a practice that can lead to enlightenment makes one somehow morally superior. Lotus is considered an aid to balanced spiritual unfolding. It helps one open to one's spiritual nature and redirects and rebalances a person whose spiritual focus needs to be balanced with more compassionate earthly concerns.

I use Lotus in my Mama Love Perfume for Trusting Inner Guidance. The Quan Yin image is available on a wide variety of products--T-shirts, mugs, magnets, etc. through my Zazzle shop. Prints are available directly from me by visiting my Etsy shop.


Rosebud Collection said...

A beautiful story..

Howling Caterpillars said...

I hadn't heard the whole story of Kwan Yin...it's lovely.