QUAN YIN: THE GODDESS OF COMPASSION AND MERCY
adapted from an essay by Bethleen Cole http://www.lava.net/tribalartifacts/qunynex.htm
Quan Yin is one of the most universally beloved of deities in the Buddhist tradition. Also known as Kuan Yin, Quan’Am (Vietnam), Kannon (Japan), and Kanin (Bali), She is the embodiment of compassionate loving kindness. As the Bodhisattva of Compassion, She hears the cries of all beings. Quan Yin enjoys a strong resonance with the Christian Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the Tibetan goddess Tara.
In many images She is depicted carrying the pearls of illumination. Often Quan Yin is shown pouring a stream of healing water, the “Water of Life,” from a small vase. With this water devotees and all living things are blessed with physical and spiritual peace. She holds a sheaf of ripe rice or a bowl of rice seed as a metaphor for fertility and sustenance. The dragon, an ancient symbol for high spirituality, wisdom, strength, and divine powers of transformation, is a common motif found in combination with the Goddess of Mercy.
Sometimes Kuan Yin is represented as a many armed figure, with each hand either containing a different cosmic symbol or expressing a specific ritual position, or mudra. This characterizes the Goddess as the source and sustenance of all things. Her cupped hands often form the Yoni Mudra, symbolizing the womb as the door for entry to this world through the universal female principle.
Quan Yin, as a true Enlightened One, or Bodhisattva, vowed to remain in the earthly realms and not enter the heavenly worlds until all other living things have completed their own enlightenment and thus become liberated from the pain-filled cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
There are numerous legends that recount the miracles which Quan Yin performs to help those who call on Her. Like Artemis, She is a virgin Goddess who protects women, offers them a religious life as an alternative to marriage, and grants children to those who desire them.
The Goddess of Mercy is unique among the heavenly hierarchy in that She is so utterly free from pride or vengefulness that She remains reluctant to punish even those to whom a severe lesson might be appropriate. Individuals who could be sentenced to dreadful penance in other systems can attain rebirth and renewal by simply calling upon Her graces with utter and absolute sincerity. It is said that, even for one kneeling beneath the executioner’s sword already raised to strike, a single heartfelt cry to Bodhisattva Quan Yin will cause the blade to fall shattered to the ground.
The many stories and anecdotes featuring this Goddess serve to convey the idea of an enlightened being who embodies the attributes of an all pervasive, all consuming, unwavering loving compassion and who is accessible to everyone. Quan Yin counsels us by Her actions to cultivate within ourselves those particular refined qualities that all beings are said to naturally possess in some vestigial form.
Contemplating the Goddess of Mercy involves little dogma or ritual. The simplicity of this gentle being and Her standards tends to lead Her devotees towards becoming more compassionate and loving themselves. A deep sense of service to all fellow beings naturally follows any devotion to the Goddess.
From such an easy and comfortable way of thinking the world slowly and inevitably becomes a better place.
Avalokitesvara (Quan Yin / Quan Am)
Avalokitesvara is possibly the most popular of all Buddhist deities, beloved throughout the Buddhist world. The word avalokita means “observes the sounds of the world” and isvara means “lord”. The full name has been variously interpreted as “the lord who hears/looks in every direction” and “the lord of hearing the deepest”. The great vow of Avalokitesvara is to listen to the supplications from those in difficulty in the world and to postpone his own Buddhahood until he has helped every being on earth achieving enlightenment. Therefore, he is treated as the embodiment of all the Buddhas’ compassion, the lord of infinite compassion in Mahayana Buddhism.
Avalokitesvara is also an emanation of Amitabha’s compassion and with Amitabha’s figure represented in his headdress. He guards the world in the interval between the departure of the historical Buddha, Sakyamuni, and the appearance of the future Buddha, Maitreya. Based on scriptures of the Pure Land school that were translated into Chinese between the 3rd and 5th centuries, the Pure Land sect practitioner look to rebirth in the Western Paradise of the Buddha Amitabha, Avalokitesvara forms part of a ruling triad, along with Amitabha and the bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta. Images of the three are often placed together in temples.
According to the Chinese Tantric (Mi-tsung) school from Tang Dynasty, Avalokitesvara’s ability to assume innumerable forms that has led to thirty-three major representations. The following nine representations are the most famous ones. Among them the first seven has later become the famous Seven Avalokitesvara in Japanese Tantric (Shingon) school:
(1) Sahasrabhuja (Senju), the 1,000 armed figure;
(2) Ekadasamuhka (Ju-ichi-men), the 11 faced with 2-or 4-handed figure;
(3) Cintamani cakra (Nyo-i-rin), the seated figure, with 6 arms, holding the wish-fulfilling jewel.
(4) Amoghapasa (Fuku-kenjaku), the one with lasso and net, a form popular with the Tendai sect;
(5) Hayagriva (Ba-to), the one with a fierce face and a horse’s head in the hairdress;
(6) Cundi (Jun-tei), the seated figure with 18 arms, the mother goddess;
(7) Aryavalokitesvara (Sho), the sacred, simple form;
(8) Palasambari (Ye-I), the one with leaf clothes, with 2 or 4 arms;
(9) Pandurarasini (Bai-I), the one with white clothes, with 2 arms;
The Quan Am Festival
Quan The Am festival is celebrated every year at the tourism resort Ngu Hanh Son, Danang city. It was first celebrated in 1960 on the opening of Bo Tat Quan The Am statue in Hoa Nghiem cavern, Thuy Son mountain, the west of Ngu Hanh Son. After 2 years, the festival was celebrated on the opening of Quan Am pagoda, Quan Am cavern where they found a stalactite whose shape is like Quan The Am. After that, due to some reasons, the festival was not celebrated for a long time until the Quan The Am spirit anniversary on 19th, Feb, 1991 (Tan Mui Year). After that, the festival is held on the 19th, Feb (Lunar Calendar) every year with a bigger size and better content.
Quan The Am festival lasts for 3 days including: PHAN LE VA PHAN HOI
PHAN LE: Buddha features….
– Le ruoc anh sang: It is often held in the evening of the 18th including torch parade, sedan chair parade, lion dance, dragon dance to pray for the leading of the light which means bright mind in Buddhism. The bright mind will accompany with good soul and personality and help people do more charities.
– Le khai kinh: it is often held in the early morning of the 19th to pray for the peaceful and prosperous life.
– Le trai dan chan te: it is often held in the morning of the 19th to pray for the peace of the soul and worship the ten creatures. The Buddhists often send the list of their dead relatives to the pagoda to pray for the peace of their souls. There must be a Buddhist with high position to carry out the ceremony.
-The lecture about Bo Tat Quan The Am and the people: it is often held in the morning of the 19th to praise the good soul of Phat Bo Tat Quan The Am and to pray for the peaceful and prosperous life.
– Quan The Am’s statue parade: It is often held after the above ceremony at 10am, 19th. There are 4 persons who carry the sedan chair with the Buddha’s statue go first and the Buddhists follow them. The sedan chair is carried from the pagoda to the small boat on Cau Bien river (one branch of Co Co river. The main aim of he ceremony is to pray for the safety and prosperity of the fishermen. Apart from the above ceremony, there is also a spring ceremony to worship the wood, water genies to pray for the peaceful and prosperous life. It is often held in the evening in the 18th. During this ceremony, the old men of the Hoa Hai ward, Hoa Quy district in the formal clothes carrying flags, torches, lanterns go first and the music band with drums and gongs follows them. After the ceremony and the funeral oration, the old men will lead the parade to Cau Bien riverbank to open the light festival and then from Quan The Am pagoda, they go around the streets and Non Nuoc villages to Non Nuoc tourism resort and return to the ceremony stand after 2 km walk.
PHAN HOI: There are many traditional and modern cultural-sport activities such as disguise festival, folk songs, chest, painting, music, sculpture competition, “tu linh” dance, tuong, etc. There are also many cultural activities such as calligraphy and Chinese ink painting museum, the eloquence contest about Ngu Hanh Son, vegetarian diet cooking competition, etc.
The festival which is held at good natural place has attracted many pilgrimage and the tourists from many different regions to the west of Ngu Hanh Son. On the village common, people play the traditional game which is called “keo co”. You can also hear the shouting of the people who joined the regattas in Co Co River. When the night falls, the festival is more attractive with many colors and sounds. After the performance ” Ngu Hanh Son legend” at the main stage is the torch parade across the main streets of Ngu Hanh Son district. The Buddhists put their wishes into the small light lanterns and drop them onto the river to pray for the long lasting bright mind. With many traditional culture and sport activities, Quan The Am is the religious festival but very popular in the people’s life. It has restored and developed the traditional characteristics of the Vietnamese.Quan The Am festival is held to pray for the peaceful and prosperous life and to give people the opportunity to live better in the summer atmosphere.