Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Where is Kuan Yin?

Yesterday I attended a Q&A session at a local temple. The questions are to be directed to 2 professors, one from China and the other is a Malaysian but both based in the US. They had been conducting a series of talk there in conjunction with Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s celebration according to the lunar calendar. Instead of questions that would affirm or build their faith in Kuan Yin, I was quite surprised that many people in the audience asked questions that seem to reflect that they do not believe in Kuan Yin and that the latter is a mythical being created by the Chinese Buddhists.

These persons said that these Mahayana Bodhisattvas were not mentioned in the Pali Canon at all, and thus were not taught by the Buddha. They said Kuan Yin is not a historical and biological person like Sakyamuni Buddha was, and hence, they concluded Kuan Yin is a fictitious being. And that all the sutras about these Bodhisattva beings were inauthentic since they were not compiled by Arahants who were the experts in Pali Canon. It is unfortunate that these people choose to ignore the many umpteen real reported stories associated with Kuan Yin. There are many stories of people who have seen Kuan Yin’s manifestations and experienced her miracles. Are these people who questioned her existence think that all these people who have had experience of Kuan Yin are all delusional? In the past, I think I have been told that there are people who have stopped praying to Kuan Yin because of being told she does not exist by this type of fundamentalist Theravada monks. (Note: Actually I think “fundamentalist” is not an appropriate word, maybe “extremist” is a better word but in the west, the word “fundamentalism” is usually used). If it is true, then it is really unfortunate that there could be such ignorant Buddhists who choose to ignore all the blessings received from Kuan Yin in the past on the basis of some irresponsible teachings from the more ignorant Theravada teachers.

For me I believe in Kuan Yin. But I believe in him not merely because of the Mahayana scriptures. And certainly not because of the fact that my family worships her too. I would think my belief in Kuan Yin is not of blind faith. Why is that so? For one thing, I too have seen her manifestations in dreams and visions quite a few times. It was recorded in my old dairy that at one time I recited “Namo Kuan Shih Yin Pu Sa” a few times, and she appeared in a vision. Then at another time, I was memorizing the first line of the Great Compassion Dharani, and again she appeared. There was another time when I recited the Heart Sutra and when I came to the mantra, there again she appeared dressed in white. I am not trying to brag but merely to show that my faith in Kuan Yin has a basis, i.e. the mantra or her name that I recited was successful in invoking her. However those were my experiences. For other people, they need to get their own experiences of Kuan Yin. It is your own experience of Kuan Yin that counts. Not others. But if you have none, don’t despair or disparage others’ experience. Others’ experience should also build on your own faith to one day be able to experience it yourself.

This reminds me of the story of Asanga who wanted very much to see Maitreya. I am sure you have heard of that story. He tried for a long, long time but in the end he was only able to see Maitreya when compassion arose in him and he licked a dog’s body infested with worms. Similarly, for those people who doubted the existence of Kuan Yin, this is the only way you can verify the existence of Kuan Yin. It is not that easy to have dreams or visions of Kuan Yin, you know? Not that easy. People who doubt Kuan Yin's existence should adhere to the Buddha’s advice as stated in the Kalama Sutta and verify Kuan Yin’s existence. And not just brush it off, on the basis of it not being in their set of scriptures.

To be sure, it is not that Kuan Yin (or for that matter, any Buddhas/Bodhisattvas) do not want to meet up with us. The reason is that we have not had the necessary conditions yet to be able to see him. And usually it is we the ones who put up barriers and obstacles and prevent us from seeing him. So, we have to blame ourselves if we fail to see him, not Kuan Yin. But we must not give up easily. In the story on Asanga he took many, many years of practice before he had a vision of Maitreya. A sincere heart of compassion is all you need to be able to see Kuan Yin and invoke her blessings.

However I would like to give a word of caution. In line with the concept of emptiness, Kuan Yin is also empty. What I mean by "empty" is not that there is no Kuan Yin outside there. In fact, there is a Kuan Yin outside there, but she is there only conventionally. It is incorrect to tell people that there is no Kuan Yin outside there. But it is correct to tell people that if you try to find Kuan Yin, ultimately you will not be able to pinpoint that "Ah... this is Kuan Yin!". We must use the right words. It means she is not inherently in existence as a permanent entity that you can pinpoint his location, e.g. “Ah, he is there in such and such a geographical place”. Not like that at all. Rather it is something that is intangible. We can only feel and have experience her responses through manifestations and visions/ dreams. And this is only when there are the right causes and conditions (i.e. inter-dependent factors) present. So, if you really want to see the conventional Kuan Yin and verify that for yourself, you need to start planting the right causes and conditions for that to happen. You cannot just demand her to appear just because you want to verify her existence. It does not work like that at all.

Kuan Yin does have a conventional existence, otherwise during deity yoga, there would not be any necessity to invite the wisdom deity to our visualised deity. Kuan Yin is the embodiment of Buddha's Compassion, as well as manifestation of compassion of all sentient beings, and if this embodiment is without a conventional existence, how are sentient beings to benefit from this bodhisattva?

I am not believing in Kuan Yin merely because of the visions and dreams that I had. I have also experienced the power of her Great Compassion Dharani. And many others have experienced it too. Therefore, Kuan Yin does exist conventionally beyond all doubts in my opinion. Of course, when I say “exist”, as in all other things, I mean “exist” in line with the concept of emptiness. She’s there and yet ultimately you cannot find her anywhere. But so am I. I am here, but it is said that ultimately I cannot find this “I” that exist. I have not seriously understood this, but at least intellectually I have, and nothing more than that.

It is unfortunate that the fundamentalist Buddhists choose to over-enmphasize on authenticity over the fact that there are millions of Kuan Yin devotees who depend on Kuan Yin in the face of suffering and crisis. If you take Kuan Yin away from them, it is like taking away hope from them, and it is not something easily replaced. After Buddha's Parinirvana, he no loner takes rebirth in samsara to help sentien tbeings. Rather he helps people through these bodhisattvas. And if Arahants help people, and most of them do, then even though outwardly they are arahants, in spiritual deeds at least, they can be regarded as bodhisattvas too. It's just that these Arahants do not portray themselves as Bodhisattvas. They help people differently than those Arya Bodhisattvas. By emphasizing too much on authenticity of Kuan Yin, you'll miss out on a whole lot of issues. And yet, these fundamentalists do not check the authenticity of Kuan Yin that they should. They must understand first who and what is Kuan Yin, have some compassion in their hearts and then magnify your compassion a million times and you will have some idea of what it is like to operate as Kuan Yin. It actually does not matter Kuan Yin is not a historical person like Sakyamuni Buddha. There is so much positive energy radiating from the millions of compassionate Kuan Yin statues and images all over the world. This alone helps inconceivable number of beings in ways we normal humans cannot comprehend. The other day, Ven. Boon Keng was just reiterating that we should not get too stuck-up with what is right or wrong. We must see what benefits people, what makes people happy, what eases their pain. If Kuan Yin provides all these to sentient beings, who are you to take these away from them? At your level, can you possibly replace what Kuan Yin is providing them?

On that note, to those "fundamentalists", I can without hesitation confirm that I have found my experience of Kuan Yin. Unfortunately, experiences cannot be shared. You have to find your own experience, just like the saying that you cannot know the taste of coffee until you have tasted it yourself. Others can take years to explain it to you but still you wouldn't be able to really know the taste of coffee. If these people still stubbornly refuse to accept the existence of Kuan Yin, it is their conscious choice and their karma. There's nothing anyone else can do about it. Hopefully they will be able to open up to his existence later. Actually it is not that difficult to know that Kuan Yin exists. As long as there is compassion, there is Kuan Yin, for Kuan Yin is the essence of compassion. She dwells within the abode of compassion in our heart. That is her ultimate Potala. The one in China or Tibet are just the physical representation. But doubters don't see that, do they? Do my readers see it? I hope you do. Don't be like these doubters.

So, where is Kuan Yin? We should have the answer now.

On the coming Enlightenment Day of Kuan Yin this Friday, I prostrate to the Bodhisattva of Compassion and pray that Your Compassion will manifest in every place where there is suffering!

Namo Kuan Shih Yin Pu Sa.
Namo Kuan Shih Yin Pu Sa.
Namo Kuan Shih Yin Pu Sa.


s said...

i feel very close to Guan Yin too. Tara, Guan Yin, Guru Rinpoche and all these deities are all manifestations of Amitabha...

But i think some people question all these because they think everything is covered in the Pali Canon. I have encountered these in people too. They question the truth of Amitabha sutra, Shurangama sutra... nowadays beings have so little merit and wisdom.

My advice to these people is, even if you cannot trust in what you cannot see, look at what the great authentic masters trusted in and are propagating... these great masters are human beings we can relate to, we can see their awesome virtue and qualities so if these great masters are believing in these sutras and Bodhisattvas, i think it would not be wrong for you to follow in their footsteps... because these masters are light years away from us in their cultivation.

Mahabodhiyana said...

thanks for your link you gave me.


alicia said...

Thank you for your thoughts on Kuan Yin, I am enjoying your posts inmensly. Kuan Yin helped me in a miraculous way with an emanation recently, I would like to share my story with you but it's too long for this space. Please email me and I will mail it to you.

Mahabodhiyana said...

Dear alicia, you did not leave me with your email, therefore I cannot email you. I will leave your email unpublished normally.

alicia said...

I'm sorry, didn´t see your reply until now:

Please write to me and I will send you my story.

I am very grateful to you for your comments on Baba, as a budhist as I think he is an embodiment of Compassion in Action


Myo Min Thant said...

You should learn more about Buddhism. Buddhism is pure and peaceful religion. You shouldn't attack and use fundamentalist because they don't have same perspective as yours. Buddha didn't teach to attack others and prevent pessimism. Here is the Buddha quote "Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

Myo Min Thant said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mahabodhiyana said...

Myo MT,

I disagree that I have attacked any fundamentalists. They have a right not to believe in Kuan Yin. I was merely justifying my stand on Kuan Yin's existence that is obviously different from theirs. But your usage of the word "attack" is very wrong. We are merely debating and discussing about the existence of Kuan Yin and I was presenting my points to theirs. It is left to individuals on what they want to believe.

Ammu sridharan said...

I believe in Kwan Yin. She has helped me in many ways. but yet to get her in my visions. I am trying.
Is there any temple for her in Chennai?
Uma Sridharan

Mahabodhiyana said...

I am not sure if there are Kuan Yin temples in Chennai. Perhaps it will not be available in the Chinese form. Maybe it might be available in the Tibetan Buddhist form - as Chenrezig or Avalikiteshvara. So, find a Tibetan Buddhist temple.

chuckwagon said...

Interesting story. I have been searching the web lately for information about this beautiful bodhisattva who I haven't really heard of before until about 5 nights ago. Let me explain.. I have always been of the new age philosophy and after a short lull I got back into meditation which I intend to keep up.
The other night around 2am I had turned my light off to sleep after reading and I said a series of prayers of gratitude for my life. I closed my eyes and instantly what I would call a flash of a vision appeared of an oriental deity with a orange and red light around her. A second later the name Kwan Yin appeared in my mind as well. It was sort of like I was being introduced to Her.
Being a long time vegetarian and spiritual seeker I think my energies were attracted to Her and for that I am eternally grateful. Since then I have learned the mantra and have purchased statues and basically have fallen in love with this wonderful divine energy.
Since I had this intense vivid vision of Kwan Yin I know for certain that She exists and She is here for me, and us all. She is real and alive and about that I have no doubt at all.
She is spreading Herself from the East to the West to help us in these trying times. I am a Westerner but this Goddess is my beloved friend forever. She IS real.

chuckwagon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mahabodhiyana said...

Great to hear of this vision of yours that she would appear to you from no previous experience of Kuan Yin. I know what it is like to have visions of Kuan Yin, because I have had a few myself. Namo Kuan Yin Pu Sa.

Aya Hana said...

i got lots of thing to asking but its not proper to asking here .
im not buddism but dream mostly dream about buddism god and goddess .

can u email me

Mario said...

I wanted to write that this post is a beautiful explanation of Guan Yin. One cannot seek her, but rather one must seek to find themselves, and in due time, she will reveal herself in aiding you to individuation/enlightenment. I had my experience last month after finally overcoming my final addiction, that being cigarettes. I was experiencing horrible anxiety and anger, and the night of my worst moment, she came. It's astounding, and I'm forever grateful and humbled. Now I feel I must fulfill my duty in aiding people along this path. Thanks again, I look forward to reading your other posts :)

Kiran Mays said...

I have never studied religion or meditated, I have only just begun to question who I am in relation to the universe. About 6 weeks ago I had a profound experience, I was sitting on the floor and had an out of body experience where I was suddenly thrust into a blue continuous expanse of light and a deep continuous reverberation of sound, unlike anything I have heard before. In this light suspended in stillness was a statuesque being sitting crossed legged and holding a perfectly still earth with a hand underneath it and a hand above. The size of this being was something I cannot conceive of and Instantly and without an exchange of words I knew this was Kwan Yin. I was then overwhelmed with a sudden feeling of understanding, like I had an "ah ha, now I get it" moment and suddenly I felt like it was all going to be ok because there was a plan or something. As soon as that feeling came I was taken back instantly to my reality where I was back sitting on the floor. I just cried and cried because I knew something profound had happened but I didn't understand why it had happened and couldn't remember anything about the knowledge I had received except the feeling it gave me. Now I have to question everything I have ever known and that is extremely overwhelming, as a none religious person I don't know where to begin. Has anyone else had this experience?