In Hanoi there is a beautiful small temple in a lake, One Pillar Pagoda. It is close to the Ho Chi Minh museum, a popular destination for visitors. On a steamy day in 1995 we wandered from the museum to the Pagoda. It is so small that only one or two people can go inside at once. I went in, and bowed before the many armed statue housed there. I had very little idea of what the statue represented, but I guessed it was a Buddhist image. Sweet incense drifted through the air, and I made my way back out and down to the pavement.
There a holy man gesticulated and beckoned us, trying to tell us something. He was fearful to behold, with many piercings, emaciated, and with wild hair. The general consensus was that he had seen something significant happen when I was inside. I made a mental note to find out more about the statue when I got home.
However it was not until a year later that I began my enquiries. I had joined a women’s spiritual circle, and the women were passing a photo of a Kuan Yin statue around the group. They explained who she was, a Chinese bodhisattva, commonly thought of by Westerners as the Goddess of Mercy. Deep inside me bells rang, and I remembered the image I had seen in Vietnam. A little research revealed the story of the Goddess of Mercy granting the Emperor’s prayer for a child, and his building of the temple in gratitude. It seems women all over Asia prayed to Kuan Yin (in this name or other names) when they wanted a child, and in her mercy she often helped them. Later I discovered fishermen also sought her help. I read the stories of this Bodhisattva of Compassion, whose names means “She who Hears the Cries of the World” and in my meditation I had a powerful experience of her presence.
I bought a simple white statue to sit on my altar, and then my husband carved an image of Kwan Yin from a piece of amber we had found years before on an English beach. She appeared to be sitting by a large basket, and sure enough, I eventually found a similar image of her used by the fishermen in southern China. Later I found a small fluorite statue of her, and friend gave me yet another. My experience of her was of a gentle healing energy, flowing forth with great love and kindness. She is often depicted with a vase in her hand, from which she pours her mercy and lovingkindness into the world. Kuan Yin is also shown with a baby, the universal symbol of fertility, love and tenderness, the Divine Feminine.
In my healing practice I always call on Kwan Yin to pour her healing balm over those I work with. In my Buddhist studies years later I learnt about Avalokitesvara, the Indian Bodhisattva whose popularity spread across Asia, where he was depicted as a female healing energy in the form of Kuan Yin, Guanyin, Kannon and so on.
Many people call upon Kwan Yin for help and healing. The card above was made by Dr C. H. Yeang who lived in Penang, Malaysia. More recently they were distributed by Hugh de Cruz who lives in Spain. Here is a lovely story about Kuan Yin, and a Buddhist priest who met her to offer prayers from all over the world.