Guan Shi Yin Pusa / Avalokiteshvara
The Origin of Kuan Yin:
There are many legends about the origin of Kuan Yin, but this in one of the most popular.
In 7th century China, a king had three daughters, the youngest named Miao-Shan. At the time of Miao-Shan’s birth, the earth trembled and a wonderful fragrance and flower blossoms sprang up around the land. Many of the local people said they saw the signs of a holy incarnation on her body.
While the king and queen were amazed by this blessing. Unfortunately, they were corrupt and saw little value in a child who appeared pure and kind. When Miao-Shan got older, the king wanted to find a husband for her. She told her father she would only marry if by so doing she would be able to help alleviate the suffering of all mankind.
The king became enraged when he heard of her devotion to helping others, and forced her to slave away at menial tasks. Her mother, the queen, and her two sisters admonished her, all to no avail.
In desperation, the king decided to let her pursue her religious calling at a monastery, but ordered the nuns there to treat her so badly she would change her mind. She was forced to collect wood and water, and tend a garden for the kitchen. They thought this would be impossible, since the land around the monastery was barren. To everyone’s amazement, the garden flourished, even in winter, and a spring welled up out of nowhere next to the kitchen.
When the king heard about these miracles, he decided that he was going to kill Miao-Shan. After all, the nuns who were supposed to have tormented her. But as his henchmen arrived at the monastery, a spirit came out of a fog of clouds and carried her away to safety on a remote island. She lived there on her own for many years, pursuing a life of of religious dedication.
Several years later, her father became seriously ill. He was unable to sleep or eat; his doctors believed he would certainly die soon. As he was about to pass, a monk came to visit the king. The monk told the king he could cure the monarch, but he would have to grind up the arms and eyes of one free from hatred to make the medicine. The king thought this was impossible, but the monk assured him that there was a Bodhisattva living in the king’s domain who would gladly surrender those items if asked.
The king sent an envoy to find this unknown bodhisattva. When the envoy made the request, Miao-Shan gladly cut out her eyes and severed her arms. The envoy returned and the monk made the medicine. The king instantly recovered. When the king thanked the monk; he chastised the king by saying, “You should thank the one who gave her eyes and arms.” Suddenly, the monk disappeared. The king believed this was divine intervention and after ordering a coach prepared headed off with his family to find and thank the unknown bodhisattva.
When the royal family arrived they realized it is was their daughter, Miao-Shan, who had made the sacrifice. Miao-Shan spoke up, “Mindful of my father’s love, I have repaid him with my eyes and arms.” With eyes full of tears and hearts full of shame, the family gathered to hug Miao-Shan. As they did so auspicious clouds formed around Miao-Shan. The earth trembled, flowers rained down, and a holy manifestation of the Thousand Eyes and Thousand Arms appeared hovering in the air.
And then, the bodhisattva was gone. To honor Miao-Shan the royal family built a shrine on the spot, which is known as Fragrant Mountain.
he correct way to pray
For the sake of explaining the true spirit of prayer, a typical prayer follows:
Om Mani Pay may Hom Sri
(Om Mani Padme hum Hrih(in written form))
I take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
Homage to Lord Avalokitesvara of Great compassion.
Namo Arya Avalokitesvara
I request the Compassionate One, please listen to me,
Please guide myself, mothers and fathers.
In all 6 realms to be freed swiftly from the great ocean of samsara
I request that the vast and profound awakening mind may grow.
With the tear of your great compassion, please purify all evil karma and delusions.
Please lead all sentient beings with your hand of compassion to the Land of Amitabha.
Please, Amitabha and Avalokitesvara.
May all of you be my virtuous friends in all my lives.
Show us well the path and quickly place us in Buddha’s state.
( personal requests are then added humbly)
From this prayer, it is evident that prayer has a higher ideal that what people think. The main priority is to pray that may all (including ourselves) be free from all sufferings and one day attain Buddhahood. Buddhism teaches that all beings with life have this potential to be a Buddha, but like a jewel locked in a safe, this potential is like an unsprouted seed. Thus is the difference between the Buddhas and sentient beings like us is like a fruit and a seed. Once we generate compassion, it develops this potential, in this way everyone has a Guan Yin in himself\herself. Thus we pray to develop compassion and wisdom not just for the fulfillment of mundane wishes.
Guan yin is often shown with a thousand hands and although this is biologically impossible, it symbolises the uinversal compassion for all beings (ie,a helping hand for every one). Of course if there were more than 1000 people in help it would be ridiculous to think that Guan Yin would have a lack of arms to help others. Many numbers are used metaphorically in Buddhism, this is an important point we must keep in mind. In Tibetan Buddhism, Guan Yin is also portrayed as a male deity ( there is a female form of him known as Tara) with 4 arms. These four arms represent the 4 vows of the Bodhisattva way. These 4 vows are as follows:
1) Living beings are infinite, I vow to save them all.
2) Sorrows and defilments are infinite and I vow to break them all.
3) The Dharma doors are infinite and I vow to learn them all.
4) Buddhahood is the Highest without compare and I vow to achieve it.
GUAN YIN AND THE THOUSAND ARMS
One Buddhist legend presents Guan Yim as vowing to never rest until she had freed all sentient beings from samsara, reincarnation. Despite strenuous effort, she realized that still many unhappy beings were yet to be saved. After struggling to comprehend the needs of so many, her head split into eleven pieces. Amitabha Buddha, seeing her plight, gave her eleven heads with which to hear the cries of the suffering. Upon hearing these cries and comprehending them, Guan Yim attempted to reach out to all those who needed aid, but found that her two arms shattered into pieces. Once more, Amitabha came to her aid and appointed her a thousand arms with which to aid the many.
Many Himalayan versions of the tale include eight arms with which Avalokitesvara skilfully upholds the Dharma, each possessing its own particular implement, while more Chinese-specific versions give varying accounts of this number.
Like Avalokitesvara, Guan Yim is also depicted with a thousand arms and varying numbers of eyes, hands and heads, sometimes with an eye in the palm of each hand, and is commonly called “the thousand-arms, thousand-eyes” bodhisattva. In this form she represents the omnipresent mother, looking in all directions simultaneously, sensing the afflictions of humanity and extending her many arms to alleviate them with infinite expressions of her mercy, while the thousand eyes help her see anyone who may be in need.
AVALOKITESHVARA OM MANI PADME HUM
Seven Syllable Guan Shi Yin Pusa Chant