The Urban Dharma Newsletter... October 21, 2002


In This Issue:

1. The Twelve Vows of Kwan-Yin Bodhisattva
2. The Story of Qwan Yin
3. Quan Yin: The Goddess Of Compassion ...adapted from an essay by Bethleen Cole
4. KUAN YIN ...Avalokitesvara Boddhisattva ...By Lin Sen-shou
5. Book Review: Discovering Kwan Yin ...by Sandy Boucher
6. Temple/Center of the Week: Dharma Zen Center


1. The Twelve Vows of Kwan-Yin Bodhisattva

* http://www.iaoism.org/binder/kwan.html 

I respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, with the title Boundless Understanding, the name Great Liberation, who raised the Immeasurable Vow.

I respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, of one thought and a mind of no obstacles, who vowed to stay always in the Southern World.

I respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, who vowed to stay in samsara, in the realm of darkness, listening to the cries and rescuing sentient beings.

I respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, the conqueror of raksas and destroyer of evil spirits, who took the vow to end all troubles and difficulties.

I respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin the Tathagata, who holds the bowl of pure water and willow branch, who took the vow to sprinkle sacred water to calm the mind of humankind.

I respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, the great compassionate, forgiving one, who took the vow to practice equanimity at all times.

I respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, who day and night is the destroyer of obstacles, who took the vow to destroy the three realms of suffering.

I respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, who faces south, diligently practicing, who took the vow to cut all fetters and knots.

I respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, the maker of the dharma boat which rows in the suffering ocean, who took the vow to save all sentient beings.

I respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, with streamers in front and a canopy behind, who took the vow to guide beings to the Western World.

I respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, who resides in the Realm of the Buddha of Unlimited Life, who took the vow to be the helper of Amitabha Buddha.

I respectfully bow to Kwan-Yin, the Tathagata, the honorable one with a body without imperfections, created by the twelve great vows.


2. The Story of Qwan Yin

* http://www.geocities.com/limmerance/Qwanyin.html

Thi Kinh lived in a village with her parents. Her father, a farmer, owed money to his landlord and was unable to pay. As he could not make good his debt to this rich family, Thi Kinh's father offered his daughter in marriage to their son. The family did not particularly like Thi Kinh, but they took her because she was all they could get. Thi Kinh did not love the young man, but, as Luong says, "in the old days marriage was arranged by the families, and so you were expected to learn to love the husband as time went on." Thi Kinh married the young man, and they lived together, but, to his disappointment, she did not become pregnant and produce a child.

The husband had a mole on his cheek with a hair growing in it. One day as Thi Kinh was sitting sewing, she looked over to her husband, who was napping on the couch, and saw the hair in his mole. She was holding scissors, so she reached over to cut off the hair. Just then her husband woke up, and, startled, he accused her of trying to kill him with the scissors. Probably he only told that story to get rid of her because she had not produced a son for him. If she had tried to kill him, she would be sent away, and he could marry someone else.

The rich family threw Thi Kinh out of the house. The neighbors all gossiped that she had tried to kill her husband, and they would not help her. Her own parents did not want to take her back because they believed her quilty of such a crime. "For thousands of years," says Luong, "if a woman was thrown out of her family, what was she to do? Who was going to take her in? How was she to survive?"

Desperate, with no help from any direction, Thi Kinh hit upon an idea to save herself. She dressed in the robes of a monk and shaved off her long hair so that she looked like a man. Then she went to the Buddha temple and asked if she could stay there. She was accepted in the temple as a man, as a monk, and she began to work there and practice Buddhist meditation.

Unfortunately, one of the girls in the village who often saw the monk passing thought "he" was handsome and she developed a crush on "him." The girl, whose father was an important man in the village, longed for Thi Kinh, not knowing she was a woman. One night the girl heard a man passing her house and thought it was the monk; she invited him in and they had sex. When the girl became pregnant, her father was enraged. He beat her so that she would tell him who had fathered the child, and she did not know what to do. She told her father that the monk at the Buddha temple had made her pregnant.

When the people of the village heard this, they set out to punish Thi Kinh. She was thrown out of the temple and was once again homeless.

"And in the meantime," Luong explains, "she remained silent. She did not say, 'I am a female, I cannot make her pregnant'; she said nothing. Now if she were to say, 'I am a female, I'm a woman,' then she would bring shame and embarrassment to this girl and her father. I would get her off the hook, but she had promised to Buddha that she would take to heart the Buddhist teaching to forgive and be patient and find peace. So she could not do this to this girl or her father." Silent, Thi Kinh endured the abuse of the whole community.

When the girl gave birth to her baby, the family gave it to Thi Kihn to raise. Now Thi Kinh faced another difficutly; How was she, a homeless monk, to care for a newborn baby: She set out with the child, going from village to village to beg for milk. The pople were outraged at the shame Thi Kinh had supposedly brought on the name of Buddhism, in getting a girl pregnant. They threw mud at her, they threw rotten fruit and rocks at her.

Thi Kinh remained steadfast; she did not flinch before the abuse or renege on her vow of silence but went on trying to care for the baby. Finally, in a particularly vicious attack Thi Kinh was beaten to death, and the baby was taken off to stay at the temple.

When the villagers removed Thi Kinh's clothes to wash her body and bury her, they discovered she was a woman. Finally, they understood that she had been protecting the young girl, not wanting to shame or betray her. They reverd Thi Kinh for the pain she had endured on behalf of another person.

Thi Kihn became a spirit then, and the spirit was Kwan Yin.


3. Quan Yin: The Goddess Of Compassion ...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.


4. KUAN YIN ...Avalokitesvara Boddhisattva ...By Lin Sen-shou

* http://taipei.tzuchi.org.tw/tzquart/99spring/qp99-11.htm

Often seen alone or next to a statue of Amitabha Buddha, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva--in Chinese also known as Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy--is the most popular and most venerated Buddhist figure besides Amitabha Buddha and Sakyamuni Buddha. A popular Chinese saying illustrates this aspect: "Everyone knows how to chant Amitabha Buddha, and every household worships Kuan Yin."

Why is this bodhisattva popular in so many Chinese families? It may be because Kuan Yin is represented as a female with an appearance that embraces the qualities of compassion and motherly love. In addition, because many Buddhist scriptures state that one can invoke Kuan Yin's assistance by simply calling out her name, people feel that this bodhisattva is very approachable.

According to the Huayen Sutra (Buddha-vatamsaka-mahavaipulya Sutra), Kuan Yin uses all kinds of ways to attract people: she makes gifts, uses words of love, and transforms herself into persons like those that she deals with. The "Universal Gateway" chapter in the Lotus Sutra lists thirty-two typical forms in which Kuan Yin may appear. For instance, if a boy or girl is about to gain some enlightenment, Kuan Yin transforms herself into a boy or a girl to teach the child. If a monk is about to attain some enlightenment, Kuan Yin transforms herself into a monk. In short, she can appear as a monk, a nun, a king, a minister, a celestial being, or a normal person like you and me. The purpose of such transformations is to make people feel close to her and willing to listen to her words.

"I am cultivating this method of great compassion and hope to save all living beings," Kuan Yin said. "Any living being who calls my name or sees me will be free from all fear and danger. I will activate that being's spiritual awareness and maintain it forever."

Sakyamuni Buddha confirmed Kuan Yin's vow: "If a suffering being hears the name of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and earnestly calls out to the bodhisattva, Avalokitesvara will hear the call and redeem that being from his suffering" ("Universal Gateway," Lotus Sutra).

In other words, this bodhisattva's main attraction for people lies in her efforts to eliminate suffering and to make people live in peace and harmony. This kind of immediate benefit and the ability to receive protection or help simply by calling the bodhisattva's name, similar to children receiving an instant reply when calling their mother, have contributed to Kuan Yin's great popularity.

A sacred island

Like the other bodhisattvas I have introduced so far, Kuan Yin also has a sacred place in China: Potala Mountain. This mountain is located near the city of Ningpo, in Chechiang Province on the East China Sea. It is actually an island with a radius of about thirty miles. Nowadays the island is full of temples. It is said that during the Liang Dynasty (A.D. 520?57), a Japanese monk by the name of Hui Erh stole a Kuan Yin statue from Wutai Mountain in central China, hoping to take it back to Japan. But when his boat approached the island of Potala, it simply stopped moving. Feeling that it was the bodhisattva's will, Hui Erh presented the statue to the islanders. Later, more and more Buddhist temples were built, and more and more stories of Kuan Yin's miraculous interventions circulated among the people, making Potala Mountain the sacred ground for this bodhisattva.

Male or female?

Probably because of Kuan Yin's great compassion, a quality which is traditionally considered feminine, most of the bodhisattva's statues in China since the Tang dynasty (A.D. 618?07) have appeared as female figures. In India, however, the bodhisattva is generally represented as a male figure.

In Chinese art before the Tang dynasty, Kuan Yin was also usually perceived as masculine, though literary and anecdotal evidence from as early as the fifth century points to a sexual transformation of this bodhisattva. By the tenth century, Kuan Yin's statues were becoming increasingly feminine, and by the Ming Dynasty (1368?644), the transformation into a female deity was complete.

In the end, what is Kuan Yin, male or female? In Buddhism, the universe is divided into many realms. For instance, there is the Realm of Desire, the Realm of Form, and the Realm of Formlessness. The Realm of Desire includes the human realm with all living beings on earth. Above it is the Realm of Form, and above that the Realm of Formlessness. The beings in these latter two realms are considered celestial beings. The beings in the Realm of Form have outward appearances but no desires, and the beings in the Realm of Formlessness, have, as the name implies, no outward appearances. Without physical forms, the beings in the Realm of Formlessness have no gender distinctions. However, the beings in all three realms still undergo reincarnation. Arhats, bodhisattvas and buddhas (beings who have reached three progressive stages toward enlightenment), on the other hand, have jumped out of the cycle of reincarnation and no longer have true physical forms. A bodhisattva like Kuan Yin may therefore appear in either male or female form. Statues of these beings merely help us feel their presence.

The Kuan Yin statue

Kuan Yin may be shown either in a standing or in a sitting position, but on top of her crown there is always an image of a buddha, which is generally thought to be Amitabha Buddha. In her hands, Kuan Yin may hold a willow branch, a vase with water, or occasionally a lotus flower. The willow branch is used to either heal people's illnesses or bring fulfillment to their requests. The water symbolizes the cleansing of people's sins or illnesses. Kuan Yin's right hand often points downward, with the palm facing outward, the posture of granting a wish. This is the typical image of Kuan Yin in China and Taiwan.

Many other forms also exist. The expression "thirty-three forms of Kuan Yin" in Sino-Japanese Buddhist art refers to thirty-three different appearances of the bodhisattva. For example, besides holding a willow branch, Kuan Yin may also be depicted as standing on a dragon's head in a cloud. However, these other forms have no basis in Buddhist scriptures.

Former existences

Like Manjusri, Kuan Yin may have once been a buddha with the name of "Brightness of True Dharma." However, there is little information on this topic.

Although most scriptures refer to Kuan Yin as a bodhisattva, some entries reflect a different view. The Peihua Sutra tells a story about a father-son relationship between Amitabha and Avalokitesvara. When Amitabha was a ruler in a previous incarnation, he had a thousand sons, and the eldest was named Pu-hsun. Pu-hsun vowed before the buddha of his time that if suffering people would call his name, he would hear them or see their suffering, and he would try to eliminate their misery. When the buddha heard Pu-hsun's vow, he praised him by saying that he would be named "Avalokitesvara." He also said that when Amitabha Buddha entered into nirvana in the future, Avalokitesvara would succeed him and become a buddha who would be known as "Universal Light-Issuing Tathagata King of Merit Mountain."

Since people can simply call Kuan Yin's name for help without having to go through any ritual or ceremony, this bodhisattva is the most popular figure in China and other East Asian countries. One of the most well-known forms of the bodhisattva is the one with a thousand eyes and a thousand hands. The thousand eyes allow the bodhisattva to see the suffering creatures in this world, and the thousand hands allow her to reach out to help them. Thus, this depiction is a popular symbol for the Tzu Chi Foundation, which tries to relieve the suffering in this world through the "thousand eyes and hands" of its volunteers.

Actually, everyone can be a Kuan Yin. You may say that you don't have a thousand eyes or a thousand hands or that you lack magic powers, but it is your compassion that can transform you into a Kuan Yin. With your eyes and hands you can help others, and with your compassion you can bring peace and tranquility to this planet.


5. Discovering Kwan Yin- Buddhist Goddess of Compassion ...by Sandy Boucher

* http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0807013412/wwwkusalaorg-20/

Amazon.com- Reviewer: Jessica Levine from Berkeley, CA United States... In her book, Sandy Boucher celebrates the goddess Kwan Yin, who is known throughout Asia as the Goddess of Compassion. Boucher begins by giving a short and accessible history of this goddess and then tells stories about women from both Eastern and Western cultures who have found support in her. She includes both classic rituals used to honor Kwan Yin and contemporary songs and poems written in her honor. This book will inspire a broad range of spiritual seekers including Buddhists, mystics, people struggling with illness and adversity, and women looking for positive role models. Kwan Yin is, in Boucher's book, an entity one can dialogue with and get comfort from. This is a beautifully written and uplifting book.

Book Description ..."[This book is] rooted in the struggles of everyday life." —Shambhala Sun

Sandy Boucher, celebrated author of Opening the Lotus and Turning the Wheel, now offers American women their first opportunity to share in Kwan Yin's illuminating wisdom. In this lovely illustrated volume, the author recounts the stories of this bodhisattva (one who delays her own full enlightenment to work for the liberation of all beings) and explains Kwan Yin's role in Buddhism. At the same time, Boucher provides meditations, chants, and prayers devised by Buddhist devotees of Asian and Western heritage so that all readers can par ticipate in and even create their own rituals. Discovering Kwan Yin is sure to become an important spiritual touchstone for those who seek to celebrate the goddess in their lives, to give and receive the loving power of her presence.

"The ongoing effort to promote feminine images of the Divine has taken another step forward with the publication of this quietly moving book." —Yoga Journal

"Sandy Boucher skillfully and engagingly brings the goddess Kwan Yin in her many guises from the East to the West —and into our hearts —in this wonderful book." —Rick Fields, author of How the Swans Came to the Lake: A History of Buddhism in America

"A fascinating introduction to Kwan Yin, the most revered goddess of Asia." —Values & Visions Reviews


6. Dharma Zen Center

* http://www.dharmazen.com/

The Center 

Founding Teacher: Zen Master Seung Sahn

Co-Guiding Teachers: Zen Master Ji Bong and Paul Park, Ji Do Poep Sa Nim

Senior Practice Advisor: Mu Sang Sunim

Abbot: Dharma Teacher- Algernon D'Ammassa

Dharma Zen Center was founded by Zen Master Seung Sahn in 1974 as a place where monks and lay people from all countries can practice Zen together and find their true selves. We have formal meditation practice - bowing, chanting and sitting Zen - in the mornings and evenings for both our resident Zen students and outside members. During the day, our lay residents go out to their jobs or to school. Visitors as well as our outside members are welcome to come for daily practice and join in our monthly Zen meditation retreats, Dharma talks

Dharma Zen Center is located at 1025 S. Cloverdale Avenue, two blocks west of La Brea Avenue, just south of Olympic Boulevard, in the pleasant Mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles. Telephone: (323) 934-0330, email address: info@dharmazen.com.

The Center is a branch of the Kwan Um School of Zen, head temple, the Providence Zen Center, located in Cumberland, RI. The School sponsors 90-day winter Zen meditation retreats (Kyol Che) at the Providence Zen Center, at Hwa Gye Sa Temple in Seoul, Korea, and at Kye Ryong Sahn International Zen Center in Chunchong Nam Do, Korea; as well as a month-long summer Kyol Che at PZC and 90-day summer Kyol Che's at Hwa Gye Sa and Kye Ryong Sahn International Zen Center. The School also publishes a quarterly journal, "Primary Point."


Zen Master Seung Sahn has encouraged his students to live together in Zen centers where they can derive strength and support from each other's continuing practice. The regular schedule of practicing and working together acts as a backdrop for seeing our karma appear and disappear. We use the analogy of washing potatoes together in a big pot of water. As the potatoes bump into one another, they clean each other more quickly and efficiently than if each potato was cleaned individually.

In the Zen center, we can see clearly how our opinions create problems, by coming between us and the situation that we find ourselves in. When we let go of these opinions it is possible to live our every day lives with clarity and harmony. As we learn to cooperate, to see clearly and to accept people and situations as they really are, our minds become strong and wide. Then it becomes possible to act harmoniously and help other people with no trace of ourselves.

The forms and temple rules we use are designed to help us see our opinions and our inattentive minds in each situation. When we use these forms and rules as a mirror to see our minds clearly, we see the cause our suffering and our hindrances. With sincere effort and patience we can also find the way to get relief from our suffering and overcome our hindrances. In our Zen center this is the work we are all doing together.


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