The Age of Quan Yin
Quan Yin in one story gives a disabled boy the impossible task of saving her, then catches him mid-air as he leaps off a cliff in abject failure, sets him on firm ground and orders him to "walk," which he suddenly can accomplish. Another time she is born to a good king, the perfect soul parent who, when she comes of age, finds a perfect prince for her to marry. There are thousands of Quan Yin stories and in all of them the one thing she never does is marry. All number of pains are inflicted upon her for refusing. She transforms them, transforms the cruelty, forgives the oppressor, is her shining self no matter what, and everyone who touches her is better for it. This time she runs away to live in exile, returning late in life to find her father dying. When they see each other, immediately both are wrapped in forgiveness. The perfect parent/child love floods back. She orders her arms be cut off and ground into a poultice to cure him. They are. He is cured. At the instant he is restored to health, she sprouts a thousand arms and ascends into heaven. In another story it is one arm and an eye that makes the medicine. In one story just before she is to enter Nirvana, she returns to earth because there are so many people who have not progressed through the stages of reincarnation, who need her help, she can’t leave them. She vows not to go to the next level until everyone is ready. In another story the king is a jerk and when his beautiful daughter, Quan Yin, comes of age, he marries her to a prince similarly unenlightened. She refuses to marry and he kills her. Or tries to. Everything he tries — fire, swords, starvation, backfires, doesn’t work until she allows herself to be killed whereupon a magical tiger appears and transports her to the underworld where Quan Yin, whose name means "one who weeps the tears of the world" weeps upon seeing the lost souls there. Each time one of her tears touches a lost soul they are turned into flowers. Hell becomes paradise. In one story the son of the Dragon King swimming about as a fish is caught by fisherman who bid up the price of him at the fish market until a sweet voice in the sky rings out saying, "a life should belong to one who tries to save it, not to one who takes it." The Dragon King sends his daughter to Quan Yin to give her the Pearl of Light. Quan Yin accepts it on the condition the owner of the treasure will be the girl herself, who becomes her disciple. In some stories Quan Yin is the many-armed Mother of All. Sometimes she is a Buddha. In every home, place of worship, on buses, in schools all over the Far East Quan Yin statues, prayers, calendars, stories abound which revere compassion, forgiveness, tranquility. Every family has stories of how she has helped a lost soul, healed the sick, brought the world back to essential values through forgiveness, compassion, tranquility, mercy.
©Susan Bright, 2007
Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.
Click here to see a magnificant performance of Quan Yin of a Thousand Arms, the Dance of Love and Fortitude. It is performed by the China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe on the eve of the Chinese New Year under the direction of choreographer Zhang Jigang. The lead performer is deaf and does not speak out loud. She reads rhythm from signers at the four corners of the stage.
*Quan Yin as Mother and Child
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