I've made a number of sculptures and masks over the years dedicated to Quan Yin *** . Quan Yin, the manifestation of Divine Compassion throughout Chinese Buddhism, represents the Bodhissatva - the Great Being who "hears the cries of the world" and returns, again and again, to aid the suffering of the world. She is often shown, like Tara of Tibet, with many arms, and has been called "thousand armed Quan Yin"....the arms being the many ways she can help and assist those in need.
I have felt the need to create quite a few "Icons" for Quan Yin and White Tara. Perhaps it has to do with the divisiveness and harshness of the times we live in, the great crisis of global warming, covid, and disastrous wars that surround us. Making art about Quan Yin, and Goddesses of Compassion, represents for me a personal act of Invocation. May She bring those qualities of Compassion into my heart, and may she show me how I can, as She does, assist.
Art making can be a great act of invocation, a great act of healing, an act of magic if you will. That was what each woman over the years was doing when she danced with the masks......by embodying the Goddess, she was invoking them for the benefit of all those present. In-voke: to "yoke", to "join". I remember when I was working on a Quan Yin sculpture that became a fountain (Quan Yin is usually shown holding a chalice of water, representing the healing waters she gives to the world).....I remember that when I and the model I used for the sculpture were at work we both felt a kind of light in the room, a yellow, calm, serene sensation. I feel the Goddess was with us as we prepared Her image through our creative process. It really doesn't matter if you even "believe" in the Goddess Quan Yin. I'm not sure that "believing" is anywhere near as important as simply wanting help, wanting guidance, opening the heart. I don't "believe" the Divine Ones care what we call them or what form we give them in order to symbolize Their qualities and gifts.
Making art can thus be a devotional act, a spiritual practice for the maker. The art object, finished, becomes an icon, a talisman to remind and re-member. When I made my fountain/icon in 2017 for Quan Yin my friend Queeny very generously endured my casting her face and upper torso. Queeny is Chinese Canadian. I wanted to make a Quan Yin that, instead of the idealized and beautiful young woman She is usually portrayed as, looks more like a real woman in the real world of today - the Bodhisattva walking among us, working among us, hearing and responding to the pain of the world, bringing healing and love, help and insight. A woman in her middle years, reflecting the experience that comes with living and embodiment.
Mosaic artist Ginny Moss Rothwell did the same with her breathtaking contemporary Icons to
|"Jewel in the Lotus: Quan Yin" by Ginny Moss Rothwell|
Kuan Shih Yin - Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva
The Bodhisattva of Great Compassion
The Sanskrit name "Avalokiteshvara" means "the one who looks upon the world with compassion". Translated into Chinese, the name is "Kuan Shih Yin"or Quan Yin.
Shih: the world / the region of sufferers
Yin: all the sounds of the world, in particular, the crying sounds of beings, verbal or mental, seeking help
In China, Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva is represented in female form and is known as Kuan Yin. 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 heal people's illnesses or bring fulfillment to their requests. The water ( the dew of compassion) has the quality of removing suffering, purifying the defilement of our body, speech and mind, and lengthening life.
In Buddhist art, Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva is sometimes shown with eleven heads, 1000 hands and eyes on the palms of each hand (Thousand-Armed Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva). The thousand eyes allow the Bodhisattva to see the sufferings of sentient beings, and the thousand hands allow her to reach out to help them.
There is a sacred place for the worship of Kuan Yin in China - the Putuo Mountain. It is actually an island located near the city of Ningpo, in Zhejiang Province. There are many stories of Kuan Yin's miraculous appearances at Putuo Mountain.
Actually, anyone can be like Kuan Yin. You may say that you don't have a thousand eyes or a thousand arms or that you lack skillful means, but it is your compassion that can transform you into a Kuan Yin. With your eyes and hands, you can help others. With your compassion, you can bring peace and tranquility to this world.
| Kuan Yin at Putuo Mountain, China|