Xuan Zang

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Understanding Mercy and Compassion: The Transformation of Avalokitesvara to Kuan Yin.

Published Pebrero 21, 2012 by jptan2012

In my previous post I wrote about the Goddess of Mercy Kuan Yin (also spelled as Kwan Yin, Quan Yin, Gwan Yin, Guan Yin), who is also known as the Buddha of Compassion. Now, allow me to share with you a brief ‘history’ of Kuan Yin.

People who have read my earlier posts knows of my devotion to the ‘Great Sage, Equal of Heaven’ the Monkey God or Monkey King called Sun Wukong. Sun Wukong is a Taoist celestial being who became really wild whom the Buddha pacified. However, it was really Kuan Yin who paved the way for Sun Wukong to be a Buddha. She did this out of her extreme compassion for Sun Wukong who at that time was already condemned for an eternal imprisonment. Kuan Yin did this not just for Sun Wukong but also for other immortals. Westerners largely look at this story as some sort of fantasy, but to Taoist and Chinese Buddhist they have high regard for the said story and believe it actually happened in the celestial world. However, the point here is not whether the story is true or not, but it hopes to illustrate the depth of Kuan Yin’s mercy and compassion that she was able to subdue one of the most powerful Taoist Immortal/Deity. It should be noted that it was implied in the story mentioned above that should Kuan Yin had to ‘fight’ with Sun Wukong, her power would not have match that of Sun Wukong. However, her real power is not with her strength as a Bodhisattva, although, I must clarify, she is very powerful, but more than her physical and celestial strength, is the power of her mercy and compassion that is said to be infinite!

However, Kuan Yin or Kuan Shi Yin (Guan Shi Yin) which means ‘The One Who Hears the Cries of the World” has a very unique transformation. Kuan Yin is Avalokitesvara in India and Cherezig in Tibet. Nevertheless, Kuan Yin is the female transformation of the said Bodhisattva. I need not talk about who Avalokitesvara in detail now because Kuan Yin is Avalokitesvara (also spelled as Avalokiteshvara), Avalokitesvara is Chenrezig, Chenrezig is Kuan Yin, they may have different names, and in the case of Kuan Yin she may have a different image but they’re one and the same. All the attributes of Kuan Yin are that of Avalokitesvara and Chenrezig, all the attributes of Avalokitesvara and Chenrezig is that of Kuan Yin!

Image of Avalokitesvara (also spelled as Avalokiteshvara).

Nevertheless, allow me to state that Kuan Yin in the form of Avalokitesvara first started in India, the land where Buddhism really started. He/She is a Bodhisattva, which is traditionally considered a little less important compared to the Buddhas. However, Avalokitesvara gained reverence equal to that of Buddhas and to some extent, specially amongst Chinese Buddhist, exceeds that of the Buddhas because as the Historical Buddha Sakyamuni himself shared through various sutras, Avalokitesvara should have been a Buddha already, however, he refused Buddhahood and wished to remain a Bodhisattva for the welfare of all sentient beings.

The transformation of Avalokitesvara to Kuan Yin is in itself a very interesting story. There are various stories about how Avalokitesvara became Kuan Yin.

One story is that in relation to Tripitaka Monk Xuan Zang who traveled to India to get some Buddhist texts that he can share with his countrymen. When he wrote about his journey he always refers to the Bodhisattva of Compassion as a female Kuan Yin, some people believes that this is one of the first time that Avalokitesvara is addressed as Kuan Shi Yin, which later was shortened into Kuan Yin. In his account of the manifestations of Kuan Yin she always appear as a miraculous being and always under miraculous circumstances.

Another story is that of Princess Miao Shan. I’ll skip the story at the moment, and I’ll share her story as written in Wikipedia at the bottom of this post.

Still, another story about Avalokitesvara’s transformation to Kuan Yin is quite simple and not as popular because it lacks the theatrical and flair of the other stories.

When Buddhism was first introduced to China, the religion is largely Taoism, which has Immortals or Deities that are very powerful and ‘masculine’. The compassionate deities and immortals are mostly female deities. Because of this the Chinese had difficulty in fully comprehending the attributes of Avalokitesvara.

Buddhist monks prayed to Kuan Yin to ask for her guidance. Some text says that Kuan Yin spoke to some Buddhist monks through their dreams and instructed them to introduce him as Kuan Yin with a female form. Other text states that they were able to divine this through an Avalokitesvara/Kuan Yin oracle. Whether it was through a dream or through an oracle, it was clear that the Buddhist monks who brought Buddhism to China started the female manifestation of Avalokitesvara. As we know this image became popularly known as Kuan Yin.

This raises the question as to why when experiencing Avalokitesvara’s miracle or vision, people see her as Kuan Yin. According to the explanation of a Chinese Buddhist monk, this is because Avalokitesvara will always appear in the form that people will understand or easily relate to.

I personally believe that the last story is the real reason why Avalokitesvara became Kuan Yin. It is because they need to put an image of mercy and compassion, and because of this Avalokitesvara transformed into Kuan Yin.

Avalokitesvara as Kuan Yin became so popular that even Tibetan Buddhist who is extremely familiar with Avalokitesvara, as a male Bodhisattva would still mention Kuan Yin. In fact, the biggest image of Avalokitesvara in the world is that of Kuan Yin which is found China.

The biggest image of Kuan Yin in the world is in China.

This also answers why some images of Kuan Yin depicts her as a flat-chested handsome young prince.

One of the semi-masculine form of Kuan Yin.

You can read my other posts about Kuan Yin entitled KUAN YIN: THE ONE WHO HEARS THE CRIES OF THE WORLD and PAYING HOMAGE TO KUAN YIN, THE BUDDHA OF COMPASSION.

If you’re interested to know about the Legend of Princess Miao Shan please read on the following that was lifted from Wikipedia.

Another story from the Precious Scroll of Fragrant Mountain describes an incarnation of Guanyin as the daughter of a cruel king who wanted her to marry a wealthy but uncaring man. The story is usually ascribed to the research of the Buddhist monk Chiang Chih-ch’i during the 11th century CE. The story is likely to have a Taoist origin. Chiang Chih-ch’i, when he penned the work, believed that the Guanyin we know today was actually a Buddhist princess called Miaoshan (妙善), who had a religious following on Fragrant Mountain. Despite this there are many variants of the story in Chinese mythology.

According to the story, after the king asked his daughter Miao Shan to marry the wealthy man, she told him that she would obey his command, so long as the marriage eased three misfortunes.

The king asked his daughter what were the three misfortunes that the marriage should ease. Miaoshan explained that the first misfortune the marriage should ease was the suffering people endure as they age. The second misfortune it should ease was the suffering people endure when they fall ill. The third misfortune it should ease was the suffering caused by death. If the marriage could not ease any of the above, then she would rather retire to a life of religion forever.

When her father asked who could ease all the above, Miao Shan pointed out that a doctor was able to do all of these.

Her father grew angry as he wanted her to marry a person of power and wealth, not a healer. He forced her into hard labor and reduced her food and drink but this did not cause her to yield.

Every day she begged to be able to enter a temple and become a nun instead of marrying. Her father eventually allowed her to work in the temple, but asked the monks to give her the toughest chores in order to discourage her. The monks forced Miao Shan to work all day and all night, while others slept, in order to finish her work. However, she was such a good person that the animals living around the temple began to help her with her chores. Her father, seeing this, became so frustrated that he attempted to burn down the temple. Miao Shan put out the fire with her bare hands and suffered no burns. Now struck with fear, her father ordered her to be put to death.

In one version of this legend, when Guanyin was executed, a supernatural tiger took her to one of the more hell-like realms of the dead. However, instead of being punished by demons like the other inmates, Guanyin played music, and flowers blossomed around her. This completely surprised the head demon. The story says that Guanyin, by merely being in that hell, turned it into a paradise.

A variant of the legend says that Miao Shan allowed herself to die at the hand of the executioner. According to this legend, as the executioner tried to carry out her father’s orders, his axe shattered into a thousand pieces. He then tried a sword which likewise shattered. He tried to shoot Miao Shan down with arrows but they all veered off.

Finally in desperation he used his hands. Miao Shan, realising the fate that the executioner would meet at her father’s hand should she fail to let herself die, forgave the executioner for attempting to kill her. It is said that she voluntarily took on the massive karmic guilt the executioner generated for killing her, thus leaving him guiltless. It is because of this that she descended into the Hell-like realms. While there, she witnessed first-hand the suffering and horrors that the beings there must endure, and was overwhelmed with grief. Filled with compassion, she released all the good karma she had accumulated through her many lifetimes, thus freeing many suffering souls back into Heaven and Earth. In the process, that Hell-like realm became a paradise. It is said that Yanluo, King of Hell, sent her back to Earth to prevent the utter destruction of his realm, and that upon her return she appeared on Fragrant Mountain.

Another tale says that Miao Shan never died, but was in fact transported by a supernatural tiger, believed to be the Deity of the Place, to Fragrant Mountain.

The Legend of Miao Shan usually ends with Miao Chuang Yen, Miao Shan’s father, falling ill with jaundice. No physician was able to cure him. Then a monk appeared saying that the jaundice could be cured by making a medicine out of the arm and eye of one without anger. The monk further suggested that such a person could be found on Fragrant Mountain. When asked, Miao Shan willingly offered up her eyes and arms. Miao Chuang Yen was cured of his illness and went to the Fragrant Mountain to give thanks to the person. When he discovered that his own daughter had made the sacrifice, he begged for forgiveness. The story concludes with Miaoshan being transformed into the Thousand Armed Guanyin, and the king, queen and her two sisters building a temple on the mountain for her. She began her journey to heaven and was about to cross over into heaven when she heard a cry of suffering from the world below. She turned around and saw the massive suffering endured by the people of the world. Filled with compassion, she returned to Earth, vowing never to leave till such time as all suffering has ended.

After her return to Earth, Guanyin was said to have stayed for a few years on the island of Mount Putuo where she practised meditation and helped the sailors and fishermen who got stranded. Guanyin is frequently worshipped as patron of sailors and fishermen due to this. She is said to frequently becalm the sea when boats are threatened with rocks. After some decades Guanyin returned to Fragrant Mountain to continue her meditation.

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Getting to Know the ‘Great Sage, Equal to Heaven’ Monkey God called Sun Wukong!

Published Enero 7, 2012 by jptan2012

In my previous posts about Feng Shui – 2012 YEAR OF THE WATER DRAGON FENG SHUI FLYING STAR FORECAST, FENG SHUI-CHINESE ZODIAC FORECAST FOR 2012 YEAR OF THE WATER DRAGON PART 1 AND PART 2: and 2012 CHINESE NEW YEAR FENG SHUI RITUALS TO USHER IN THE YEAR OF THE WATER DRAGON – I made mention of the monkey god Sun Wukong as one of the most powerful wealth and protector deity and as the deity featured in the specially designed WEALTH AND MASTER PROTECTION PENDANT.

A lot of people are not familiar with the Taoist and Chinese Buddhist Monkey God called Sun Wukong and a lot of Westeners think that having a Monkey God is a preposterous idea. However, the truth is Sun Wukong or the Monkey God is one of the most wonderful and powerful Taoist immortal and Buddhist deity. However, Sun Wukong is also one of the most misunderstood Buddhist deity. A lot of people thought that Sun Wukong is merely a Taoist God or Immortal, but the truth is Sun Wukong embraced Buddhism and thus is also revered in Chinese Buddhism. I say Chinese Buddhism because I’m not sure whether he’s recognized in Tibetan Buddhism. But note that there’s also a Monkey God in Hinduism.

In the Taoist story of creation, Nuwa is the goddess who created the universe. It’s believed that she purposely left a blessed celestial rock that through the passage of time and exposure to different forces and energies became the Stone Monkey [Chinese Character:石猴  Pronunciation: Shí Hóu] .

The Monkey God being a creature out of a celestial rock is naturally intelligent. He banded with other groups of monkey. But has always been discontented about the way they live their life. One time in search for a bottomless source of water, they came across a strong waterfall. They believe that the true power of their future lies behind the curtain of water. However, no one dared to be the first person to enter the curtain of water (waterfall) for fear of the current and the unknown. Stone Monkey volunteered to his group but demanded that should he survived the crossing of the curtain water he should be honored as the king of the monkeys. All the monkeys agreed and Stone Monkey crossed the curtain water and found a cave behind the curtain water filled with fruits and flowers. He called this place the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits [Chinese Character: 花果山].

An artwork depicting the monkeys in out side the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits.

He called in his fellow monkeys, told them about this great place and encourage them to live there. He also reminded them of their agreement that he should survive the crossing he will be then honored as king. The other monkeys-young and old-honored this agreement. As the King of the Monkeys, the Stone Monkey gave himself the name: Handsome Monkey-King [Chinese Character:美猴王 Pronunciation: Měi Hóuwáng ].

However, the Handsome Monkey-King being naturally impatient got tired of his Mountain and Flowers and Fruits. He decided to that he wants to learn more about Taoist magics. He left his monkeys and the Mountain and flowers and Fruits to look for a ‘master’. After traveling for more than ten years and after passing several ‘exams’ a master adopted him, gave him the name Sun Wukong [Chinese Character: 孫悟空 Pronunciation:Sūn Wùkōng], and then train him with some magic and supernatural skills. He soon mastered the Transformation Magic and was also trained in Cloud Riding and he is also able to jump 54,000 kms. in a single flip. However, he played with his Transformation Magic and boasted his skills with the other students. When his master found out about this he was banished.

Sun Wukong then went back to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits where he found out that his fellow monkeys were attacked and the younger monkeys were kidnapped by a monster. He then went to look for the said monster, freed and avenged his monkeys. He was greatly satisfied with his success but realized that he need a weapon worthy of his powers, for the monster that he attacked has scimatars.

In search for this weapon, he arrived at the lair of the Dragon Kings of the Ocean. The Dragon Kings kindly received him but Sun Wukong abused their kindness greatly inconvenienced them. He demanded for a weapon and for an outfit worthy of his power. After several choices he finally found the most powerful weapon in the Dragon Kings of the Ocean stockroom. The weapon is called the Magical Golden Hooped Rod which weighs 8.1 tons. Much to the surprised of the Dragon Kings was able to carry the weapon, something that hasn’t been done before. The Magical Golden Hooped Rod is really heavy, but once you’re able to carry it you are able to command it to change it size, does Sun Wukong command it to become as small as needle so that he can hide it behind his ears. As mentioned, not contented with just getting the weapon, he also demanded the Dragon Kings of the Ocean to give him magical clothes worthy of his power. They then gave him Golden Chain Mail ( Mail is a type of armor consisting of small metal rings linked together in a pattern to form a mesh), Phoenix-Feathered Cap, and Cloud-Walking Boots.

With his new found abilities, weapon and magical clothers, Sun Wukong decided that he wants to be truly immortal. He then went to hell and erased his name and that of his monkeys from the book of hell. This made him and his monkeys truly immortal.

When the Jade Emperor found out about this he called on Sun Wukong intending to punish him. However, upon the advice of the other Heavenly Beings the Jade Emperor decided to just give him a non-existing position in the Heavenly Kingdom. He was made caretaker of the Heavenly Horses. Where he got the title Keeper of the Heavenly Horses [Chinese Character: 弼馬溫 Pronunciation: Bìmǎwēn]. But Bimawen soon became bored again and challenged the Jade Emperor.

Angered, the Jade Emperor sent Heavenly Beings to subdue Bimawen. However, Bimawen’s power is so great that the Heavenly Beings that was sent to subdue him were no match to his skills, thus they are unable to subdue him. The other Earthly Immortals found out about his and they started addressing him as the ‘Great Sage, Equal of Heaven’ [Chinese Character: 齊天大聖 Pronunciation: Qítiān Dàshèng]. The Great Sage greatly enjoyed this title and immediately adopted it.

However, with the help of Sakyamuni Buddha, The Great Sage was subdued and imprisoned. However, he begged the Boddhisatva of Compassion (Goddess of Mercy) Kuan Yin to release him. Kuan Yin realizing The Great Sage’s power decided to have The Great Sage accompany the Tang Buddhist Monk Xuan Zang in his journey to the West to acquire some Buddhist scrolls. Nevertheless, Kuan Yin knows that The Great Sage with his  tremendous power will be hard to subdue. Thus Kuan Yin instructed Xuan Zang to trick The Great Sage into wearing s Heavenly Headband. Using some prayers the Heavenly Headband will cause pain to The Great Sage. Xuan Zang is to used this whenever The Great Sage becomes out of control.

The Great Sage became the protector and disciple of Xuan Zang. Thus earning him the name Pilgrim or Ascetic [Chinese Character: 行者 Pronunciation: Xíngzhě]. Xuan Zang did have to used the Heavenly Headband but he soon was humbled and subdued. Other than being the disciple of Xuan Zang, Pilgrim became the Xuan Zang’s main protector also. More than that he is also the wittiest disciple of Xuan Zang (there are 3 more disciples). He often acts as the strategist of Xuan Zang.

The story of the Monkey King or Monkey God which is depicted in the novel Journey to the West has been made into movies countless of times.

An artwork depicting Sun Wukong fighting a devil.

Another interpretation of the Monkey God or Monkey King.

Despite of the numerous challenges that they came across during their journey to the West, they were still able to finish the ‘order’. Because all of this Sakyamuni rewarded all of them giving Pilgrim the title of Victorious Fighting Buddha [Chinese Character: 鬥戰勝佛 Pronunciation: Dòu-zhànshèng-fó].

One of the extremely rare art work depicting The Great Sage, Equal of Heaven – Sun Wukong as a Buddha. The Victorious Fighting Buddha.

This story is greatly detailed in the novel of the fictionalized account of the legendary pilgrimage of the Tang Buddhist Monk Xuan Zang. It is unfortunate, that Westerners regard it as a fiction. However, to most Taoist and Buddhist believed that the story really happened in the Heavenly Realm.

I personally have a deep devotion to The Great Sage Sun Wukong. But that’s another story for another post.

In writing this I hope you’ll have a better understanding of who Sun Wukong is and why I decided to have Him as the main deity of my specially designed – WEALTH AND MASTER PROTECTION PENDANT. He is no ordinary Monkey God, he is ‘The Great Sage, Equal of Heaven’.

The Great Sage, Equal of Heaven – Sun Wukong is the main deity of the specially designed WEALTH AND MASTER PROTECTION PENDANT. This is because othe than being a powerful protector, the Monkey God is also the main strategist of the pilgrims who journeyed to the West. He often the one who thinks for the group.

At the back of the WEALTH AND MASTER PROTECTION are the Chinese character for ‘THE GREAT SAGE, EQUAL OF HEAVEN’ and the images of the Three Celestial Guardians (provides protection against the 3 Killings), Five Element Pagoda (provides protection from the Five Yellow Star or Flying Star #5) and the Ksitigarbha Fireball (provides protection against the Argumentative Star). I’m also thinking of looking for a jade supplier and a crafts man who can craft the WEALTH AND MASTER PROTECTION PENDANT on a Jade. Chinese people has a natural affinity towards jade and a lot of people have been looking for a JADE WEALTH AND MASTER PROTECTION PENDANT.

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