Sunday, July 5, 2009

Gwan Yin ("Virg Yin") Mantras

WQ and Tinh Tam


The art director of China's Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe, Tai Lihua (center), leads deaf dancers to perform "Thousand-hand Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva" -- or "Guan Yin" a Chinese form of the Goddess, in Suining, Sichuan province June 30, 2009.

Feeling the vibration of the music through speakers and guided by hand gestures, the troupe takes steps to champion the rights of disabled people around the world. Since forming in 1987, the troupe has performed in more than 40 countries and raised money for disabled people's charities.

The prominent imagery and symbolism demonstrates the heavy influence of theistic Hinduism on the development and spread of Mahayana Buddhism. But, of course, Guan Yin (Kwan Yin, Kwannon, Miriam) is not limited to China. Her fame has spread far and wide as the embodiment of the Goddess across cultures. She is, in a very real sense, the Eastern Madonna, who herself is a form of the much older Mother Goddess, known all over the world by different names:

Mother Nature

Perhaps nowhere is she more influential than in Vietnam which, due to French colonialism, has given her adoration (one may go so far as to say, her worship), a double whammy: She is both Gwan Yin, the all-merciful "Bodhisattva of Compassion" and Madonna, the Catholic Virgin Mary. Miracles attributed to her by Buddhists and Catholics alike are a regular occurrence. Islam remembers her as Maryam, mother of Isa.

Hinduism and Mahayana -- two largely analogous paths of devotion -- have promoted the view that one can supplicate devas (a.k.a., godlings, beings of light, or angels), asking for favors and intervention (in Western Wicca/Pagan terms, a "boon").

The Buddha, however, emphasized emulating and modeling oneself after the well-born devas rather than worshipping or seeking their indulgences.

The sway of Mahayana in Vietnam coupled with centuries of French Roman Catholic influence makes the supplication of Gwan Yin (or Virgin Mary) natural and widespread. Vietnamese émigrés swear by the practice. Tinh Tam is one such individual, now living in the U.S. She is so convinced of the efficacy of such practices that she recently approached Wisdom Quarterly at the enormous, multi-ethnic Vesak 2009 celebration on the grounds of Whittier Narrows Park in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is rife with the worship of "Virg Yin" (Gwan Yin) as she appeared in Guadalupe, Mexico. Her representation is meticulous and uncanny: She is carefully depicted over a divine symbol of femininity, the crescent moon, with attendant devas, in flowing gowns, dispensing blessings/holy water reminiscent of Lakshmi and Western Pagan (Greek and Roman) forms of the Goddess. It is a clear manifestation of Yin energy (distinct from the active, masculine, often fatherly Yang).

Tam (whose contact information is printed at the bottom of these cards) is adamant about spreading Kwan Yin's glory and fame with a reassuring message for humankind (perhaps for all beings everywhere): We are not alone when we find ourselves in need. These phonetic, transliterated mantras/prayers are what Kwan Yin's disciples want more widely known.

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom: Let it be, let it be (John Lennon, the Beatles).