Kuan Yin, commonly known as the Goddess of Mercy, embodies the flame of mercy and compassion. In Eastern mythology, her name means “regarder of sounds”, indicating her ability to listen to the prayers and the cries of the people. Her heart is full of deep compassion and unconditional love.
Kuan Yin is depicted in many forms, but she is often represented as a beautiful woman in white silk robe with a water jar and a willow branch in her hands. She is a well-known deity, not only in China, but also in countries with numerous Buddhism followers like Malaysia, Japan and Korea. She is one of the most universally beloved and one of the most popular deities of Buddhism.
Kuan Yin’s role as Buddhist Madonna has been compared to that of Mother Mary. In addition, her names are as numerous as those with Mother Mary. To the people of China, her name is Guanyin. In Korea, she is known as Kannon. Some Taoist scriptures give her the title of Guan Yin Da Shi. Some of you have probably heard of her as Miao Shan, the Chinese princess known for her great compassion. As expected, there are also a myriad of varying stories to tell about Kuan Yin.
One of the several stories surrounding Kuan Yin is that she chose to remain on Earth to relieve the sufferings of humanity. She was destined to become a Buddha, and has earned the right to leave the world of suffering. But out of compassion for the suffering of others, she turned back when she heard the anguished cries rising from the world. She chose to forego the final state of Buddhahood to help others attain enlightenment.
Sometimes, Kuan Yin is depicted with a thousand arms and 11 heads. According to the legend, Kuan Yin vowed never to rest until she has freed all sentient beings from sufferings. Realizing how difficult it would be for her to fulfil this goal, Amitabha Buddha gave her 11 heads so it would be easier for her to hear the people’s pleas for help. She was also given a thousand arms to allow here to reach out to all those who needed aid.