We are always getting new pieces in the store. This week I discovered an antique altar.
Upon opening it up, I discovered a small statue. Unaware of this mystical figure, I decided to do some investigation.
Her name is Guanyin. She is considered an “enlightened one”, also know as as a bodhisavatta, among Buddhists. Her name translates to “Observing the Cries of the World”. Followers believe that at the time of one’s death, they are received by Guanyin who sends them off Sukhavati, a place that some might consider to be heaven.
There are many stories about her. Some feature her caught in the struggle of an arranged marriage. According to the various tales, Guanyin is either executed, reincarnated, or rescued by a supernatural tiger. In other folklore, Guanyin is depicted as a male, as well as a disciple. She even boasts a parrot ‘side-kick’ in some instances.
Guanyin originates from India, where she was a called Avalokitesvara. Due to Buddhism’s evolution around East Asia, her story and significance vary from region to region. For example, in many Chinese communities she is seen as a protector of fishermen. Meanwhile, in other areas she is regarded as a protector of women and children.
Whatever the case, she is highly revered throughout all sects of Buddhism. Clearly her legacy, although ambiguous at times, transcends culture, time, and geography. She is one spiritual enigma.