Kuan Yin: My Female Buddha

KuanYinBuddhaMy altar is complete. I brought back my Kuan Yin to Halifax, which I bought about 20 years ago, in downtown Northampton, MA. [This photo does not do her justice; she is a beautiful matte black porcelain.] At the time I wasn’t a Buddhist, didn’t know the first thing about it. All I knew was that she was Kuan Yin, goddess of compassion, and I loved her and what she stood for. So I bought it. I’ve taken her around with me to two states, two countries and two provinces. For a long time she sat her in her box, or in some dark corner of my house. I didn’t know quite what to make of her, except that I believed in the truth of compassion. Then I became a Buddhist about 6 years ago. But I was taught the traditional male icon of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. I thought that he was the one and only “Buddha”. I’ve since learned that there are countless Buddhas. Many of the female Bodhisattvas, such as Tara, are recognized as Buddhas. Kuan Yin is considered a Bodhisattva, the female version of Avalokiteshvara, the male Bodhisattva of compassion, also called Chenrezig in Tibetan. As such, she/he/they are one of the few recognized Buddhist deities that can be either female or male. I resonate with Kuan Yin/Avalokiteshvara as a transgender Bodhisattva who can appear as any gender. Only recently has Kuan Yin become my Buddha. I went through a period in the last couple of months where I got rid of all my male Buddhist images (save for Dr. B. R. Ambedkar) and replaced them with female images that I can relate to. And then I thought of Kuan Yin, whom I had left back in Fredericton in a box, and I realized that she/he is more than a Bodhisattva, she/he is my Buddha. As Buddha, I gave her the highest place on my altar, with offerings of flowers, incense and a candle. I also honour the Mother of the Buddhas, Prajnaparamita, who is Wisdom. Together these two, Wisdom and Compassion, are the progenitors of the awakened, courageous and loving ones.

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