Kwan Yin: Compassionate Warrior Queen
Message for Sacred Sunday Services
(next Sacred Sunday Service, October 28th)September 2012 by Rev. Dr. Karen Tate
Today’s Sacred Sunday message is about Balance in All Things. Marsha is going to teach you a discipline to bring balance to your body and mind. Sam is going to talk about balance in your personal life and in the context of the season. I want to talk about how our world being out balance is a violation of Goddess ideals and suggest to you even an archetype like Kwan Yin is associated with justice, boundaries, and peace. She is calling us to action to right the imbalances of the world if we go a bit deeper behind her sacred veil and examine some aspects of the Kwan Yin archetype beneath the surface, hidden you might say, in plain sight!
So, to start, I would ask you – what comes to mind when you think of Kwan Yin, Mother of Compassion?
She is often associated with the Taoist Tien Hau who has a temple in San Francisco, known for her caring, mercy, and for saving men lost at sea. She is closely associated with Isis, who also hears the prayers of her devotees and Mary, the mother of Jesus, who is the intercessor between human and god – she who intercedes on our behalf. And remember those apparitions of Our Lady known to appear in places like Lourdes, calling humanity to peace?
But I think I felt the full potency of this Kwan Yin energy when I was in Japan and met her counter-part, Kannon. At Sanju Sangendo Temple where there were 1001 statues of Kannon, each capable of 33 aspects, resulting in 33,033 manifestations of the Bodhisattva residing there.
I remember when I saw her for the first time. I didn’t particularly relate to Kwan Yin or Kannon. I was there on a fact- finding mission researching my first book, Sacred Places of Goddess: 108 Destinations and my appearance there was mostly business. I have been an Isis and Sekhmet gal! But to my surprise, Kannon got hold of me when I walked into the temple. The music, the incense, her energy just enveloped me. Now, I’ve been in many a temple, but there was something alive there. I was totally taken by surprise. I was captivated and in awe of her. I wanted to literally throw myself on the ground in front of her but I felt silly and stopped myself because the room was filled with tourists. It was one of those moments you never forget and it was one of those connections that makes you a believer she is alive out there!
So let’s begin to see Kwan Yin in our mind’s eye. She’s an Asian Goddess, who wears flowing robes. She is usually tall and slender, sometimes nude or barefoot. Women turned to Kwan Yin when they were on the birthing bed or in their struggle for freedom and recognition. It was she who would bring their husbands back from war or the sea. It was believed she could understand their struggle, pain and suffering and she lent them needed strength, love and compassion. She can be seen sitting on a lotus flower, fish, elephant or upon a lion-like beast. Her image can also be one where she is nursing a baby or holding a child. Her symbols are a scroll of truth, a jar of healing water, and a spray of willow representing womanhood. She is often depicted with her feet on a dragon.
The numbers vary widely, so let’s just say she has 33 manifestations, and 11 heads enabling her to hear and see the cries of the needy and to answer their prayers. She also has 1,000 hands in which she holds a vase containing amitra, or the dew of compassion, which she pours forth upon humankind to extend life, cure, and purify the body, mind and speech. Now Kannon held objects too, to fight off all manner of misfortune that might befall humanity; a rosary, trident, sword, lotus, bow and arrows, ax, mirror, wheel, and a bell. I couldn’t help but think of the female warrioresses in the movie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
I think when patriarchy allows us to glimpse the Sacred Feminine, it wants us to see a very narrow and limiting picture of Goddess me might feel we must emulate in order to serve man or patriarchy’s authoritarian god. A woman out of balance. Sure, they approve of the nubile sex Goddess here for man’s pleasure, or the giving mother without personal boundaries to protect herself. The healer wiping the nose of the sick child or the tears from suffering eyes. The crone who dedicates her time to keeping the church altar clean. We’re allowed to have the Great Mother in our spiritual paradigm if she is the docile and tame like Mary, or the Goddess that saves women in childbirth or men from bombs and typhoons. But would Patriarchy have us reclaim the full meaning of the Queen Mother of Compassion – or any Goddess – if it meant embodying her might bring our world into balance and emulating her caused women to no longer serve the status quo? If we saw beyond the dew of compassion and the rosary and evaluated what else is hidden in plain sight? If we looked at her ax, bow and arrows, sword, and trident. If we interpreted why she holds the bell, or has her feet on a dragon or has as one of her symbols, the scroll of truth? I think looking more deeply at goddesses like Kwan Yin/Kannon might make the patriarchy very nervous.
Kwan Yin energy is not merely an obedient consort or spouse, a healer, servant or helper of god and man. She is no Stepford Wife, passive, sexless, docile, tame and complicit in her own oppression.
No, she is armed, literally and metaphorically. She is also fierce compassion with the power to protect, defend, be activated and motivated. She holds truth important, truth, a thing more valuable than gold. Truth, something many would keep from you because in truth there is wisdom, knowledge and power. In the light of truth, darkness, injustice and oppression cannot thrive.
The ringing of her chimes cuts through the din of chaos bringing forth clarity for critical thinking so you might not be held hostage, duped and led astray.
And what of her weapons? The bow and arrows, trident, ax, and sword. Well, Goddesses have long held weapons and instruments of change and activation. Isis’ sistrum kept the energies of the universe flowing. What of Mary’s role of intercessor – one who actively intercedes. Does this not clearly tell us we must be ready, willing and able to stand up and wage peace? We must be warrioresses and activists for her ideals. For fairness, justice, equality and partnership. No more than we can find a job by just praying and thinking positive thoughts, can we be serious about changing the world without being activated and motivated. Just as we must send out resumes and network for a job, we must rally and ally with the like-minded if want to change the world. We must gather all our resources both on the magickal and mundane spheres to empower ourselves and manifest the world we vision. Use Kwan Yin’s sword to cut through the doubt until you find certainty shifts do happen. Remember once Christians met in living rooms and look what a force they have become on Mother Earth. Shifts, dreams, visions become realities with with proper action, intention, support, focus and fierce compassion.
As we are called to be a wayshower, foremother, defender, healer, warrioress, what is our ax, bow and arrows, trident and sword? How do we go forward in the world blazing a trail with our pink-handled machete? What are our weapons?
I say to you our weapons are many and we need them all because patriarchy will not just roll over and die because we will it, pray for it or think positive thoughts.
* Our books of knowledge are our weapons, because knowledge is power. Has not patriarchy tried their best to keep knowledge of Goddess and women’s natural leadership and spiritual authority from us?
* Our voice is our weapon. Has patriarchy not tried to make us content and satisfied being subservient and our power diminished? We must all find our “sacred rage and our sacred roar” and let our wisdom, our intellect, reverberate out across the ethers and be heard by all.
* Our written word is our weapon, for the pen can be mightier than the sword. Each of you sitting here has changed her life not at the point of a dagger but because of the information you have no doubt read.
* Our tenacity and strength are our weapons. Any woman who has birthed or raised a child, had a book published, started an organization, manifested a temple – they all know the strength, courage and determination women possess. Remember women, we do 80% of the work around the world even if under patriarchy, we only earn 20% of the assets.
* Our weapons are our innate ability to intuit, to love and nurture, to support our sisters, to tend and befriend in times of stress. We must begin to stand shoulder to shoulder, thinking of the “we and our” not the “I and me.”
* Our weapon is the wisdom we embody the power of the life-affirming Creatrix while patriarchy is the obsolete and forceful destroyer. We must remember who we are!
This is just a short list and I’m sure you can no doubt think of many more weapons in our female toolkit or arsenal.
The Dalai Lama said it would be Western Women who would save the world. He’s close. He’s almost got it right. I believe it will be humankind shifting toward the ideals of the Sacred Feminine and eco-feminist spirituality that will save the world. It will be women and our like-minded brothers finding their sacred roar, uncovering forbidden knowledge, living, writing and teaching their wisdom and truth, standing in their power as leaders, fighting for their values, and I agree with women like Ava at the Goddess Temple in Orange County who teach it will be women finding their Queen. ALL THAT, coming together like a delicious stew will make it so.
All this sounds fine and good, in theory, doesn’t it? But how does recognizing Kwan Yin as a tenacious, kick-ass warrior Goddess armed with not just compassion but her weaponry help us today? How is it relevant? How do we apply it?
Well, let me help you connect the dots.
First, like Kwan Yin, our community is multi-armed and has many heads, eyes, and hands. We must because the dominance and force of patriarchy has left us with much to correct. There are many vital causes that need attention. There is not just one task that needs fixing. And many of us are called to serve on a different paths. You might feel called to :
Teach classes and write books.
Be an Environmental or Animal Rights activist.
Use your Sacred Roar via some form of Media.
This time around you may raise Goddess-aware Children or Grand-children.
Or work as a healer or in hospice care.
Maybe you inform and shift consciousness through your art.
Or promoting healthy living and eating.
Maybe your calling is via public service as a priestess or politician.
At the very least you’re seeing how all the ways our world is out of balance are direct challenges or violations of Goddess ideals or earth-based spirituality. Yes, we must choose between darkness and light, good and evil, oppression versus liberation, equality versus injustice, have a balance between environmentalism and de-regulation, rugged individualism versus caring and sharing, left versus right brain thinking, activism versus apathy. What about the imbalance of income and opportunity between the Haves and the Have Nots?
Yes, Goddess, Nature teaches us how very important balance is and the cost of imbalance. And I think when we see her weapons, she is telling us we must fight for that which we hold dear, what we know is right.
Ladies, we are being called to change the world from the inside out. We aren’t talking about tinkering around the edges if we want a society that makes decisions based on truth, that’s really fair and balanced, that’s just and whole and values and practices equality and peace. If we want to embody Goddess, we aren’t just the power behind the throne, we ARE THE THRONE. Remember, it was Isis who granted the pharaoh the right to rule, and she expected him to do so employing justice and truth and dare I say, fierce compassion, too!
But Isis isn’t our only role model. Neither is the Mary as intercessor. Or Our Lady appearing and advising us to wage peace. There is a beautiful tapestry of herstory with many women each a colorful thread, making a difference not just in their own realms, but women who have changed the world: Boudica, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Women in the Bible, Hildegard, Mother Theresa, Lady Di, sibyls and oracles, mid-wives, women and priestesses of contemporary and ancient times who held life and death in their hands. Today’s Catholic nuns on their nation-wide bus tour teaching about the immorality of the Romney-Ryan budget. Women who fought for their rights to control their bodies and fates. Women who suffered for our right to vote, for civil rights, for worker rights. Women who fought the patriarchy of the Church, who were burned at the stake, who died for our democracy. Even if we might not always know their names because history was written by the conquering, rich, patriarchs, all too often leaving the names of women out of the history books.
And that next chapter of rich patriarchs is about to be written yet again. When we vote in November, we shall see if 17 angry, white, priviledged, conservative billionaire men who are distorting our media, buying our democracy, stacking the deck of the Supreme Court for the benefit of the banks, the corporations and the 1%, who threaten our rights and our futures, we will see if they will once again conquer. Or will enough women find their sacred rage and rise up with their sword and the fierce compassion of Kwan Yin and beat back the dragon so we might have more balance in our world?
Goddess doesn’t roll over in the face of adversity and neither should we. Remember the weapons in the hands of Kwan Yin. Remember Kali, Sekhmet, the Morrighan, Nemesis, Artemis, Libertas, Metis, Isis. We have an obligation to fight for social justice, to set healthy boundaries, to help the world find balance and not be willing victims of patriarchal oppression.
For the next month it is very important that you find your sacred rage and your sacred roar. Volunteer, vote and be a civic minded advocate for truth, sanity, fairness, equality and social justice. Don’t moan that you didn’t get everything you wanted. Don’t be drawn into the false equivalence Democrats and Republicans are all the same. They are not.
Then, when the election is over, sit down and have a hard look at yourself. If you haven’t already, re-discover your own passion or calling. How are you going to help change the world? And I’m not talking about tinkering around the edges. What must you help bring into balance? What do you feel so strongly about that you would arm yourself with both your own waters of compassion, as well as your sword, trident and quiver of arrows like our Compassionate Warrior Queen, Kwan Yin? What will you tame as Kwan Yin does as she sits upon her lion or puts her foot upon the head of a dragon?
*Please note each Blog is the unique expression of the Blogger and does not speak for The Green Man as an entity…but rather is one of the many diverse colours that make up our Green Man Tribe.