For several years I have held a deepening affection for Quan Yin, the Bodhisattva or possibly goddess originally (and still) known as Avalokitesvara, and also associated with Tibetan Tara. It is said that (s)he appears to devotees in the guise that will be most beneficial to them (possibly an extension of the Buddhist doctrine of “skillful means”); it is absolutely the case that she calls to me in the guise of a goddess, the compassionate mother who wants her children to live rightly and be happy, and will gladly guide them on the path that leads to both those outcomes. It is she who I turn to in my mind when I feel less than compassionate towards others (or myself!), or when I need to be reminded that there is unconditional love both for the taking and for the giving.
I have been actively working on her shrine for about two years, although I began collecting and making the items that adorn it well over a decade ago (and completed the latest item within the last week). I really enjoy seeing other people post pictures and commentary about their shrines, so I thought I would do the same for one of my dearest deities. (This may become a series, as we have several shrines to various deities, forces and ideas around the house…) Click on any of the thumbnails to get a closer look.
This shrine is built on the top shelves of a bookcase in my library (the spare bedroom), facing the door. This is the view that first greets you as you enter:
The framed picture hanging on the left is actually a cross stitch that I made for her last year (see detail shot below); the Thousand-Armed Quan Yin on the right was gift from a friend. The second shot is angled to show the bead-weaving that I finished for her last week (the one that I promised a picture of previously), which is hung outside the shrine to catch the sunlight from the window.
Going from left to right across the shelf proper, we find various books and other items that I have gathered over the years. (See the bottom of the post for details of these books and a few others, including links.) Both of the candlesticks in the first picture, as well as the tiny statue under the gemstone tree, were bought at a metaphysical store that sadly no longer exists; the tree was made by a friend and bought for the shrine.
I don’t remember where I got the fu dogs in front of the portable shrine; they could have come from almost anywhere… The shrine itself, which folds closed, was a Christmas gift from my mother; I got the prayer beads from the Tibetan monks who come to Charlotte fairly regularly. My wife found the little tree with the bells at a thrift shop recently, and the goddess seems to find the sound pleasing – I have taken to shaking it gently at the beginning and end of a prayer or meditation session. The little Buddha picture is a jewelry finding from Global Nomad.
For further reading
These are the books in the picture; they can all be found here:
- Chun-Fang Yu, “Kuan-yin: the Chinese Transformation of Avalokitesvara”
- John Blofeld, “Bodhisattva of Compassion: the Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin”
- Martin Palmer, Jay Ramsay and Man-Ho Kwok, “Kuan Yin: Myths and Prophecies of the Chinese Goddess of Compassion“
- Sandy Boucher, “Discovering Kwan Yin”
- Daniela Schenker, “Kuan Yin: Access the Power of the Divine Feminine”
Additionally, there are many sutras that deal with the Bodhisattva; the two most accessible to Western readers are probably the Heart and Lotus Sutras… an almost inexhaustible source of sutras and other mainline Theravada and Mahayana writings can be found at BuddhaNet’s e-book pages.