Avalokitesvara, or Kuan Yin, is regarded as the "reflex" of Amitabha'a further emanation or embodiment of "maha karuna (great compassion), the quality which Amitabha himself embodies in the highest sense. Many figures of Kuan Yin can be identified by the presence of a small image of Amitabha in her crown. It is believed that as the merciful redemptress Kuan Yin expresses Amitabha's compassion in a more direct and personal way and prayers to her are answered more quickly.
The iconography of Kuan Yin depicts her in many forms, each one revealing a unique aspect of her merciful presence. As the sublime Goddess of Mercy whose beauty, grace and compassion have come to represent the ideal of womanhood in the East, she is frequently portrayed as a slender woman in flowing white robes who carries in her left hand a white lotus, symbol of purity. Ornaments may adorn her form, symbolizing her attainment as a bodhisattva, or she may be pictured without them as a sign of her great virtue.
Kuan Yin's presence is widespread through her images as the "bestower of children" which are found in homes and temples. A great white veil covers her entire form and she may be seated on a lotus. She is often portrayed with a child in her arms, near her feet, or on her knees, or with several children about her. In this role, she is also referred to as the "white-robed honored one." Sometimes to her right and left are her two attendants, Shan-tsíai Tung-tsi, the "young man of excellent capacities," and Lung-wang Nu, the "daughter of the Dragon-king."
Kuan Yin is also known as patron bodhisattva of P'u-t'o Shan, mistress of the Southern Sea and patroness of fishermen. As such she is shown crossing the sea seated or standing on a lotus or with her feet on the head of a dragon.
Compassion is not addressed to anybody. It is not a relationship, it is simply your very being. You enjoy being compassionate to the trees, to the birds, to the animals, to human beings, to everybody -- unconditionally, not asking for anything in return. Compassion is a freedom from blind biology.
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