Kuan Yin, the archetype of compassion is the salve for helplessness! We can call on her when we are overwhelmed, frozen with despair, or when we go down a rabbit hole of self- doubt, self-pity and hopelessness.
Even though, she is a Buddhist bodhisattva, I’m using her as a psychological archetype who we can visualize when we need her characteristic. Recall an archetype is an image that clearly represents a characteristic When we look at that image or hear a story about that character, we go, “Yea, I get that. That one represents…… love, heroism, beauty, courage, or in this case Kuan Yin, compassion.”
People are feeling helpless. In the current political state of the United States, people say, “I can’t make a difference. Nothing I do matters.” It’s like the feeling of a yoke of stone on the shoulders, or a weight on the top of the heart. Imagine for a minute, you felt these weights but simultaneously there was an overwhelming feeling of love in your heart. Does that lessen the heavy feeling? Does it create a bit of space, where the pressure is lessened? A space that releases the mind, to feel the joy of love, and time for insight. “Okay, there’s difficulty, but there is hope.”
Kuan Yin’s ancient story… The Bridge
There was a wide river in China, and a typhoon hit creating 30 feet waves. There was a small boat in the middle of the river. The passengers knew that they would be capsized to their deaths, and they called out for help All of a sudden, a woman with flowing robes appeared. It was Kuan Yin. The waves calmed. She looked down at a pregnant woman holding on to railing. With compassion, she said, “you will be saved, and your son will build a bridge over this river, to save others”. Time passed, and the son was born and grew into an engineer working far away from the river for the Emperor. His mother had told him about the prophecy, and it lingered in his mind as an unfulfilled goal, always there, always his destiny. One night, he found a vat of honey, and wrote with a brush in the emperor’s garden, “The engineer must return to his home.” The next morning, the emperor went on a walk, and saw the letters written out by ants bodies who had come to devour the honey. When the emperor saw it, he sent the engineer to his home town. The engineer began the arduous task of building the bridge, but the waters were so variable and high, the piers could not be built. The engineer who was frustrated had a dream, where he went to the Sea Dragon King, and asked for three days to lay the groundwork of the bridge. Miraculously the next week, the water withdrew to the sea, and the workers began laying the piers. Two days passed, and it didn’t seem like the work could be completed in the allotted three. The engineer was bereft, and called out for help. Kuan Yin appeared in a boat. She said, “Anyone who can throw a coin in my lap will be my husband. Many threw coins but none hit her lap. She gave the money to the engineer to hire enough workers to complete the bridge in the last day. And so it happened. The engineer had completed his lifelong goal.
Visualizing an archetype can open up the characteristics hidden in the unconscious. People are drawn to the character in the story that has characteristics that are hidden in their unconscious. The story gives clues of her characteristics that a person wants- appearing when help is needed, pure love for ourselves and others, resources, quick thinking to solve problems, and the availability of help around us.
Her characteristics are love, help, strategies to solve problems, ability to find resources. Which one would you like?
Visualization: Imagine a time recently when the feeling of helpless was vivid. Where were you, who was with you, where did you have a strong feeling in your body? Imagine for a minute that you are Kuan Yin, or that Kuan Yin would come see you, what would happen? You would feel compassion in your heart, and you would notice the help around you.
For those who like facts and history:
Kuan Yin is a Chinese Buddhist bodhisattva. In Buddhism, there are two main traditions, Theravada, the tradition of the elders and Mahayana, the great vehicle tradition. Bodhisattvas are part of Mahayana, in which even though a spiritual seeker has reached the possibility of the release from cycle from birth and rebirth, or nirvana,,he or she chooses to stay in human form to relieve the suffering of others. An ancient Buddhist text which was written in the first century BCE, called the Lotus Sutra, was translated into Chinese around 400 AD. In the Chinese translations the bodhisattva that hears “the cries of the world”, was named Kuan Yin, a feminine deity. In the original text this bodhisattva was name Avalokiteshvara, which the current Dalai Lama incarnates. Transformations of bodhisattva is always possible, sinxe the entity can. take on the form needed by a person.
Palmer, M, Ramsay, J. & Man-Ho Kwok. (1995). Kuan Yin: Myths and prophecies of the Chinese Goddess of Compassion. San Francisco, CA: Thorsons.