Kuan Yin – Lady of Light
Kuan Yin’s name means ‘She who hears the cries of the world’. She is my prime figure for the Lady of Light, in terms of a deity or spirit. Her form is mutable, as she appears in various traditions, from Buddhism to Silk Road Christianity. Her name too changes, but always has this meaning of compassion – she looks out for human beings, offers them comfort and protection. Her chief symbols are the moon and the ocean, and she is often associated too with dragon and lotus. My ‘blanc-de-chine’ porcelain figure of Kuan Yin has all these symbols around her, and she can offer dewy drops of consolation too - there’s a secret reservoir to fill with water, and it drips down gently, falling first into the lotus flower and then into the mouth of the crouching dragon at her feet. She is serene, and calm.
I first encountered Kuan Yin in the images I saw along the Silk Road, and then later more directly in her temples in Singapore and Penang. Here too, I discovered her divination system at work, and this is something I’ve brought into my own domain – there’s a blog about it at http://www.cherrygilchrist.co.uk/blog.
One of the most moving accounts of Kuan Yin practices that I’ve seen is a description by an old Chinese nun, about how to practice Kuan Yin Moon Meditation. This I have adapted, practised from time to time, and shared with others. If you would like to try what is truly a Lady of Light type of meditation, then I recommend this. Here are the instructions. Go gently! – it’s what Kuan Yin would wish.
Practising Kuan Yin Moon Meditation
You can practice this meditation either with eyes closed or eyes open. If closed, then you’ll visualise the sequence that follows. If open, then you should sit where your gaze can rest on a blank wall, and this acts as a background on which the images arise. (Even in this case, you may feel that you are ‘seeing’ the images internally, but with your eyes open.) Either way, do everything gently; no forcing, just allowing. You are activating this sequence, and envisaging images as needed, but do so in a spirit of gentle calmness.
Sit quietly, and let your mind go still. Release thoughts, images, colours, and allow yourself to go into neutral. Let your gaze rest. Your vision is empty - everything is empty – you see nothing, an expanse of nothingness.
Now something comes into view. There is the sea in front of you, and the moon rising above it in the night sky. The moon bathes the sea with a soft brightness, and you may observe little silver-topped waves rippling there. You can gaze now at the moon, and allow yourself to feel calm and happy. Give this at least a few minutes to develop.
Then observe how the moon is getting smaller, but brighter. It becomes so bright and so small that it reduces to a dazzling pinprick of light, a radiant tiny pearl in the night sky. This seed of light now begins to grow, and as it does so, it becomes the figure of Kuan Yin herself. She stands tall against the sky, robed in gleaming white. Around her head is a halo of light. Her feet float on the crest of the waves.
Kuan Yin smiles at you, and you feel her affection, love and compassion. Allow yourself to rest in her presence. You can allow emotions to arise and fade away again, like the lapping of the water. If you wish, you can repeat her name silently like a mantra. Let it help you to stay calm in her presence. She may stay with you for a long time, or just for a brief spell. But when you sense that she is leaving, or when your attention starts to flag, let your image of her get smaller and smaller until at last she vanishes, and the sea and the sky go with her. Then, all that is left is space. Relish this space; become a part of it, and know that you are not separate from it.
Now let yourself return gently to your body; sense your posture and bring sensation back into your limbs. Give thanks in your heart before standing.
The original nun’s meditation is given on p.124 of my edition of Bodhisattva of Compassion: the Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin – John Blofeld (Shambhala Classics)