by Amy Pawlus
In the summer of 2000, I wandered into a bookstore on the north side of Indianapolis. This particular bookstore catered to a new age spiritual crowd and was filled with every product, book, crystal or statue one may need on their spiritual journey.
As I wandered the store, I stopped to admire a small stand of necklaces made of silk cord and adorned with small figurines. Among the figurines were familiar forms such as Jesus, Buddha and the Virgin Mary. One particular figurine was the likeness of an Asian woman wearing a long gown. The instant I laid eyes on her I felt pulled to purchase the little figure even though I had no idea who this woman was.
Upon freeing the necklace, I hustled to the check out and as the woman was bagging up my purchase I mustered the courage to ask who the woman depicted by the figurine was. The sales woman looked at me a bit puzzled and commented that my connection to Kuan Yin must be strong if I was pulled to buy a figure of her without even knowing who she was. She wrote her name down on a business card for me and tucked it into the bag. Upon returning to my car I promptly did the most Midwestern of all things, I hung the necklace from my review mirror and stared at the tiny figure most of the way home.
Opening My Heart to a Goddess
For several years that little statue of Kuan Yin hung in my car and my relationship with her grew. A friend of mine gave me a book on Kuan Yin one day after she had been cleaning her bookshelves and intuitively knew the book was meant for me. Another friend offered me a small porcelain statue of Kuan Yin atop a lotus flower because she felt compelled to offer the gift to me. I received cards with quotes credited to her, noticed images of her in places I had passed a thousand times and not seen before, I had dreams of being in her presence. She was silently filling my heart and my mind as I opened up to receive her into my life.
Very few people have known of my growing relationship with Kuan Yin. I believe that the strength of my connection to her coupled with my silence about the connection is part of what makes the story of the statue all the more powerful.
A few years ago, my husband and daughter became quite fond of fishing together. My husband often talked of buying a fishing boat. One afternoon, he decided he would try putting an ad on Craig’s list offering to trade dental work (he is a dentist) for a fishing boat. One response to the ad came from a man in his eighties named Nicholas Crome. He said in his note that he in fact did not have a fishing boat but he did have a few pieces of Asian art and a Chinese statue made of Ivory he would be willing to trade for some much needed dental care. I believe it is important to say that Mr. Crome was offering what he had on a gut feeling that we may be interested. What he did not know is that my husband and I lived in Japan for several years and are quasi collectors of Asian art and antiques.
The Anniversary Gift
My husband agreed to meet with Nicholas and found him to be an amazing man. He had been a professor at Indiana University who taught poetry in his younger years. He was the son of an art collector who traveled the world buying and selling Asian art and artifacts. After the death of Nicholas’ father, there were many pieces of art left sitting in boxes. One was the ivory statue he had brought with him. He had no idea who the woman depicted by the statue was or where the statue had originated. All he knew is that his father purchased the statue in the 1960’s in New York City and had been fond of the statue while he was alive. Since his death, the statue had been in the closet of Nicholas’ home. When Nicholas and John opened the box they found a statue of Kuan Yin that had been hand carved from ivory. She was dirty and dusty from years of storage but nonetheless beautiful.
The statue was cleaned and restored some to her original sheen. She was presented to me on our wedding anniversary as a gift from John. The moment I lifted her from the box I was speechless. I had never seen such a beautiful depiction of Kuan Yin. I sat motionless and silent for a long time. Putting my hands upon the statue I took in the vibration, the essence, the spirit of her long journey to the place where she sat in my living room. I felt a profound sense of gratitude that moved into a sense of protectiveness. It would take several weeks before I truly understood the mix of emotion and insight I felt that day.
For weeks, I would sit and place my attention on the statue. I would meditate in her presence, talk to her or honor her as I walked by, ask for her guidance when I felt I needed a deeper connection. In the midst of those experiences I came to understand why she, in statue form, was in my presence. Kuan Yin affirms life, she attends, she stimulates each of us to see the world through new eyes; compassionate ones. She serves humanity and will continue to do so until each of us has reached the end of our cycle of rebirth.
The Statue Does Not Belong to Me
This statue was made from the hands of someone who knew Kuan Yin. The artist knew her grace, her mercy and her conviction. Sometime in the mid to late 1800’s this artist took the time to bring the image of Kuan Yin to life in the form of this Ivory statue. How she moved between the hands of the artist to the hands of the art collector is a mystery. I may never know her journey of the nearly 100 years between those two sets of hands. What I do know is the statue is here on this planet to invoke the spirit of the Goddess and for many years her mission was delayed while she waited patiently in a cardboard box. She came to me so that I may offer what she does. I affirm her life, I attend to her, I care deeply for her and for the mission she has in this world. I know the statue does not belong to me. I believe I am the keeper of the statue for now. I am to care for her, nurture her, and expectantly wait until I find her rightful place in this world.• – from The Taraka Yoga of Kuan Yin