The Play of Light & Dark
At the root of Chinese thinking and feeling there lies the principle of polarity, which is not to be confused with the ideas of opposition or conflict. This is very different from the Western ideology. In the West, light is at war with darkness, life with death, good with evil, and the positive with the negative. As a child, life was presented to me as a championing of the light at the expense of the dark.
Every artist knows the need for contrast.
Every engineer knows the need for positive and negative poles for electric current.
Life is a system of relationships. Life is navigation rather than warfare. Taoists understand this.
In Chinese, the two poles of cosmic energy are yang, the positive, and yin, the negative. The ideograms indicate the sunny and shady sides of a hill, and they are associated with the masculine and the feminine, the firm and the yielding, the strong and the weak, the light and the dark, the rising and the falling, heaven and earth, even hot and cold foods.
The art of life is to keep yang and yin in balance.
Yang and Yin are principles, not male and female. The key to the relationship between yang and yin is called hsiang sheng, mutual arising or inseparabililty. Neither, either, yet both.
ILLUSTRATING THIS CONCEPT ARE AVALOKITESVARA and KUAN YIN.
Both are considered the Guanshiyin Bodhisattva spoken of by the Buddha in his last days and recorded in a text called The Lotus Sutra. Bodhi means wisdom or enlightenment; sattva means being or essence. Put the two Sanskrit words together and the result is “bodhisattva”, a being who is enlightened and ready to transcend the cycles of birth and death yet makes the choice to return to the material world in order to help other people reach the same level of enlightenment. For the Buddhist, this is the ultimate demonstration of pure compassion.
Both Avalokitesvara and Kuan Yin are saviors and redeemers. Both attend the sounds of the world albeit through two different doors. Both are depicted with a thousand hands eager to lend assistance to those who call upon them. There are a thousand eyes on these hands which give Avalokitesvara and Kuan Yin great powers to observe the world. Their most outstanding difference is gender, male and female.
Chapter 25 of The Lotus Sutra is called “The Universal Door of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva”. Buddha describes the masculine form of the Bodhisattva, allowing for seven references to the feminine form. Thirty-three Bodhisattva powers capable of interceding for favorable outcomes in every conceivable calamity are cited.
The male expression of Guanshiyin as the great protector initiates the process that is saving what is valuable in the life experiences. He is the one who watches, who keeps his eye on the events unfolding in the world.
The female expression of Guanshiyin as the goddess of mercy carries the process of saving forward through receiving that which needs to be understood. She is the one who listens, who trains her ear for what is worth the keeping.
FROM THE TIME THE BODHISATTVA ENTERED CHINA, the feminine aspect grew. By the 6th century, Kuan Yin’s virtue and nature inspired poetry contests. The poems span centuries, and were eventually compiled into one complete work of 100. All over the world, people recite these verses daily to cure the ills befalling them. The Bodhisattva work of aiding humanity to navigate the unpredictable waters of daily life continues today.
Much has evolved in the consciousness of humanity since The Lotus Sutra and Kuan Yin’s poems were recorded. I see these as both reflective of and responsive to the times they entered the world, spreading, then becoming increasingly available for the spiritual growth of the human family. The concept of Bodhisattva tells us there are things worth saving from our physical lives.
We do not take the people or things we encounter in our lives with us when we leave the physical world at death. What we carry are the results of how we have drawn upon the gifts of the Spirit in its wholeness. When Avalokitesvara and Kuan Yin stand side-by-side the wholeness is seen. This is why these Kuan Yin Verses are presented in their Yang-Yin form, to make it easier for you to divine the whole image that is at your service.
Compassion is an early manifestation of Holy Spirit expressed well by Confucius around 500 BC. When a student asked him what ren is, Confucius replied, “to love people” (The Analects 12.22). He believed that people are born by nature to be kind and it is only environment that makes people different. Benevolence begins with “do no harm onto others lest you do not want others to do harm to you.” With ren, we place others in front of the Self, treating their success as our own. This Spirit extended to all people, in all situations, benefits all. This is a picture of the individual who practices the consciousness of Avalokitesvara, compassion.
Love naturally springs from compassion as the Spirit entering into our individual interactions with others. Love is personal.
Echoing Confucius’ wisdom, Jesus taught his disciples to love one another. When a lawyer asked him the greatest principle in the Law, what in Buddhism is the Dharma, Jesus reduced the separate thoughts defined in the ten commandments given to Moses, into two. The first establishes connection with the I Am Consciousness, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” The second affirms the attitude toward others that then naturally follows, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This teaching gives order to our expression of love.
Love comes from the Holy Spirit. Compassion and Love, together, are the means for understanding a world that often makes no sense at all.
Working together, Compassion and Love are capable of building a bridge between experience and understanding. The Saviour who guides us, the Atman who has toiled in the Tomb World again and again in service to the whole Self, now becomes the Inner Teacher.
This interpretation of Kuan Yin’s poems is filled with the Holy Spirit. Written in the Universal Language of Mind, each verse speaks to the whole Mind of the reader. It is like a hologram, revealing the Light and Love in the creative nature of your own thought.