WORSHIPPED PRIMARILY BY WOMEN, QUAN YIN COMFORTS THE TROUBLED, THE SICK, THE LOST, THE SENILE AND THE UNFORTUNATE. HER POPULARITY HAS GROWN THROUGHOUT THE CENTURIES TO THE EXTENT THAT SHE IS NOW REGARDED AS THE PROTECTOR OF SAILORS, FARMERS AND TRAVELERS. QUAN YIN IS SAID TO HEAR ALL PRAYERS AND HAS COMPASSION AND EMPATHY FOR HUMANKIND. SHE ALSO CARES FOR THE SOULS IN THE UNDERWORLD AND IS INVOKED DURING POST-BURIAL RITUALS TO FREE THE SOUL OF ITS PHYSICAL FROM AND THE TORMENTS OF PURGATORY.
THE FOLLOWING OLD CHINESE FAIRYTALE DEPICTS HOW SHE CAME TO BE AND HOW SHE EARNED HER THOUSAND ARMS AND EYES:
"IN CHINA DURING THE 7TH CENTURY A KING HAD THREE DAUGHTERS, AND THE GREATEST DESIRE OF HIS THIRD AND YOUNGEST DAUGHTER WAS TO BE A NUN, BUT THE KING WANTED HER TO MARRY. WHEN SHE PROTESTED, THE KING BECAME ANGRY AND FLEW INTO A RAGE, ORDERING HER TO SERVE THE FAMILY BY DOING THE MOST MENIAL OF TASKS, SUCH AS SCRUBBING CHAMBERPOTS AND GROWING VEGETABLES IN BARREN ROCKY GROUND. HE WAS SURE THAT SUCH TASKS WOULD HUMBLE HER AND MAKE HER CHANGE HER MIND AND FOLLOW HIS WISHES. BUT IT WAS NOT TO BE.
In fact, she was able to grow beautiful vegetables in the garden. When the king saw that his plan was foiled, he grew very angry and ordered her execution. Fortunately, the executioner was a kind-hearted man who devised a way to make the sword break into a thousand pieces, thus leaving the girl unharmed, but the king saw that the execution was not successful, and took matters into his own hands, slaying his own daughter.
"UPON THE HER ARRIVAL IN THE UNDERWORLD, THE FIRES OF HELL WERE PUT OUT. NOW, THE KING OF THE UNDERWORLD DID NOT LIKE THE CHANGES THAT SHE BROUGHT INTO HIS KINGDOM, SO HE RETURNED HER TO THE LAND OF THE LIVING, RIDING IN THE HEART OF A LOTUS BLOOM. WHEN SHE ARRIVED IN THE LAND OF THE LIVING, SHE MADE HER HOME ON THE TOP OF PUTUO, AN ISLAND IN THE SEA. SHE LIVED HERE FOR MANY YEARS HEALING THE SICK AND SAVING MARINERS FROM SHIPWRECK."
"EVENTUALLY, HER FATHER BECAME ILL, AND HE WAS TOLD THAT THE ONLY THING THAT COULD HEAL HIM WAS THE EYES AND ARMS OF A COMPASSIONATE SOUL. UPON HEARING THIS, QUAN YIN WILLINGLY GAVE HER ARMS AND EYES SO THAT HE MIGHT BE HEALED. NOT KNOWING WHO SHE WAS, HE APPROACHED HER TO GIVE HIS THANKS. AS HE RECOGNIZED HER AS HIS DAUGHTER, AND UNDERSTOOD HER SACRIFICE, A CLOUD DESCENDED UPON HER. WHEN THE CLOUD WENT AWAY THE HOLES THAT WERE ONCE HER EYES AND ARMS HAD BEEN REPLACED BY A THOUSAND EYES AND ARMS.
There are temples throughout the world dedicated to this Her, and women in every country pay homage to Her and send Her their pleas for assistance or gratitude for coming to their aid. Often we find Her depicted holding a vase containing the waters of compassion, the lotus flower of enlightenment or the jewel of the three treasures She is also shown with dragons, which are known as the protectors of faith, keeping watch over temples and Heaven itself.
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