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Restoring Kuan Yin

November 10, 2009 by Swami Jyotihananda

swr-w-quanyinspokane95Kuan Yin the Bodisattva of Compassion in the form of a goddess stands in the heart of the atrium of Mandala House at Yasodhara Ashram.  Many an aspirant has been touched by her presence, regal, ready to serve those who come close. In China, Kuan Yin is usually shown in a white flowing robe, in Her right hand is a water jar containing pure water and the left holds a willow branch. Her crown usually depicts the image of Amitabha Buddha, Kuan Yin’s spiritual teacher before she became a Bodhisattva. Swami Jyotihananda shares her reflections on the restoration of Kuan Yin from her oxidized form to her former golden glory, reflecting on her own polishing.

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In mid-July this past year we had an exuberant celebration of the opening of our new Divine Mother Room and part of the delight that weekend was in garlanding all the Divine Mother deities at the Ashram.  One of the Divine Mothers we garlanded was our beautiful Kuan Yin who has graced the centre of the atrium in Mandala House for the past 13 years.

Nearly life size, Kuan Yin had been a gift to Swami Radha and had a special place in her apartment in Spokane during the last years of her life.  Kuan Yin came to the Ashram after Swami Radha died.

If you were here when Kuan Yin was installed in the atrium of Mandala House you will remember her compelling golden glow.  Over the years however, the gilt has discoloured and darkened.  Recently one of our friends, Thierry Brionne, took on the job of restoring her to her former radiance.  This winter he will work on her, gilding her to restore her original beauty and lustre.


The first step of that restoration process happened here in the atrium this summer.  A huge group of people gathered and chanted her name.  Swami Durgananda placed the garlands around her neck and we saw Kuan Yin anew. The time together with her that day became more than a garlanding, it was a recognition that she has been a compassionate presence in our midst for many years and so it became a time of realizing that she is more than just a beautiful image, more than the wood and paint she is made of.  We were reminded that she represents the yearning of all of us who live here and who come here, to discover in ourselves the compassion that is her most powerful quality.


So, with her restoration I have to ask myself, “what is being restored in me?”  I see that it is the continuous reminder that I can keep going towards that place of inner acceptance, the place that shines.   Swami Radha taught me about this compassionate acceptance in the way that she engaged me in the teachings and  stretched me to enter into a much larger vision of what my life could be.  This wasn’t always comfortable and involved starkly looking at my illusions- it still does.  This is her teaching: self acceptance by seeing things clearly, honestly and then accepting the potential that shines out urging—“come on, come on, keep going to the Light.” This is the experience of compassion for me.

This week we are joining with groups all over the world to affirm the Charter of Compassion.  For me our Kuan Yin is a special reminder of the compassion that is all around me if I take the time to listen and to breathe it in. She watches us coming and going, holding her vessel of balm that she pours out for us all with such compassion and generosity.  It’s a reminder that this compassion is within us all.


We are honouring Kuan Yin in bringing back her radiance.  If you want to be involved in her restoration we are happy to receive your donations.  It will cost about $5000 to bring her back to her former splendor. So far we have raised $1700.00, please help us to meet our goal by Christmas. To donate to this radiant restoration project click here.

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