China: Sacred Sites of the Divine Feminine

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Putuoshan Island is dedicated to the goddess of compassion, Guanyin. Above she is depicted on the central altar in Puji temple with a smaller statue of Tara below her.  Practitioners come in droves to pray for her mercy and offering gratitude for her blessings. Her large countenance creates a sense of awe when you enter the temple and there is a hushed quiet in the movement of men and women circumambulating her altar.

In September I will be returning to Putuoshan and other sacred sites in of Guanyin to guide a 12 day pilgrimage sponsored by True Nature Journeys.  Please check out: Sacred China and consider joining us!

Sacred China: Pilgrimage to Guanyin

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Announcing a rare opportunity to journey to China next September to visit sites sacred to the Goddess of Compassion, Guanyin.  We will travel together as a small group of pilgrims and practice mindfulness to enhance our receptivity, wisdom and compassion.

The image above is from the Dazu grottos where we will see many beautiful statues and reliefs carved into caves and cliff sites.  These sacred images  from the 7th – 13 centuries are well preserved and still have their original paint.  We will also visit Anyue, Qingcheng and the island of Putuoshan, dedicated to Guanyin since the 9th century.

For more information on this pilgrimage, lead by Deborah Bowman and sponsored by True Nature Journeys, click this link: Sacred China.

For those of you looking for an armchair experience and lots of photos of these rare site, stay tuned to this blog in the coming months!

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving.”

~ Tao te Ching

The Buddha and Bodhisattva in our Heart

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The wooden and stone buddhas and bodhisattvas in temples are not the real Buddha that can inspire us.  They merely help calm us so we can concentrate our minds on the study of the teachings of Buddha.  The truly inspiring Buddha can only be found in our hearts.   ~ Cheng Yen

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The building above is the entrance to the Fayu temple complex built on the side of a mountain on Putuoshan Island in China. You may enter five major temples one after another as you walk up steps between each exquisite site.  Each temple is either dedicated to a particular Buddha or Buddhas or the bodhisattva Guanyin.  The site was dazzling and took us over two hours to visit and make offerings at each temple.

The Guanyin image above was in the final temple at the top and was my favorite in the complex.  She has a vase on one shoulder and a bird sitting on her other shoulder.  The vase represents the healing amrita or water she offers others and the bird refers to the parrot that became her constant companion after she healed his grief from losing his mother.  The rest of the temple was filled with many magnificent large and small Buddhas and Guanyin figures.

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The Female Buddha book

The Female Buddha book

Guanyin in China: Her Sacred Mountain

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Guanyin Altar at Yangzhi Monastery on Putuoshan Island

Putuoshan Island off the coast of Shanghai is one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in China.  Each mountain is dedicated to a particular Bodhisattva and Putuoshan is dedicated to Guanyin, the goddess of compassion.

Last month I visited the many temples dedicated to her at Putuoshan and spent a week studying with Dr. Chun-Fang Yu, Columbia University’s scholar on the Guanyin.  We studied the transformation of this deity from male into female over many centuries in Chinese history.  While in certain settings Guanyin is still depicted as male, at Putuoshan she is primarily considered female and tied to the Chinese folk legend of Miaoshan, a young woman who is transformed into Guanyin through her exceptional sacrifices.

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Guanyin Statue in reconstruction at Fayu Temple on Putuoshan Island

I’ll be sharing more of the story of Miaoshan later in this blog and also for the C.G. Jung Society in Denver on Oct 4.  Learn more about the talk at www.thefemalebuddha.com

Guanyin: Archetype of Liberation and Love:  Friday Oct 4, 7 p.m.,  First Divine Science Church,  14th Ave. and Williams St.,    $15 at the door, $10 for students and seniors

Kindness: A nun in Taiwan

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We need to remember that most of practice can be summed up in kindness.

Charlotte Joko Beck

I feel blessed to include this photo in my book, The Female Buddha: Discovering the Heart of Liberation and Love.  My host in Taiwan, Venerable Jenkir Shih, is pictured on the right with one of her elder students from one of her classes on Buddhism.  She brought me with her to visit this lovely woman after the death of her husband.  Many family members gathered for the visit with Ven. Jenkir and I was treated to the warmth of an extended Chinese family honoring a loved one.

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If you are in Boulder don’t miss my book signing at the Boulder Bookstore, Weds, Apr 24, 7:30 – 8:30.  I will be presenting a slideshow of photos from the book and talking about the quotes from women teachers that accompany the photos.

In Vietnam with Guanyin

Deborah Bowman in a temple in Hoi An, Vietnam

Buddha surrounded by the Feminine

While visiting the home of an elder Taiwanese women I was granted permission to photograph her altar which included this triptych of the Buddha and two images of Guanyin, the Chinese goddess of compassion.  The figure on the Buddha’s right is holding a vase with healing nectars and the figure on the left is hold a lotus flower, symbolic of purity arising from the mud, or the interdependence of samsara and nirvana.

Buddha and Guanyin are standing on lotus flowers and the lights on the altar are also lotus flowers with their images reflected in the glass in the triptych.  The lotus color of pink is associated with Buddhism in the East and is common in the decorations on altars.

Both the Buddha and the Guanyin figure on the right gesture with one hand up in the Dharmachakra mudra representative of their role in teaching the path from suffering to liberation.  Dharmachakra literally means the wheel of Dharma or truth and the gesture of the thumb and forefinger is in the shape of a circle or wheel.

Guanyin is considered to have mastered the Buddha’s teachings and is committed to the salvation of all suffering beings through her healing and teaching.  When visiting temples in Taiwan and Vietnam it was common to see a large Buddha statue flanked on both sides by feminine images of Guanyin.

In some sects Guanyin was the central figure on the altar and in others she may have been a smaller figure but was never absent in these countries of the Chinese diaspora. China has a long history of female goddess figures and was the country where the male Buddhist figure of compassion, Avelokitesvara, transformed into a woman over the course of 800 years.

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Many images and quotes in the spirit of Guanyin are on on the way!

CLICK HERE to receive The Female Buddha book with you donation to our campaign.  Order now for only $35 or $40 to receive a book + notecards by Christmas!

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The Indiegogo campaign offers you the opportunity to receive a signed copy of the Female Buddha book, lovely notecardsphotographs, a workshop, consulting or other generous rewards for your donations.  In the first half of the campaign we have already met 80% of our goal with over $4000 in contributions.  Please join us today in bringing Guanyin to an audience eager for her wisdom and compassion.

Thanks so much for your interest and please, check her out!

www.thefemalebuddha.com

The Generosity of Guanyin in Bangkok’s Chinatown

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We practice generosity with others and with ourselves, over and over again, and the power of it begins to grow until it becomes almost like a waterfall, a flow.  We practice kindness with others and ourselves, over and over again, and this is who we become this is what feels most natural.

 Sharon Salzberg

When I first starting looking for images of Guanyin in Bangkok I headed out to Chinatown.  Like many of our big cities in the United States, Chinatowns may be found throughout the world.  The large cities and coastal town of East Asia were particularly popular for  immigrants when times were hard or there was political repression in China.

The Chinese practiced a form of Buddhism giving devotion to Guanyin and brought many images of the her to the shores of Bangkok where only images of the original Buddha are found.  I discovered the mural above adorning the walls of an outdoor temple amidst a busy street in the heart of Chinatown.

Guanyin has a willow branch in one hand displaying her gentle nature and a vase pouring healing nectar in the other hand.  She rides the back of a dragon on ocean waves with confidence and command.  She is known as the one who hears the cries of the world.

This outdoor temple was part of a Charity Medical Center sponsored by a Buddhist association.  When I went to the door I was asked if I needed medical attention and was touched by their generosity.

Guanyin at Charity Medical Center

At the back of the temple was this life size statue of Guanyin in the male form.  When Buddhism came to China in the 2nd century Guanyin was known by his Indian name, Avelokitasvara.  By the 8th century many depictions were painted and sculpted as  female. Today you will see statues in East Asia that are male, female or androgynous.

Guanyin in Chinatown

I discovered this last image of Guanyin at the back of another temple that was closed for the day.  As you can see many individuals leave sweet and kitschy items to honor her presence.  In the next post I will share more of my photos of the feminine Guanyin found throughout the temples of Bangkok.

For additional inspirational images and quotes go to : www.thefemalebuddha.com  and www.luminousbuddha.com