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!

Going Beyond Our Conditioning with Energy and Insight

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By trusting in our own resources of understanding, energy and insight we have access to the power to go beyond the boundaries of our conditioning.  We begin naturally to explore the depths and possibilities of our own being.

~ Christina Feldman

IMG_9546_lzn May you be blessed with energy and insight in the New Year!

Warmly, Deborah

P.S. Temple photos from my trip to Taiwan in 2010.

Quotes on Courage: Buddhist Women Ride the Dragon

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To live the full life one must have the courage to bear the responsibility of the needs of others – one must want to bear this responsibility.

Aung San Suu Kyi

 

It’s not that hard to be enlightened!  Just change your patterns!  All it takes is courage!

Khandro Rinpoche

 

We aspire to spend our lives training in the loving-kindness and courage that it takes to receive whatever appears – sickness, health, poverty, wealth, sorrow, and joy.  We welcome and get to know them all.

Pema Chodron

When I was researching quotes to put in my book, The Female Buddha: Discovering the Heart of Liberation and Love, I copied down many possible quotes before deciding which ones to pair with photos of Guanyin and women at temple sites in Asia.  Today I searched the collection for the word courage and found so many quotes referencing this trait!

Above are a few of my favorite quotes from women I admire for their courage to speak out and not always say what we want to hear.

This photo from my travels in Korea depicts Guanyin riding the dragon over the waves of the ocean; symbolic of the courage it takes to trust one’s basic nature of compassion and equanimity.  When our emotions are like tempestuous waves it is often difficult to remember we can stay calm in the storm.

Guanyin is often depicted calmly riding on the back of an animal.  It could be a dragon, carp, horse, lion or immense turtle.  She reminds us that we are one with the natural world and the implication that we can trust our power and strength needed to fuel courage.

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The Patience of a Mother

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Patience takes courage.  It is not an ideal state of calm.  In fact, when we practice patience we will see our agitation far more clearly.

Pema Chodron

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I took these photos at the Denver Botanical Gardens several years ago when there was a show of African Sculpture in the Gardens.  This figure was one of my favorites.  The top photo shows the mother and the bottom photo shows her two children leaning against her large figure.

The quote from Pema reminded me of her patience and eternal support for her children, something the stone sculpture seems to reinforce. And what patience demonstrated by the artist!

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The Female Buddha book

The Female Buddha book

Approaching Guanyin’s Altar

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We approach Kwan Yin as who we are.  we welcome her into our real, everyday lives. We open ourselves to her as our individual minds and hearts can understand her.  This is how it has always been with Kwan Yin.  she offers her myriad forms to us and promises only as much as we are open to receive in and from ourselves.  She enters and becomes us, we enter and become her.

Sandy Boucher

 

These two images of Guanyin in Marble Mountain Cave in Vietnam struck me as two incarnations of the bodhisattva.  One older and carved from wood, unique in its depiction of her eternal connection to the ground of being. The other statue light and feminine, like a breeze of fresh air.  Their juxtaposition reminding me of the broad range her compassion and willingness to manifest as needed to relieve the suffering of the world.  How has she entered and become us?  How have we entered and become her?

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Guanyin in China: Inclusive and Connected

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Spirituality is the movement from our prison of self-blame and self-preoccupation to an inclusive and open engagement with all of life.  In many ways a spiritual path is essentially about connection – a deep connection to our own inherent capacity for wisdom and love no matter what, a connection to a bigger picture of life no matter what.        ~Sharon Salzberg

This image of Guanyin, taken at Fayu temple on the island of Putuoshan, captures her amid many historic and mythological figures of China.  It captures the spiritual importance Chinese Buddhists place on her role as the Bodhisattva of Compassion and her relationship to the vast pantheon of spiritual personalities.

The diorama was placed on the backside of the altar and she was “mobbed” by worshippers as they circumambulated the temple.  I had to wait for an opportunity to capture her photo as individuals bowed and made offerings at the statue’s feet.

In the photo below, in Shanghai, we discovered another diorama featuring Guanyin placed similarly in the Jade Temple.  It was a day to honor ancestors and again we encountered large crowds making offering to Guanyin and Buddha.

We never encountered another Westerner in the days we spent visiting temples and gathering images of Guanyin in China.  In some ways we were invisible yet connected, everyone intent in their devotion to the divine.

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GUANYIN: THE EMBODIMENT OF LIBERATION AND LOVE

Free talk/slides: Fri, Feb  21,  7 pm, Paramita Campus, 3285 30th St., Boulder, CO 

Focusing on the qualities of selflessness central to Guanyin, we will explore her incarnation as the Chinese folk legend Miao-shan, and compare her to the Handless Maiden in the western fairy tale.  These stories ask soul-searching questions:  What is sacrifice? What is unconditional love?  How is the feminine liberated from patriarchal dictates?

TEMPLES OF SOUTH AND EAST ASIA: DISCOVERING THE SUBLIME IN A PHOTO

Free talk/slides: Tues, Mar 11, 7 pm, Changes in Latitude, 2525 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder

Join Deborah Bowman in a search of the transcendent at temple sites in Asia.  Enjoy the draw of both famous and obscure sites at times of silence or among throngs at colorful festivals.   Come now to enjoy a feast of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas or learn tips for great shots at exquisite gardens or inside darkened temples.

Deborah Bowman, Ph.D., is a photographer, psychologist & professor at Naropa University.

Enlightened Women of the Therigatha

Therigatha Altar

Therigatha Altar

There are women teachers everywhere.  It is for me to recognize and acknowledge this fact.

China Galland

The hand formed clay figures above represent the 12 women who were recognized by the Buddha for having exceptional skills and enlightenment.  They are known as Therigatha, or women elders in the early Buddhist tradition.  These figures were made by the Venerable Dhammananda, the abbess of the Songdhammakalyani monastery for women in Thailand.

I had the delight and honor to spend 3 days practicing and photographing the nuns at the monastery.  The clay figures were one of the priceless finds on the altar in one of the temples where we practiced meditation.

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Watermoon Guanyin, Sanyi, Taiwan

Guanyin at Wat Pho

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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

Generosity on this Path of Love

Chinese Statue at Wat Arun, Bangkok

Chinese Statue at Wat Arun, Bangkok

Together on this path of love, we can try to make a small difference in someone’s life.  What else is there to do?

Sister Chan Khong

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I’m in China this month studying and practicing at Putuoshan, an island dedicated to Guanyin since the last millennium.  My husband and I received generous scholarships from a Chinese and American organization and are grateful for the opportunity to share our experience when we return.

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