I am experiencing and cultivating an opening of my heart that allows for tenderness, for forgiveness, for a deep listening to others and myself. Kwan Yin has been part of this opening.
This is an excerpt from the introduction to
The Female Buddha: Discovering the Heart of Liberation and Love – to be published in 2012
Twenty years ago I dreamt I was walking in a large English garden in which there were three towering figures of female Buddhas carved out of black stone. Each was over 100 feet tall sitting peacefully in meditation. In awe, I walked between them on quiet, carefully tended pathways. The wonder and serenity I felt in the presence of these majestic figures are indelible in my memory.
Coming at a time of great upheaval in my life, this dream was a spiritual landmark. Outwardly, I was counseling a large group of psychology students, trying to help them find a school in which they could complete their studies since their college was collapsing – it was about to close. Inwardly, I wrestled with the responsibility of leadership. Although I was no longer one of their teachers, I had willingly accepted the presidency of the college, a dying institution, in order to find a new home for their degree program. At the end of long days, overwhelmed by the loss of a community of learners, I often dissolved in tears of sadness.
Within weeks of this dream, I began conversations with a Buddhist-inspired college, Naropa Institute. Interest on both sides quickly blossomed into planning sessions and within four months our displaced students were enrolling in a newly developed program that merged our transpersonal emphasis with comprehensive meditation and mindfulness practice. While I had previously studied and practiced Buddhism, over the course of my time at what is now Naropa University, I was led to make a personal commitment to the Buddhist path. Not only had the dream presaged my inner journey, it provided confirmation of the outer collaboration with Naropa as well.
On a deeper, archetypal level, I believe the female Buddhas reflect a progressive ripening of the consciousness of humankind. Dreams often show us what we are ignoring within ourselves, whether it is our potential, our wounds or our folly. As a psychologist, I have been witness to the profound impact of dreams of the Black Madonna on my clients and the tremendous love she represents to those who dream of her. From the Western Christian tradition, I believe she is an embodied image much like the female Buddhas in my dream.
The three figures in the garden came to me as feminine symbols representing the heart of Buddhist teachings. At the time of my distress I was not yet tapping into this gentle yet strong, resource of wisdom. It took their towering manifestation in my dream to rouse me to greater consciousness. Seventeen years later, in traveling through Asia, I discovered the female Buddha’s ubiquitous presence in the form of Guanyin[i], a feminine icon of the enlightened heart and mind.
[i] The spelling of Guanyin in this text is in the Pinyin style. Pinyin is now considered the standard for Chinese Mandarin in Mainland China and Taiwan. Kwan Yin and Quan Yin are considered Cantonese spellings derived from Hong Kong and Southern parts of China and are also in common usage in the West.