The Goddess Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion
by Tim Kavi
With her origins still being debated over, we can at least attest that Kwan means to inquire deeply and that Yin means to cry. This goddess is shown in many forms, but they all show her unique compassion and mercy. Many times you can see Kwan Yin as a slender woman in flowing white robes carrying a white lotus in her left hand which is a representation of purity and the ideal of womanhood. She might also be seen wearing ornaments to show her stature, or without them to show how modest she is.
Kwan Yin is also known as a “bringer of children”. Because of this, many images of her can be seen in homes and temples. In these instances, a large white veil will be covering her whole body and she could be seated on a lotus, rather than carrying one. Instead, a child will be in her arms, or the child will be seated near her. Sometimes you can see her with several children at once, which she is then known to be the “white-robed honored one”.
Many times you will see Kwan Yin with several hands, heads and eyes, plus a thousand arms. In the palms of each of her hands there will sometimes be an eye. This symbolizes her as the omnipresent “Divine Mother” being able to see in all directions at once and therefore all the problems of humanity. In this image she reaches out to everyone with her extreme compassion and mercy to help console all. Her name is also spelled Quan Yin, or Kuan Yin, and some scholars say that she is foreshadowed by, or is identical to an earlier deity named Avalokitasvara.