Thursday, 2 January 2014

Kanzeon Meditation

Fictional bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Kuan Yin, Guanyin, Kanzeon, Kannon, Gwan-eum, Quan Âm) incarnates a specific insight about the nature of reality, chopped down to a simplistic platitude in the marketplace. The platitude is "Bodhisattva of Compassion", a role most evident in one of his many avatars: the Virgin Mary. (This primordial figure has both genders, befitting the quality she represents. Unfortunately this is more insight than the average monkey can chamber, so in India he's usually called a man; Western Buddhism, with its Christian influence and largely female direction, almost always cleaves to the East Asian tradition that she's a woman.)

But the original Sanskrit – "Lord Who Looks Down" – is a better description of what this bodhisattva actually does. Avalokiteshvara doesn't intervene on anybody's behalf; she's not a patron saint (actual existence being a prerequisite for that job) or goddess. He just, like, looks down. Why? Because she's a compassionate dude.

The more active face of this universe is something sailors readily perceive, because they have an ongoing relationship with another infinite, unfathomable entity that will happily kill you without a second thought. No, not happily. Indifferently. To have contempt for you, it would have to realise you exist. And it's 'way too busy for that.

But the universe has another nature that's just as important: opportunity. In this infinitely generous life, we can grow, learn, change. Practice. An endless stream of bricks bounces off our skull, but every one of them has a note wrapped around it. Kuan Yin looks down from heaven, sees your suffering, and says, "Come on, crow meat! You're hurting both of us, here. Practice, dammit!"

Because the universe wants you to succeed. It may not be snuggly and cute and sweet-smelling, but every problem here is its own cure. And if it weren't for the pain, we'd never be motivated to reach it.

As one of Fudo's crew, I don't meditate much on Avalokiteshvara. But the new year puts me in mind of her. In this moment, more than others, folks think about the paths they arrived on, and those that lie ahead. Along the way we acquire great weights of resentment, and an equally crushing load of denial. We ignore life's windfalls, and our own role in pumping pain into it. But mostly, we deny the simple opportunity it gives us. This ain't hell. We can get out of this.

Some time ago the following meditations invented themselves while I was sitting. I return to them from time to time, when the burden grows great. Therefore, in steely Fudoesque anticipation of 2014, I offer them to all seekers, in the hopes they may be of help to other enlightenment practices.


I forgive myself for not being perfect.
I forgive others for not being perfect as well.
I forgive my judges for not knowing the whole truth.
I forgive humanity for containing evil people.


I honour the progress I've made.
I honour the roads of others as well.
I honour those who evolve with courage.
I honour this life for the opportunity to practice.

(Photo of Guanyin Bodhisattva statue courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation's Southeast Asian Art Collection, and the Walters Art Museum.)
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