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Bodhisattva of Compassion

review by Steven Guth

Kuan Yin statue - click for larger image

The Kuan Yin statue the reviewer refers to in his article. Made from bronze it is gilded and about 18 cms high. Bought in a shop in Waterloo Steet Singapore it currently is the focal point for a wind sylph that lives about the reviewer's hilltop house.

Kuan Yin statue - click for larger image

A Kuan Yin statue in Southern China. Situated above the Canton river this 4 stories high golden Kuan Yin was recently visited by the reviewer Steven Guth (note the head with a hat at the base of the statue). The statue is part of unoccupied monastery complex that the Chinese Government built in about 1990. The statue and the complex - according to Steven - contains a thought form designed to confuse the British Government of Hong Kong and so ease the transition to Chinese rule. A excellent bit of Feng Shui it is an illustration of the current Chinese Government's belief in the art of geomancy'

Blofeld wrote much of his book around this part of China, but in different times. He talks of his interest in Kuan Yin being sparked 40 years, and his book was first published in 1977. Blofeld's China experiences date from pre communist times.

Bodhisattva of Compassion. The mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin

By John Blofeld


First published in 1977 the book charms as a travelogue of the mind. Blofeld, a cultured educated man is no academic. The book's stories sparkle with life. Read it and Kuan Yin will become real enough for you to experience - well, almost to experience.

Blofeld first experienced Kuan Yin when a statue in a temple in southern China "deigned to address me" (see preface). On a fragrant summer night in a deserted temple Blofeld lit an incense stick and whispered to a golden statue, "Compassionate One, be pleased to speak and convince me of your reality. ...the plain truth [Blofeld goes on] is that the statue answered me at once saying: 'Look not for my reality in the realm of appearances or in the void. Seek it in your own mind. There only it resides." (page 29).

If the book has a theme this is it, can we separate our mind from the reality of the total universe? Blofeld comes to the conclusion, which he shares with us, that there is only one mind and we are all part of it. The universal mind is us ...

"Your mind is itself immeasurable, the container of a myriad, myriad universes. All the illimitable power that exists in those myriads of universes would be yours in full, if you had wisdom enough to use it." (page 36)

Ecognosis is about this, how through our minds, through our spirit selves we can work with the devas and spiritual beings with whom we share this planet. How, through our mind, we can make a difference and affect events.

To illustrate this point I'll use one of the tales from the book. A friend of Blofeld's, a professional diplomat, was having his wife and marriage destroyed by his father's wilful and cruel concubine; the diplomat resolved to murder her and was given the opportunity in a deserted cemetery. As he moved in for the kill his intended victim ...

"'Oh no, she didn't scream or draw back -nothing of that sort. On the contrary, she stood very still and, favouring me with a beautiful smile that momentarily took all the hardness from her face, said placidly: "Chiu-k'u-chiu-nan Pu-Sa lai!" (Save-from- Suffering- Save-from-Harm. Bodhisattva- come!)

'From lips accustomed to malice this prayer to Kuan Yin seemed so incongruous that I laughed as I made to seize her or, rather, I opened my mouth to laugh and no doubt it stayed open in sheer amazement, for an iron paralysis had seized me. Hands raised to imprison her in such a way that her mouth would be tightly pressed against my chest to prevent her crying out, I stood as though turned to stone, unable to twitch an eyelid, much less carry out my plan. I have never seen a woman look so happy or so self-assured. As she walked off to rejoin the others, her laughter sounded like the tinkling of jade ornaments. Within seconds I regained my power of movement, but all thought of killing her had been shocked out of me forever. Who was I to pit my strength against the Bodhisattva's?'"

So it is possible to appeal successfully to Kuan Yin. This suggests that Kuan Yin is real, that she can act upon situations in the physical world. Yet, clearly, she has no physical reality, what does this mean? Blofeld recognises this problem and bats it around in many pages of the book. A good illustration is this passage

"'Make no mistake,' cried old Mr Lao sharply, speaking in Cantonese in his eagerness to set the record straight. 'The Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas and their vows are real. It you doubt it, you will be beyond their help!'

'But -'

'Look at this blackwood desk. Is it real, do you think?'

'Yes, of course - real in the limited sense that any phenomenon is real. You can see and touch it.'

'Good. How about, say, justice? We are told, for example, that Britain's legal system ensures you people a greater measure of justice than is to be had in Hong Kong. Is justice real?'

'Ye-es. If you put it that way. Justice can be quantified to some extent and seen to exist in one place but not in another. It would make sense to say that all justice had been banished from such-and-such a country.'

'Excellent. Though you cannot hurt your hand by banging it against justice, you do agree it is real. But why is it real? Because mind conceives it. If human beings were mindless entities like motor-cars, there could be no such thing as justice. Whatever the mind conceives thereby achieves reality.'" (page 87)

Blofeld seems to consider Kuan Yin as the manifestation of an abstract reality that exists at a point of interaction between the universal mind and our personal self.

Now, I have clairvoyantly met Kuan Yin many times, every time I could recognise her as a landscape angel, a water deva or some other nature kingdom being associated with a location. The Kuan Yins I have met were all very place specific. Our household's Kuan Yin resides on what passes as our family altar. I have seen her personality change when we moved house. Originally she was the focal point of a small and very cooperative landscape angel. And now she is a focal point to which the huge wind sylph on our hill is loosely attached. (See my review of Marko Pogacnik's book "Nature Spirits and Elemental Beings" for more about the focal points used by devas.)

Blofeld never mentions the deva or landscape angel aspect of Kuan Yin in his book. It seems as if his mind just wasn't open to the possibility. Blofeld mixed with intellectuals rather than farmers and fishermen so, understandably, he developed an abstract holistic concept of Kuan Yin rather than a directly experiential one.

But, through writing this review I've come to realise that beyond my Kuan Yin experiences there must be a an abstract, even a planetary Kuan Yin that gives us sentient beings compassion. I've spent a day and a night trying to manifest her but so far I've had no success. Perhaps its like asking the concept of 'The Law' to show its face. I'll add a postscript if, and when, she appears.

Back to Blofeld's book. His illustrative stories delightfully educate. The stories unfold the myth. Added together they make a great read that asks us to search our mind for a Kuan Yin that we may or may not find. A book with so much depth that it can be enjoyed and reread many times.

Canberra 7.12.01

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