A Buddhist goddess is gaining the devotion and attention of Asians and Westerners alike for her compassionate and motherly attributes.
The Dallas Morning News (May 19) reports that the influence of Kwan Yin, the Asian goddess of compassion, is “slowly spreading through mainstream American culture after inspiring millions of Asians for centuries.” There is a “new wave of Kwan Yin statues, fountains, devotional materials, meditation supplies, paintings, images, books and Web sites.
This summer, there will be Kwan Yin events across the country . . . Kwan Yin retreats for women will take place in such states as new Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Washington,” writes Colleen O’Connor.
But devotees of Kwan Yin are not necessarily Buddhists nor women. The trend parallels the renewed interest in the Virgin Mary, as in both cases “People are looking more and more to the feminine dimension of spirituality. They’re trying to find values other than the competitive ones,” says Maria Reis Habito, a Kwan Yin scholar at Southern Methodist University.
The Kwan Yin Society of North America was founded in 1999 by a man. Founder David Briscoe says that in his group “there is no attempt to confine or define Kwan Yin as exclusively female or male. A surprising thing has been that forty percent of the inquiries to our Web site have been from men.”