A Discourse With YesheRabbit
Topic: Kwan Seum Bosal
Date: May 6, 2014
Today, we’re working with the Korean form of Kwan Seum. She is like Avolokitashvara and Guan Yin, a Bodhisattva of compassion. She finds her origin among the Korean people and I have a special affinity with this particular yidam for the fact that my sister is an adoptee from Seoul, South Korea.
My sister, in certain ways, is part of the reason why I meditate. My mom is a scholar and a philosopher, a humanitarian, among other things. When we were adopting my sister, she remembered, from her study of comparative religion and philosophy, the Buddhist practices and felt like it might be good for our family to learn some of the practices associated with the culture that our new family member was coming from. So, my sister came at the age of sixteen months and I was four years old, and my mother. In an attempt to reach out and connect with her and to show her our commitment as a family to being sensitive and welcoming to her - hopefully on her own terms - my mother really wanted to mindfully bring forward a commitment to Korean culture. That commitment to Korean culture has infused every part of our lives from then until now. It involved us learning to mediate, it involved learning to cook the foods of Korea, it involved us making friends with every Korean person we could find within a hundred mile radius (which in rural western New York was still a pretty small handful).
I will tell you that my sister came to us with malnourishment, having been traumatized by being parted from her biological family and she, none the less, found ways to overcome her fears and her hesitation even as a sixteenth month old baby. It was watching her strength and my mom’s compassion that taught me what I think of when I think of Guan Yin or Kwan Seum. It’s all that motherly compassion, with all that strength of will, of somebody who is in survival mode.
In my experience, Kwan Yin shows up just when we need her. She shows up as a balm and succor and a refuge in a storm. She shows up fiercely protective of children and the
underserved in all ways. She is really special, I think, as a figure for us, in the West, who struggle with the idea of how to do compassion well. It is as though we are taught that compassion involves a form of weakness and to be compassionate to someone is somehow to weaken. (This can effect the) way that we treat people who wrong us, the way that we treat criminals, the way that we treat people who were born into some form of disadvantage (economically or in the strata of society they were born into - obviously in terms of race there is a lot we can look at in terms of how people’s oppression bubbles in their lives and dominate them and force them back into boxes they don’t want to be in). We see that all the time in our everyday treatment of race, ability, and age.
What I’ve gleamed, from watching my own relationship with Kwan Seum grow over the years, is that everyone comes to her at a time. There is nobody who doesn’t need her, at a time. Whether we find ourselves at a loss, whether we are struggling because of a lack of privilege in this society, or whether we’ve enjoyed privileges and just find ourselves to be profoundly suffering right now in some state of burden (be it with our family, our work, or our love, or any combination of the above). We all come to her. We all, at some point, can throw ourselves at the feet of Kwan Seum Bosal and ask for her to give us succor, refuge, shelter, and help.
Today is also Our Lady of Miracles and it is another syncretism, that we see in the West, between Kwan Yin and the Virgin Mary as these open hearted vessels of compassion. Obviously, that is not as simple as we can really point our finger to right now nor is it something we can really cover here. But, we can come back to it at another time, if people want to talk about Yidam, syncretistic, and other deities in the future. But, for tonight, lets, all of us, fling ourselves at the feet of Our Lady of Miracles, of Kwan Seum Bosal, of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and ask for her to give refuge, shelter, and succor to all of those who suffer.