In Chinese Buddhism, Guanyin is a very important Bodhisattva, or archetype. She has been a very important figure in my life, and I think this sculpture is particularly beautiful. She is sitting in the posture of ‘royal ease’ meaning that she is at ease with herself and the world.
She is often the centerpiece in Chinese family altars. There are many porcelain Guanyins, but there’s something about the raw earthiness of this one because she is made from timber. I loved this particular sculpture probably even before I was interested in Buddhism. She emanates genuine warmth and is the embodiment of compassion and wisdom.
In Buddhism, compassion isn’t just about kindness. Being kind is a part of it – we can be kind to animals or children – but compassion is a profound state of receiving. It is the capacity to hold everything that you are: the good and the bad, the things that you’re ashamed of, the things that you are joyful of, and to hold them all unflinchingly.
This Guanyin is at ease with herself, at ease within the world, holding everything – even the most difficult. To me, this is a fundamental principle. If you learn to hold everything that you are with compassion, then the seemingly warring factions within ‘self’ will find peace, and then that peace ripples out into the world.