May 29 2016 – month of daily flower & buddha photos – Day 29
Quan-yin (Kannon, Avalokiteshvara), porcelain, China.
“Hsin is one of those Chinese words which defy translation. When the Indian scholars were trying to translate the Buddhist Sanskrit words into Chinese, they discovered that there were five classes of Sanskrit terms which could not be satisfactorily rendered into Chinese. We thus find in the Chinese Tripitaka [Buddhist scriptural literature canon] such words as Prajna [Pragya], Bodhi, Buddha, Nirvana, Dhyana, Bodhisattva, etc., almost always untranslated; and they now appear in their original Sanskrit form among the technical Buddhist terminology. If we could leave Hsin with all its nuance of meaning in the translation, it would save us from many difficulties that face us in its English rendering. For Hsin means “mind, “heart, “soul,” “spirit”—each singly as well as all inclusively. In Zen books it has sometimes an intellectual connotation; but at other times it can properly be done by “heart.” But as the predominant note of Zen Buddhism is more intellectual than anything else, though not in the sense of being logical or philosophical, I decided here to translate Hsin by “mind” rather than by “heart,” and by this mind I do not mean our psychological mind, but what may be called absolute mind, or Mind (with capital M).”
—D.T. Suzuki, Manual of Zen Buddhism (1934)
“Though Suzuki has explained the matter well, still you might ask: “Why didn’t the Chinese simply create another character to stand for this mind with capital M?” …I can only say that the Chinese character hsin (or shin), having two meanings associated with it, is well suited actually to express the essence of Zen. Why? Because if there were two letters or characters, one for psychological mind, the other for absolute mind, the reader might think that there were in fact two different minds involved, each entirely alien to and separate from the other. Such a dualistic conception is the enemy of Zen! Your psychological mind moves like waves in the ocean; the ocean is the essence of mind itself. The mind that concentrates on the book is the very same Mind that embraces the whole universe. During long meditation retreats, our minds become naturally more concentrated, but before long, as our meditation deepens, we find ourselves entering gracefully into the realm of samadhi where, without even knowing it, we realize the meaning of unification of mind—the unity within itself of mind as Mind and of Mind in unity with the universe.”
—Ven. Nyogen Senzaki sensei, 1938
Senzaki sensei (Uncle Nogie) and Prof Suzuki sensei (Uncle Sookie) were both friends of my childhood family. They had both been students together under Soyen Shaku Roshi, although Dr Suzuki had earlier studied together with Soyen under their mutual teacher, Imakita Kōsen Roshi. Both Suzuki and Senzaki had aided their teacher Soyen in his teaching tours of America. Soyen regarded both these students of his as having achieved enlightenment, and had nominated Senzaki to succeed him as chief abbot of the Rinzai Zen sect.
Quan-Yin (Kannon) is the fully enlightened bodhisattva or buddha, Avalokiteshvara. Although originally understood as male, as familiarity with Avalokiteshwara gradually spread from India and Tibet to China, Korea and Japan, the bodhisattiva became increasingly conceived and depicted as more or less androgynous and then as female. She becomes most familiar in East Asia as the Buddha of Compassion, the equivalent of the Mother Goddess of Mercy. In this expression She is revered also in Daoism and Shinto, and for some East Asian Christians (especially Buddhist/Daoist/Shinto-Christians) is more or less interchangeable with the Blessed Virgin Mary. In Tibet, Avalokiteshvara remains revered as the patron buddha of Tibet whose principal Earthly incarnation or emanation is that of the Dalai Lama, now in his fourteen generational incarnation in that role. His Holiness the 14th (present) Dalai Lama has stated that his may be the last in this series of incarnations to hold the office, but that his next Earthly incarnation will be as a woman.
In many mainstream understandings within traditional Christianity, God (and/or the Son of God) as the eternal Christ has incarnated on Earth only once as the historical Jesus, and will return again in the future, only once, in the same male, Earth-born but later transfigured, murdered, resurrected and ascended human body. In Buddhism, the understanding is that an enlightened bodhisattva (ie a buddha) such as Avalokiteshvara, can incarnate not only many times in a row, virtually an infinite sequential series of Earthly lifetimes, but may also incarnate in a multiple, virtually infinite, number of Earth-born existences during the same time period of a given generation of human existence.
In Tibetan culture, a number of present-day living lamas (teachers), in addition to the Dalai Lama, are regarded as simultaneously-existing Earthly incarnations, (multiple co-existing) emanations of buddha Avalokiteshwara, who (in and of Himself/Herself), is an enlightened expression of Buddha-nature, or Buddha-mind, absolute Mind or universal Mind, the essence of which is the eternal, infinite unity of wisdom and compassion, of pure bliss and pure being. Avalokiteshwara’s nature, it is understand, is such that He/She will continue to incarnate on Earth in every generation, in as many uniquely singular and/or simultaneous forms as necessary to inspire, guide, and help ultimately liberate all beings from the suffering of conditioned (ego-bound) existence (primordial ignorance of their own true nature as universal Buddha-mind).
The goal of all traditional schools of Buddhism, and the traditional understanding of the purpose of the various incarnations of all buddhas such as Shakyamuni, Avalokiteshvara, and others, is not to convert other beings to becoming Buddhists, or to demand or inculcate worship (much less fear!!) of Avalokiteshvara or Shakyamuni or other buddhas as deities and saviours, but to fully awaken, and to encourage and assist all beings in fully awakening, to each one’s own inherent potential of wisdom and compassion as expressions of their own original infinite nature, enlightened Mind.