Warp, Weft, and Way

Chinese and Comparative Philosophy 中國哲學與比較哲學

Happy Gregorian New Year!

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Slightly belated, but not too bad. I’ve been a bit incapacitated for blogging by the laptop disaster with which my 3 year old daughter ushered in the new year. So, things will be slow for the next few weeks. My desktop is in the attic office, which has a nice view of the snow-covered golf course, but it is not as convenient to be up here for frequent blog checking.

Anyway, here’s something I’ve been wondering about in passing (very randomly), but I’ll throw it out there for comments or explanations: The current (and every previous) Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of “the Buddha of Compassion.” That means he is Avalokiteshvara, or Chenrezig in Tibetan. There is of course the curious historical transformation in gender that Avalokiteshvara underwent in China, where he–Guanyin–gradually became a feminine deity. So, the Buddha of Compassion in China is the feminine Bodhisattva, Guanyin. How do Tibetan Buddhists who are situated within the Chinese world, then regard the Dalai Lama, with respect to this identity? A different question: how do Chinese Buddhists reconcile the history of Indian Buddhism and Avalokiteshvara’s place in it, with the identity of Guanyin? There’s probably more than one “Chinese Buddhist” answer to the latter, but I don’t know enough to say.

Author: Manyul Im

University of Bridgeport

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