Mr. G wrote:Anders Honore wrote:
If you start hanging out with practitioners who actually devote a lot of time to this mantra, you will hear a lot of stories.
That's not fair...you can't keep us in suspense like that!
This is the stuff monastics like to gossip about.
Anyway, if we're telling stories, perhaps I should tell a few of my own instead:
I was never really into Avalokiteshvara when I was younger. As a Zen practitioner who was into wisdom teachings, awakening by one's own efforts and all that jazz, if there were a bodhisattva I liked it was Manjushri. But principally, who needs bodhisattvas on a path where you're supposed to rely on your own effort? Such was my thinking at any rate. Yet, though I was content to let matters lie, it seemed Avalokiteshvara was not content to leave me alone.
At around the age of 20 I went backpacking in south-east Asia. In central Vietnam, I visited a beautiful Thien monastery with my guide. When he heard I was a mahayana Buddhist myself, he was quite impressed and immediately sought out one of the monks for me to talk to since I wasn't just a regular tourist. He came back a bit later on his own and said that the monk had told him master who had lived here, apparently a famous thien master, had moved up north. But if I was interested in seeing him, the monk had written down directions for me to go there once I got to north Vietnam. I took the note and figured I might as well if I am in the neighbourhood.
It just so happened it was about halfway on the way from Halong Bay to Hanoi, so I got off the tourist bus on the way back from Halong and made my way off the charted tourist maps to this place. With the directions I had gotten from the monk, it wasn't hard to find. When I got there I discovered that this was apparently one of the holiest mountains in Vietnam. Some Japanese Buddhists had even sponsored an aerial lift to take pilgrims to the upper, more passable, half of the mountain. I inquired at the bottom of the mountain about the monastery but just got perplexed looks, then took the lift and started walking up the only path there till I got to a small village, asked there and got a few laughs for my question there. There was no such monastery on this mountain or nearby, someone was playing a joke on me they said. I figured there was probably some language confusion and at any rate I might as well just follow the path to the top. It was quite a beautiful walk with several lovely old hermitages and shrines carved and built along the way. Clearly Dharma practitioners had been practising here for a long time.
Once I got to the top, there was predictably no monastery. Just a hermit who lived in a hut there and tended the old shrine and didn't speak English. He was very friendly though and gave me a stick of incense to offer to the multitude of old statues inside the small shrine. After that, he led me close to the top where the most beautiful statue of Guanyin I had ever seen stood among the clouds. Everything just washed away when I saw this statue and I was filled with peace and... gratitude is perhaps the best words towards this statue for reasons I didn't really understand. Since the clouds roll over the peak all the time, there's a lot of moisture in the air and the flask guanyin carried ended in a point from where drops of condensed water would keep dropping into a small cup at her feet. The hermit caretaker gave me the cup to drink from guanyin's flask and then left me there. Then the clouds cleared and I could see for hundreds of miles across the flat terrain these few mountains jutted out of. It wasn't hard to see why they picked this mountain as a holy one. I ended up spending about an hour just staring at this statue enjoying the peace and gratitude it seemed to emanate, before I started the trip back down (by then it was getting dark. When I finally made it down there was no one else left).
It was only later that evening that I started thinking about the oddness of how it happened. Why on earth would a monk give me such specific directions to a place that didn't exist? Yet though the trip had not been at all what I had expected, it had been entirely worthwhile. That was the first time I began to suspect maybe I should begin to pay some attention to Avalokiteshvara. It seemed at any rate, that s(he) wanted my attention.