Avalokiteśvara manifested


Friday night, I posted a playful and sincere post about Avalokiteśvara and single parents.

Playful in the sense that I hope no one really thought that I sprouted a couple of extra arms, but quite sincere in my compassion for those taking care of children on their own.

Personally, I speak the name Avalokiteśvara (GwanSaeEum in Korean) to invoke and strengthen my capacity for compassion. Although my minuscule awareness of the struggles that single parenting must endure came from personal experience, my compassion for them was as selflessly given as I am capable of doing. I had no thoughts of merit or “good Karma” or anything like that at the time.

That’s why it struck me as very peculiar that the next morning, EunBong’s father came to our house with a gift for me; the most beautiful bronze casting of Avalokiteśvara that I’ve ever seen. He said that he told his friend that he wanted to find a really good quality statue for his son-in-law, and his friend brought him this statue. I don’t know how his friend came across it, but he told EunBong’s dad that it had been in a remote mountain temple. It looks like a Nepalese casting, except that the bottom is soldered on, so it could be from India or Tibet. It’s a bit scuffed, and looks very old.

I almost feel like I shouldn’t have it, that it should still be in a far-off shrine somewhere but, at the same time, I’m a little intrigued at how it found its way into my home, pleased that the energy here could invoke such a beautiful object. Or, yet another object to teach me non-attachment!


15 responses »

  1. Hi Joseph,
    That’s a really beautiful statue! It has the look of Nepali or Indian, but the quality looks off the charts compared to the usual stuff that’s sold. Did your father say where (what country) his friend had gotten it?

    • He got it in Korea.
      I’m wondering if a monk or layman may have brought it to a temple in Korea as a gift after a trip.
      I didn’t ask specifically where he found it, it might be better if I don’t know… he might have found it in market place somewhere though.

      • That’s a bit of a relief, if he’d gotten on a trip to China, I would actually have been a bit worried about it being looted from Tibet. What do you think of the quality compared to what you’ve seen for sale while on your travels?

        • I was a bit concerned that it may have been looted from a Korean temple, but that’s probably not as likely…

          The craftsmanship is exellent, but I don’t think it’s pure bronze, hence the bottom being soldered. It’s usually a sign that it’s not soft enough to hammer the bottom on.

          • It’s definitely not Korean style. I’ve never actually seen this style in a traditionaly temple. If you go to Insadong, you can see a lot of stuff that’s actually Chinese, especially the wooden and stone pieces, and may have been looted. There’s also a huge “antique” production in China. It seems unlikely that someone would bother to bring looted statue like this to sell in Korea, though. What do you feel when you’re sitting quietly with it?

            • My “feeling” was that it might have come from Tibet, (looks very similar to Nepalese, but inferior material) and probably passed around quite a bit until now (explaining the marks on it), but to have that quality of detail in any casting means someone put a great deal of care and work into its production. I did some casting in university, and what comes out of the mold is not nearly a finished product.

              He said that it had been in a Korean temple, which makes me think someone carried it back from a trip, or he could have been lying to make it seem like a more precious gift.

              When I listened to the statue, it told me that what ever it’s trip was, it meant to find its way to me, now. I’m sure the statue will outlast me, so it’s just a stop on its journey.

            • Well, I got the story straight this time…
              It was half what I expected, but quite a lot stranger than I’d have guessed!

              It was, in fact, looted, not from a temple, but from a 500won claw machine (explaining the scratch marks all over it) outside a convenience store in Suwon…

              EunBong’s dad and his Taxi driver friends were sitting by the machine drinking and the shop owner came out to replenish the machine. One of the things he put in was the statue. EunBong’s dad said to him, ‘Hey, how can you put a nice thing like that in the machine, just anybody could come along and get it?”

              The shopkeep replied, “No, nobody can ever win this!”

              When he was gone, one of EunBong’s dad’s friend (allegedly) got it, somehow. I don’t know if they pried the lid open or if the guy hadn’t put it in yet… but anyway, they made off with it.

              How’s that for a situation not to label as good or bad? It was stolen from a guy who was basically using it to steal money from others…
              I’m reminded of my initial feeling about it that there was something strange about its journey but there was some sort of energy that intended to bring it here…

              • Actually, I’m a bit confused about the right thing to do in this situation… I probably shouldn’t have asked, but I had a feeling there was something odd about the way he got it.

                Also, he told EunBong not to tell me how he got it, so if I say anything, it’ll cause some trouble that way, too…

                • What a wild story! With the flowing clouds and arms of the statue, I’d guess there’s enought for the claw to grip. Anyway, it definitely didn’t belong in such an environment. That wasn’t a cool use for a Buddha statue, so it’s better for everyone, including the store owner that it’s not being treated like that.

                  I think it found the home it was calling out for!

                  • I did a Google search on those claw machines last night, and they’re pretty much designed not to have a very strong grip. It’s a 10″ statue, it’s not very light at all… I’m going to try to find a burnisher and see if I can polish off the scratches some, they aren’t very deep.

                    I was sort of waiting for you to say I should try to return it…
                    I’m glad you didn’t!! haha

                • Bring it with you the next time you stop by! Btw, we won’t be meeting at the library during the next two saturdays. This saturday is teachers day, followed by the parade on sunday, and the second saturday is the day after Buddha’s birthday.

  2. “Endowed with transcendent powers
    Full master of wisdom and skillful means,
    In all the worlds in the ten directions,
    There’s no place she doesn’t manifest herself.”
    – The Lotus Sutra Avalokiteśvara chapter


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