Kek Lok Si and the Goddess of Compassion
Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
213Trip End Ongoing
The Chinese are mostly Mahayana Buddhists, whereas the Thais are Theravada Buddhists. The most overt difference is in their stylistic representations of Buddha. The Thai version is thin and serene, whereas the Chinese version is more rotund and jolly. But there are deeper differences in their religious ideologies. The major one is this: the Theravada Buddhists believe in a more orthodox view that individuals who abstain from worldly desires and seek to purify their minds can achieve nirvana, a state of enlightenment that allows them to reach the holy place and no longer reincarnate; Mahayana Buddhism teaches delaying nirvana. Individuals who reach the level of high truth called Bodhi (thus the individuals are called Bodhisattvas) forego nirvana and choose to stay in the earthly world in order to help others along their path of enlightenment. That’s simplifying it a lot, but I don’t want this to turn into lecture on world religions.
I think when modern worshippers pay their respects to Kwan Yin, it not so much the selfless woman of myth they focus on, but the values and energy she represents. This energy is known as “karuna” and is described as a love for all beings, equal in intensity to a mother's affection for her child. The root meaning of karuna is said to be the anguished cry of deep sorrow and an understanding that can only come from an unblemished sense of oneness with others.
I’m not really one to worship idols, but I like the concept of promoting true empathy and compassion for others. Is building a gigantic and decadent temple the best way to do that? In my opinion, no. I would think simple reminders could suffice. But maybe some people require grander sources of inspiration.
I bought some Kuan Yin pendants at the temple. If you're interested, you can go to my website: