Avilokitesvara– god(dess) of compassion had one head and two arms. Zhe didn’t have enough ears to listen to all the stories of suffering, so one of the buddhas busted one head into eleven. Avilokitesvara’s two arms broke from the weight of helping, but instead of two arms broken and worn out, two arms broke into a thousand arms.
It’s an idiosyncratic grouping, but it is my weaving of stories for the moment.
I believe the brass dish under the cactus on the left was a wedding present, though I am not absolutely certain of that. It was a long time ago.
The cloth with the tassels came from a shaman in Peru; I was there for 9/11.
I bought the gray scarf when I was in Costa Rica on a retreat with John Friend from a world-traveling fellow yoga practitioner who had brought an array of beautiful scarves to Costa Rica from Thailand.
Other things were brought home from India–mostly by me, but one a treasured gift from a friend.
The porcupine quills were also an inspired and loving gift.
The square of marble under the cactus on the right I found on the street in the neighborhood. The cactii came from a yard sale over a decade ago. They were being sold for only blooming once a year.
The bit of mother of pearl comes from Centerport beach on Long Island. I went there last fall the day before my father’s memorial service.
Other things came from vendors at Eastern Market and one from New York City.
The chestnut is from Stanton Park. I picked it up on my way to work one beautiful day last year.
The heart-shaped stone came from Arizona when I was on a meditation retreat some time late in the last decade. I’ve been to some really lovely places on this planet.
The mala Kuan Yin is wearing I strung and designed: rudraksha beads from my first meditation mala (which had broken), labradorite, and emeralds on silk thread.
The jet beads belonged to my grandmother Rose.
There’s a story about the lump of black and red rock behind Ganesha, but I think I’ll leave that for another day.
Last Sunday, when I was at Eastern Market to get apples and pears, I saw a small, painted wood statue of Kuan Yin. I have been attracted to this one of the 330 million gods and goddesses for some time. Her primary attribute is compassion. She is said to be a female Chinese metamorphosis of the Buddhist bodhisattva Avalotikeshvara, who, according to some, is an emanation of the Hindu deity Shiva.
She had a price tag of $70 around her neck. It was too much, especially since her hand and foot looked like they had just broken off in transit.
Still, I was attracted to her. The vendor, who is from Pakistan, came over to talk to me, asking me if I was interested.
“Too high,” I said.
“What would you pay?”
Knowing it is holiday season, and the vendors really need to do well to survive the winter, I suggested $45, thinking it was really too much, but I very much liked the impeccably serene expression on her face.
“You have bought things from me before,” he said. I’d bought a couple of older rugs from him last Spring, at which time he had chatted with me for a while and showed me a picture of his chosen guru. “You are a divine being; I will give her to you for free.”
“I bet you say that to all your customers,” I replied.
“Everyone is divine, yes,” he said, ” but you are different. You know it.”
Somewhat overwhelmed by this, I thanked him for the honor and took out my wallet. I had $42 and change. “I will pay $40.”
I paid him and walked her home unwrapped in my arms, thinking it will be hard to live up to his expectations. Who better, though, to remind me to relate to others, always recognizing their inherent divinity (whatever that might mean to me or anyone else), than the goddess of compassion?
Where the wood was raw from having been broken, I rubbed the edges with ash from Chidambaram temple (that I happened to have in the studio), so that the breaks would not visually distract, and one would only notice the sweet face.