She Who Hears the Cries

More and more Americans are discovering Kwan Yin, the Buddhist goddess of compassion--and wonder how they got on without her.

Reprinted with permission of The Dallas Morning News.

SAN FRANCISCO--Carol Simone darts through the green-tiled pagoda gate into the streets of Chinatown, seeking images of Kwan Yin, the Asian goddess of compassion. She strides past dragon-wrapped red lampposts, past pungent herb shops, past the Gold Mountain Sagely Monastery, where songs of Buddhist nuns float from second-story windows.

"There's an amazing Kwan Yin, in jade," she says, suddenly stopping before a shop window filled with figurines. "And that's called the thousand-armed Kwan Yin, who often appears with pheasants and peacocks and tigers and birds. Then there's one who is more motherly, like the earth mother. And that one there--holding healing salve in a little bottle."


A former Silicon Valley advertising executive, Ms. Simone is intimately familiar with the many manifestations of this beloved deity, whose influence is slowly spreading through mainstream American culture after inspiring millions of Asians for centuries. She's been a devotee of the goddess since 1989, when she first spotted a rare statue of her in an antique store window.

Riveted by the exotic statue, she asked the shop owner about it. He explained that she was Kwan Yin, the ancient goddess of compassion, who is a protector of women and represents the energy of unconditional love. Ms. Simone bought the statue and used it in her daily devotions, in which she meditated on Kwan Yin's message of compassionate kindness.

"I began feeling unconditional love for the first time in my life," says Ms. Simone, who then decided to devote her life to the devotion of Kwan Yin.

Five years later, on a trip to New York, Ms. Simone was walking down Fifth Avenue with a friend when they came upon a homeless woman lying naked in a garbage bag in front of Tiffany's, the infamous jeweler. Their offers of help were refused by the woman, who didn't speak English.

Yet, Ms. Simone says, when she looked into the woman's eyes, she felt the same magnetic force of love she'd experienced coming from Kwan Yin's eyes.

That moment transformed her. Later that day, she began writing her first novel, "The Goddess of Fifth Avenue" (Hayden Publishers, $22). In it, Kwan Yin serves as a source of unconditional love for women.

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