The light of daring is essential to the timely taking of the Kwan Yin pledge. In the Kwan Yin Sutra there is a reference to the flames of agony that consume personal consciousness. Kwan Yin in its metaphysical meaning is bound up with fire and water. Kwan Yin is connected with the primordial Light of the Logos, which is the paradigm and the pristine source of all creativity in the cosmos, of the hidden power in every human being to produce a result that is beneficent. If Kwan Yin is ontologically connected with light, but is also compared to the ocean, what then is the meaning of the textual reference to extinguishing the flames of agony? This is a metaphysical paradox. What is light on the most abstract level of undifferentiated primordial matter is the darkness of non-being, such as that which is around the pavilion of God in the Old Testament, or that which is sometimes simply referred to as “In the beginning”, the Archaeus, the dark abysm of Space. Kwan Yin is rooted in Boundless Space and therefore involves noumenal existence at so high a level of attributeless compassion in Eternal Duration that it is the paradigm of all the vows and pledges taken by vast numbers of pilgrims throughout unrecorded history. It is also called Bath-Kol, the Daughter of the Voice, in the Hebrew tradition, that which when sought within the inmost sanctuary bestows a merciful response within the human heart. There is a latent Kwan Yin in every human being. It is the voice of conscience at the commonest level. It is the Chitkala of the developed disciple. At the highest level it is Nada, the Voice of the Silence, the Soundless Sound, that which is comprehended in initiation, and ceaselessly reverberates in the Anahata, the deathless centre of the human body, transformed into a divine temple.
The deeper meaning of the Kwan Yin pledge is enshrined in profound metaphysics, but at the same time, it reaches down to the level of human ignorance and pain, at all levels extinguishing the intensity of craving, the fires of nescience. This is the teaching of the Kwan Yin Sutra. When that which is light at the highest level descends, it becomes like unto cool water, although intrinsically it is so radiant that it would be blinding. But when it is diffused it converts its state into a fluid which is extremely soothing, sometimes compared to the cool rays of the moon. And then it is capable of giving comfort and sustenance. When a person is soothed and cooled, it is possible to let go, to relinquish the intensity of self-concern. Personal heat is intensely painful when it is experienced without any awareness of alternatives. But when one finds that it may be displaced by soothing wisdom, the cooling waters of compassion, then it is possible to ease the pain and to convert one’s mind from a falsely fiery state, which is destructive, into a cooling and regenerative condition. These are all alchemical expressions of processes that are involved in making deliberate changes in states of consciousness connected with different levels of matter.
Theosophically, every level of thought corresponds to and is consubstantial with a level of differentiation of substance. Therefore, one can even discover in ordinary language certain words that tend to heat up the psycho-mental atmosphere. The very way in which one characterizes one’s own condition may do a lot of violence through language. One can burn oneself or become totally suffocated by the flames, though the Hasidic mystics remind us that even if the castle is burning, there is a lord. Even while one is burning there can be some recognition of that incorruptible, inconsumable essence in oneself. This possibility is the root of all faith in one’s power of spiritual survival, as well the basis of all notions of physical survival, which are only shadowy representations of this deeper urge to persist and prevail. If one has everyday experience of how certain words and shibboleths can engender a lower heat, one can also employ gentler words, healing metaphors and analogies, broader categories, that soothe and cool one’s atmosphere. Even learning to do this is an art, one that can only be practised in a human being’s sincere efforts at apprenticeship to the great masters of the art. Kwan Yin is the cosmic archetype of the art. She who expresses compassion in every conceivable context shows how inexhaustible are the ways of compassion of wise beings, how Initiates use every opportunity to release help. This is part of the universal inheritance of humanity. It is also mirrored in every mother or father who, despite all the lower levels of concern, somewhere knows that what he or she does cannot really be put into the language of calculation, cannot really be weighed or measured.
Gratitude cannot be compelled, but without it life would not go on. It is as if human beings impose upon what they innately know a false structure of expectations, which entangles them in mental cobwebs that are entirely self-created. If emotion becomes sufficiently intense, bitter and sour, there can be a tremendous burden, but even that burden is an act of compassion of the spirit because its weight eventually burns out the tanha, the persisting thirst for material sensation, for false personal life. It will dissolve at the moment of death, but this does not happen all at once. It will receive certain shocks in life, and thereby human beings come to throw off the enormous excesses of their own compulsive cerebration, a great deal of the wastage and the futility of their own emotions, the wear and tear upon the subtle vestures through their own anxieties.
What Nature does as a matter of course can be aided by conscious thought. But where it is aided by conscious thought in the name of the highest cosmic principle and in the company of a long lineage, a golden company of great exemplars of the vow and the pledge for universal enlightenment, one can truly consecrate one’s life and thereby refrain from becoming too tensely involved in the process of everyday psychological alchemy. This is implicit in what Buddha taught. If one truly enjoys the very thought of what Kwan Yin is, and of what is in the Kwan Yin pledge, this enjoyment should itself help to reduce much of the agony and the anxiety, the tension and strain of daily striving. The real problem is to be wholehearted with as undivided a mind as can be brought to the pledge. This must be done without qualifications, without contradictions, but with that holy simplicity of which the mystics speak, a childlike innocence, candour and trust. It is an act of acceptance of the universe and a letting go of whatever comes in the way. When anything does interfere, it must be consumed in the fires of sacrificial change that alone will lead to true spiritual growth. Many a monk on the Bodhisattva Path has found immense benefit through the talismanic use of these three verses:
If you are unable to exchange your happiness
For the suffering of other beings,
You have no hope of attaining Buddhahood
Or even of happiness in this lifetime.
If one whom I have helped my best
And from whom I expect much
Harms me in an inconceivable way,
May I regard that person as my best teacher.
I consider all living beings
More precious than ‘wish-fulfilling gems’,
A motivation to achieve the greatest goal:
So may I at all times care for them.
The Gupta Vidya II