"Quan Yin Protects You"
Quan Yin is regarded as the Bodhisattva of Compassion. A bodhisattva is a spiritually enlightened human being who renounces the eternal bliss of Nirvana in order to bring relief to those suffering on earth. There are many accounts of Quan Yin's life that describe how she became one of the most beloved deities in Buddhism. According to legend, she was a follower of Buddha, and after much sacrifice and devotion to the spiritual path, she earned her entry to heaven. As she was about to enter paradise, the cries of the world reached her ears. Her heart was filled with unconditional love and – instead of entering Nirvana – she chose to stay on earth. As a matter of fact, her name means "the one who hears the sounds of the world." Her act of compassion installed her as a Buddhist savior.
Chi-Jen Liu offers his reverence to Quan Yin in his painting, "Quan Yin Protects You." His depiction of her follows Buddhist tradition. Quan Yin pours holy water from a slender vase (blessing all forms of life with health and peace), and her other hand is positioned with tips of the thumb and middle finger meeting to create the wisdom mudra (awakening all to higher awareness). The dragon upon which she stands symbolizes power and divine guidance (see Cloud Series).
Quan Yin is commonly depicted in classic Buddhist art as having a thousand arms with an eye on each hand. This illustrates the hundreds of ways she watches and blesses the world. In Chi-Jen Liu's piece, mantra charms emanate from Quan Yin in all directions – left, right, above, below – to evoke the concept of her multiple arms of assistance that respond to the cries on earth. The artist selected charms that express her mercy and generosity, such as healing and protection for body and mind, financial success and harmonious relationships, as well as peace and longevity. These ancient Taoist diagrams attract and transmit specific vibrations in the universe which we cannot see. It is not unlike a radio antenna receiving or broadcasting invisible sound waves hidden in the ether.
The pink and golden sphere behind Quan Yin is her loving and pure aura of light. Her image is suspended in a watery blue background. It represents both the sky and sea, and symbolizes her expansive, all-embracing compassion for all.
The founder of Buddhism can be traced back to a young prince, from around the 5th century BC, called Siddhartha Gautama. He renounced his royal life, leaving behind his home and family, in search of the way out of worldly suffering. After years of austere meditative practice, Siddhartha reached self-realization and paved the way to liberation – freedom from the repeated cycles of birth and death (reincarnation) – and became the "Buddha." In Buddhism, it is believed that anyone can achieve the state of perfection (Nirvana) by following what is called "The Noble Eightfold Path." Hence, "Buddha" is the hard-earned title bestowed upon individuals who have dissolved their material desires, who have reached the highest states of self-awareness, and ultimately, who have freed themselves from all earth-binding karma. They become incarnations of universal understanding, compassion, and right conduct.
When Chi-Jen Liu describes his art, the term "buddha" is synonymous for any Eastern god or deity. As a lifelong practitioner of Taoism and Buddhism, he has painted divine personages throughout his career. For him, they embody the qualities we need to cultivate and the truths we need to grasp in order to find happiness. Taoist figures can range from legendary sages or powerful leaders with holy stature to personifications of Nature that have the power to reward man for his good deeds. Buddhist-related gods include heavenly guardians and bodhisattvas (enlightened beings who return to earth to help others) who are revered for bestowing grace, peace and enlightenment to man.