Saturday, June 6, 2009


Recently I came across the word 'dividual,' thought it had been invented but found it in the Oxford compact, finding that it meant an entity which can be divided and retain its being, as opposed to an individual, which looses its essence if divided. In this one distinction I've found plenty of flint to consider, but right now the image I'm considering is water, which can be separated into drops of any numeration and still remain itself. Maybe others might relate something like the Holy Spirit to it, and others see in it Dzogchen, the natural state of primordial, all encompassing awareness, or to split hairs, Rigpa.

The story of Buddhist-Taoist deity Guanyin and the origin of her thousand arms certainly brings the word dividual to life. The story can be viewed as the way in which her compassion and devotion made her into a monster, if such a quantity of appendages and heads resonates as something terrible. She is alternately called Guanyin or Avalokitesvara, the name of her male counterpart.

Guanyin and the Thousand Arms

One Buddhist legend presents Guan Yin as vowing to never rest until she had freed all sentient beings from samsara, reincarnation. Despite strenuous effort, she realized that still many unhappy beings were yet to be saved. After struggling to comprehend the needs of so many, her head split into eleven pieces. Amitabha Buddha, seeing her plight, gave her eleven heads with which to hear the cries of the suffering. Upon hearing these cries and comprehending them, Avalokitesvara attempted to reach out to all those who needed aid, but found that her two arms shattered into pieces. Once more, Amitabha came to her aid and appointed her a thousand arms with which to aid the many. Many Himalayan versions of the tale include eight arms with which Avalokitesvara skillfully upholds the Dharma, each possessing its own particular implement, while more Chinese-specific versions give varying accounts of this number.

Head split into eleven pieces! I know many can relate to what that might feel like.

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