Imagine yourself in Athens in 2004 at the International Paralympic games. Having spent the week watching athletes from all around the world perform extraordinary feats of courage, you have almost forgotten that each one of the athletes lives everyday with a severe physical disability. Evening falls and you enter the theater for the closing ceremonies. On the stage stands a single woman dressed in gold. The music begins and the one-ness of the woman becomes many. The dancers are representing Guan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion from the Mahayana Buddhist tradition.
The word Bodhisattva is a conjoined Sanskrit word consisting of the word bodhi meaning “enlightenment” or “awakening” and sattva, defined as “sentient being” or “intention” or “courage”. In his book, Faces of Compassion, Taigen Dan Leighton writes “Bodhisattva’s are enlightened , radiant beings who exist in innumerable forms, valiantly functioning in helpful ways right in the middle of the busy-ness of the world” (26). Thus, the bodhisattva energy on earth is the emanation of a celestial body who chooses to remains on earth to alleviate the suffering of all sentient beings.
The dancers are part of the Disabled Dance Troupe of The Peoples Republic of China. They themselves are deaf and mute, but, by the beauty of their dance, they bring the essence of compassion to this extraordinary group of disabled athletes. Watch this beautiful dance and learn the iconography of the very popular celestial being, Guan Yin.