Once upon a time a king wanted his daughter, Princess Miao Shan, to marry a wealthy but pious and uncaring man. She told her father that she would obey his command, so long as the marriage eased three misfortunes.
The king asked his daughter what were the three misfortunes that the marriage should ease. She explained that the first misfortune that the marriage should ease was the suffering people endured as they aged. The second misfortune should ease the suffering people endure when they fall ill. The third misfortune should ease the suffering caused by death. If the marriage could not ease any of those, then she would rather retire to a life of religion forever.
When her father asked who could ease all the above, Miao Shan pointed out that a doctor was able to do all these.
Her father grew angry as he wanted her to marry a person of power and wealth, not a healer. He forced her into hard labor and reduced her food and drink but this did not cause her to yield.
Every day she begged to be able to enter a temple and become a nun instead of marrying. Her father did allow her to work in the temple, but asked the monks to give her very hard chores in order to discourage her. The monks forced Miao Shan to work all day and all night, while others slept, in order to finish her work.
Miao Shan was such a good person that the animals living around the temple began to help her with her chores. Her father, seeing this, became so frustrated that he attempted to burn down the temple. Miao Shan put out the fire with her bare hands and suffered no burns. Her father upon seeing this was struck with fear and ordered her to be put to death.
The executioner tried to carry out her father’s orders, but his axe shattered into a thousand pieces. He then tried a sword which likewise shattered. He tried to shoot her with arrows but they all veered off.
Finally in desperation, he used his hands. Miao Shan, realising the fate that the executioner would meet at her father’s hand should she fail to let herself die, forgave the executioner for attempting to kill her. She voluntarily took on the massive karmic guilt the executioner generated for killing her, thus leaving him guiltless. Because of this, she descended into the Hell-like realms. While there she witnessed firsthand the suffering and horrors that beings there must endure and was overwhelmed with grief. Filled with compassion, she released all the good karma she had accumulated through her many lifetimes, thus freeing many suffering souls back into Heaven and Earth. In the process that Hell-like realm became a paradise. The King of Hell seeing all that she did, sent her back to Earth to prevent the utter destruction of his realm, and upon her return, she appeared on Fragrant Mountain.
Her father had fallen ill with jaundice. No physician was able to cure him. Then a monk appeared saying that the jaundice could be cured by making a medicine out of the arm and eye of one without anger. The monk further suggested that such a person could be found on Fragrant Mountain. When asked, Miao Shan willingly offered up her eyes and arms. Her father was cured of his illness and went to the Fragrant Mountain to give thanks to the person. When he discovered that his own daughter had made the sacrifice, he begged for forgiveness.
Miao Shan was transformed, attained enlightenment and became the Goddess of Compassion, Bodhisattva Kwan Yin. She was about to cross over into Nirvana when she heard a cry of suffering from the world below. She turned around and saw the massive suffering endured by the people of the world. Filled with compassion, she returned to earth, vowing never to leave till such time as all suffering has ended.
Bodhisattva Kwan Yin is very kind hearted. Whenever anyone is in trouble, just call upon her name with faith and she will be there to help.
(Click on Kwan Yin’s image in this post for a larger coloring sheet that can be printed for your child to color.)