Commentary on Dogen Zenji's KANNON (觀音),
citations from
from "Roar of the Tigress," Vol. II, Lectures by
Abbess P. T. N. H. Jiyu-Kennett, Roshi
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[THIS] particular chapter of the Shobogenzo speaks of that 
form of Kanzeon called Daihi, Great Compassion, which is often
seen in pictures showing the Bodhisattva with thousands of hands
and thousands of eyes, many faces, several kinds of bodies, and
several kinds of heads. Some persons have thought that such
pictures were grotesque, but that is because they do not understand
what is going on. They are a pictorial way of expressing the nature
of Kanzeon's compassion. Her thousand hands help all beings and Her
thousand eyes see where that help is needed. In fact if you would
understand Kanzeon, you must understand that the whole of
Kanzeon is hands and eyes and the like. Those multiple hands, eyes,
and heads are also teachings about how our own training must be.
If you would train to the full, then you must exhibit the signs of
Kanzeon: the constant functioning of helping hands, discerning
eyes and even more.

Another thing that you must realize about pictures and statues of
Kanzeon, is that while many will take the female aspect, not all will
do so. The Bodhisattva of Compassion takes many forms, so don't
get stuck with any one in particular. They are all attempts to
point to Something that is not limited by form or gender.

Ungan Donjo, posthumously called Great Master Muju, once asked
Dogo Enchi, posthumously known as Great Master Shuitsu,

"What use does the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion make with His
ever so many hands and eyes?" Dogo replied, "He is like someone in
the night who reaches behind himself, his hand groping for his
pillow." Ungan remarked, "I get it, I get it!" Dogo asked, "What do
you get?" Undan said, "That His whole body is hands and eyes."
Dogo replied, "What you have said is very well put. Still it only
expresses eighty or ninety percent of the matter." Ungan replied,
"Well so much for the likes of me. What about you, my elder brother
in the Dharma, what do you make of it?" Dogo replied, "That His
whole being, through and through is hands and eyes."
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(*) Translation of Dogen's text by Hubert Nearman, for Shasta Abbey

(Zen Master) DOGEN ZENJI'S (道元禅師)
(Gender Inclusive) STUDIES OF THE WAY (學道) | (INDEX)
95-Fascicle SHOBOGENZO (正法眼蔵) & Other Writings
photos: earlywomenmasters.net