Kannon Bodhisattva of the Senso-ji Temple

By Vivienne Rose Diamond

An exploration across the Pacific Ocean, the archipelago of 6,800 islands is where our second blog post takes place where I had the privilege of sojourning three times. Ancient temples and tea houses were nestled between neo futuristic skyscrapers and entertaining karaoke bars.

Shades of pink and white flowers including rose, taffy, blush, flamingo, porcelain, royal white and pearl carpeted the trees, streets, waterways and parks like pink and white cotton candy. It was early April and cherry blossom- or sakura season had launched in Tokyo city. The blossoms, symbolic for the ephemeral beauty of living could be contrasted with the elegance, joy and magnetism of roses.

Hanami- or flower viewing reminds the Japanese of their country’s geographical diversity as well as their cultural roots, dating back to the Nara period (710-784) when the imperial capital was moved from Asuka to Nara.

Sakura in Full Bloom from our Tokyo Trip

The magical experience of picnics with locals and tourists alike, delectable grazing on sakura bento lunch boxes and sake infused with sakura flowers paid respect to nature that swaddled us. Uninterrupted cameras clicked in every direction.

Hanami Bento Box

My heart experienced sudden excitement as our son and I alighted and a crowd thronged through Asakusa subway station, located in the northern district of what remains of Tokyo’s old Shitamachi (low city), once the heart of Edo culture. An abundance of inner white petals, encircled by a pale pink outer layer of sakura greeted us.

Kaminarimon Gate “Thunder Gate” was our point of entry and the first gate to the vibrant, oldest and most sacred Buddhist temple in Tokyo, Senso-ji Temple. It is popularly known as Asakusa Kannon as it enshrines a golden image of Kannon, Enlightened Bodhisattva of infinite Compassion and Mercy. Kannon is also referred to as Kuan Yin, Guan Yin (in Chinese), Gwan-eum or Gwanse-eum (in Korean), Quan Âm (in Vietnamese) and Chengresik (in Tibetan). The name translated means “Observing the Sounds of the World”.

Kamiranimon Gate or “Thunder Gate”

Kannon Bodhisattva is Avalokiteshvara whose personifications are incarnated in many forms-father and mother. The thirty three manifestations are known popularly in the west as Kuan Yin. The
mother form is depicted as a beautiful, white robed woman, radiating a peaceful and untroubled energy, standing atop a lotus flower, holding a water vase which is a Buddhist symbol of good fortune and a willow branch. The lotus signifies enlightenment, spiritual purity, feat over obstacles, rebirth (as the lotus surges up from the depths of muddy ponds and lakes to blossom perfectly above the water’s surface) and demonstrates that our hearts and minds can develop virtues (the truest expression of ourselves) such as compassion, respect, trustworthiness, kindness integrity etc. and transcend desires and attachments to reveal our pure nature. The willow branch symbolises adaptability, along with everlasting strength.

Japanese scroll of Kannon Bodhisattva

In other representations she is depicted with a child in a loving and caring exchange and we are drawn into this compassionate bond between parent and child. She is respected as the patron saint of mothers, deemed to support and assist childless women. Kuan Yin is presented as having one thousand caring arms, sometimes eleven heads so as to enable her to reach out to all those who require assistance to help ease their suffering. Another form is of her riding a dragon, holding a water vase and pouring it into the dragon’s mouth signifying cascading empathy and compassion onto the world. Countless people have also commented on the similarity to Mother Mary of Christianity who both are expressions of the Divine Feminine Consciousness and emanate nurturing love, compassion, care, mercy, serenity and healing for humanity.

Kannon Bodhisattva with Child
Kuan Yin with 1000 Caring Arms

Her Japanese name is Kanzeon Bosatsu. Described as a Bodhisattva (an enlightened being who elected to remain on Earth until all sentient beings are enlightened) her images and statues give the notion of one who has deific gifts- to hear and understand the suffering of humanity regardless of gender, social class or age. She is venerated in Japan and worldwide for her answered prayers and miraculous interventions. The Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage, the oldest pilgrimage in Japan is an ancient pilgrimage circuit of 33 Buddhist temples enshrined with Kannon Bodhisattva, in Japan.

The primary path was lined with approximately 200 metres of shops (Nakamise-dori), that showcased traditional arts and crafts, religious ceramic and wooden statues, ornamental dolls, hair combs and folding fans in anime, gold, and cartoon designs. Our son eyed the local, seaweed crackers while I was pleasantly surprised at the beautiful array of kimonos with matching belts-or obi made from the finest quality cotton and silk.

Our Son eating crackers on Nakamise-dori

The enormous belfry, Benten-yama Shoro stood amid a group of temple buildings which used to ring on the hour in the Edo period (1603-1867). Then there was a gigantic incense burner-or joukoro, a focal point which was continuously encompassed by people that stirred the smoke over them to keep them well. I bathed in this woodsy scent, like walking in a forest in the autumn.

As we entered the main hall (Kannon-do), a magnificent gold-plated shrine of the Kannon Bodhisattva was glistening, built in 1649 by Tokugawa Ieyasu. Congregations of tourist and locals paid their respects by lighting candles and throwing coins. I followed others and prayed at the main hall, as I placed my hands together in the Buddhist prayer position and chanted “Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu or “I place my trust in Bodhisattva Kannon”.

The festival of the Kannon Bodhisattva shrine known as Sanja Matsuri is the largest festival in the Senso-ji Temple, held annually over the third weekend in May. Story has it that two fishermen in 628 A.D. fished in the Sumida River (Sumidagawa), one of Tokyo’s main rivers and caught a small golden statue of Kannon. They returned the statue into the river although the statue returned repeatedly to them. A shrine and a temple to Kannon Bodhisattva was inevitably built by their master. It grew over time in size through plots of land donated by wealthy Edo merchants. An earthquake in 1923 did not destroy the Senso-ji Temple however, the impact of World War II was ruinous. Only one hexagonal temple survived from the 15th and 16th century. Senso-ji Temple was rebuilt in the 1960s and 1970s
and its main buildings continue to respect Edo era design. A five-story pagoda (approximate height of an eighteen story building) was also constructed amidst the gardens that contains the ashes of the Buddha.
Even though all these buildings were imposing, I was deeply impacted by the people following their daily rituals that made this place feel so extraordinary.

Kannon Bodhisattva is revered for being the most compassionate Goddess; the Divine Mother of compassion, forgiveness, understanding and selflessness. There is an implicit trust in her healing abilities and grace. Her essence is a fullness of love, of purity, of protection, of serenity and of gentle healing. She safeguards women and children everywhere and considers everyone in the same way with noble benevolence. She has psychic clairvoyance and is our ally and muse for Divine Feminine Consciousness on our personal healing journey, as we can manifest the abilities, she embodied to heal ourselves and others.

Five story pagoda (also known as a stupa) contains the ashes of the Buddha with another Kannon Bodhisattva shrine amongst the gardens at Senso-ji Temple from our Tokyo trip

The invocation of the Tibetan Compassionate Mantra of Goddess Kuan Yin “OM MANI PADME HUM” translated as “Hail the jewel (or pearl) in the Lotus” is very profound. It is a mantra, sung by Buddhists and non-Buddhists globally. If practised out loud or silently, it is thought that all negative karma (egoic actions causing suffering through attachment, ignorance and anger) collected in this lifetime and in previous lifetimes gets purified and causes a good rebirth so as to achieve enlightenment and liberate sentient beings from unimaginable suffering.

Goddess Kuan Yin is also Goddess of the Moon and can be called upon especially around the time of the full moon, when the sun and the moon are aligned on opposite sides of the Earth and all of the moon’s appearance is illuminated by the sun, approximately every 29.5 days.

If there is an inclination for forgiveness, a complete letting go of the past and embracing the present, then engaging in a full moon practise and asking for Goddess Kuan Yin’s assistance can be potent. Forgiveness helps discharge resentment, lets go of attachments, blockages and displeasures from the heart and allows a feeling of divine pure and gentle love to flow.
If the desire is to feel and radiate qualities of peace, love, strength, courage etc. in your heart, or feel it’s essential to be emotionally compassionate towards yourself or another, evoke Goddess Kuan Yin to help illuminate the truth in the situation. When we trust and express our feelings tranquilly, we are giving others the gift of our tenderness-our mercy.

The scroll I bought of Kannon Bodhisattva at Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo

Full Moon Practise

  • Place a picture or statue of Goddess Kuan Yin on an altar or sacred space
  • Create an altar whether it’s inside or outside in nature
  • Crystals, rocks, shells, candles, photos, jewellery, holy water, incense, herbs, rosewater, Rose Sisters Oracle cards or whatever is meaningful can be placed in this dedicated space
  • Tumbled crystals such as rose quartz for healing emotional trauma, amazonite for awakening compassion and malachite for healing through acceptance and forgiveness can be positioned here too
  • Scatter some rose petals or put a vase of roses in this area
  • Light a green candle or any candle/tea light to commemorate this special practise
  • Sit in front of the altar and take a few minutes for some deep belly breathing until a sense of stillness or quietness pervades your mind or heart
  • Play “OM MANI PADME HUM”……the Compassionate Mantra of Kuan Yin [My favourite is sung by Deva Premal from her album, Love is Space (2000)] or listen to other renditions by Buddhist or Tibetan monks on YouTube
  • Or recite the mantra “OM MANI PADME HUM” out loud or silently for as long as is suitable
  • Bring into awareness a person that may be challenging or you are having difficulty constantly criticising and/or judging yourself
  • Set a clear intention and say something like:

“Divine Mother, Goddess Kuan Yin,
I ask you to join me in my sacred space tonight.
I allow my heart centre to be fully open so that gentle, nurturing love can flow easily.
I release any grievances I have about myself or others.
If there is any guilt, shame and resentment towards myself or others, I release it.
I forgive myself. I forgive others. So be it!”

  • Repeat as often as you like
    Close the practise by placing your hands in prayer position and taking a reverent bow to the Divine that you are
Goddess Kuan Yin bronze statue in my home

May the inspiration of the Divine Feminine Energy be with you.
Rose Blessings Vivienne and Leslina xoxo

October 2021


  • Hanami Bento Box- https://www.snakku.com/blogs/news/113343109-hanamiobserving-the-brief-eternity-of-cherry-blossoms
  • The Crystal Bible: Volume 1 (2003), Volume 2 (2009) and Volume 3 (2013), Judy Hall
  • Guan Yin- https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Guan_Yin
  • Japanese Scroll, Kakejiku, Kakemono, Wall Art, Hanging Scroll, Kannon bosatsu, Kannon Bodhisattva, Wall Hanging Art, Hanging Scroll Painting J1902106 https://www.etsy.com/au/listing/709886431/japanesescrollkakejikukakemonowall?show_sold_out_detail=1&ref=nla_listing_details
  • Kannon Bodhisattva with child- https://interfaithmary.net/articles/mary-buddha
  • Kuan Yin with 1000 caring arms- https://buddhaweekly.com/many-facesavalokiteshvaras-compassion-sometimes-need-father-mother-sometimes-friendsometimes-warrior/
  • “Thunder Gate”- https://mytravelgeno.com/2019/05/sensoji-temple-andnakamise-shopping-street/
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