“The quality of mercy is not strain'd, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath.”This eloquent description of mercy’s virtue, expressed by Shakespeare through his wise young character Portia, could also be said of Kuan Yin. Kuan Yin, the elegant goddess of love, mercy and compassion, is the most popular and widely-worshipped of all Eastern deities. She is sometimes thought of as a bodhisattva: a being who denies herself the opportunity to enter heaven in order to remain in the world and give help and guidance to mortals. Kuan Yin embodies loving compassion, and is the support, guide and protector of all living beings. Her name, which means ‘She who sees sounds’, can be interpreted as ‘She who sees the prayers and cries from the hearts of all people as visible images, and gives them her aid and consolation’. When we open our hearts to her, we feel this ‘gentle rain’ of the goddess: a deep and profound understanding of all our sorrows which goes beyond mere language to describe it. We use such terms as ‘compassion’, ‘love’ and ‘mercy’. But these are only words. These qualities well forth from the goddess in an intermingled whole, inseparable from each other. Kuan Yin sees our sufferings, experiences them herself, and bears them all gladly for our sakes. Kuan Yin is the creatrix, the friend in need and negotiator with fate. She is the great goddess of life itself, and even goes beyond all boundaries of religion. Statues of her may be found on almost every Taoist holy mountain, and in almost every Buddhist temple. She is honoured in Shinto, and even within Christianity her identity and what she stands for is widely known. She is petitioned by those women who wish to conceive, and her aid is sought in times of illness and adversity. Kuan Yin helps us with the relinquishing of our control over situations, allows suppressed emotions to surface, brings tolerance and empathy, and supports us in the development and experiencing of our softer, more feminine side. She is the patroness of women, and children newly come into the world. Kuan Yin brings the strength of mercy, love, forgiveness and healing to our world. Her colours are white and lavender, and her flower is the five-petalled lotus. For our sakes she remains among us, always ready to take our burdens upon herself, and to give her own virtues to us in return. But even more than this: it is Kuan Yin’s presence which invites us to become as she is, that we ourselves reflect her being in our own behaviour, both towards others and towards ourselves. Her example is a reminder that the goddess is really us, and that transformation is always possible.