Guan Yin is not another Virgin Mary, and the Virgin Mary is not a mother goddess

Guanyin (a.k.a. Avalokitesvara)

Some commentators, usually Christian or New Age, believe that the Buddhist entity Guan Yin and the Christian Virgin Mary are similar if not almost identical. Here I use this opportunity to tell you how they’re not.

For starters, Guanyin is Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva who embodies compassion in all Buddhas. Guanyin is another name for Avalokitesvara in East Asian culture, where the bodhisattva is depicted as female and worshiped as a goddess. Avalokitesvara is believed to continuously look upon all beings with the eye of compassion and listen to the cries of sentient beings (hence the meaning of his various names). He is mainly venerated in Mahayana Buddhism and various forms of esoteric Buddhism.

Meanwhile, the Virgin Mary is not a bodhisattva, or a goddess. In Buddhist lore, a bodhisattva is a being who has achieved enlightenment and is ready to pass on into Nirvana, but waives its right to do so in order to help other sentient beings achieve enlightenment and enter Nirvana. Mary however is merely a figure attributed to being the mother of Jesus, who is prayed to and venerated as a saint, despite not really doing anything besides giving birth to Jesus. Her only connection to Guanyin is Chinese artwork of Guanyin holding a baby child, but let me level you; this to portray her as a folk patron of mothers who grants children, not as the mother of a god.

Painting of the Virgin Mary

There’s also those who equate the Virgin Mary with the mother goddesses of the pagan world, such as Isis, and even to the idea of a universal mother. This usually comes from New Age and Neopagan commentary on the Virgin Mary. Let me stress that the Virgin Mary is NOT a goddess, let alone a mother goddess. Her only connection to the mother goddesses of pagan lore is that she gave birth to Jesus, who isn’t even a god to begin with. Also, she’s a virgin, the only reason she was able to give birth to Jesus was because the Holy Spirit supposedly entered her body, and even then this could easily be interpreted as God having sex with her like Zeus coming to earth to frolic with a mortal woman. Either way, as long as it doesn’t count as sex in the eyes of Christians, she’s a symbol and saint of virginity, and the mother goddesses of the pagan world were not virgins. Isis’ husband was the god Osiris, Cybele’s husband was Attis, Asherah’s consort was El or Anu, Durga’s consort was Shiva, every mother goddess worth calling a mother goddess had a husband. Mary on the other hand does not, and has no apparent association with fertility and its powers (at least within the Christian context). She has no real connection to the pagan goddesses besides coincidence.

2 responses to “Guan Yin is not another Virgin Mary, and the Virgin Mary is not a mother goddess

  1. Jesus is not The Father, but He has been given authority by the Father to dish out Judgement, so yes, He is now God. To say otherwise is blasphemy. Mary, in the Catholic sense, IS actually a goddess, whether they admit it or not. She is bowed to, venerated, prayed to, and worshipped as a goddess. She is the same Queen of Heaven in the Old Testament which God nearly wiped Israel off the map for worshipping. Mary does have a husband, his name is Joseph, and she had intercourse with him many times after Jesus was born. That’s why Jesus had so many siblings.

  2. I had Kuanyin and Mary statues side by side for a long time in my workspace. I relate to both of them as aspects of the Divine Feminine, but to each their own. To the other guy, Mary is not the Queen of Heaven mentioned in the Old Testament, and the traditions of the two oldest and largest Christian denominations on the planet say she remained a virgin. If you talk to the Orthodox, Joseph was an aging widower who became Mary’s guardian and had children from his first marriage; or if you talk to the Catholics, the references to his brothers means “brothers” in a wider sense of the word, like cousins.

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