zavk wrote:I cannot explain why Kwan Yin has been accepted in non-Mahayana traditions.
Well I can think of some:
1. From Chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra, on Avalokitesvara per se:
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva said to the Buddha,
"World Honored One, how does Guanshiyin Bodhisattva roam through this Saha world?
How does he speak the Dharma for living beings?
How does he carry out this work with the power of expedients?"
"Inexhaustible Intention! Guanshiyin Bodhisattva has accomplished merit and virtue such as this and, in all manner of forms, roams throughout the land, saving and liberating living beings.
"Inexhaustible Intention, such is the self-mastery and spiritual power of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, who roams throughout the Saha world."
Listen to the practice of Guanyin,
Who skillfully responds in all places.
With vast vows, as deep as the sea,
Throughout inconceivable eons,
He has served many thousands of kotis of Buddhas,
And has made great, pure vows.
2. Cultural concessions
As mentioned by those before, in some countries, even in Theravada temples, some have given a place to Guan Yin as some sort of benevolent 'guardian', beneficial to both the temple/monastery and the community there, especially where those exposed heavily to Chinese Mahayana Buddhist practices or even folk Chinese religions. If I may go as far as saying that where the benefactors/committee of those Theravada temples are from Chinese Mahayana Buddhist backgrounds or they have a strong inclination towards Guan Yin, there is a tendency to 'give in' to such 'popular' cultural practices.
To divert, I was told that another example is the Phuket Vegetarian festival where the Thais were heavily influenced by the Chinese as the religious origins of it started with the Chinese folk cult of the Nine Emperors but were later fused with the worship of other deities, both local Thai and those borrowed from the Taoist side. And I have seen that they normally kick off the Vegetarian Festival with Paritta blessing of the Bhikkhus first, like the Skanda/Murugan festivals, where the Sri Lankans normally have a Buddhist Paritta chant first before they honour that Indian deity.
3. Mixed Buddhist Tradition practices
There are some Theravadins who include certain elements of Chinese Mahayanist practices in their Dhamma practice and Guan Yin is often the most popular of them all. For example, in my country, especially in the Northern States, where the ethnic Chinese are the majority after the Malays, often, there is a syncretism of Buddhist practices amongst the Theravadins there to include Guan Yin as if it was a 'natural' thing to do, mainly due to the strong flavour of Chinese Mahayana Buddhism co-existing with Theravadin practice. Often, both from sides, there is a lot of mutual patronage and collaboration in terms of organising Buddhist events, gatherings, Kathina offerings and so forth. Some Theravadins I know regard Guan Yin as a personification of metta, karuna and other forms of wholesomeness beneficial for their practice.
Nowadays, we have temples which allows other Buddhist Traditions to practice in the same place. It may be Theravada or Mahayana based, but it is open and welcoming for other Traditions to be included as well. I know of one temple in my country where it is from the Chinese Mahayana Tradition but in its monthly activities, I see Theravada and Vajrayana monastics invited, Dhamma/Dharma programmes and ongoing meditation sessions organised as how their Traditions specify it. It certainly attracted great numbers of adherents from all 3 Buddhist Traditions to that place. Even in launching a renovated Shrine in the premises, all 3 Traditions' Monastics were invited for offerings and blessing.
Ok this old cat is rambling back to practice