Bodhisattva Kwan Yin Descends into Retail

-by Rob Schmidt

Once upon a time the Bodhisattva Kwan Yin – she who hears and responds to the cries of suffering in the world – was abiding in a deep meditation whose principal character was its sensitivity to all existing phenomena. As they had so often before, the minds of millions of humans from the planet Earth cried out in delusion, frustrated greed, and anger. Because of who she was, and what she had vowed to do, Kwan Yin instantly turned her attention to these unhappy creatures. While continuing to meditate, Kwan Yin perceived a common denominator to the suffering experienced by these particular humans: they thought that acquiring material possessions would bring them happiness.

Kwan Yin saw that these human beings were extremely good at fabricating and exchanging material goods with one another – better at creating and distributing material wealth than any of their talented ancestors had ever been. Some of them were virtually buried in material possessions, yet they suffered because what they already had meant nothing to them, and because, despite this lesson, they still grasped after more. Others had many fewer things, and they too suffered due to ungratified lust. Still others had fewer possessions than the rich, but more than the poor, yet they too suffered deeply as a consequence of their relationship with material things. Taken as a whole, these people were far wealthier in material possessions than any previous society, and their suffering due to greed was correspondingly great.

Kwan Yin saw that there were many ways that she could offer assistance to those suffering from lust for material things. She could (anonymously, of course) demonstrate to those ready to profit from such tutelage that greed is at best a detour on the road to happiness. She could encourage those with extra possessions to give them away to those who could use them. She could encourage the cultivation of gratitude for those material things they already possessed. And she could encourage discrimination in the ways that material possessions were made, exchanged, and used, such that people might learn to put attention upon their habits of relating to material things.

In October 2002, Tayu Meditation Center signed a lease for a small retail space in downtown Sebastopol, California. The goal was to create a spiritual bookstore and tea shop in Sonoma county. Congruent with the fashion in which Tayu’s founder, Robert Daniel Ennis, had honored all genuine paths to practice, we planned to carry books from all spiritual traditions.