Ahimsa Grove

Ahimsa Grove is a resource for vegan pagan living. It will include personal experiences and musings, recipes, shopping tips, vegan ethical and dietary considerations, and ideas for pagan practice including spells, rituals, and herbcraft.

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Deity Profile: Quan Yin

Quan Yin is a powerful archetype of veganism. In the Buddhist legend, the “Complete Tale of Guanyin and the Southern Seas,” she is determined to save every sentient being on earth from their suffering. As she tries to contemplate this suffering, her head shatters into eleven pieces.

The Buddha Amitabha sees her plight and grants her eleven heads so she can continue on her noble work. She goes on to try to reach out to all the suffering, and her arms shatter. She is then granted 1000 arms. There are different variations on this story, and one of Quan Yin’s names is “the goddess of 1000 arms.”

In the Chinese “Precious Scroll of the Parrot,” the bird went out seeking food for her ailing mother. While out, she was trapped by hunters. Eventually, she escaped. Yet by the time she returned home, her mother had starved. The parrot, in her grief, became a disciple of Quan Yin. The bird is sometimes pictured over the Goddess’ right shoulder in imagery and is a symbol of familial love.

This story is deeply intriguing to me. Through it, the authors explore lessons with us about the feelings, family bonds, and the spiritual lives of non-human animals. In a way, the story makes the parrot seem anthropomorphic, or human-like. But in another way, the imagery draws us into the perspective of the bird. It asserts that a bird also cares for and loves her family.

She has a devotion to the Goddess which shows her spiritual intelligence. This gives us the ability to empathize with her loss and recognize her as a fellow traveller in our embodied, spiritual journey. The idea that a bird is a “disciple” of the Bodhisattva has interesting implications.

In Christian theology, the fact that Jesus had female disciples has sometimes been used to argue for women’s equality in the church. The story of Quan Yin having a non-human animal as a disciple has the potential to allow the same argument in terms of speciesism.


I believe Quan Yin is very present on a vegan journey where we explore our compassionate choices. I see her as very connected to any ritual work or meditation that has to do with the easing of suffering for exploited and displaced animals. She is a goddess who includes non-human animals as equals on the path to spiritual enlightenment.

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Leslie earned her Master of Divinity Degree at Vanderbilt University and is a Wiccan Priestess, Ordained Interfaith and seeking ordination through the Temple of the Feminine Divine in Bangor. Her column in SageWoman, “Child of Artemis,” deals with women and our relationship with animals. Leslie considers herself a cultural worker, dealing with issues of violence and oppression as they impact humans and other species. She has worked at a rural domestic violence prevention program since 2001 and is a board member on VegME, Maine’s vegan advocacy group.  


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