Explaining God of Compassion Avalokitesvara
Avalokitesvara is a bodhisattva who uses to embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. He is one of the more widely revered bodhisattvas who helps in mainstream Mahayana Buddhism. In China and its sphere of cultural influence, Avalokitesvara is often depicted in an also female form known as Guan Yin.
Table of Contents
The Viability of Avalokitesvara
In this portion, we are going to learn about the viability of Avalokitesvara, after the short description of the word Avalokitesvara itself
Etymology of Avalokitesvara
Earlier, we learn about the viability of Avalokitesvara. Now, we are going to learn about the origin of the accounts of Avalokitesvara.
Accounts of Avalokitesvara
In this section, we are going to learn about the accounts of Avalokitesvara, and description of Mahayana account, Vajrayana account, and Theravada account.
According to Mahayana doctrine, Avalokitesvara is the bodhisattva who has made a great vow to listen to the prayers of all sentient beings in times of difficulty and to postpone his own Buddhahood until he has assisted every being on Earth in achieving nirvana. Mahayana sutras associated with Avalokitesvara include the Heart Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, particularly which has the 25th chapter, which is sometimes referred to as the Avalokitesvara Sutra. Six forms of Avalokitesvara in Mahayana:
- Great compassion
- Great loving-kindness
- Lion -courage
- Universal light
- The leader amongst gods and men
- The great omnipresent Brahman
In the Tibetan tradition, Avalokitesvara also seems as arising from two sources. One is the relative source, wherein a previous eon a devoted, compassionate Buddhist monk became a bodhisattva, transformed in the present Kalpa into Avalokitesvara. That is not in conflict, however, with the ultimate source, which is Avalokitesvara as the universal manifestation of compassion.
Seven forms of Avalokitesvara in esoteric Buddhism:
- Amoghapasa a. not empty net or lasso.
- Vara-Sahasrabhuja-Locana/Sahasrabhujasahasranetra, 1000-hand and 1000-eye,
- Hayagriva, horse-headed
- Cintamani-chakra; the wheel of sovereign power
- Arya Lokitesvara
Although mainstream Theravada does not worship any of the Mahayana bodhisattvas, Avalokitesvara is popularly worshiped in Burma, where she is called Lokanat, and Thailand, where she is called Lokesvara.
Earlier, we learn about the viability of Avalokitesvara and the origin of the accounts of Avalokitesvara. Now, we are going to learn about the mantras of Avalokitesvara.
Om Mani Padme Hum
Tibetan Buddhism relates Chenrezig to the six-syllable mantra Om Mani Padme Hum. Thus, Chenrezig is also known as Shadakshari. The connection between this famous mantra and the Avalokitesvara already occurs in the Karandavyuha Sutra, one of the first Buddhist works to have reached Tibet.
Earlier, we learn about the viability of Avalokitesvara, the origin of the accounts of Avalokitesvara, and the mantras of Avalokitesvara. Now, we are going to learn about the thousand arms of Avalokitesvara.
The thousand arms of Avalokitesvara
We will learn about the thousand arms of Avalokitesvara.
One prominent Buddhist story tells of Avalokitesvara vowing never to rest until he had freed all sentient beings from samsara. Despite strenuous effort, he realizes that still many unhappy beings were yet to be saved. After struggling to comprehend the needs of so many, his head splits into eleven pieces. Amitabha Buddha, seeing his plight, gives him eleven heads with which to hear the cries of the suffering.
Upon hearing these cries and comprehending them, Avalokitesvara attempts to reach out to all those who needed aid but found that his two arms shattered into pieces. Once more, Amitabha comes to his aid and invests him with a thousand arms with which to aid the suffering multitudes. Many Himalayan versions of the tale include eight arms with which Avalokitesvara skillfully upholds the dharma, each possessing its own particular implement, while more Chinese-specific ones give varying accounts of this number.
The Baoan Temple located in northwestern Sichuan province, China has an outstanding wooden image of the thousand-armed Avalokiteśvara, an example of the Ming Dynasty decorative sculpture.
Earlier, we learn about the viability of Avalokitesvara, the origin of the accounts of Avalokitesvara, the mantras of Avalokitesvara, and the thousand arms of Avalokitesvara. Now, we are going to learn about Tibetan Buddhist beliefs concerning Chenrezig.
Tibetan Buddhist beliefs concerning Chenrezig
We will learn about Tibetan Buddhist beliefs concerning Chenrezig.
Avalokitesvara is an important deity in Tibetan Buddhism and is regarded as the Vajrayana teachings as a Buddha. In the Mahayana teachings, he is in general regarded as a high-level Bodhisattva. The Karmapa is considered by the Karma Kagyu sect to be Chenrezig’s primary manifestation.
It is said that Padmasambhava prophesied that Avalokitesvara will manifest himself in the Tulku lineages of the Dalai Lamas and the Karmapas. Another Tibetan source explains that Buddha Amithaba gave to one of his two main disciples, Avalokitesvara, the task to take upon himself the burden of caring for Tibet. That is why he has manifested himself not only as spiritual teachers in Tibet but also in the form of kings or ministers.
Other manifestations popular in Tibet include Sahasra-Bhuja and Ekadasamukha. In Tibetan Buddhism, White Tara acts as the consort and energizer of Avalokitesvara Chenrezig. According to popular belief, Tara came into existence from a single tear shed by Chenrezig.
When the tear fell to the ground it created a lake, and a lotus opening in the lake revealed Tara. In another version of this story, Tara emerges from the heart of Chenrezig. In either version, it is Chenrezig’s outpouring of compassion which manifests Tara as a being.
Earlier, we learn about the viability of Avalokitesvara, the origin of the accounts of Avalokitesvara, the mantras of Avalokitesvara, and the thousand arms of Avalokitesvara. And finally, we learn about Tibetan Buddhist beliefs concerning Chenrezig.