Who’s Who in Buddhism: Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva


Sanskrit: Avalokiteśvara अवलोकितेश्वर or Avalokita
Tibetan: Chenrezig སྤྱན་རས་གཟིགས
Chinese: Kwan Shi Yin or Kwan Yin or Quanyin 观世音
Japanese: Kannon  観音
Vietnamese: Quán Thế Âm
Korean: Gwanseeum bosal 관세음보살
Thai: Avalokitesuarn or Chao mae Kuan Im อวโลกิเตศวร or เจ้าแม่กวนอิม

Probably the most popular Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism, Avalokitesvara is depicted as both male and female with a thousand hands and a thousand eyes who embodies the great compassion of all Buddhas, and is known as the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion. His name literally translating as “Lord who looks down,” or more notably known “the hearer of the cries”; the cries being of sentient beings who need his help.

Avalokitesvara has made a great vow to assist sentient beings in difficult times and has postponed his own Buddhahood until all sentient beings have reached Nirvana. Avalokitesvara is associated with many sutras and mantras including the Lotus Sutra, the Heart Sutra, the Great Compassion Mantra, and the six-syllable mantra.

At the beginning of his career, Avalokitesvara made a sacred vow that, “Should I ever become disheartened in saving sentient beings, may my body shatter into a thousand pieces.” This sounds slightly extreme, but it has a strong symbolic meaning of his great compassion and determination to help all sentient beings.

In the story of Avalokitesvara, after saving all the beings in hell after teaching them the Dharma, to his dismay, countless beings were still being flooded into the realms of hells. In a moment of exasperation, He became so disheartened that true to His vow, His body shattered in great agitation and despair. But He didn’t give up. His consciousness beseeched the Buddhas for help. Of the Buddhas who came to the rescue, Amitabha Buddha, and with his miraculous powers Avalokitesvara attained a new form — one with a thousand helping hands of Compassion coupled with the eyes of Wisdom in each palm.

Chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra is dedicated to Avalokitesvara. A total of 33 different manifestations of Avalokitesvara are described, including female manifestations, all to suit the minds of various beings. For example, if a monk is about to attain some enlightenment, Avalokitesvara will appear to him as a monk. If a person needs a Buddha, Pratyekabuddha, a nun, or an ordinary person, Avalokitesvara will appear to them in those forms to help guide them to Enlightenment.

As mentioned, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva helps those who are in difficult or dangerous situations. Praying, honoring, and giving offerings to Avalokitesvara will help you in those difficult times. Reciting Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva can help you in situations of hardship, depression, pain, and anxiety.


Smile and be well!
Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva

One comment on “Who’s Who in Buddhism: Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva
  1. Pingback: The Great Compassion Mantra | Buddha Journey

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