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Avalokiteśvara 1000 Armed
Chag Tong Chen Tong Tibetan Buddhist Meditation
prominent Buddhist story tells of Avalokiteśvara vowing never to rest
until he had freed all sentient beings from samsāra.
effort, he realizes that many unhappy beings were yet to be saved.
to comprehend the needs of so many, his head splits into as many as a
his plight, gives him eleven heads with which to hear the cries of the
suffering placing an image of himself at the top.
Upon hearing these
cries and comprehending them,
Avalokiteśvara tries to reach out to all
those who needed aid, but found that his two arms also shattered into pieces.
Amitābha comes to his aid and invests him with a thousand arms with
which to aid all suffering beings.
The eleven heads symbolize the ten directions of space with Amitabha
Buddha, the spiritual teacher at the top,
suggesting that Avalokiteśvara’s compassionate gaze is infinite in scope
throughout the entire universe
all physical space.
Specifically, the ten directions are
the eight directions of
the compass—north, south, east, west, northwest, northeast, southeast,
up and down.
Buddhist scriptures refer to the existence of Buddha
lands in all directions throughout
each with its own Buddha.
The expression "the Buddhas
of the ten directions" in the sutras indicates
The phrase ten
directions often appears with the phrase three existences, meaning past,
present, and future existences.
of the ten directions and three existences"
thus means all Buddhas throughout space
Each of the thousand hands, which are arrayed like an aura around the
standing figure of Avalokiteśvara, has an eye in the centre of the palm,
suggesting that his beneficial activities are informed by transcendental
Many of the hands bear implements, suggesting the skilful means that
Avalokiteśvara employs in saving sentient beings from the sufferings of
(Sanskrit: avalokita, “looking on”; ishivara,“lord”)
Mahayana Buddhism, the bodhisattva of infinite compassion and mercy, is
possibly the most popular of all figures in Buddhist legend.
supremely exemplifies the bodhisattva’s resolve to postpone his own
buddhahood until he has helped every sentient being on earth achieve
liberation from suffering and the process of death and rebirth.
His name has been variously interpreted as “the lord who looks in every
direction” and “the lord of what we see”.
In Tibet he is known as Chenrezig (“With a Pitying Look”)
in Mongolia as Nidü-ber üjegči (“He Who Looks with the Eyes”).
The title invariably used for him in Cambodia and Thailand is Lokeshvara
(“Lord of the World”)
and Lokanatha in Myanmar (Burma)
In China, Avalokiteśvarawhere is worshipped in female form as
Guanyin, the Goddess of
Mercy (“Hearing the Cries”).
In Sri Lanka he is known as Natha-deva,
in Japan as Kannon,
Gwanseum in Korea
and Quan Am in Vietnam.
In Nepal Avalokiteśvara is known as Jana Baha Dyah, Karunamaya, Seto
Machindranath and Padmapani (Holder of the Lotus).
Avalokiteśvara was introduced into Tibet in
the 7th century, where he quickly became the most-popular figure in the
successively reincarnated in each Dalai Lama.
He is credited with introducing the mantra
om mani padme huṃ
Avalokiteśvara's first two hands are in front of
the heart, palms
together, holding a wish-fulfilling gem.
The Wish-Fulfilling Gem fulfills all of one's
(Skt. Chintamani, Tib. Norbu Rinpoche)
Its radiance illuminates the darkness of night
It cools when the days are hot and warms when
the days are cold
It causes a spring of sweet water to appear when
one is thirsty
It brings into existence everything that the
turner of the wheel of dharma desires
It controls the nagas, preventing floods,
hailstorms, and torrential rain from occuring
It emits light which heals all emotional
afflictions and imperfections of nature
Its radiance cures all illnesses
It prevents untimely death ensuring that death
occurs in a natural and auspicious sequence.
On Avalokiteśvara's right,
the second arm holds a crystal mala (rosary),
a reminder to recite the mantra
om mani padme huṃ
the third arm holds the Dharmachakra wheel of knowledge,
and the fourth arm is
in the Varada mudra of giving supreme
On Avalokiteśvara's left,
the second arm holds a golden lotus, the purest of
flowers although it is born from the mud.
the third arm holds an undrawn bow and arrow symbolizing defeat of the
four negative forces,
and the fourth arm holds the empowerment vase containing the nectar of
his compassionate wisdom.
The other 992 hands are in the gesture of giving the highest
An antelope skin is draped over his left shoulder, symbolizing that
hatred is overcome completely by peaceful, compassionate wisdom.