In Buddhism, the word Avalokiteshvara or Avalokitasvara is used for a Bodhisattva who is the personification of the compassion of all the Buddhas. A Bodhisattva is a person who is on the path towards awakening or liberation from material bondage by following the principles of Buddhism. The Sanskrit term Avalokiteshvara is a combination of three words – Ava meaning “down”, Lokita meaning “to gaze, notice or observe '', and Ishvara meaning “lord”. Thus, the combined words refer to “lord who gazes down – at the world or the living beings”. It is believed that Avalokiteshvara has 108 Avatars and is variably depicted, portrayed, and described as either male or female. He looks at all the people of this world with his eyes of compassion and perceives their lamentations and sufferings. Avalokiteshvara is loved throughout the Buddhist community due to his causeless mercy and compassion upon the conditioned souls of this material world. In the Mahayana Buddhism tradition, the Lotus Sutra has a whole chapter on the doctrines of Avalokiteshvara. It describes him as a highly compassionate Bodhisattva who works selflessly to relieve the sufferings of those who call his name.
The Buddha answered Bodhisattva Akshayamati, saying: “O son of a virtuous family! If innumerable hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of sentient beings who experience suffering hear of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara and wholeheartedly chant his name, Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara will immediately perceive their voices and free them from their suffering"
— The Lotus Sutra
The Lotus Sutra mentions that Avalokiteshvara can
take up any form of God including Brahma and Indra, any gender - male or
female, adult or child, to teach the principles of Dharma to all sentient
beings. A total of 33 manifestations of Avalokiteshvara are described that
include seven female manifestations as well.
is portrayed in a multitude of forms and several manifestations are described
that suit the minds of different people. In Chinese Buddhism, he has evolved into the
female form called Guanshiyin. The word Guanyin refers to “the one who hears the
sounds or cries of the sentient beings”. She is often revered as the Buddhist
mercy”. She is also worshiped in some temples of Nepal, Tibet, and Sri Lanka.
Her statues are widely depicted in Buddhist artistry works and are presented in
famous museums around the world. However, people of other Buddhist communities
believe that Guanyin possesses both masculine and feminine characteristics.
Chinese art, she is portrayed as a young and beautiful woman wearing a white
flowy robe seated on a large lotus bloom. In her left hand, she holds a vase
that contains pure water, capable of relieving the suffering of people. The
right-hand holds a willow branch to sprinkle the divine water. The halo around
her head indicates her sacredness. Because Guanyin embodies compassion, she is
also associated with vegetarianism, and her image is often depicted in most
Buddhist vegetarian pamphlets and menus. She is highly venerated and immensely
popular among Chinese Buddhists and is seen as a source of unconditional love.
Out of all the
deities of Avalokiteshvara in the Tibetan Pantheon of Buddhism, Chenrezig is
the most renowned. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is believed to be an incarnation
of this Bodhisattva, a living symbol of boundless compassion. Chenrezig
is conceptualized and visualized in various forms, with many faces and arms. He
sits on a full-blown lotus crossing his legs. He is usually depicted having
four arms that represent the four immeasurables; Immeasurable Compassion,
Immeasurable Kindness, Immeasurable Joy, and Immeasurable Equanimity. His two
arms join together at the heart in a prayer position holding a wish-fulfilling
gem in between. With his upper left arm, he holds a lotus flower and with his
other right arm, he holds a crystal rosary (mala) which he uses to count the
repetitions of the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”, which means “Hail to the Jewel
in the Lotus, which is capable of liberating all beings from their suffering”. His
meditation is practiced by all the great Buddhists in the lineage of Tibetan
A big halo
encircling his head represents his great purity and exalted position. He is
always clad in the clothes of a Bodhisattva and wears the skin of an antelope
on his shoulders. Bearing a soft smile on his beautiful face, he looks down
upon the sentient beings with his eyes full of love and compassion.
an Eleven-faced manifestation of Avalokiteshvara in Buddhism. He is considered
one of the six principal forms of the Bodhisattva that relieves all sentient
beings from the six realms of material existence; the realm of Devas, the realm
of Asuras, the realm of hungry ghosts, the hell realm, the animal realm, and
the human realm. Ekadashamukha is believed to save those in the Asura realm.
The eleven heads
Avalokiteshvara represent the eleven kinds of ignorance or
Avidya that the souls of this world are conditioned with, which the Bodhisattva
removes. In most of the depictions of Ekadashamukha, out of his eleven heads, three bear a serene
expression, characteristic of depictions of bodhisattvas, three sport a
wrathful feature, three grin with fangs protruding upward from their mouths,
one laughs exuberantly, whilst the final, topmost head is that of a Buddha, sporting a calming
This one another
manifestation of Guanyin (in Chinese Buddhism) and is one of the six forms of
the Bodhisattva. He is believed to save those beings in the realm of Devas.
There are many small mantras associated with Chintamanichakra, some of which
are recited in temples in morning rituals.
He is usually
depicted as having six arms and wearing a crown on his head. His first right hand touches his face softly,
with his second right hand he holds a wish-fulfilling gem (Chintamani), and the
third right hand holds a Japa Mala (prayer beads). His first left hand touches
the rock he is sitting on, the second left hand holds a crimson lotus flower,
and the third left hand holds the Dharmachakra (wheel of Dharma). He sits in a
royal position atop a lotus on a rock protruding from the ocean, which is a
symbol of Avalokiteshvara’s abode Mount Potalaka. The serene expression on his
face represents his purity and compassionate nature toward all living beings.
The deity of
Tara is considered important in the Tibetan branch of Tantric Buddhism. She is the female aspect of
Avalokiteshvara and is revered as a meditation deity, the embodiment of
compassion and action. She remains popular in different forms and
manifestations among different Buddhist communities throughout the world such
as in Tibet, Nepal, and Mongolia. The two most common representations are Green
Tara and White Tara.
White Tara is
described as white and bright as the moon and is associated with longevity (of
life) and counteracts illness, for which she is also known as the “Healing
Goddess”. Green Tara (Khadiravani) is associated with protection from fear and
eight obscurations: Ignorance, Pride, Jealousy, Anger, Wrong notions, Miserliness,
Desire and Attachment, and Delusion.
Tara is revered
as the Mother of mercy and compassion and has all the feminine qualities. She
nurtures and protects all beings from all dangers, just as a mother is
empathetic toward her children. Tibetan Buddhism describes 21 forms of Tara,
having a certain color attributing to a unique feminine quality or principle in
her. There are at least ten green, one red, five yellow, seven white, and two
blue forms. She is portrayed in various forms as having either two arms or four
arms, sitting or standing on a full lotus.
The image above
shows White Tara seated on a full-blown lotus with both her legs crossed. Her
complexion is radiant white and she has two arms and seven eyes; the third eye
on her forehead and one on each hand and foot. She holds the Utpala lotus
flower in her left hand, while the left hand is in the protective mudra. With
her compassionate glance, she looks down at the people of this world, suffering
the pangs of material existence. Why
the Buddha Head Statue is Head and Shoulders Above the Rest.
Your email address will not be published *
Email a Friend