Avaloketishvara with the thousand arms / hands is one of the most known bodhisattvas.
Avaloketishvara is one of the most known bodhisattvas and he is like an iconic bodhisattva. Avaloketishvara , Bodhisattva who have embodies the compassion of all Buddhas is quite respected in all the schools of Mahayana Buddhism as the ideal of Karuna. He even postpone his own Buddhahood to show his resolve to exemplifies the true meaning Bodhisattva so that he could help every sentient being on earth to achieve emancipation. Avaloketishvara is the earthly manifestation of eternal, Amitabha Buddha and he had always guard and protects the world during the departure of Lord Buddha and during the appearance of the future Buddha, Maitreya. There are various meaning of Avaloketishvara like “the lord who looks in every direction”, “the lord of what we see”. In Tibet his name is also interpreted as “Spyan-ras gzigs (With a pitying look)” and “Nidü-ber üjegi (He who looks with the eyes)” in Mongolia and “Lokeshvara (Lord of the World)” in Indochina and Thailand.
Mahayana is one of the two branches of Buddhism and classified as the Buddhist philosophies and practices. According to Mahayana Buddhism, Avaloketishvara is the Bodhisattva and had made a vow to help and provide assist people in times in difficulty and he is the one who postpone his own Buddhahood to fulfill his vow to assist sentient beings. There are various Mahayana Sutras in respect for Avaloketishvara. They are as follows:
- Lotus Sutras (Saddharma Pundarika Sutra)
- Heart Sutra (Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya Sūtra)
- Nilakantha Dharani (Mahākaruṇā Dhāranī Sūtra)
- Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra
- Sutra (Cundī Dhāraṇī)
- Avalokiteśvara Ekādaśamukha Dhāraṇī Sūtra
One of the earliest literature teachings of Avaloketishvara Doctrine is The Lotus Sutra ( aka Saddharma Pundarika Sutra ). This chapter is especially devoted to describe Avaloketishvara as a compassionate Bodhisattva and his care for sentient beings.
Aside from Mahayana Buddhism, there are different story about Avaloketishvara in Tibetan tradition. According to Tibetan tradition, Avaloketishvara is said to be arised from two different sources. One is relative source where a compassionate as well as devoted monk became Bodhisattva and another is universal source where he is the universal manifestation of compassions of all Buddhas.
Thousand Arms Avaloketishvara
Avaloketishvara, in the beginning of his Bodhisattva career, took a great vow “Should He Ever become disheartened in saving sentient beings, may his body shatter into a thousand pieces.” and due to this vow, he became the symbol of Overwhelming compassion and determination. But despite his great effort and will, many countless beings are suffering and they are yet to saved. He became so disheartened that despite his vow he couldn’t fulfill them. His head shattered in 11 pieces but seeing his great difficulty, Amitabha Buddha gave him 11 heads so that he could hear the cries and needs of sentient beings of the world who are still suffering. He just didn’t give up but his two hands were limited to provide aid to those needed and his hands shattered into pieces. Once again Amitabha Buddha, with his miraculous power gave Avaloketishvara, a new form, where he has 1000 hands of Compassion and eye of Wisdom in each palm and 1000 heads to hear the cries of sentient beings.
Mantras Related to Avaloketishvara
1. Oṃ Maṇi Padme Hūṃ:
This mantra is six syllable mantra of Mahayana Buddhism is related to Avaloketishvara . This is the most popular practice in Tibetan Buddhism
2. Namaḥ Saptānāṃ Samyaksaṃbuddha Koṭīnāṃ Tadyathā
oṃ cale cule cunde svāhā
3. On Arurikya Sowaka :
This mantra is practiced in Shingon Buddhism.
4. Namah Srimadavalokitesvaraya :
This mantra is given by the king of Chamba Riyasat of Himal Pradesh-India.