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AVALOKITEśVARA (/ˌʌvloʊkɪˈteɪʃvərə, ˌʌvə-/ UV-loh-kih-TAY-shvər-ə, UV-ə- ; Sanskrit
: अवलोकितेश्वर) is a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas . This bodhisattva is variably depicted, described and is portrayed in different cultures as either female or male. In Chinese Buddhism
Chinese Buddhism
, Avalokiteśvara has become the somewhat different female figure Guanyin
. In Cambodia
, he appears as LOKESVARAK, and in Japan he is called KANZEON or KANNON.


* 1 Etymology

* 2 Origin

* 2.1 Mahayana Account * 2.2 Theravāda Account * 2.3 Modern scholarship

* 3 Mantras and Dharanis * 4 Thousand-armed Avalokiteśvara * 5 Tibetan Buddhist Beliefs Concerning Chenrezig * 6 Manifestations * 7 Gallery * 8 See also * 9 Notes * 10 References * 11 External links


The name Avalokiteśvara combines the verbal prefix ava "down", lokita, a past participle of the verb lok "to notice, behold, observe", here used in an active sense; and finally īśvara , "lord", "ruler", "sovereign" or "master". In accordance with sandhi (Sanskrit rules of sound combination), a+iśvara becomes eśvara. Combined, the parts mean "lord who gazes down (at the world)". The word loka ("world") is absent from the name, but the phrase is implied. It does appear in the Cambodian form of the name, Lokesvarak.

The earliest translation of the name into Chinese by authors such as Xuanzang
was Guānzìzài (Chinese : 觀自在), not the form used in East Asian Buddhism
East Asian Buddhism
today, GUANYIN (Chinese : 觀音). It was initially thought that this was due to a lack of fluency, as Guanzizai indicates the original Sanskrit
form was actually Avalokitasvara, "who looks down upon sound" (i.e., the cries of sentient beings who need help). It is now understood that was the original form, and is also the origin of Guanyin
"Perceiving sound, cries", a translation furthered by the tendency of some Chinese translators, notably Kumārajīva , to use the variant 觀世音 Guānshìyīn "who perceives the world's lamentations"—wherein lok was read as simultaneously meaning both "to look" and "world" ( Sanskrit
loka; Chinese : 世; pinyin : shì). The original form Avalokitasvara appears in Sanskrit
fragments of the fifth century.

This earlier Sanskrit
name was supplanted by the form containing the ending -īśvara "lord"; Avalokiteśvara does not occur in Sanskrit before the seventh century.

The original meaning of the name fits the Buddhist understanding of the role of a Bodhisattva. The reinterpretation presenting him as an īśvara shows a strong influence of Hinduism
, as the term īśvara was usually connected to the Hindu notion of Vishnu
(in Vaishnavism
) or Śiva (in Shaivism
) as the Supreme Lord , Creator and Ruler of the world. Some attributes of such a god were transmitted to the bodhisattva, but the mainstream of those who venerated Avalokiteśvara upheld the Buddhist rejection of the doctrine of any creator god. 14th Dalai Lama, at his enthronement ceremony, February 22, 1940 in Lhasa, Tibet

In Sanskrit, Avalokiteśvara is also referred to as Padmapāni ("Holder of the Lotus") or Lokeśvara ("Lord of the World"). In Tibetan , Avalokiteśvara is Chenrézik, (Tibetan : སྤྱན་རས་གཟིགས་) and is said to emanate as the Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama
the Karmapa
and other high lamas . An etymology of the Tibetan name Chenrézik is spyan "eye", ras "continuity" and gzig "to look". This gives the meaning of one who always looks upon all beings (with the eye of compassion).


Avalokiteśvara painting from a Sanskrit
palm-leaf manuscript . India
, 12th century
12th century


According to the Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra , the sun and moon are said to be born from Avalokiteśvara's eyes, Shiva
from his brow, Brahma
from his shoulders, Narayana
from his heart, Sarasvati
from his teeth, the winds from his mouth, the earth from his feet and the sky from his stomach. In this text and others, such as the Longer Sukhavativyuha Sutra, Avalokiteśvara is an attendant of Amitabha

Some texts which mention Avalokiteśvara include:

* Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra * Lotus Sutra * Kāraṇḍavyūhasūtra * Heart Sutra
Heart Sutra
(Heart Sūtra) * Nīlakaṇṭha Dhāraṇī
Nīlakaṇṭha Dhāraṇī
Sutra * Eleven-Faced Avalokitesvara Heart Dharani Sutra * Cundī Dhāraṇī Sūtra

The Lotus Sutra is generally accepted to be the earliest literature teaching about the doctrines of Avalokiteśvara. These are found in the Lotus Sutra chapter 25 (Chinese : 觀世音菩薩普門品). This chapter is devoted to Avalokiteśvara, describing him as a compassionate bodhisattva who hears the cries of sentient beings, and who works tirelessly to help those who call upon his name. A total of 33 different manifestations of Avalokiteśvara are described, including female manifestations, all to suit the minds of various beings. The chapter consists of both a prose and a verse section. This earliest source often circulates separately as its own sutra, called the Avalokiteśvara Sūtra (Chinese : 觀世音經; pinyin : Guānshìyīn jīng), and is commonly recited or chanted at Buddhist temples in East Asia. Four-armed Tibetan form of Avalokiteśvara.

When the Chinese monk Faxian
traveled to Mathura
in India
around 400 CE, he wrote about monks presenting offerings to Avalokiteśvara. When Xuanzang
traveled to India
in the 7th century, he provided eyewitness accounts of Avalokiteśvara statues being venerated by devotees of all walks of life, from kings, to monks, to laypeople. Avalokiteśvara / Padmapani, Ajanta Caves
Ajanta Caves
, India

In Chinese Buddhism
Chinese Buddhism
and East Asia, Tangmi
practices for the 18-armed form of Avalokiteśvara called Cundī are very popular. These practices have their basis in early Indian Vajrayana
: her origins lie with a yakshini cult in Bengal and Orissa and her name in Sanskrit "connotes a prostitute or other woman of low caste but specifically denotes a prominent local ogress ... whose divinised form becomes the subject of an important Buddhist cult starting in the eighth century". The popularity of Cundī is attested by the three extant translations of the Cundī Dhāraṇī Sūtra from Sanskrit
to Chinese, made from the end of the seventh century to the beginning of the eighth century. In late imperial China , these early esoteric traditions still thrived in Buddhist communities. Robert Gimello has also observed that in these communities, the esoteric practices of Cundī were extremely popular among both the populace and the elite.

In the Tiantai
school, six forms of Avalokiteśvara are defined. Each of the bodhisattva's six qualities are said to break the hindrances respectively of the six realms of existence: hell-beings, pretas , animals, humans, asuras , and devas .


Bronze statue of Avalokiteśvara from Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
, ca. 750 CE

Veneration of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva
has continued to the present day in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka

In times past both Tantrayana and Mahayana have been found in some of the Theravada
countries, but today the Buddhism
of Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia
is almost exclusively Theravada, based on the Pali
Canon. The only Mahayana deity that has entered the worship of ordinary Buddhists in Theravada
countries is Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. In Ceylon he is known as Natha-deva and mistaken by the majority for the Buddha yet to come, Bodhisattva
Maitreya. The figure of Avalokitesvara usually is found in the shrine room near the Buddha image.

In more recent times, some western-educated Theravādins have attempted to identify Nātha with Maitreya
Bodhisattva; however, traditions and basic iconography (including an image of Amitābha Buddha on the front of the crown) identify Nātha as Avalokiteśvara. Andrew Skilton writes:

... It is clear from sculptural evidence alone that the Mahāyāna was fairly widespread throughout , although the modern account of the history of Buddhism
on the island presents an unbroken and pure lineage of Theravāda. (One can only assume that similar trends were transmitted to other parts of Southeast Asia with Sri Lankan ordination lineages.) Relics of an extensive cult of Avalokiteśvara can be seen in the present-day figure of Nātha.

Avalokiteśvara is popularly worshiped in Myanmar
, where he is called Lokanat, and Thailand
, where he is called Lokesvara. Wood carving of Lokanat at Shwenandaw Monastery , Mandalay
, Burma


Avalokiteśvara is worshipped as Nātha in Sri Lanka. Tamil Buddhist tradition developed in Chola literature , such as in Buddamitra's Virasoliyam , states that the Vedic
sage Agastya
learnt Tamil from the Bodhisattva
Avalokitesvara ; the earlier Chinese traveler Xuanzang recorded the existence of a temple dedicated to Avalokitesvara in the South Indian hill Potalaka, a Sanskritzation of the Pothigai hill where Tamil Hindu tradition places Agastya
having learnt the Tamil language from the deity Siva. Avalokitesvara worship gained popularity with the growth of the Abhayagiri Vihara
Abhayagiri Vihara
's Tamraparniyan Mahayana sect. Pothigai Malai in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
, proposed as the original Mount Potalaka
Mount Potalaka
in India

Western scholars have not reached a consensus on the origin of the reverence for Avalokiteśvara.

Some have suggested that Avalokiteśvara, along with many other supernatural beings in Buddhism, was a borrowing or absorption by Mahayana Buddhism
of one or more deities from Hinduism
, in particular Shiva
or Vishnu
, although the reason for this suggestion is because of the current name of the bodhisattva: Avalokiteśvara.

The Japanese scholar Shu Hikosaka on the basis of his study of Buddhist scriptures, ancient Tamil literary sources, as well as field survey, proposes the hypothesis that, the ancient mount Potalaka, the residence of Avalokiteśvara described in the Gaṇḍavyūha Sūtra and Xuanzang
’s Great Tang Records on the Western Regions , is the real mountain Pothigai in Ambasamudram , Tirunelveli
, Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
. Shu also says that mount Potalaka has been a sacred place for the people of South India
from time immemorial. It is the traditional residence of Siddhar
, at Agastya
Mala . With the spread of Buddhism
in the region beginning at the time of the great king Aśoka in the third century BCE, it became a holy place also for Buddhists who gradually became dominant as a number of their hermits settled there. The local people, though, mainly remained followers of the Hindu religion. The mixed Hindu-Buddhist cult culminated in the formation of the figure of Avalokiteśvara.

The name Lokeśvara should not be confused with that of Lokeśvararāja , the Buddha under whom Dharmakara became a monk and made forty-eight vows before becoming Amitābha


OṂ MAŅI PADME HǕṂ. The six syllable mantra of Avalokiteśvara written in the Tibetan alphabet
Tibetan alphabet

Mahāyāna Buddhism
relates Avalokiteśvara to the six-syllable mantra oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ . In Tibetan Buddhism , due to his association with this mantra, one form of Avalokiteśvara is called Ṣaḍākṣarī "Lord of the Six Syllables" in Sanskrit
. Recitation of this mantra along with prayer beads is the most popular religious practice in Tibetan Buddhism. The connection between this famous mantra and Avalokiteśvara occurs for the first time in the Kāraṇḍavyūhasūtra . This text is first dated to around the late 4th century CE to the early 5th century CE. In this sūtra, a bodhisattva is told by the Buddha that recitation of this mantra while focusing on the sound can lead to the attainment of eight hundred samādhis . The Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra also features the first appearance of the dhāraṇī of Cundī , which occurs at the end of the sūtra text. After the bodhisattva finally attains samādhi with the mantra "oṃ maṇipadme hūṃ", he is then able to observe 77 koṭīs of fully enlightened buddhas replying to him in one voice with the Cundī Dhāraṇī: namaḥ saptānāṃ samyaksaṃbuddha koṭīnāṃ tadyathā, oṃ cale cule cunde svāhā.

In Shingon Buddhism
Shingon Buddhism
, the mantra for Avalokiteśvara is On aruri kya sowa ka (Japanese : おん あるりきゃ そわか)

The Nīlakaṇṭha Dhāraṇī
Nīlakaṇṭha Dhāraṇī
is an 82-syllable dhāraṇī for Avalokiteśvara.


Thousand-armed Avalokiteśvara. Guanyin
women's vihara , Anhui
, China

One prominent Buddhist story tells of Avalokiteśvara vowing never to rest until he had freed all sentient beings from saṃsāra . 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. Amitābha
, seeing his plight, gives him eleven heads with which to hear the cries of the suffering. Upon hearing these cries and comprehending them, Avalokiteśvara attempts to reach out to all those who needed aid, but found that his two arms shattered into pieces. Once more, Amitābha
comes to his aid and invests him with a thousand arms with which to aid the suffering multitudes.

The Bao\'en Temple located in northwestern Sichuan
has an outstanding wooden image of the Thousand-Armed Avalokiteśvara, an example of Ming dynasty decorative sculpture.


Avalokiteśvara is an important deity in Tibetan Buddhism , and is regarded in the Vajrayana
teachings as a Buddha.

In Tibetan Buddhism, Tara came into existence from a single tear shed by Avalokiteśvara. 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 Avalokiteśvara. In either version, it is Avalokiteśvara's outpouring of compassion which manifests Tara as a being.


Magnificent clay images of Amoghpasha Lokesvara flanked by Arya Tara and Bhrikuti Tara enshrined at the side wing of Vasuccha Shil Mahavihar, Guita Bahi, Patan : This set of images is popular in traditional monasteries of Kathmandu Valley
Kathmandu Valley
, Nepal

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Avalokiteśvara has an extraordinarily large number of manifestations in different forms (including wisdom goddesses (vidyaas) directly associated with him in images and texts). Some of the more commonly mentioned forms include:


Aryavalokitesvara Sacred Avalokitesvara The root form of the Bodhisattva

Ekādaśamukha Eleven Faced Additional faces to teach all in 10 planes of existence

Sahasra-bhuja Sahasra-netra Thousand-Armed, Thousand-Eyed Avalokitesvara Very popular form: sees and helps all

Cintamāṇicakra Wish Fulfilling Avalokitesvara Holds the bejeweled cintamani wheel

Hayagrīva Horse-necked one Wrathful form; simultaneously bodhisattva and a Wisdom King

Cundi "prostitute or other woman of low caste" Portrayed with many arms

Amoghapāśa Unfailing Rope Avalokitesvara with rope and net

Bhrkuti Fierce-Eyed

Pāndaravāsinī White and Pure

Parnaśabarī Cloaked With Leaves

Raktaṣadakṣarī Six Red Syllables

Śvetabhagavatī White Lord

Udakaśrī Auspicious Water



Gandhāran statue of Avalokiteśvara, abhaya-mudrā . 3rd century CE. *

Indian cave wall painting of Avalokiteśvara. Ajaṇṭā Caves , 6th century CE. *

Torso of Avalokiteśvara from Sanchi in the Victoria and Albert Museum *

Cambodian statue of Avalokiteśvara. Sandstone, 7th century CE. *

Avalokiteshvara sandstone statue, late 7th century CE. *

Padmapani holding a lotus. 8th- 9th century
9th century
Sailendran art, Plaosan temple, Java
, Indonesia
. *

Eight-armed Avalokiteshvara, ca. 12th-13th century (Bàyon). The Walters Art Museum . *

Avalokiteshvara from Bingin Jungut, Musi Rawas , South Sumatra. Srivijayan art (c. 8th- 9th century
9th century
CE) *

The bronze torso statue of Padmapani, 8th century CE Srivijayan art, Chaiya District , Surat Thani Province , Southern Thailand. *

The Privy Seal of King Ananda Mahidol
Ananda Mahidol
of Thailand
show a picture of a Bodhisattva, based on a Srivijayan sculpture of Avalokiteśvara Padmapani which was found at Chaiya District , Surat Thani Province . *

The stone head of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, discovered in Aceh
. Srivijayan art, estimated 9th century
9th century
CE. *

Malaysian statue of Avalokiteśvara. Bidor
, 8th- 9th century
9th century
CE. *

Chinese statue of Avalokiteśvara looking out over the sea, c. 1025 CE. *

Chinese hanging scroll depicting Shancai , Avalokiteśvara and Longnü
, Yuan Dynasty
Yuan Dynasty
. *

Korean painting of Avalokiteśvara. Kagami Jinjya, Japan, 1310 CE.


Nepalese statue of Avalokiteśvara with six arms. 14th century CE.


Japanese painting of meditating. 16th century CE. *

Avalokiteśvara, crimson and gilded wood. Restored in 1656 CE. Bút Tháp Temple , Bắc Ninh Province
Bắc Ninh Province
, Vietnam

Tibetan statue of Avalokiteśvara with eleven faces. *

Kek Lok Si
Kek Lok Si
Temple in Air Itam, Penang
. The world tallest octagonal pavilion to shelter the Goddess of Mercy statue. *

Esoteric Cundī form of Avalokiteśvara with eighteen arms. *

Thousand-armed Avalokiteśvara bronze statue from Tibet, circa 1750. Birmingham Museum of Art
Birmingham Museum of Art

Mongolian statue of Avalokiteśvara ( Migjid Janraisig
Migjid Janraisig
). Tallest indoor statue in the world, 26.5-meter-high, 1996 rebuilt, (1913) *

Avalokiteśvara in the form of Cintamani Wheel Avalokiteśvara. A dhāraṇī written in Sanskrit
in the Siddhaṃ script
Siddhaṃ script
behind. Singapore
. *

Avalokitesvara, Ming Dynasty, Guimet Museum *

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva
in Daan Park, Taipei, Taiwan *

Statue of Avalokiteśvara, date unknown, bronze and gold *

Avalokiteśvara from the Museum of Vietnamese History *


Painting of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. Sanskrit
Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra
manuscript written in the Ranjana script. Nalanda, Bihar, India. Circa 700-1100 CE


* Guanyin
* Ishvara
* Pure Land Buddhism
* Vishnu
* Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama


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* Buswell, Robert ; Lopez, Donald S. (2013). The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-15786-3 . * Ducor, Jérôme (2010). Le regard de Kannon (in French). Gollion: Infolio éditions / Genève: Musée d\'ethnographie de Genève . p. 104. ISBN 978-2-88474-187-3 . ill. colour * Getty, Alice (1914). The gods of northern Buddhism: their history, iconography and progressive evolution through the northern Buddhist countries. Oxford: Clarendon Press. * Holt, John (1991). Buddha in the Crown: Avalokitesvara in the Buddhist Traditions of Sri Lanka. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195064186 . * McDermott, James P. (1999). "Buddha in the Crown: Avalokitesvara in the Buddhist Traditions of Sri Lanka". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 119 (1): 195–196. * Studholme, Alexander (2002). The Origins of Om Manipadme Hum. Albany NY: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-5389-8 . * Tsugunari, Kubo; Akira (tr.), Yuyama (2007). The Lotus Sutra (PDF) (Revised 2nd ed.). Berkeley, Calif.: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research. ISBN 978-1-886439-39-9 . Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-07-02. * Yü, Chün-fang (2001). Kuan-Yin: The Chinese Transformation of Avalokitesvara. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-12029-6 .


Wikimedia Commons has media related to AVALOKITESHVARA .


* The Origin of Avalokiteshvara of Potala * An Explanation of the Name Avalokiteshvara * The Bodhisattva
of Compassion
and Spiritual Emanation of Amitabha - from Buddhanature.com * Depictions at the Bayon in Cambodia
of Avalokiteshvara as the Khmer King Jayavarman VII * Mantra
Avalokitesvara * Avalokiteshvara at Brittanica.com * Chenrezig Tibetan Buddhist Center of