Avalokiteshvara is the Bodhisattva of compassion, perhaps the most popular of all figures in Buddhist legend. He is variously described and depicted in diverse cultures in the world.
In Tibet, he is known as Chenrezig. While in Japanese Buddhism, he is portrayed as Kanzeon.
In Chinese Buddhism, he is represented as a female figure known as Guanyin. Also, in Nepal, he is famously known as Seto Machindranath or Karunamaya.
Avalokiteshvara is also mentioned as Padmapani, ‘Holder of the Lotus’. The legend says that ‘Dalai Lama’, ‘the Karmapa’ as well as other high Lamas are an emanation of him.
Thousand Armed Avalokiteshvara
One of the Buddhist stories tells that Avalokiteshvara vows never to rest until he frees all the sentient human beings from the trap of Samsara. Samsara is the circle of birth, death, and re-birth.
Despite his tremendous effort, he could not free many unhappy beings from Samsara.
Just to hear the cries and sufferings of the sentient human beings, his head splits into eleven pieces.
Upon hearing them, he tries to reach out to all those who needed aid. But he could not help all the unhappy beings with his two hands.
Ultimately, his hands shatter and the Amitabha Buddha comes to his aid. He invests him with a Thousand Arms with which he helps the suffering beings.
Tibetan Buddhist Beliefs
Avalokiteshvara plays an important role in Tibetan Buddhism.
It is believed that once he shed a tear from which Tara came into existence. When the tear of Avalokiteshvara fell down, it created a lake and a lotus opening in the lake revealed Tara.