Date Added : 2014-02-06 12:08:49

Avalokiteshvara | Chenrezig

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About Avalokiteshvara

Of all the deities in Mahayana Buddhism, the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara also known as Chenrezig is one of the most celebrated. He is the lord endowed with complete illumination, who refrains from entering the blissful state of nirvana to remain here below and save the creatures of the earth. This devotion to the salvation of others emphasizes the profound compassion this bodhisattva represents.

We have a huge collection of Nepali handmade statues in this category. These statues are made up of copper, brass or bronze and are finished in various styles like gold plating, partly gold plating, oxidized or bronze finishing. The majority of the statues you see with us are handmade by the process of loss wax system, which is considered to be the ancient process of making the statue in Nepal.

Brief Introduction

Of all the deities in Mahayana Buddhism, the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, Chenrezig, is one of the most celebrated. He is the lord endowed with complete illumination, who refrains from entering the blissful state of nirvana to remain here below and save the creatures of the earth. This devotion to the salvation of others emphasizes the profound compassion this bodhisattva represents.

A bodhisattva was thought of as a being no longer subject to the physical limitations of human life, or who was limited by thoughts of themself. They inhabited a "celestial" realm, a spiritual field brought into being by their own saintliness. It was into this blessed realm of being that they were believed to be able to bring others by their own spiritual power.

Compassion for others had always been regarded as a virtue in early Buddhism, but it had a somewhat subordinate place to wisdom. In Mahayana Buddhism, compassion received an equal emphasis with wisdom, perhaps because the Mahayana was more consciously universal and covered a wider sector of society. In this view of the world, all men and women, not just those leading a monastic life, could achieve nirvana.

Avalokiteshvara, the merciful, is also called Padmapani. A transformation of this bodhisattva took place in China. As if in honor of his powers of love, the Chinese Buddhists portrayed him as a woman, the goddess Kuan-Yin, who cradles the symbol of the soul in her arms and resembles the Virgin Mary. In contrast to this concrete effigy, India sees this sympathetic savior as a cosmic being who takes countless shapes:

From his eyes come forth the sun and moon; from his brow, Mahesvara, the great god who creates life with a thunderbolt from his third eye; from his shoulders, Brahma and other gods; from his heart, Narayana, the soul of the universe; from his thighs, Sarasvati, the wife of Brahma and the goddess of wisdom, music, and science; from his mouth, the winds; from his feet, the earth; from his stomach, Varuna, an emanation from the sun initiating the cycles of nature and the embodiment of truth. He is a lamp to the blind, a parasol for those devoured by the heat of the sun, and a stream to the thirsty. He takes away all fear from those who are afraid; he is a doctor to the sick, and he is father and mother to the unhappy. (*)

In the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon of enlightened beings, Chenrezig, Avalokiteshvara, is renowned as the embodiment of the compassion of all the Buddhas, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

Chenrezig is considered the patron bodhisattva of Tibet, and his meditation is practiced in all the great lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. The beloved king Songtsen Gampo was believed to be an emanation of Avalokiteshvara, and some of the most respected meditation masters (lamas), like the Dalai Lamas and Karmapas who are considered living Buddhas, are also believed to be emanations of Avalokiteshvara.

Avalokiteshvara is the earthly manifestation of the self born, eternal Buddha, Amitabha. He guards this world in the interval between the historical Sakyamuni Buddha, and the next Buddha of the Future, Maitreya.

According to legend, Avalokiteshvara made a vow that he would not rest until he had liberated all the beings in all the realms of suffering. After working diligently at this task for a very long time, he looked out and realized the immense number of miserable beings yet to be saved. Seeing this, he became despondent and his head split into thousands of pieces. Amitabha Buddha put the pieces back together as a body with a thousand arms, an eye on each palm to see the suffering in the world and eleven heads, the top of which is Amitabha, allowing Avalokiteshvara to assist the myriad of sentient beings all at the same time.


Avalokiteshvara, Chenrezig, is visualized in many forms, with various numbers of faces and arms, and various colors and ornaments.The radiant white Buddha form representing purity and power of the enlightened mind's loving kindness and compassion is illustrated above and at the very top of this page.

We may visualize him as a transparent, rainbow like form, like a reflection in water, representing the empty and open aspect of awakened mind. He transcends the solidification of concepts, including our idea that he is "out there," separate from us.

He sits on a lotus and the flat disc of the moon, with another moon disk behind him, reflecting his total purity. Two of his four arms are joined in the prayer position holding the wish fulfilling gem. In his other left hand he holds a lotus flower and in his other right hand, a crystal mala (rosary), which he is using to count the repetitions of his mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus, which liberates all beings from suffering. He wears the silks and ornaments of a Bodhisattva, representing all his special qualities, and the soft skin of an antelope over his shoulder, symbolizing his complete freedom from violence. He smiles with deep understanding, love and compassion as his eyes look upon all beings. The four arms and hands signify the four immeasurables: immeasurable loving kindness, immeasurable compassion, immeasurable joy, and immeasurable equanimity. Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Boundless Compassion, is the very embodiment and realization of the four immeasurables. The four immeasurables are the vehicles through which Chenrezig benefits beings.

"The first two, the inner arms, have palms joined at the heart, holding a sky-blue, wish fulfilling jewel." (**)This symbolizes that in whatever way Chenrezig manifests to benefit beings, the quality of Chenrezig's mind is never separate from the all pervasive primordial wisdom.

In the outer right hand, Chenrezig is holding crystal beads and moving them the way we use a mala to count mantras. This symbolizes that there is not one moment when Chenrezig does not benefit beings. Like the steady movement of counting the beads, Chenrezig is continuously benefiting sentient beings and turning the wheel of enlightened activity. In the outer left hand, Chenrezig holds a lotus flower. This symbolizes that in benefiting sentient beings, Chenrezig manifests in whatever forms are necessary in accordance with the mental capacities, circumstances, and aptitudes of sentient beings. Chenrezig may appear in any of the different realms, such as the hell realm or the hungry ghost realm.

However Chenrezig may appear, s/he remains free from any of the samsaric stains of the various realms, the way a lotus flower growing in a swamp appears free of the stain of the mud. The left hand of Chenrezig, holding the flower, symbolizes that stainlessness.

All the various features of this image have meaningful connections to the wonderful qualities of Chenrezig, and by focusing on these details as we visualize the image in the meditation, we can gradually awaken our own awareness of those same qualities in ourselves.Having trouble seeing how your real nature could be no different from that of a being who constantly manifests unsurpassable intelligence, wisdom, compassion, and confidence? We know we're not always compassionate, that we care much more about the well being of certain people than about others, that we hardly know what it would mean to give without expecting anything in return. The descriptions of Chenrezig as consistently compassionate to all beings, impartially, is not a common occurrence in our experiences.


The image of Chenrezig that is visualized in the meditation practice is not a real person who happens to be perfect in every imaginable way. It is an image, an imaginary form with wonderful qualities. Chenrezig glows in the dark, Chenrezig even glows in the daylight. Kalu Rinpoche said, "One does not think of the deity's body as solid or material, made of flesh and blood like one's ordinary body, or made of metal or stone like an idol. One thinks of it as appearance that is inseparable from emptiness, like a rainbow or like a reflection in a mirror."

The particular wonderful qualities that Chenrezig manifests for us are just the ones we need to get more in touch with, as aspects of our own nature, if we want to become an enlightened buddha, or even if we just want to become a truly compassionate person. We and the image of Chenrezig are two extremes ~ we have flesh and blood bodies, but not as much compassion as we would like to have, and Chenrezig has a body made of rainbows, and boundless impartial compassion. When we put those two extremes together, in the Chenrezig meditation, we move in the direction of manifesting as a being with a physical body, a body of rainbow light and unlimited compassion.

Various aspects of the form we visualize remind us of the most important qualities of this particular manifestation of awakened mind, the qualities we are trying to connect to.

In visualization practice we imagine ourselves to be a Buddha, in this case the Buddha of Compassion, Avalokiteshvara. By replacing the thought of yourself as you, with the thought of yourself as Avalokiteshvara, you gradually reduce and eventually remove the fixation on your personal self, which expands your loving kindness and compassion, toward yourself and toward others, and your intelligence and wisdom becomes enhanced, allowing you to see clearly what someone really needs and to communicate with them clearly and accurately.

Avalokiteshvara, Chenrezig is the embodiment of that unselfish urge to look upon each other as loving equals. If you are in need of guidance in healing, unity, unselfishness, or the mastering of fears, you may meditate on the qualities of Avalokiteshvara, Chenrezig {as above}, say the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus, or you can do the following meditation.

This meditation on the thousand armed Avalokiteshvara is a visualization which appeared when a friend asked for spiritual guidance to alleviate her suffering ... feel free to experiment with each meditation technique.

Find a quiet and comfortable space. Then, while breathing deeply for a few moments, relax and empty your mind. In that void, picture Avalokiteshvara standing in front of you. Repeat his name. Then imagine streams of violet light flowing from his thousand eyes piercing the veils of glamours and illusions, dispelling all fear and suffering surrounding you.

As you experience the veils lifting, see His thousand arms transform into shimmering threads of golden light surrounding you in a translucent cocoon of gold. Remain in His "embrace," in complete silence, until you experience a fully open heart and a peaceful mind. Place your consciousness at the top of your head. At your crown see a thousand-petaled lotus bursting through the cocoon of gold, unfolding, revealing a diamond at its very center, radiating rainbow hued swirling vortexes of light. Radiating from your crown and heart center, the energies unite transforming into a thousand arms~like wings of an angel~each possessing and bestowing enlightened compassion. Transformed, you emerge the embodiment of compassion.

Go forth and serve ... Buddhas All! As a person think in their heart, so shall they be! In most religious traditions one prays to the deities of the tradition in the hopes of receiving their blessing, which will benefit one in some way. In the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition the blessing and the power and the superlative qualities of the enlightened beings are not considered as coming from an outside source, but are believed to be innate, to be aspects of our own true nature. Avalokiteshvara, Chenrezig, and his love and compassion are within us.

His Holiness The Dalai Lama said, "Thus the six syllables, Om Mani Padme Hum, mean that in dependence on the practice which is in indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech and mind into the pure body, speech, and mind of a Buddha."

The Mani mantra is the most widely used of all Buddhist mantras, and open to anyone who feels inspired to practice it.

Before attempting ... we suggest reading The True Sound of Truth, a wonderful story dispelling the "fear of reciting it wrong" ....


Mahāyāna account

According to Mahāyāna doctrine, Avalokiteśvara is the bodhisattva who has made a great vow to assist sentient beings in times of difficulty, and to postpone his own Buddhahood until he has assisted every being on Earth in achieving Nirvāṇa. Mahāyāna sūtras associated with Avalokiteśvara include the following:

Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra (Lotus Sūtra)
Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra
Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya Sūtra (Heart Sūtra)
Mahākaruṇā Dhāranī Sūtra (Nīlakaṇṭha Dhāraṇī)
Avalokiteśvara Ekādaśamukha Dhāraṇī Sūtra
Cundī Dhāraṇī Sūtra

The Lotus Sūtra is generally accepted to be the earliest literature teaching about the doctrines of Avalokiteśvara. These are found in the Lotus Sūtra chapter 25, The Universal Gateway of Avalokitasvara Bodhisattva This chapter is devoted to Avalokitasvara, 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 Avalokitasvara 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 sūtra, called the Avalokitasvara Sūtra and is commonly recited or chanted at Buddhist temples in East Asia.

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 remained popular in India until the 12th century when Muslim invaders conquered the land and destroyed Buddhist monasteries.

In Chinese Buddhism and the Sinosphere, practices for an 18-armed form of Avalokiteśvara called Cundī are very popular. These practices have their basis in early Indian Esoteric Buddhism. Cundī is also referred to as "Cundī Buddha-Mother" or "Cundī Bhagavatī." 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.[12] In late imperial China, these early traditions of Esoteric Buddhism are known to have been still thriving 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.[13]

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. These six qualities are listed below.
Great compassion
Great loving-kindness
Universal light
Leader of devas and human beings
The great omnipresent Brahman[citation needed]

Tibetan account
In the Tibetan tradition, Avalokiteśvara is seen as arising from two sources. One is the relative source, where in a previous eon (kalpa) a devoted, compassionate Buddhist monk became a bodhisattva, transformed in the present kalpa into Avalokiteśvara. That is not in conflict, however, with the ultimate source, which is Avalokiteśvara as the universal manifestation of compassion. The bodhisattva is viewed as the anthropomorphised vehicle for the actual deity, serving to bring about a better understanding of Avalokiteśvara to humankind.

Seven forms of Avalokiteśvara in Tibetan Buddhism:

Amoghapāśa: not empty (or unerring) net, or lasso.
Vara-sahasrabhuja-locana / Sahasrabhujasahasranetra: 1000-hand and 1000-eye,
Hayagriva: with the head of a horse
Ekadasamukha: with 11 faces
Cintamani-cakra: wheel of sovereign power
Arya Lokiteśvara: the Holy sovereign beholder of the world (loka), a translation of īśvara, means "ruler" or "sovereign", holy one.

Modern scholarship
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 Hindu deities, in particular Shiva or Vishnu (though the reason for this suggestion is because the current name of the bodhisattva not the original one.)

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 Gandavyuha Sutra and Xuanzang’s Records, is the real mountain Potikai or Potiyil situated at Ambasamudram in Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu.[15] Shu also says that mount Potiyil/Potalaka has been a sacred place for the people of South India from time immemorial. With the spread of Buddhism in the region beginning at the time of the great king Aśoka in the third century B.C.E., 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[16]

In Theravada, Lokeśvara, "the lord, ruler or sovereign beholder of the world", name of a Buddha; probably a development of the idea of Brahmā, Vishnu or Śiva as lokanātha, "lord of worlds". In Indo-China especially it refers to Avalokiteśvara, whose image or face, in masculine form, is frequently seen, e.g., at Angkor. The name Lokeśvara should not be confused with that of Lokesvararaja, the Buddha under whom Dharmakara became a monk and made forty-eight vows before becoming Amitabha Buddha.


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:

Sanskrit Meaning Description
Aryavalokitesvara Sacred Avalokitesvara The root form of the Bodhisattva
Ekādaśamukha Eleven Faced Avalokitesvara 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
Cintāmani-cakra Wish Fulfilling Avalokitesvara Holds the bejeweled cintamani wheel
Hayagrīva Horse Headed Avalokitesvara Wrathful form; simultaneously bodhisattva and a Wisdom King
Cundi Mother Goddess Avalokitesvara Portrayed with many arms
Amoghapāśa Avalokitesvara with rope and net  
Bhrkuti Fierce-Eyed  
Pāndaravāsinī White and Pure  
Parnaśabarī Cloaked With Leaves  
Rakta Shadaksharī Six Red Syllables  
Śvetabhagavatī White-Bodied  
Udaka-śrī Water Auspicious  

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