The Bodhisattva of Compassion has many different names. Guanyin in China, Kannon in Japan, Karunamaya in Nepal, Avalokiteshvara and Chenrezig in Tibet.
Who Is The Bodhisattva of Compassion?
The bodhisattva of compassion, has undergone many transformations over the centuries, adopting new qualities, names, and even a different gender (Even though he may take into feminine forms like Guan Yin, Chenrezig, and many others, he is genderless. In Buddhism, he will take in whatever form to help all beings since he is the bodhisattva of compassion).
According to Mahayana, The Bodhisattva is a sentient being who took a vow to postpone his own enlightenment until all blades of grass and grains of sand have become enlightened; only then will he transcend this material realm to become a Buddha.
Tibetan Buddhists believe that each Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of his predecessors who, in turn, are the manifestations of Avalokiteshvara, or Chenrezig, the patron saint of Tibet and the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
In China, the deity is known as Guanyin, and for several centuries has been depicted in both male and female forms. However, from around the 12th century onwards in China, the deity became associated with a princess named Miaoshan, a figure in an ancient tale who demonstrated tremendous compassion. From this period, female figures of Guanyin became very popular, with some renderings depicted the deity with prominent breasts and cradling a baby, representing her power to give and protect children.
The story of Chenrezig
Avalokiteshvara – Bodhisattva of Compassion
The fully enlightened being, Amitabha Buddha, had a thought to benefit all sentient beings. From his right eye, he sent a beam of white light, which transformed into Chenrezig, from his left eye, he sent a beam of blue light, which transformed into Tara.
In the blissful western realm, there was a good-hearted King, who didn’t have a son. One day his servant went to a nearby lake and saw a lotus stem with huge leaves the size of an eagle’s wings had grown from the lake.
King went to see the lotus bud. When they opened the flower to check what was inside, they saw a young man with a radiant and holy body.
The king realized that the youth was actually Chenrezig that taken birth in the lotus.
Chenrezig, was reborn as a young man to benefit all sentient beings. He then made a request to all the buddhas and bodhisattvas: “I will lead each and every single sentient being to peerless full enlightenment.”
Chenrezig’s holy body then emitted six beams, with one beam going to each of the realms, where it worked for sentient beings, liberating them. Later Chenrezig went to the top of Mount Meru and looked around with his wisdom eye. Even though Chenrezig had liberated so many sentient beings from the six realms, when he looked, there still seemed to be the same number of sentient beings as before. So, he again and again sent beams to the six realms and liberated sentient beings but still the sentient beings did not seem to become fewer in number.
Because thinking he broke his commitment, Chenrezig’s head cracked into ten pieces. The pain was so unbearable that he screamed and wept. Amitabha then came and collected the pieces of Chenrezig from the ground, put the pieces together and blessed them as eleven faces.
The different colors of the faces – the four actions of a buddha: pacifying, increasing, controlling, wrathful.
The face near the top represents Amitabha Buddha and signifies that Chenrezig achieved enlightenment by depending on the kindness of his guru.
After that, Chenrezig made a prayer to liberate all the sentient beings and lean them to the enlightenment.”
One of the Avalokiteshvara’s most powerful and complex forms has 11 heads and 1,000 arms. This form of Avalokiteshvara is portrayed most often in the esoteric traditions of Tibet and Japan. The heads represent his 11 principal virtues (including non-attachment, non-violence, and faith), which he uses to conquer the 11 desires that obstruct the path to enlightenment. Avalokiteshvara’s 1,000 arms symbolize his many powers, which he uses to save all beings and lead them toward enlightenment.