Today is the 19th of the 2nd lunar month in Chinese Calendar and Chinese Buddhists in Asia are celebrating the Birthday of their beloved Bodhisattva, Guanyin.
Worship of Guanyin or Avalokitesvara is part of Chinese culture and traditionally, people try to be vegetarian for today so that no animals are harmed.
Walk into any Chinese Buddhist temple on this day and you will see people praying to the Goddess of Mercy (an affable name given by the Chinese folks) Even those who do not know Buddhist scriptures are aware that this Bodhisattva is compassionate and kind. In recognition of this noble character, they try to be vegetarian and be good for the day. (best behaviour, do charity)
Be good and be blessed.
According to the Lotus Sutra – chapter 25, THE UNIVERSAL DOOR OF GUANSHI YIN BODHISATTVA《观世音菩萨普门品》
“Good man, if any of the limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of living beings who are undergoing all kinds of suffering hear of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva and recite his name single-mindedly, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva will immediately hear their voices and rescue them.“
The name of Avalokitesvara in Chinese means: He who perceive all sounds in the world. (观世音）It is a direct translation from sanskrit.
It means this Bodhisattva is constantly on the look out for beings who need his help. According to the above quoted passage, one can invoke the help of Guanyin by reciting his name.
This had evolved into a spiritual practice whereby his devotees will constantly chant the holy name of Avalokitesvara like a mantra without stop. (mentally or aloud)
The goal is to achieve a state of single-mindedness.
It is a state where all mental thoughts are pacified and one focus singularly only on this chant. (Not an easy task and requires a lot of practice) Our monkey mind is running all over the place every nano second!
In meditation, a single-mindedness concentration is so powerful that one can perform miracles.
In practice, we chant Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattvaya or Namo Guan Shi Yin Pu Sa.
Avalokitesvara represents the compassion of Buddha. It is a quality of Enlightenment. All Buddha wishes to deliver sentient beings from sufferings.
Is compassion male or female?
Therefore, we see Avalokitesvara being depicted by artist as either male or female and during Wu Zetian’s era, (androgynous — beyond gender)
Moreover, in chapter 25 of the lotus sutra, Avalokitesvara will assume different forms to help beings.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a layman, he will manifest in the body of a layman and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a minister of state, he will manifest in the body of a minister of state and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Brahman, he will manifest in the body of a Brahman and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Bhikshu (monk), Bhikshuni (nun), Upasaka (male lay Buddhist), or Upasika (female lay Buddhist), he will manifest in the body of a Bhikshu, Bhikshuni, Upasaka, or Upasika and speak Dharma for them.”
This lead to a very interesting phenomenon in Chinese Buddhism. When we receive help or kindness from others, we acknowledges that act of charity as help from Avalokitesvara or Bodhisattva. We respect the person who helped us as if they are the manifestation of Avalokitesvara.
I think this is a very dynamic concept.
- Compassion can come from anyone and anywhere, when we recognise compassion, we recognise Avalokitesvara.
- We are grateful to our benefactor and practice gratefulness. We do not take people for granted, especially those who had helped us.
- Avalokitesvara / Buddha compassion, enters the world (入世间）. The idea of Buddha compassion / Avalokitesvara becomes relatable. It is everywhere and not limited to our imagination of a god-like being sitting up there, in a heavenly palace.
- If you wish to experience more of Avalokitesvara, then focus more on recognising the goods in others. Our world becomes a better place immediately. It is a positive attitude towards life. Learn to see the bright side of situations.
- We can also be Bodhisattva like Avalokitesvara if we practice good deeds and help others.
Praying to Guanyin
According to this scripture, Avalokitesvara is there to help us in various situations. We can invoke him to
- Relieve us from life threatening situations and all sort of calamities and sufferings in life
- Relieve us from harm caused by evil spirits and such (Exorcism)
- Help us overcome our craving, aversion and ignorance (become enlightened)
Even woman wishing for a son or daughter can pray to Avalokitesvara for help!
Isn’t He great?
So let’s start reciting his name……
The merits from doing so is immeasurable.
Here’s a link to the chapter 25 of Lotus sutra if you are interested in reading it.
Happy Birthday to Guanyin.