In Mahayana Buddhism, there is a pantheon of Bodhisattvas and Buddhas, each seemingly designated for answering different types of prayer. For the unknowing, it seems like a system of multi-deities religion.
One famous Bodhisattva is Kannon, Guanyin or famously known as Goddess of mercy. Buddhist pray to him for all kinds of favor.
The following is a translation of a sermon by Master Hsuan Hua. A highly respectable Mahayana monk.
What is Avalokiteshvara (GuanShiYin- 观世音)? It means hearing the sound of the world. Not hearing the sound of ourselves but listening to the sound of the world (Samsara) As the saying goes (無我無人觀自在) without self and without others, one observes a state of ease. (GuanZiZai – 观自在)
My personal note: In the heart sutra, Avalokiteshvara (GuanShiYin- 观世音) is also named as (GuanZiZai – 观自在) The two Chinese names for the same Bodhisattva may confuse beginner. However, they refer to the same Bodhisattva. Both Chinese and Sanskrit has multi-level meaning for each word. In this instance, (GuanZiZai – 观自在) also refers to a state of realization of non-self. In Mahayana Buddhism, this is further extended to non other beings. Thus, (GuanZiZai – 观自在) is also a state of ease. In another word, enlightened bliss and happiness.
GuanZiZai – 观自在 is Avalokitesvara, and to be Avalokitesvara (listening to the sound of the world), one must have no self and no others.
If you can attain “no others, no self” , you are Avalokitesvara; if I can attain the state of “No others, No self”, then I am Avalokitesvara.
If you can attain “No others, no self” , then you will not be conceited and egoistic, you won’t be jealous of others and there is no obstacle. Then you are Avalokiteshvara. If you are egoistic and conceited, and you are jealous of others and have obstacle, then you are not Avalokiteshvara.
Therefore, Avalokiteshvara cannot be found if you seek outside of yourself. You have to seek Avalokiteshvara here (pointing to the heart). Therefore, without jealousy or obstacles, then one can merge with Avalokiteshvara.
Everyone should learn from Avalokitesvara, don’t have temper, don’t have craving, don’t have aversion, don’t have ignorant, get rid of the three poisons; you have to cultivate the precepts, concentrated meditation, and wisdom. That is being Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. You have to ask yourself, do I have Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva? If I am Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, then I shouldn’t lose my temper, and I shouldn’t be deluded; I should cultivate compassion, humility, diligence, charity, virtues, meditation, and prajna (wisdom)
If you have prajna (wisdom), you are Avalokitesvara. If I have prajna, I am Avalokitesvara; If you don’t have a prajna, you are not Avalokitesvara, and if I don’t have a prajna, then I am not Avalokitesvara. You see that little kid nodding his head? That is Prajna! If he does not have Prajna, he will not nod his head.
Everyone has a Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara in his heart, but you don’t see him, you think he is not there. Now let me introduce to you, you should know that there is a Guanyin Bodhisattva in your heart, you should always listen to the words of Guanyin Bodhisattva, the teachings of Guanyin Bodhisattva, and the guidance of Guanyin Bodhisattva.
“What is Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva?” You ask me and I don’t know too, but now our Sixth Patriarch (referring to the holy vajra body of Huineng Zen master) is sitting here (the talk was probably given in the zen monastery in China), he had said long ago: “Compassion is Avalokitesvara, and joyful giving is Mahāsthāmaprāpta“
What is Avalokiteshvara? Your deeds of compassion is Avalokitesvara. Your deeds of joyous charity is Mahāsthāmaprāpta.
These two bodhisattvas are not far from you, and follow you every day. But you lose your temper with him, and when you see Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva everyday, you don’t recognize him, and you lose your temper. When you see Mahāsthāmaprāpta Bodhisattva, you also don’t recognize him, and you have aversion. When you see statues and images of Amitabha, you say “Namo Amitabha, Namo Amitabha …”; but when Namo Amitabha manifest in front of you, you ignore him.
Therefore! Meeting Avalokitesvara, you don’t recognize him, meeting Mahāsthāmaprāpta, you don’t recognize him, meeting Amitabha, you don’t recognize him. The holy trinity of western Paradise is always with you, but yet you leave them far far away. Although Bodhisattva Guanyin is so compassionate, he cannot help you; even though Mahāsthāmaprāpta Bodhisattva will joyously give, but he cannot help too; Amitabha thus said, “just give him some time, gradually, slowly, he will have bodhicitta.” (referring to the audience)
Hope you enjoy this short little sermon by Master HsuanHua. It is quite profound really. Although he said it half in jest and half jokingly. Since everyone is at home and self quarantine now, it maybe fun if you contemplate the deeper meaning in this sermon.
May all be well and happy.
Much gratitude for this. I feel so blessed to know that all those times Ive felt that way, Avalokiteshvara was me.
I keep a scroll of the heart sutra I penned myself during a hard time of my life and at a pivotal moment. It has been with me for years and has reminded me ma y times of the true state of reality
You are welcome. I am glad to have shared the article.