Brief Information for Beginners:
Extracts from the internet and books. (May blessings and our appreciation go to all authors of these articles)
The Bodhisattva of Great Compassion
Kuan Shih Yin - Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva
The Sanskrit name "Avalokiteshvara" means The One Who Hears the Cries of the World"; "the lord who looks upon the world in Every Direction with compassion".
Translated into Chinese, the name is "Kuan Shih Yin"or Quan Yin.
Shih: the world / the region of sufferers
Yin: all the sounds of the world, in particular, the crying sounds of beings, verbal or mental, seeking help
The great vow of Avalokitesvara is to listen to the supplications from those in difficulty in the world and to postpone his own Buddhahood until he has helped every being on earth achieving enlightenment. Therefore, he is treated as the embodiment of all the Buddhas' compassion, the lord of infinite compassion in Mahayana BuddhismT
Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva has great powers and can help all sentient beings. His skilful means are limitless and he can appear in any form in all the six realms of existence to relieve the suffering of the sentient beings who live there. He vowed to rescue those who call on him when they are in suffering, for example, when caught in a fire, shipwrecked or facing an attack.
According to the Huayen Sutra, Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva transforms himself into forms that suit the nature of those to be helped. His manifestations or transformation bodies are countless.
In the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha said that if a suffering being hears the name of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva and earnestly calls out to the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara will hear the call and relieve that being from his suffering. He also has the power to grant children.
People who know very little about Buddhism tend to refer KuanYin Bodhisattva as “the Goddess of Mercy”. This is incorrect. The so-called gods/goddesses are only beings on the heaven realm of the six states of existence in Samsara. They have accumulated large amount of merits in the past lives and even though they are happier than humans, they are not liberated fully from the cycle of reincarnation, unlike the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
The unintentional degrading of KuanYin Bodhisattva might be due to the early westerners in China who had their first contact with the common people who were a mix of many other religious practices. We, therefore strongly advise everyone NOT to refer KuanYin Bodhisattva as a “Goddess” but to accord the full title of attainment, as Kuan Yin Pu Sa or Boddhisattva.
In China, Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva is represented in female form and is known as Kuan Yin. Probably because of Kuan Yin's great compassion, a quality which is traditionally considered feminine, most of the bodhisattva's statues in China since the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618 - 907) have appeared as female figures. In India, however, the bodhisattva is generally represented as a male figure.
In her hands, Kuan Yin may hold a willow branch, a vase with water or occasionally, a lotus flower.
The willow branch is used to heal people's illnesses or bring fulfilment to their requests.
The water ( the dew of compassion) in the vase has the quality of removing suffering, purifying the defilements of our body, speech and mind, and lengthening life.
Sometimes, he is represented with one head and 4 arms. This is the Four-Armed Avalokiteshvara, worshipped by all Tibetans as "Chenrezig", the Holder of the White Lotus. It is in the male form which has two hands in the praying gesture while the other two hands hold his symbols, the Crystal Rosary and the Lotus Flower.
In Buddhist art, the eleven heads symbolize the eleven directions of space, suggesting that Avalokiteshvara’s compassionate gaze is infinite in scope. Each of the thousand hands with eyes on the palms of each hand (Thousand-Armed Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva) allow the bodhisattva to see the sufferings of sentient beings, and the thousand hands allow her to reach out to help them.. Many of the hands bear implements, suggesting the skilful means that Avalokiteshvara employs in saving sentient beings from the sufferings of samsara.
Although he is associated with compassion, Avalokiteshvara is, like all Bodhisattvas, a symbolic of wisdom as well. He is connected with the Heart Sutra in particular, and that text is in fact a teaching he gave on the topic of emptiness (shunyata) to Shariputra. He is also associated with the Lotus Sutra.
The bodhisattva goes by many other names. In Indochina and Thailand he is Lokesvara, "The Lord of the World." In Tibet he is Chenrezig, also spelled Spyan-ras gzigs, "With a Pitying Look." In China the bodhisattva takes a female form and is called Guanyin (also spelled Quanyin, Kwan Yin, Kuanyin or Kwun Yum), "Hearing the Sounds of the World." In Japan, Guanyin is Kannon or Kanzeon; in Korea, Gwan-eum; in Vietnam, Quan Am. One can find many more variations of those names.
In the practice of Feng Shui, Feng Shui masters who suspect a particular house of being resided by beings other than human would chant the great mantra, “Om Mani Padme Hum”. As mentioned earlier, beings who hear this mantra will be enlightened. Angry spirits would behind their anger (and the house) and more subdued spirits would lay still and be enlightened.
The Great Vows of Kuan Shi Yin Bodhisattva
It is said the personification of perfect Compassion, Avalokiteshvara (Kuanyin) Bodhisattva (a great being who aspired to help all sentient beings be freed of suffering before entering the bliss of Buddhahood), in the beginning of His/Her Bodhisattva career of helping sentient beings, vowed that "Should He ever become disheartened in saving sentient beings, may His body shatter into a thousand pieces." This might seem extreme, but it was symbolic of His overwhelming great Compassion and determination.
The Memorial days of Kuan Shi yin Bodhisattva
By tradition, Guan Yin has 3 dates dedicated to her. These are
19 of 2nd month-------------- Her birthday
19 of 6th month--------------- Her Enlightenment day
19 of 9th month--------------- Her Ordination day
All months are in the Chinese lunar month. On these dates, devotees flock to any temple dedicated to her and make offerings as a respect to her. Many chinese temples also have prayer sessions and vegetarian lunches prepared for the many people.
Holy Places Dedicated to Guan Yin
Holy places dedicated to Guanyin are countless but the most famous of these is the PuTuo µÐªû¤s mountain in Zhejiang province China. It is a small island with numerous temples built over the long period of chinese history. This mountain became sacred after many miracles and manifestations of Guanyin were experienced by people in trouble at sea. The name Putuo comes from Putuoluojia µÐ ªû¬¥ ¦÷ (Potalaka) which is a pureland of Guanyin on earth (although in another dimension which we cannot see). Although scriptures state that this island Potalaka (A Little White Flower ) is somewhere to the south of India, naming this chinese island as Potalaka is not unreasonable due to the frequent sights of Guanyin. It is still a popular pilgrimage site but tourism and commercial activities are destroying the charm and sacredness of this island. Some high Tibetan monks have also said that the place is also the holy place of the White Tara which is in fact no different from Guanyin and was believed to be her disciple. The place is packed with people during the 3 dates mentioned earlier especially on her birthday.
HOW TO PAY HOMAGE TO KUAN IM PU SA?
The main objective of prayer is to provide a moment of spiritual reflection on the doctrine and not just continuously seek divine help on daily problems. There are three simple mantras that can be easily learnt by beginners:
(1) Namo Kuan Shi Yin Pu Sa”, This sacred name can be repeated many times daily.
(2) Om Mani Padme Hum”
(3) The Great Compassionate Mantra, also known as Tai Bei Chau in Chinese
(4) Besides the above three mantras, we could also pay homage with our 10 vows or requests (detailed below).
(2) Six Character Great Bright Mantra
OM MANI PADME HUM
Significance of OM, MA, NI, PAD, ME, HUM
A summarised meaning of the Universal Mantra: Om Mani Padme Hum
The Avalokitesvara Mantra is ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’. It contains 6 syllabus. Each syllable represents each of the 6 realms in the world of Samsara (Deva, Semi deva, Humans, Animals, Hungry Ghosts or Petas and Hell). When a being from any of the 6 realms hears this mantra, it will immediately cast away all angry thoughts and be enlightened.
It is a sacred Sanskrit phrase which is recited to develop compassion. The meaning is very deep and wide. However, we have (unjustly) summarised them for beginners:
”OM” refers to the Body of the Buddhas.
“Mani” refers to a wish granting jewel carried by Kuan Yin Pu Sa
“Padme” refers to a white lotus
“Hum” refers to the Mind of the Buddhas and the 5 wisdoms.
Together the mantra may mean: Kuan Yin Pu Sa who possesses the Body and wisdom of the Buddhas granting us a wish, and behold us
(3) Great Compassion Mantra 大悲咒
The wordings of this Mantra can be found in most temples. There are available in Mandarin and also Cantonese. The Cantonese version sounds like this….. (link)
There are 84 verses, out of which There are 83 Bodhisattvas listed in Great Compassion Mantra, but #43 is not a Bodhisattva.
Benefits in Reciting and Holding The Great Compassion Mantra
Extracts from The Dharani Sutra
- If we recite and hold the phrases of the Great Compassion Mantra, then when we approach the end of life, all the Buddhas of the ten directions will come to take us by the hand to rebirth in whatever Buddha land according to our desire. (provided that we have accumulated many good merits)
- Should any living beings who recites and holds the spiritual mantra of Great Compassion will not fall into the three evil paths,
- Should any living being who recites and holds the spiritual mantra of Great Compassion will be reborn in any Buddha land.
- Should any living being who recites and holds the spiritual mantra of Great Compassion not obtain unlimited Samadhi and eloquence, I vow not to realise the right enlightenment.
- Should any living being who recites and holds the spiritual mantra of Great Compassion not obtain the fruits of whatever is sought in this very life, then he cannot have been making proper use of the Dharani of the Great Compassion Heart.
- People who recite and hold the Great Compassion Mantra will obtain fifteen kinds of good birth and will not suffer fifteen kinds of bad death. (for more details, please refer to the page on Guanyin Great Compassion mantra)
(4) Paying Homage to Kwan Si Yim Porsat.
Please help me to fulfil the following 10 vows:
Namo Tai Pei Kwan Say Yim
(1) NaMo Tai Pei Kwan Say Yim
I vow that I will quickly know all Dharmas
(2) Namo Tai Pei Kwan Say Yim
I vow that I will soon obtain the Wisdom eye
(3) Namo Tai Pei Kwan Say Yim
I vow that I will quickly cross over all Living Beings
(4) Namo Tai Pei Kwan Say Yim
I vow that I will soon obtain good skill in means
(5) Namo Tai Pei Kwan Say Yim
I vow that I will quickly board the Prajna Boat
(6) Namo Tai Pei Kwan Say Yim
I vow that I will soon cross over the sea of suffering
(7) Namo Tai Pei Kwan Say Yim
I vow that I will quickly attain Precepts, samahi and the Way
(8) Namo Tai Pei Kwan Say Yim
I vow that I will soon climb Nirvana Mountain.
(9) Namo Tai Pei Kwan Say Yim
I vow that I will quickly dwell in the unconditioned.
(10) Namo Tai Pei Kwan Say Yim
I vow that I will soon unite with the Dharma-Nature body
Namo Kwan Say Im Porsat,
Please help me not to face with the following calamities:
- If I face with a mountain of knives, the mountain of knives itself will break up
- If I face the boiling oil, the boiling oil itself will dry up.
- If I face Hells, the Hells themselves will disappear
- If I face hungry ghosts, the hungry ghosts by themselves will become full (not hungry)
- If I face the Asuras, their evil thoughts by themselves will be tamed.
- If I face the animals, they will by themselves gain great wisdom.
Kwan Im Porsat said to the Buddha, “world Honoured One”.
If any living beings who recites and holds the spiritual mantra of great compassion should fall into the Three Evil Paths, I vow not to attain the Right Enlightenment.
If any living being who recites and holds this spiritual mantra of great compassion should not be reborn in any Buddha land, I vow not to attain the Right Enlightenment.
If any living being who recites and holds this spiritual mantra of great compassion should not attain immeasurable Samadhis and eloquence, I vow not to attain the Right Enlightenment
If any living being who recites and holds this spiritual mantra of great compassion should not obtain whatever he seeks in this present life, then it cannot be the Dharani of the Great Compassion mind.
Having spoken these words before the assembly, he put his palms together, stood upright, and brought forth a thought of great compassion for all beings. He smiled broadly and in this way spoke the wonderful spiritual phrases of the Dharani of Great compassion, perfect, full, unimpeded, vast and great. The Dharani runs like this:
Tai Pee Chau…..Namo he la da ….