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The Summary Study of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva

The Bodhisattva regards all beings with the eyes of love.

I. Significance of the study

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva is a widely respected figure throughout the world. He originated from India and was transmitted to Mahayana countries (Tibet, China, Korea, Japan, and Việt Nam) and even Hinayana countries (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, or Indonesia). In daily life, people often have fears of hunger, disease, war, or death. Even wealthy people in developed countries have many fears, such as ghosts, accidents, darkness, snakes, fire, earthquake, tsunami, economic recession, unemployment, depression, or divorce. In such unsettling situations, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva is always there for them, providing them with fearlessness and helping them have the courage to overcome difficult situations. To express homage to Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, people pray and build monuments and temples to honor Him. 

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva symbolizes the virtues of compassion and wisdom, which are significant qualities of future Buddhas. However, over many centuries of erroneous practices, religious rituals have turned Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva or other Bodhisattvas to a Deity full of power and elevated Him to an extremely remote position that is beyond reach (Viên Trí, 2003). It is time to see Him anew; He is a hardworking father, a gentle mother, a cute baby, a fresh flower, a nice house, a gentle stream, a brilliant dawn, or birds singing peacefully. Everybody can enjoy His miracles immediately. Zen Master Nhất Hạnh suggests practitioners to stop for a few minutes to breathe in and out slowly, calmly, softly with a smile and without any thought. He states that those who are mindful of the present moment can experience co-existence with Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva: “Avalokiteśvara may be very close to you right now. You may be able to touch him just by reaching out your hand” (Thích, 2003, p. 134).

To re-establish the precious qualities of compassion and wisdom, this study focuses on the following:

1. The meanings of the terms.

2. Reviewing the Great Compassionate Heart Dharani Sutra, the Five Hundred 

Names of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva Sutra, the Shurangama Sutra, the Prajna Heart Sutra, the Lotus Sutra, the Concept of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva: Doctrine and Practice, a Brief history of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, and so on.

3. The art of living in compassion and wisdom through the application of mindfulness practices.

4. Extending the arms of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva.

The researcher uses the methods of analysis, comment, and practice in this study.

II. Review of the Study

Definition of Terms

 – Avalokiteśvara (Skt.) means the Listener to the Cries of living beings. Avalokiteśvara combines three parts: the verbal prefix ava (down), lokita, a past participle of the verb lok (observe), and īśvara (lord).

– Bodhisattva (Skt.) is an enlightened being who does not enter Nirvana but chooses instead to remain in the world and save living beings. This term is compounded by bodhi and sattva. Bodhi is enlightened and sattva is being.

– Dharani (Skt.) called “mantra”, unites all dharmas and holds limitless meanings. Dharani must be spoken in a state of concentration, a state in which body and mind are absolutely in unity.

– Mindfulness lights up the recesses of the practitioners’ mind or helps them look into the heart of things to see their true nature.

– Sutra is records of the conversations of the Buddha or other enlightened disciples of the Buddha.

From the beginning to the fourth century B.C., Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva was worshiped through the male form. According to etymology, sattva is male, and the concept of ancient India that male is more important than female, so Bodhisattva is in the male form. By the twelfth century, however, the female form was widely accepted in China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan.

In the Lotus Sutra and Shurangama Sutra (n.d.), the Buddha said Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva can manifest under 32 different forms to save living beings. One of them is the female body. It was this teaching that helped transform the Bodhisattva image from male to female without interfering with the Buddhist beliefs. The female form is very consistent with the harmony of patience and compassion of the Bodhisattva as a gentle mother, but the Bodhisattva is no longer dependent on male or female form. Because of various forms, He has different names such as Kwan Yin, Quán Thế Âm, Dược Vương, Sư Tử Hống, Gwan-eun, Kwannon, or many others in The Five Hundred Names of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva Sutra.

According to the Great Compassion Dharani Sutra (2009, pp. 3-4), under the proof of Sakyamuni Buddha, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva spoke of His vows as follows: “Countless billions of kalpas ago, a Buddha, whose name was Thousand Rays King Stillness Thus Come One, appeared in the world. Because of His mercy and mindfulness towards me and living beings, that Buddha, the World Honored One spoke this Vast, Perfect, Unimpeded, Great Compassionate Heart Dharani, rubbed my crown with his golden hand and said: ‘Virtuous man, you should hold this heart-mantra to give great benefit and happiness to all living beings in the future evil age.’ At that time I was just at the first Bhumi (stage of Bodhisattva), right after hearing this mantra, I exceeded the eighth Bhumi. At that time, as my heart was joyful, I vowed: ‘If I will be able to give benefit and happiness to all living beings in the future, let me have one thousand hands and one thousand eyes immediately.’ Instantly after the vow, I got fully one thousand hands and one thousand eyes on my body.”

Innumerable lifetimes ago, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva once became the Buddha named True Dharma Brightness Tathagata. Because of the power of His great compassionate vows, and to call upon all Bodhisattvas to comfort and help living beings, He appears as a Bodhisattva (Ibid., 2009).

For many authors’ ideas, the arms symbolize compassion, and the eyes symbolize wisdom (Thích, 2003). Compassion and wisdom are both sides of reality and cannot be separated. Therefore, they appear at the same time, support each other, and are interdependent on each other. Compassion and wisdom are the significant qualities of a Buddha. One thousand arms and one thousand eyes mean Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva can listen to all beings’ cries and arrive to help immediately.

The Great Compassion Dharani Sutra speaks of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva’s diligent practice and endless efforts. The sutra also speaks of the miraculous powers and the inconceivable benefits of the Great Compassion Dharani, the most common one in Buddhism. The Great Compassion Dharani has ten characteristics: the great kind and compassionate heart, equal heart, Unconditioned heart, unattached heart, emptiness-observing heart, respectful heart, modest heart, uncluttered heart, non-clinging view heart, and utmost Bodhi heart. Those characteristics are excellent techniques to transform suffering into peace, joy, and liberation. However, the researcher observes and sees most practitioners do not practice these ten characteristics, instead, they only ask favors from Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva as a Deity.

The Five Hundred Names of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva Sutra is a famous sutra in Việt Nam, but it is not included in the Chinese and Japanese Tripitakas. Quảng Minh (2015) thinks that this sutra was created by an unknown Monk in Việt Nam in the 1300s. This idea is based on the sentence “the Five Hundred Names of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva are very inspirational for the prayers” in the ritual of bestowing food to hungry ghosts practiced in the Trần Dynasty seven centuries ago. Each name is a cultivation, a virtue, a vow, or a miracle of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva. There are fifty-one names relating to the commands from Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva. For example, Homage to Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, who can command the Deity of Wind to support a practitioner.

From the researcher’s understanding, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva never commands or forces anyone to do anything. On the contrary, it is the grace of compassion, wisdom, and saving of the Bodhisattva to encourage volunteers for long-term support. The researcher suggests that sentence should be understood as follows: “Homage to Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, appreciative of His grace of kindness and compassion, the Deity of Wind vows to help the practitioners” (P. 97 of this book).

In the Prajna Heart Sutra (n.d.), when Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva practiced the deep Wisdom, He enlightened all dharmas as emptiness. All things in the universe come from various elements combined, so there is nothing separately alone. All things, from matter to spirit, from as small as a dust to as large as the Milky Way, are leaning on each other. In other words, emptiness means non-self, impermanence, dependent arising, and interdependence. As a result, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva is also empty. He is not a God; but this does not mean “God was dead”. Emptiness means a table exists, for example, but it was made up of non-table materials (Thích, 2003). In the same way, a human being, an animal, or a tree is made up by factors not related to himself, herself, or itself.

The Shurangama Sutra emphasizes the practice of meditation, but also speaks of miraculous and magical power, especially the Shurangama Dharani. The Shurangama Sutra would like to make a harmony between wisdom and religious belief. Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva told about His entering samadhi through a process of hearing and reflecting: “Initially, I entered the flow through hearing and forgot objective states. Since the sense-objects and sense-organs were quiet, the two characteristics of movement and stillness crystallized and did not arise. After that, gradually advancing, the hearing and what was heard both disappeared. Once the hearing was ended, there was nothing to rely on, and awareness and the objects of awareness became empty. When the emptiness of awareness reached an ultimate perfection, emptiness and what was being emptied then also ceased to be. Since production and extinction were gone, still extinction was revealed.

“Suddenly I transcended the mundane and transcendental worlds, and throughout the ten directions a perfect brightness prevailed. I obtained two supreme states. First, I was united above with the fundamental, wonderfully enlightened mind of all the Buddhas of the ten directions, and I gained a strength of compassion equal to that of all the Buddhas, the Thus Come Ones. Second, I was united below with living beings in the six paths, and I gained a kind regard for living beings equally” (Thích, 2002, Vol. 2, p. 563).

In theKsitigarbha Bodhisattva Sutra (n.d., p. 100), Sakyamuni Buddha spoke about the profound vows as well as meritorious virtues and inconceivable spiritual powers of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. The Buddha also praised Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva that He has deep affinities with this Saha world: “If deities, dragons, men, women, spirits, ghosts, or any other beings who are suffering for offenses within the six realms hear His name, see His image, behold Him, or praise Him, they will become irreversible on the Unsurpassed Way. They will always be born among people and deities and experience wonderful bliss. When the effects of their causes come to fruition, they will encounter Buddhas who will give them predictions”.

The Amitayus-dhyana Sutra (2003) tells about the origin of the Pure Land realm taught by Sakyamuni Buddha. Accordingly, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva and Mahasthama Bodhisattva once cultivated the Bodhisattva path in the Saha world. Then they were reborn in the West Bliss Pure Land as the samples of beings who repeat only the name of Amitabha Buddha with the intention to go to the Western Paradise. Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva and Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva have become the two most significant supporters to Amitabha Buddha among countless Bodhisattvas. They have been praised as the Three Sages in the Western Bliss Pure Land, in which Amitabha Buddha in the center, Avalokiteśvara on the left, and Mahasthamaprapta on the right. While other schools of Mahayana insist on self-enlightenment, the Western Pure Land sect teaches sole reliance on the Buddha’s power (The Three Pure Land Sutra, 2003).

In the Jewel Platform Sutra, the Six Patriarch Hui Neng explained the Western Bliss Pure Land based on practices of mediation. The Buddha is within the self-nature. Do not seek outside the body. Common, deluded people do not understand their self-nature and do not know the Pure Land is within themselves. Therefore, they make vows for the East and vows for the West. To enlightened people, all places are the same. Confused, the self-nature is a being; enlightened, it is a Buddha. Kindness and compassion are Avalokiteśvara. Sympathetic joy and giving are Mahasthamaprapta. Purification is Sakyamuni. Equanimity and directness are Amitabha. As the mind is purified, the Buddha land is purified. In whatever place one dwells, there is constant peace and happiness (Thiện Phúc, 2005, Vol. 6).

Sakyamuni Buddha’s manifestations in the Anguttara Nikaya Sutra are the original source of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva’s manifestations in the Lotus Sutra. “Brahmin, I have abandoned those taints because of which I might have become a deva; I have cut them off at the root, made them like palm stumps, obliterated them so that they are no longer subject to future arising. I have abandoned those taints because of which I might have become a gan-dhabba… might have become a yakkha…might have become a human being; I have cut them off at the root, made them like palm stumps, obliterated them so that they are no longer subject to future arising. Just as a blue, red, or white lotus flower, though born in the water and grown up in the water, rises above the water and stands unsoiled by the water, even so, though born in the world and grown up in the world, I have overcome the world and dwell unsoiled by the world. Remember me, brahmin, as a Buddha” (The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, 2012, Vol. 4, pp. 425-426).

The above meanings are similar to those in the Lotus Sutra, Universal Chapter. “If there are living beings who wish to attain physical self-mastery and fly through space, I will appear before them in the body of a god from the heaven of great self-mastery and speak Dharma for them, enabling them to accomplish their wish. If there are gandharvas who wish to be freed from their destiny, I will appear before them in the body of a gandharva and speak Dharma for them, enabling them to accomplish their wish. If there are yakshas who want to get out of their present fate, I will appear before them in the body of a yaksha and speak Dharma for them, enabling them to accomplish their wish. If there are living beings who like being people and want to continue to be people, I will appear in the body of a person and speak Dharma for them, enabling them to accomplish their wish.” 

In the Lotus Sutra, the thought that Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva or Sakyamuni Buddha is empty is true in Buddhism. However, the researcher thinks that it is difficult to understand and to accept for most practitioners. Instead, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva in the Universal Door chapter of the Lotus Sutra is more flexible, not only for lay practitioners but also for scholars. Universal Door is a large door open for all kinds of beings. According to Zen Master Nhất Hạnh, the Lotus Sutra is very simple, but the teachings are very profound. The Lotus Sutra can be understood in general terms but can also be understood in a deep philosophical sense. For example, with the sentence: “If someone is reciting the name of Avalokiteśvara, he or she goes inside the fire, the fire does not burn him, because the power of the Bodhisattva is great.” From a simple point of view, reciting the name of Avalokiteśvara is not directly related to a fire accident but can be understood as practicing compassion. When the practitioner has compassion in his or her heart, the fire of hatred calms down, and he or she does not feel angered.

On June 11, 1963, Thích Quảng Đức Bodhisattva sat down between Phan Đình Phùng crossroads in Sài Gòn (present day Hồ Chí Minh City), Việt Nam.  He drenched himself with gasoline, lit a match and sat still in the blazing flame! For someone else, just a small burn on the finger is painful, but while the fire burns His whole body, He was still able to sit very still and straight. Without compassion, how can one maintain such posture? Prior to self-immolation, Thích Quảng Đức Bodhisattva left some poems in which the language did not contain any resentment or hatred. He delivered himself to the flames to beseech President Ngô Đình Diệm and his government to be awakened, so they would not repudiate Buddhism. His death was gentle and poetic. That fire, for the Bodhisattva, is like a cool lotus pond. With compassion, everything becomes fresh. This can be seen in daily life If a practitioner is forced to stay in a warm house on a cold night while an injured friend or child is suffering outside, they would feel very distressed. Despite incurring their own suffering, those that go out to help those who suffer will feel much happier. That is what going into a fire without being burned means (Thich, 2003).

 Among studies of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, the researcher finds that the Concept of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva by Viên Trí, provides a clear and coherent view of the progress of the Bodhisattva ideology. He shows many important factors leading to changes in Buddhism. He indicates that it is the divisions and weaknesses within the inner Sangha, the persecution of the Sunga dynasty, and the revival of Hinduism that have undermined Buddhism in India. This is demonstrated specifically when “King Pusyamitra killed many intelligent monks, burned monasteries, and destroyed stupas” (Viên Trí, 2003, p. 112).

Mindfulness practices: Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. This energy is generated through daily practices from sitting meditation to daily activities like driving, washing dishes, using the Internet, and so on. As practice deepens, people can live in the present moment for longer periods of time. At first, they can be aware for two to five seconds; with practice, their awareness can last for minutes to hours. A difference between Bodhisattvas and practitioners is how long the practitioners can be mindful. With mindfulness, the practitioners slowly cultivate their compassion and wisdom. Being aware of the suffering caused by their actions, they act appropriately to help the unfortunate via financial, emotional, or spiritual support (Trần, 2005). In Buddhism, compassion is action. The practitioners see people suffering, and they act to end suffering. However, compassion alone is not enough. They also need wisdom to make the right decision. Compassion and wisdom can be cultivated, and the key is practice. By living in mindfulness, people are constantly aware of opportunities to cultivate compassion and wisdom

Through mindfulness, the practitioners see that Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva is not removed from life. He is here and now. If practiced effectively, the practitioner is not different from Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, and Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva is not different from the practitioner. Both will become one. This is interdependence. A practitioner can have many eyes and many hands. For example, a woman can take care of her son at home and help her daughter studying in another state. She can also both take care of her husband in the United States and help her mother in Việt Nam. A man can work in California, lead his group members to rescue Nepalese earthquake victims, and ask for donations worldwide.

III. A Brief History of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva

 – In India: Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva has been revered during the golden centuries of Nalanda University. In the seventh century, Hsuan Tsang from China traveled to India, passing through a country named Ma Ha Sach in southern India. Inside an old temple he found a very spiritual stone statue of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva from which many prayers were answered (Trần, 2004, p. 389).

– In Nepal: Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva is revered as Karunamaya. The Nepalese believe that when droughts cause dry soil to crack, the Bodhisattva will create rain. Thus, He is called the “God of Rain, Prosperity, Longevity, and Security” (Tuladhar-Douglas, 2006, p. 17).

– In northwestern India: Mahayana Buddhism developed strongly in the countries of Turkestan, Maharakkhita, Kashmir, Gandhara, Sogdiana, Kirghiz, and so on, for more than 1000 years. Therefore, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva was highly respected. After that, Mahayana Buddhism was transmitted to China and Korea, then Japan and other countries (Trương, 1976).

– In China: The belief in Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva evolved very early and spread to neighboring countries. Particularly, China played an important role in transforming the Bodhisattva form from male to female through numerous literary and artistic creations, such as paintings, statues, poems, translations, commentaries, discussions, and books (Viên Trí, 2003). Chinese Buddhists often call Him Kwan Yin and believe that Putuo Mountain in Zhejiang Province is His residence.

– In Korea: Mahayana Buddhism was introduced into Korea in 384 and was quickly received by the King and the people. In 520, Korean monks traveled to Japan to spread Buddhism. In 668, the Shilla dynasty unified the country, and Buddhism also became the state religion for many centuries. The greatest achievement was the completion of the Korean Buddhist Tipitaka in the eleventh century. The belief in Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, also known as Gwan-eun, spread far and wide (Trần, 2013, p. 165).

– In Japan: Mahayana Buddhism was introduced to Japan from Korea in the sixth century, and Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva was known as Kwannon. In 704, when the first Constitution of Japan was published by Prince Shōtoku, Buddhism was considered the state religion. The second article of the Constitution states: “Honor the Three Jewels. The Three Jewels means Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. This is the supreme command of the kingdom” (Lý, 1997, p. 66). The Japanese  believe that Prince Shōtoku was the embodiment of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva.

– In Tibet: Buddhism was widely propagated in this country during the seventh century thanks to the merits of King Songtsan Gampoand, to Queens of Bhrikuti Devi, and of Van Thanh. From the beginning, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva was highly respected, and the Om Ma-Ni Pad-Me Hum Dharani was most widely spread. For over fourteen centuries, Buddhism was the state religion. The Tibetans believe that the Dalai Lama is the embodiment of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva. The 14th Dalai Lama is currently 86 years old (2020). If all his reincarnations are recognized, his life expectancy is 630 years old (Mackenzie, p. 199)! The former palace where the Dalai Lama worked, called Potala Palace, is extremely magnificent.

– In Mongolia: At the beginning of the fourth century, Buddhism was introduced into Mongolia from India through Indian merchants. However, Tibetan Buddhism predominated and strongly influenced the lives of the Mongolians. The climax of this development was the fact that the Fourth Dalai Lama (1588) was a Mongolian (4th Dalai Lama, n.d.). Like in Tibet, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva was highly respected in Mongolia.

– In Sri Lanka: Theravada Buddhism from India was transmitted first to Sri Lanka. At the beginning of the third century B.C., King Asoka sent his son, a monk named Mahinda, and a group of monks to transmit Buddhism to this island. For 2000 years, Buddhism was the state religion. In the middle of the third century, Mahayana Buddhism resurfaced, and the highly regarded Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva was known as Natha Deviyo. Many people believe that Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva is also Maitreya Bodhisattva (Nguyễn, 2011).

– In Burma: Like Sri Lanka, Burma received Buddhism directly from India in the early third century B.C. In the Pagan dynasty (1044-1287), Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattvas was very popular even though they were Theravada Buddhists (Ibid).

– In Cambodia: Theravada Buddhism arrived very early, but the worship of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva was popular. King Jayavarman VII (1181-1201) was one of the finest kings of the Angkorian civilization. After regaining independence from the Champa invaders in 1181, he built a kingdom of compassion, worshiped Mahayana Buddhism, and built many statues of Buddha and Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva throughout the sacred shrines (Ibid.).

– In Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand: There are still statues of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, showing that He has been honored by local people in the past (Ibid.).

– In Việt Nam: Buddhist merchants from India who came to Việt Nam brought Buddhism and the belief in Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva since the first century. Dr. Lê Mạnh Thát (2005) found that prior to year 190, Zen Master Khương Tăng Hội used the Vietnamese language to record three sets of Mahayana Sutras. Thus, the ideology of the Bodhisattva path was popular early in Việt Nam.

According to Ngô, Lê, Phan, Vũ, et al. (2004), one night in 1049, King Lý Thái Tông dreamed about Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva sitting on a lotus throne. Due to this dream, the King constructed Diên Hựu Pagoda to worship Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva in the capital Thăng Long (present Hà Nội). In 1069, King Lý Thánh Tôn went to fight Champa. His wife Ỷ Lan stayed at home to help with internal affairs so successfully that people called her Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva.

In the Trần dynasty, thanks to the solidarity between the King, mandarins, and people, Việt Nam defeated Mongolian invaders three times. Due to the great influence of King Trần Thái Tông and Zen Master Tuệ Trung, the old Zen traditions in Việt Nam merged into a new Zen school called Trúc Lâm Yên Tử and created a Unified Buddhism (Trần, 2005). Although he was an enlightened Zen Master, King Trần Thái Tông encouraged the people to believe in the Amitabha Buddha and Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva. The belief in the one-thousand hands and one-thousand eyes Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva became widespread. There are two very touching folk stories proving that the compassion of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva was ingrained in the hearts of the masses. They are two collections of poetry named Quan Âm Thị Kính and Quan Âm Diệu Thiện. These stories were adapted into touring plays all over the country and were very popular with the public. Throughout the plays, images of compassion, patience, rescuing people, and loving all sentient beings of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva have spread widely in the masses over the centuries.      

In My Land and My People, the current Dalai Lama explains the return to life of the Buddhas in a simple way: “Buddhas are reborn only to save people because they themselves have attained enlightenment. Reincarnation occurs when there are enough conditions and does not mean that they leave the state of Nirvana. To imagine, the moon can be thought of on the lake surface. The moon is still the moon in its unstable operation in the sky but one sees only the moon when the surface of the lake is flat, when it is right; And the moon shadow can be seen in many places at the same time. Similarly, a Buddha can simultaneously manifest itself in different bodies” (Lama, 1997, pp. 29-30). About himself, the Dalai Lama indirectly revealed: “My own reincarnation is certain, but one recognizes the next Dalai Lama is depending on the charm” (Mackenzie, p. 207). Thus, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, other Bodhisattvas, or Buddhas are everywhere, at any time, but whether people can recognize them or not depends on the heart of the practitioners.

IV. The Extended Arms of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva represents the spirit of entering the world to save suffering of Buddhism. He is one of the great Bodhisattvas such as Manjushri, Samantabhadra, Vajrayana, and Maitreya who are about to enter the Buddha’s fruit. Besides, the number of other Bodhisattvas can not be counted. They are quietly saving living beings but their names are unknown. In addition, there are countless laymen and laywomen who resolve to practice the Bodhisattva path. Venerable Hsuan Hua (n.d.) declared, “Bodhisattva always helps people. If you help people, you are the Bodhisattva; if I save people, I’m also a Bodhisattva.” It does not matter how much money was donated. It is important to develop Bodhi Heart for the sake of happiness for living beings.

During a life full of arrogance and suffering, the images of Buddhists beside those who are in pain, distress, calamity, crushed, harassed, oppressed, or death are extremely practical and necessary. They come to the side to comfort, to soothe the pain, and to sow essences of love, understanding, and hope in the heart of the vulnerable. Sometimes just a bowl of rice can satisfy hunger, an affectionate look of sympathy, some warm words, a friendly hand can create miraculous transformations, help a person through despair, build a belief for the future, heal the family relationship that is about to break down.

The 11th vow of Medicine Buddha was very practical when He was cultivating the Bodhisattva path. “For those who suffer from hunger and thirst that they create all kinds of bad karma in their request for food, I first make them full with delicious food and drinks, then I will bring the joys of Dharma to fulfill their ultimate peace and happiness” (Sutra of the Medicine Buddha, 2001, p. 23).

The joys of Dharma exist once one returns to his/her Buddha-nature, there exists precepts, concentration, and wisdom. At that moment, practitioners achieve peace and happiness. It is to escape all suffering. The effort to improve oneself is the most important, but a practitioner also receives the help of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, of Bodhisattvas, of the Buddhas, and of all beings in the universe. There is nothing that can stand alone. All are interrelated and interacting with each other. That is the essence of the Flower Adornment Sutra (n.d.): All things in the universe arise simultaneously, all things in it depending upon one another.

The Secretary-General Message of the United Nations on the Day of Vesak 2009 stated, “The need for global solidarity may seem like a modern concept, but it is not. More than 2,500 years ago, the Buddha taught that nothing exists in isolation, and that all phenomena are interdependent. Just as profoundly, he taught that we cannot be happy if others suffer, and when we do reach out, we discover the best in ourselves. These teachings offer wisdom for our times, too. Now it falls to each of us, wherever we are and whatever we do, to carry on this spirit. On this Day of Vesak, let us resolve to help people who are suffering so that we may secure a better future for all.”

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva as well as countless Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Pratyeka-buddha, Arahans, Patriarches, and Enlightened Others Who had come, have been coming, and will come to this world, where are They now?

– The final picture of The Ten Oxherding Pictures shows that They are entering the marketplace with helping hands.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Patriarch Tử Dung, who founded Ấn Tôn Pagoda, Việt Nam (now Từ Đàm Pagoda in Huế City), asked His disciple Liễu Quán, “All things go to one; where does “one” go?” Liễu Quán contemplated on this koan for 6 years. It was not until 1708 that He realized the answer. Since then, Zen Master Liễu Quán has Vietnamized the Lin-Chi Zen school to become an important Zen line in Việt Nam (Nguyễn, 1994).

In the field of science, the question above can be answered with the law of conservation of energy whose meaning is no different from the Buddha’s teaching of dependent origination. In the whole universe, “Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; rather, it transforms from one to another” (Conservation of Energy, n.d.). In the same way, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva is embodied everywhere and anytime.

Thông Đạo, 2021