Description Of Form
His body is golden and he sits within a background of flames. He wears Bodhisattva robes with a red undergarment. His right hand is at the level of the chest and holds an opened lotus, which represents the Bodhichitta. His left hand is also at the level of the chest and makes the mudrâ of fearlessness.
Purpose and Vow
In the arena of Buddhist piety, no other buddha is worshipped by as many people as is Kanzeon (Avalokitesvara) Bodhisattva. All together, there are one hundred Avalokitesvaras combined in the pilgrimage routes of the Thirty-Three Temples of Shikoku, the Thirty-Four Temples of Chichibu, and the Thirty-Three Temples of Bando. In addition, there are countless other Avalokitesvaras enshrined as the main deity in other temples.
As indicated by his name, Kanzeon Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva Who Perceives the Sounds of the World, made a vow to hear the voices of people and the sounds of the conditions of the world, immediately grant salvation to the suffering and the afflicted, and dispel the evil and calamities that surround us.
As a result, Avalokitesvara can change into many different forms, appear in different times and places freely without restriction to save people, and is therefore known also as the Bodhisattva Who Perceives Without Restrictions. There are thirty three forms that Avalokitesvara can take to carry out acts of salvation freely, and this is the origins of the thirty-three pilgrimage stages.
The most fundamental forms of these many manifestations are the Seven Avalokitesvaras, these include:
1. Aryâvalokitesvara (Shô Kannon) the Sacred Avalokitesvara
2. Ekadasamuhka (Jûichimen Kannon) the Eleven Faced Avalokitesvara
3. Sahasrabhuja (Senju Kannon) the Thousand Armed Avalokitesvara
4. Cintâmanicakra (Nyoirin Kannon) the Wish Fulfilling Avalokitesvara
5. Hayagrîva (Batô Kannon) the Horse Headed Avalokitesvara
6. Cundi (Juntei Kannon) the Mother Goddess Avalokitesvara
7. Amoghapasa (Fukûkenjaku) the Avalokitesvara with rope and net
Generally taking on a gentle female form, Avalokitesvara is understood to protect living beings with loving compassion, but she can also take on a stern faced, fiery and angry appearance such as we find in Hayagrîva (Batô Kannon), the Horse Faced Avalokitesvara, who gives guidance and protection in the animal world. Avalokitesvara can also devote her energies to acts of salvation in the guise of many different faces, such as is found in the Eleven Faced Avalokitesvara; or perform acts of compassion with many hands, such as is done by the Thousand Armed Avalokitesvara. The Avalokitesvara Who Ensnares Unerringly stands for a fishing net and rope, and the net is dragged through the world to extend the hand of salvation to people without leaving anyone out. The Mother Goddess Avalokitesvara refers to the Buddha's Mother, and is a deity who nurtures people like a mother.
Avalokitesvara (Kannon) is also called Kanzeon Bodhisattva, and this name indicates that this Bodhisattva can hear the voices and concerns of the world, and, in order to provide immediate relief, can change into many different forms to save people freely at will according to their time and place. That is why Avalokitesvara is called Kanjizai Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva That Sees and Acts Freely at Will, and is spoken of in the Avalokitesvara Sutra as having thirty-three different forms. This is the origin of the Avalokiteßvara (Kannon) pilgrimage covering thirty-three sites.
On arorikya sowaka (Jpn.)
Om ârolik svâhâ (Skt.)
Om Unstained One svâhâ
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