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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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©1998 Shingon Buddhist International Institute
Deity line-art © Dashin Art, Inc. Used with Permission