My Birthday and Regarding the Cries of the World
Monday was an amazing birthday. Since I’m pretty much starting my cd collection from stratch (again…although my vinyl collection, of course, remains intact to this day), my girlfriend gave me brand new copies of Group Sex and Carnival of Chaos! She also made me an amazing dinner, which I still feel kinda full from! My brother also gave me a dart to use to punch small holes in my jacket to make studding a lot easier. Also, as a random fact, my eldest cousin shares the same birthday. Yet, we live in separate states so we can’t exactly throw an extravagant party as celebration. Perhaps one year!
However, the festivities aren’t over. Tuesday also marked the celebration of Guan Yin‘s attainment of Bodhisattvahood. In Sanskrit, the term “bodhisattva” means “enlightenment (‘bodhi’) essence (‘sattva’)”. The Bodhisattva is compassionately dedicated to assisting all sentient beings in achieving complete Buddhahood (Buddhabhaava) – the highest state of enlightenment. This means that the Bodhisattva doesn’t practice for their own enlightenment, but rather for the enlightenment of all. Out of compassion, the Bodhisattva remains in this world of ignorance, illusions/delusions, sickness, and death while experiencing what everyone one else experiences until all sentient beings are liberated. In short, the Bodhisattva has delayed their entrance to Nirvana (unbinding) and thus remain in Samsara (the cycle of life and death) by taking the Bodhisattva Vow to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible so that they can teach Dharma until all have awakened to enlightenment and can enter Nirvana.
The Bodhisattva is primarily motivated by bodhicitta (lit. “enlightenment mind”) which is the wish to attain Buddhahood in order to benefit all sentient beings who are trapped in Samsara (cyclic existence). There are two types of bodhicitta. They are aspiring or relative bodhicitta in which the practitioner works to free all beings from bondage and suffering, and engaging or absolute bodhicitta in which the practitioner clearly sees that the bondage and suffering are illusory and never existed in the first place.
A Bodhisattva can chose either of three paths to help sentient beings in the process of achieving Buddhahood. They are King-like Bodhisattva, or one who aspires to become Buddha as soon as possible and then help sentient beings full-ƒledged; Boatman-like Bodhisattva, one who aspires to achieve Buddhahood along with other sentient beings; and Shepherd-like Bodhisattva, one who aspires to delay Buddhahood until all other sentient beings achieve Buddhahood.
The Four Great Vows of the Bodhisattva are:
Ordinary-beings are innumerable, I vow to liberate them all
Defilements are endless, I vow to eliminate them all
Buddha’s teachings are unlimited, I vow to learn them all
The ways of enlightenment are supreme, I vow to achieve them all
Guan Yin is the archetypal Shepherd-like Bodhisattva of compassion. Guan Yin’s name comes from the Sanskrit Avalokitesvara. As the offspring of the Buddha Amitabha, MahaBodhisattva Avalokitesvara is the archetype of universal compassion. The name “Avalokitesvara” has been translated as “the Lord Who Looks Down on the World”, “the Regarder of the Cries of the World” or even “Perceiver of the World’s Sounds”. Avalokitesvara is also referred to as Padmapani (“Holder of the Lotus”) and simply as Lokesvara (“Lord of the World”).
Although Avalokitesvara is often portrayed as a male prince in India with the Buddha in his crown, he is also well known for his female form known as Tara, Lokanat, Lokesvara, Guan Yin/Kwan Yin, Kannon, Kanzeon, etc. Although mainstream Theravada does not worship any of the Mahayana bodhisattvas, Avalokitesvara is popularly worshiped in Burma, where she is called Lokanat, and in Thailand, where she is called Lokesvara. In Tibetan, Avalokitesvara is known as Chenrezig, and is said to be incarnated in the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa, and other high lamas.
In chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra, aptly named “The Universal Gate of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara”, it states that Guan Yin/Kannon/Avalokitesvara/etc appears in many ways and in many forms (e.g. male, female, god, monk, nun, some kind of important figure, or even that homeless guy on the corner, etc.), to help sentient beings according to their level of understanding. This is because Guan Yin has taken a vow to relieve the suffering of sentient beings whenever one should recite his/her name (“Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattvaya”, “Namo Guan Shi Yin Pusa”, “Homage to the Bodhisattva Who Perceives the World’s Sounds”), and is thus the archetype of the boundless compassion found deep within us all.
Indeed, the thousand armed and thousand eyed Kannon (Sahasrabhuja Avalokitesvara) represents the many compassionate skills and techniques which one should develop, such as the compassion that arises when one sees suffering (with 1,000 eyes), and those actions taken to relieve this suffering (with 1,000 hands).
Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattvaya
Namo Guan Shi Yin Pusa
Om Mani Padme Hum