Avalokiteshvara, Avalokita-ishvara, Avalokitesvara, Avalokiteśvara: 12 definitions


Avalokiteshvara means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

The Sanskrit term Avalokiteśvara can be transliterated into English as Avalokitesvara or Avalokiteshvara, using the IAST transliteration scheme (?).

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In Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana or tantric Buddhism)

[«previous (A) next»] — Avalokiteshvara in Tibetan Buddhism glossary
Source: archive.org: The Indian Buddhist Iconography

Avalokiteśvara (अवलोकितेश्वर) (“watchful lord”) is the name of a Bodhisattva commonly depicted in Buddhist Iconography, and mentioned in the 11th-century Niṣpannayogāvalī of Mahāpaṇḍita Abhayākara.—his color is white; his symbol is the lotus.—Avalokiteśvara, also called Padmapāṇi (Lotus bearer) is the spiritual son of the Dhyāni Buddha Amitābha. He is one of the most popular Bodhisattvas of the Buddhist Pantheon having as many as 108 different forms.

Avalokiteśvara is described in the Niṣpannayogāvalī (Dharmadhatūvāgīśvara-maṇḍala) as follows:—

“Avalokiteśvara is white in colour; he displays the Varada-mudrā inthe right hand and in his left, he holds the lotus”.

The conception of Avalokiteśvara is as old as the third century B.C. He was first ushered into existence by the Mahāsāṅghikas, about the time of Aśoka, in their work, entitled, Mahāvastu Avadāna, where he has been characterised as the “Bhagavān who takes the form of a Bodhisattva, whose duty it is to look round (Avalokita) for the sake of instructing the people and for their constant welfare and happiness”. [...] Avalokiteśvara thus is given no less than 108 forms which are painted on the walls of the Macchandar Vahal at Kuthmandu in Nepal with inscriptions for the purpose of identification.

Tibetan Buddhism book cover
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Tibetan Buddhism includes schools such as Nyingma, Kadampa, Kagyu and Gelug. Their primary canon of literature is divided in two broad categories: The Kangyur, which consists of Buddha’s words, and the Tengyur, which includes commentaries from various sources. Esotericism and tantra techniques (vajrayāna) are collected indepently.

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Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

[«previous (A) next»] — Avalokiteshvara in Mahayana glossary
Source: Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

Avalokiteśvara (अवलोकितेश्वर) is one of the Bodhisattvas accompanying the Buddha at Rājagṛha on the Gṛdhrakūṭaparvata, mentioned in a list of twenty-two in to Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra chapter 13.—They were at the head of countless thousands of koṭinayuta of Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas who were all still awaiting succession and will still accede to Buddhahood. He is also known as Kouan che yin. Avalokiteśvara is one of the six classified as a monastic (pravrajita) Bodhisattva.

Avalokiteśvara is mentioned as a Bodhisattva who is praised by the Buddhas, according to chapter XLVII.—Accordingly, “the Buddhas praise these Bodhisattvas. Who are they? They are, for example, Wen-chou-che-li (Mañjuśrī), P’i-mo-lo-kie (Vimalakīrti), Kouan-che-yin (Avalokiteśvara), Ta-che-tche (Mahāsthāmaprāpta), Pien-ki (Samantabhadra). These leaders among the Bodhisattvas appear in the threefold world (traidhātuka), create for themselves innumerable bodies by transformation, enter into saṃsāra and convert beings. From such exploits (adbhuta) comes the entire very profound prajñāpāramitā”.

According to chapter 52, in the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka (chapter XXIV) The Bodhisattva Akṣayamati asks the Buddha the reasons why the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara is so named. The Buddha replies in these words: “O son of noble family, everything that exists in this world of hundreds of thousands of myriads of creatures that suffer pain, all these creatures have only to hear the name of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara to be freed from this great mass of suffering. If those who happen to fall into a great mass of fire recall the name of this Bodhisattva-mahāsattva, they will be delivered from this great mass of fire by the splendor of the Bodhisattva-mahāsattva Avalokiteśvara. If, O son of noble family, these beings happen to be carried away by the current of the rivers, if they invoke the Bodhisattva-mahāsattva Avalokiteśvara, all the rivers will provide a ford for these beings immediately”.

Mahayana book cover
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Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

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General definition (in Buddhism)

[«previous (A) next»] — Avalokiteshvara in Buddhism glossary
Source: Buddhist Door: GlossarySanskrit word for the Bodhisattva who Hears the Sounds of the World. He rescues all beings by hearing their voices of suffering and cries for help. In Chinese, he is called Guan Shr Yin or Guan Yin Bodhisattva. As one of the Four Great Bodhisattva, he is the one with the greatest compassion and mercy, therefore known as God/Goddess of Mercy. Guan Yin is one of the triad of Amitabha Buddha, represented on his left, and being the future Buddha in the Land of Ultimate Bliss (Pure Land) after Amitabha Buddha. Guan Yin can transform into many different forms in order to cross over to the beings. Originally represented as a male, the images are now generally those of a female figure. Guan Yin is one of the most popular Bodhisattva in China.Source: The Art of Asia: Who is Who in HeavenAvalokitesvara (Chinese: Kuan yin; Japanese: Kannon) is the most popular of all bodhisattvas, beloved for his infinite compassion. Together with Mahasthamaprapta, he attends Amitabha when he welcomes the souls of the deceased into the Pure Land.Source: WikiPedia: Buddhism

Avalokitesvara (lit. "Lord who looks down") is a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. He is one of the more widely revered bodhisattvas in mainstream Mahayana Buddhism. In China and its sphere of cultural influence, Avalokitesvara is often depicted in a female form known as Guan Yin. (However, in Taoist mythology, Guan Yin has other origination stories which are unrelated to Avalokitesvara.)

Avalokitesvara is also referred to as Padmapani ("Holder of the Lotus") or Lokesvara ("Lord of the World"). In Tibetan, Avalokitesvara is known as Chenrezig, and is said to be incarnated in the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa and other high Lamas. In Mongolia, he is called Megjid Janraisig, Xongsim Bodisadva, or Niduber Ujegci.

Source: Buddhism Tourism: Glossary of Buddhist Terms

Amongst the most important celestial bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism, Avalokitesvara is the embodiment of compassion.

Source: Shambala Publications: General

Avatokiteshvara (Avalokiteśvara), Skt.; one of the most important bodhisattvas of the Mahāyāna. The literal meaning of Avalokitesh­vara is variously interpreted. One interpretation is the “Lord Who Looks Down,” in which the last component of the name is taken to be ishvara, “lord.” Another interpretation is “He Who Hears the Sounds [Outcries] of the World” or also the “Sound That Illumines the World,” in which svara, “sound” is regarded as the final component of the name. In any case, Avalo­kiteshvara embodies one of the two fundamen­tal aspects of buddhahood, compassion (karunā), in virtue of which he is often given the epithet Mahākarunā, “Great Compassion.” The other fundamental aspect of buddhahood is wisdom (prajñā), which is embodied by the bodhisattva Mañjushrī. Avalokiteshvara is the power of the buddha Amitābha manifested as a bodhisattva and appears as his helper. His limitless compassion ex­presses itself in his wonderful ability to help all beings who turn to him at times of extreme dan­ger. In folk belief, Avalokiteshvara also protects from natural catastrophe and grants blessings to children.

In China Avalokiteshvara is venerated under the name Kuan-yin, in Japan under the name Kannon (also Kanzeon and Kwannon), and in both countries is generally considered to be female. The Tibetan form of Avalokiteshvara is Chenresi.

Source: Abhayagiri: Thinking

In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, along with Manjushri, one of the principle bodhisattvas is Avalokiteshvara, "the one who listens to the sounds of the world." Just as Manjushri is the embodiment of wisdom and the cutting of the sword, so Avalokiteshvara is the embodiment of compassion. Just as Manjushri is related to seeing, the seeing of light, enlightenment, so Avalokiteshvara is related to hearing. Wisdom has a masculine, assertive quality; compassion, listening, has a feminine receptive quality.

(Even though Avalokiteshvara started out as a masculine figure, it has been transmuted over the years. Most people see it as feminine precisely because of this receptive, undiscriminating, open hearted quality.)

Source: Svayambhu: 1000 Arms of Compassion

Avalokiteshvara, is an enlightened being who is a manifestation of all Buddhas' compassion. He is known as the Buddha of Compassion. The name Avalokiteshvara is made of four parts: the verbal prefix ava, which means "down"; the noun loka, which means "the world"; the suffix ita, which changes the verb ''avalok'' into a noun, "one who looks upon the world"; and finally iśvarā, means "lord" or "master".

Languages of India and abroad

Sanskrit-English dictionary

[«previous (A) next»] — Avalokiteshvara in Sanskrit glossary
Source: DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary

Avalokiteśvara (अवलोकितेश्वर).—Name of a Boddhisattva worshipped by the northern Buddhists.

Derivable forms: avalokiteśvaraḥ (अवलोकितेश्वरः).

Avalokiteśvara is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms avalokita and īśvara (ईश्वर).

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Edgerton Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dictionary

Avalokiteśvara (अवलोकितेश्वर).—(on the name compare Mironov, JRAS 1927.241 ff., suggesting that the original form was Avalo- kita-svara), name of a celebrated Bodhisattva: first in lists of Bodhisattvas, Saddharmapuṇḍarīka 3.4; Mahāvyutpatti 645; compare also Kāraṇḍavvūha 1.2; lives on Mt. Potalaka Gaṇḍavyūha 208.8; subject of chapter 24 of Saddharmapuṇḍarīka (named 438.4 ff.), where he has the epithet Samantamukha, q.v.; other occurrences Śikṣāsamuccaya 286.7; Samādhirājasūtra p. 36 l. 1; Kāraṇḍavvūha i.16; 8.19 etc.; (Ārya-)Mañjuśrīmūlakalpa 62.24 etc.; Sukhāvatīvyūha 52.4; 56.7—8; Sādhanamālā 42.10 etc.

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Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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