Manifestations of Avalokitesvara 观音万象

Chamber 2 第二堂


Amoghanikusa Avalokitesava 不空钩观音 holder of the infallible hook, also known as the Vajra of Transformed Appearance. His hook is like the lasso of Amoghapasa Avalokitesvara, which never fails to draw all sentient beings to the Dharma & fulfill their wishes. Thus they are similar deities. In the Garbhakosa Mandala he is situated in the left end of the 2nd row in the Court of Akasagarbha. He is described as 4-faced, each with 3 eyes, 4-armed, flesh colored & sitting on a red lotus. The left & right faces are blue. His left hands hold a lotus with a single prong hook & a rope. His left hands hold a 3-prong hook & a 3-prong vajra. His mantra is:

Namah samanta buddhanam dhi ram padmalaya svaha


Amogha-krodhanikusa-raja Avalokitesava 忿怒钩观音 holder of the fearsome hook, also known as the Vajra holding the Hook. This fierce deity is able to manifest Avalokitesvara's Samadhi of Anger, & is named by his Teacher, Bodhisattva Akasagarbha. When there are sentient beings who are stubborn & egoistic, this fearsome hook is used to pierce their ignorance & draw them to the Dharma. In the Garbhakosa Mandala he is situated in the Court of Akasagarbha, beside Amoghankusa above. He is also described as 4-faced, each with 3 eyes, 4-armed, & flesh colored. The left face is blue, the right green. All 4 faces have a Buddha manifesting above them. A Bodhisattva (Akasagarbha?) holding 2 swords seats upon his crown. The left hands hold a lotus & a lasso, the right hands hold a tasseled iron hook & form a Mudra of Wish Fulfillment. His mantra is:

Namah samanta buddhanam kuvalaya svaha


Gandharaja Avalokitevara 香王观音 the king of fragrance. Classified as a deity of the Garbhakosa & as a manifestation of Avalokitevara, but not situated in the Mandala itself. Thus named as this form bestows blessings on all sentient beings like a penetrating & powerful fragrance. The Gandharaja Dharani Sutra says that he is white in color, & is dressed in celestial robes, crown & necklace. His right hand forms the Mudra of Bestowing Fearlessness, whereas the left holds a stalk of pink lotus. Under his feet also grows a pink lotus. There is a 5-colored umbrella draped in red & yellow beads above his hallow.



Nilakantha Avalokitesvara 青颈观音 he with the blue-throat. As he is able to swallow the 3 poisons of craving, hatred & ignorance in sentient beings, his throat became blue as a result. Another fierce form, this image looks very much like Shiva, the Hindu God. But there are many references to Avalokitesvara as the blue-throated one in the Dharani of Great Compassion, so there's this relation to Blue Shiva, the Isvaradeva in Buddhism. The image above is a Tibetan depiction. His mantra is:

Padma narakindi isvara buru buru hum



Amate Avalokitesvara 阿麽提观音 the forgiving, the fearless one. He has 3 eyes and 4 arms, and rides a white lion. One of the arms holds a Majya fish, the other an auspicious bird that can sing away the klesa of all sentient beings. Amate deals fairly with all sentient beings and bestows fearlessness. His mantra is:

Om amate svaha



Qilin(chinese mythological beast) Riding Guanyin 麒麟观音, courtesy of Peter Yeh. Notice its resemblance to Amate Avalokitesvara above. This rare bronze image is brought to LA fm China in the 1920s. This image carries a Mani Jewel in his right hand & a Vial of elixir in his left - perhaps suggesting a cross btw Cintamani & Bhaisajraja Avalokitesvara. As Qilins are fierce, chaotic beasts, this depiction aims to tame the demon within our minds with Guanyin's compassion.


Lion Riding Guanyin 骑吼观音 The bronze image on the left carries a Mani Jewel in the left hand & the right forms the Mudra of Wish Fufillment, quite similar to Qilin Riding Guanyin above. The Lion represents the majesty & might of the Dharma, & the ability of Avalokitesvara to give the 狮子吼 Lion's Roar - to proclaim the doctrine of Truth far & wide. In this aspect he is no different from Bodhisattva Manjusri 文殊菩萨, who is depicted riding a Lion most of the time. He can be found in Temples in both China & Tibet (like the image on the right).



Southern Sea Guanyin 南海观音 This painting of Guanyin on an island at sea (Putuo Shan?) was most popular in South China during the final part of the 1800s and the early part of the 1900s. Then, millions of Southern Chinese migrants commit their fortunes to the great sea to escape the turmoil on the Mainland, hoping to find greener pastures in other countries. Praying for their individual safeties at sea, hoping to survive the waves, they felt a great need for spiritual consolation. This is of course personified as Guanyin of the Southern Seas. There are also many that worship the Chinese Sea Goddess 妈祖 Mazu aka 天后 Tianhou for the very same purpose. So we can see there's a close relation between Taoist & Buddhist deities.


Four Armed Chenrezig 四臂观音 As we all know, Avalokitesvara in Tibet is called Chenrezig, & his 4 armed image is by far the most well popular form there. This form, the same as the one in the Hall of Space, carries Mala, full bloomed Lotus & a Mani Jewel, which is similar to Cintamani Avalokitesvara, except the latter has 6 arms. Even his mantra, the Mantra of 6 Syllables, the most popular mantra in Tibet, is similar to Cintamani's heart mantra. So it is safe to say 4 armed Chenrezig is derived from 6 armed Cintamani. This form is always white in color & sometimes Buddha Amitabha is depicted manifesting above his head.


Yab Yum Chenrezig 双身观音 This seated, sometimes standing image, shows Chenrezig in union with his consort. Notice that though the posture is the same, the items he carries have changed. Instead of a Mala he now carries a Vajra, & the red lotus is changed into a blue one. His color has also changed from white to red like Buddha Amitabha. His consort has one arm around his body & the other holding a skull cap high above her head. This is actually Chenrezig in Anuttara Yoga Tantra 无上瑜伽部 form, & is thus found only in Tibet.


Bodhisattva Padmapani 莲花手菩萨 In Vajrayana Buddhism Avalokitesvara is also known as Padmapani, which means "holder of the lotus", as opposed to Vajrasattva, who is also known as Vajrapani or Vajradhara. Usually both of them are depicted waiting at the right & left of Tathagata Vairocana, as in the Garbhakosa Mandala, which has the Lotus & Diamond Courts on the right & left of the Central Astadala Court. This standing, sometimes seated image, shows Padmapani holding a full bloomed red lotus in the right hand & the left forms a mudra of Wish Fufillment. The seated image is also the same, except that the right hand is now used to support his body; so the lotus is coiled around the other hand instead. Like Aryavalokitesvara & 4 armed Chenrezig, Padmapani is always white in color. He is found in Indian & Tibetan buddhist art, but not in China.


Sukhavativyuha Avalokitesvara 极乐观音 Here we have Avalokitesvara in the bottom right hand corner as part of the Receiving Party of the Three Noble Ones of the West 西方三圣, who will appear to those virtuous ones seeking to be reborn in the World of Ultimate Bliss 极乐世界 when their time is up. In this Japanese painting we see Avalokitesvara kneeling & holding a Golden Lotus Pedestal 金莲台 to take whoever is ready back to the Pureland. Buddha Amitabha is in the middle froming the Mudra of Guiding 接引印, & Bodhisattva Maha Sthama Prapta is in the left hand corner with palms clasped in reverence. Similar depictions can also be found in China, which is common due to the popularity of the Pure Land School of Buddhism.





More to come…

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