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Avalokitesvara compassion practices can “enhance treatment of anxiety, depression, trauma” say some scientists and clinicians. For the rest of us, his compassion brings us closer to bliss and wisdom.

Avalokitesvara compassion practices can “enhance treatment of anxiety, depression, trauma” say some scientists and clinicians. For the rest of us, his compassion brings us closer to bliss and wisdom.

Avalokitesvara is the metaphorical rock star of the Bodhisattvas. “Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, is one of the most important and popular Buddhist deities,” writes Karen Andres in Tibetan Contemplative Traditions. [1] “Avalokitesvara is the personification of compassion… Even the Buddhas cannot estimate Avalokitesvara’s merit. It is said that just thinking of him garners more merit than honoring a thousand Buddhas.”

Now, aside from his sheer popularity, some scientists and scholars believe the practices of Buddhist compassion, and particularly of Avalokitesvara, may help in clinical work with depression and trauma.

Four-Armed compassionate Avalokitesvara with Om Mani Padme Hum mantra. Also inset Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche.
Four-Armed compassionate Avalokitesvara with Om Mani Padme Hum mantra. Also inset Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche.

Contents of This Feature

  • Two Wings of a Bird: Compassion and Wisdom
  • Compassion Flowing Into Self
  • Compassion is One of the Defining Practices
  • Avalokitesvara, the Top-of-Mind Bodhisattva
  • Avalokitesvara, Synonymous with Compassion
  • Famous Mantras
  • Avalokitesvara, Like Tara, Considered a Savior
  • Avalokitesvara Embodies Light
  • Sutra References to the Compassionate Bodhisattva
  • Popularity of Compassion
  • 1000-Armed Chenrezig
  • The Vow of Avalokitesvara
  • A Short Practice of Avalokitesvara Including Visualization
  • End Thoughts: The Heart Sutra
  • End Thoughts: Karaniya Metta Sutta

Two Wings of a Bird: Compassion and Wisdom

“Buddhist traditions see wisdom and Compassion as interrelated—two wings of a bird,” writes Christer Germer and Ronald Siegel in an unlikely source—a psychotherapy-medical text. [3] In the book, various scholars, scientists and clinicians describe how Buddhist compassionate practices can “enhance the treatment of anxiety, depression, trauma, substance abuse, suicidal behavior, couple conflict and parenting stress.”

In other words, the practice of Compassion and Wisdom can change lives. Nor is this a lightweight study on this topic. One reviewer, a PhD at the University or Kentucky reviewed this illuminating book: “This book examines the nature of wisdom and compassion in psychotherapy from every conceivable perspective. Buddhist psychology, neurobiological foundations, psychological research, and clinical applications all receive thoughtful and comprehensive treatment. Clinicians, scholars, teachers, and students interested in the alleviation of human suffering will appreciate this volume, especially its emphasis on the cultivation of mindfulness and loving-kindness skills as paths toward the wisdom and compassion that are so essential to effective psychotherapy.”–Ruth A. Baer, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky.

 

Prayer wheels are also a noted stress-reliever. They contain tens of thousands of copies of the compassionate mantra of Avalokitesvara, Om Mani Padme Hum. All over Asia, people spin the wheels clockwise daily to bring compassion and blessings into their lives—and more importantly, to send the blessings out to millions of sentient beings.
Prayer wheels are also a noted stress-reliever. They contain tens of thousands of copies of the compassionate mantra of Avalokitesvara, Om Mani Padme Hum. All over Asia, people spin the wheels clockwise daily to bring compassion and blessings into their lives—and more importantly, to send the blessings out to millions of sentient beings.

 

In the foreword, the Dalai Lama was equally enthusiastic: “I am very happy to see that ancient teachings and practices from the Buddhist tradition can be of benefit today when they are employed by Western scientists and therapists. In today’s world, many people turn to psychotherapy to understand what is making them unhappy, and to discover how to live a more meaningful life. I believe that as they come to understand compassion and wisdom more deeply, psychotherapists will be better able to help their patients and so contribute to greater peace and happiness in the world.”

Compassion Flowing into the Self

In Wisdom and Compassion in Psychotherapy, an entire section on clinical applications is dedicated to visualizing compassionate Buddha images (normally Avalokitesvara). It is noted that the visualization should be of a compassionat figure “who embodies the qualities of unconditional acceptance, quiet strength and wisdom… beyond human fallibility.” The example they used was Avalokitesvara or Guanyin (the female Chinese form). [3, page 262]

 

Sacred images of compassion that are "beyond human fallibility" are used in clinical practice to help relieve stress and overcome traumas.
Sacred images of compassion, such as Chenrezig—beings  that are “beyond human fallibility” — are used in clinical practice to help relieve stress and overcome traumas.

 

This is called “imagery-based therapies” and entail various methods of internalizing the compassion, including allowing the idealized deity to flow into the Self, or to visualize the Self as the deity. These methods very closely mirror Tibetan Sadhanas, frontal generation of deity and deity as self generation.

Compassion is One of the Defining Practices

Putting aside clinical benefits in medicine and psychotherapy, compassion is one of the defining practices of Buddhism (see Karaniya Metta Sutta at the end of this feature.) All schools of Buddhism emphasize compassion, although “in Mahayana traditions from India, practitioners train extensively in meditations of compassion to empower their minds to realize nonconceptual wisdom, and as nonconceptual wisdom emerges, it is harnessed to strengthen compassion.” This famous Buddhist tradition is idealized and perfected in the living essence of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Avalokitesvara.

 

Guanyin, the Chinese female aspect of Avalokitesvara, Buddha of Compassion.
Guanyin, the Chinese female aspect of Avalokitesvara, Buddha of Compassion.

 

Avalokitesvara, the Top-of-Mind Bodhisattva

For most people, if you asked them to name only one Bodhisattva, the majority would inevitably identify Avalokitesvara (Chenrezig). The great Bodhisattva is the metaphorical rock star of the Buddhist world because he literally embodies Compassion (with a capital “C”). His popularity is easy to understand in the context of his unlimited, unending compassion.

“Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of infinite compassion and mercy, is possibly the most popular of all Buddhist deities, beloved throughout the Buddhist world. He supremely exemplifies the bodhisattva,” write the Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. [2]

 

A beautiful statue of thousand-armed Chenrezig.
A beautiful statue of thousand-armed Chenrezig.

 

Avalokitesvara Synonymous with Compassion

For Mahayana Buddhists, one name is virtually synonymous with the practice of compassion: “Avalokitesvara could be described as the quintessential Bodhisattva, for he is the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and compassion is the distinguishing mark of the Bodhisattva,” writes Vessantara in his book, A Guide to the Bodhisattvas.[4] Perhaps the most beloved meditation deity amongst Mahayana Buddhists, Avalokitesvara (pronounced Avah-low-key-tesh-vah-ra) is also known as Guan Yin (Kuan Shi Yin) in China, Kanon in Japan, Chenrezig in Tibet, Natha in Sri Lanka, Lokanat in Burma, Lokesvara in Thailand, and by many other names. There are at least 108 forms of Avalokitesvara.

“Avalokitesvara is the figure who embodies this compassion raised the highest power,” Vessantara continues. “As the family protector, the chief Bodhisattva of the Lotus family, he represents the active manifestation in the world of the boundless love and compassion of Buddha Amitabha.”

For many people, who first get to know Mahayana Buddhism, Avalokitesvara is often the first meditation they practice. His mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, is often the first mantra people think of. In meditating on the Lord of Compassion, we meditate directly on the nature and importance of compassion.

It’s important to understand that Avalokitesvara’s compassion is equally the nature of Wisdom. It is compassionate Avaolokitesvara who expounds in that most important Mahayana Sutra, the Heart Sutra:

“Avalokiteshvara

while practicing deeply with

the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore,

suddenly discovered that

all of the five Skandhas are equally empty,

and with this realisation

he overcame all Ill-being.”

[Full Heart Sutra in End Thoughts]

 

Chanting the heart sutra, or hand copying with calligraphy and pen are considered very powerful practices by many.
Chanting the heart sutra, or hand copying with calligraphy and pen are considered very powerful practices by many.

 

Famous Mantras

Om Mani Padme Hum is one of the best known mantras, chanted daily by millions around the world. This famous mantra is also simply called “the six-syllable mantra.” In Shinon Buddhism his mantra is On Arurikya Sowaka.

Another important mantra of Avalokitesvara is the Mahakaruna Dharani, the Great Compassion mantra in 82-syllables, which is a treasured mantra chanted in different languages.

 

The lotus flower itself is symbolic of compassion. Visualizing a lotus with the HRIH syllable in sanskrit. Hrih is the Bija of both Avalokitesvara and his spiritual father Amitabha.
The lotus flower itself is symbolic of compassion. Visualizing a lotus with the HRIH syllable in sanskrit. Hrih is the Bija of both Avalokitesvara and his spiritual father Amitabha.

 

Avalokitesvara’s six qualities, which are said to break the hindrances in the six realms of existence are:

  1. Great compassion
  2. Great loving-kindness (metta)
  3. Universal light
  4. Leader of all humans and devas
  5. Courage of a lion
  6. Omniscience.

Avalokitesvara, Like Tara, Considered a Savior         

Nearly as popular as Avalokitesvara is Tara, who is the embodiment of the activity of compassion, and who manifested—in one lovely origin story—from his tears. In fact, most of the activities we now tend equate to Tara, are also performed by Avaolokitesvara. Or, we can think of Avalokitesvara as the “dynamic duo super heroes” of Compassion.

“As compassionate action is Avalokitesvara’s essence, he is supremely helpful,” writes Karen Andrews in Tibetan Contemplative Traditions. “He can assume any form in order to help sentient beings, and there are descriptions of him appearing as buddhas, brahmanic gods, humans, and animals. In all these forms he does wonderful things to help alleviate the suffering of beings and bring them towards enlightenment. He rescues his followers from fires, from drowning, from bandits, from murder, from prisons. He gives children to female followers who want children. He helps release beings from the three mental poisons of passion, hatred, and delusion. He helpful both on the physical, worldly plain, and on a more psychological or spiritual level.” [1]

 

Above Avalokitesvara appear's his spiritual father Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light. To the Left and Right of Amitabha are White Tara and Green Tara. Both Taras and Avalokitesvara are considered rescuers and saviours of people who are suffering.
Above Avalokitesvara appear’s his spiritual father Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light. To the Left and Right of Amitabha are White Tara and Green Tara. Both Taras and Avalokitesvara are considered rescuers and saviours of people who are suffering.

 

Avalokitesvara Embodies Light

All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are typically visualized during sadhanas as beautiful “bodies of light”, glowing and radiant and often emanating rays of healing or protective or wisdom light. Avalokitesvara, even more so embodies the true, ultimate nature of this compassionate light. This connection is emphasized in his own origin story, as “a ray of light which emanated from Amitabha Buddha.” [1]

Even today, when there are power failures in urban centres, the fear of the dark rises up unconciouslessly for most people. Walking down a dark alley automatically generates a rise in heart rate, a feeling of imminent danger. It’s the “prey” instinct.

In this context, it is natural that Avalokitesvara would be characterized as light. Light brings safety, comfort, nourishes plants, gives us growth, heat and prosperity.

“Avalokitesvara is a luminous being of light, and is repeatedly described as radiating light which shines over all sentient beings and over all corners of the universe, explains Karen Andrews. [1] “Similarly, he sees everything and everyone in all corners of the universe, a fact that is emphasized by his name.” The root meaning of Avaloki is “to see all, to see, to be seen.” Vara means lord.

His ability to be everywhere in the nature of light, allows him to instantly manifest compassionate activity. 

 

Formal sadhanas are transmitted in text form through an unbroken lineage from guru to guru back to the Buddha. Here, a meditator in lotus position meditates with a written text (Sadhana) as a guide. A Sadhana combines sounds (prayers and mantras), actions (mudras), intense visualizations (guided), even a sense of place (mandalas) and the six senses (smells, tastes, and so on from the visualized offerings.)

 

Sutra References to the Compassionate Bodhisattva

Avalokitesvara is a prominent and key character in many sutras, including, importantly, the Prajnaparamita Hrdaya, or Heart Sutra. It is He who expounds the Perfection of Wisdom in its most concise and profound way: “Form is emptiness and emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form…”

One of the earliest sutras translated in to Tibetan, the Karanda Vyuha Sutra, is focused on Avalokiesvara, and his mantra Om Mani Padme Hum. He is found in the following Sutras:

  • Saddharma Pandarikia (Lotus Sutra)
  • Karandavyuha Sutra
  • Prajnaparamita Hrdaya Sutra (Heart Sutra)
  • Avaolokitesvara Ekadasamukha Dharani Sutra
  • Cundi Dharani Sutra   (18-armed Avalokitesvara)

Popularity of Compassion

In China, Avalokitesvara (known there as Guan Yin or Kuanyin) is, perhaps, by the numbers, the most popular deity in all of Asia. In Tibet, devotion to Chenrezig is so deep that he is considered to be the guardian of the whole country. The Dalai Lama is considered to be one of his many incarnations. “A Tibetan,” Vesantara explains in A Guide to Bodhisattvas, “upon meeting His Holiness [the Dalai Lama], feels himself to be in the presence of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara.”

In keeping with the relative nature of form, as expressed in the Heart Sutra, Avalokitesvara can appear in countless forms: male, female, and wrathful. In most of China and Japan Guanyin manifests clearly as a female deity. In Tantric Buddhism he appears in many fierce and wrathful forms, notably Sita Mahakala (White Mahakala).

1000-Armed Chenrezig

The most “famous” form of Avalokitesvara is his 1000-armed form, symbolic of his vast compassion, so immense that he needs a 1000 arms to reach out and care for sentient beings (symbolic of unlimited compassion). His visualization is very powerful, as streams of healing and compassionate light flow from the thousand arms, reaching out to all sentient beings everywhere—in every world and realm.

 

Thousand-armed Chenrezig is a difficult but worthy visualization.
Thousand-armed Chenrezig is a difficult but worthy visualization.

 

He is “one of the most extraordinary figures in the whole field of Buddhist meditation practice,” writes Vessantara. “The form we see emerging from the blue sky of sunyata is brilliant white, standing erect on a white lotus and a moon mat, and holding to his heart the wish-fulfilling gem of the Bodhicitta. As we look, we see that the figure is surrounded by a vast aura of what appears to be white light. Looking more closely, however, it dawns on us that we are really gazing at a figure with a great many arms which form a tremendous white circle as they stretch out in all directions.”

Importantly, Vessantara adds, “Each of the arms is reaching out to help suffering beings, and from the palm of each hand a beautiful eye gazes down compassionately.”

Although we visualize 1000 arms, we really mean unlimited caring arms reaching out to sentient beings. He also has eleven heads, various forms and colors that symbolize he can manifest in endless forms to suit our needs. There is even a wrathful face at the top, surmounted only by the serenity of his spiritual guru Amitabha Buddha, symbolizing the totality of his compassionate actions, and hinting at his many forms.

The Vow of Avalokitesvara

The 1000 arms, and the many other forms of Chenrezig all came about because of a great vow the Compassionate Buddha made to deliver all beings from suffering. The origin of the arms and heads is explained in an origin story. Avalokitesvara strived for aeons to free sentient beings from suffering. After aeons of freeing sentient beings, he found the realms were still full of endless suffering. His compassion was so great that his peaceful form was symbolically torn apart, transforming into thousands of arms and many heads and eyes.

In another symbolic story, his tears spontaneously gave rise to Tara, the Mother of Compassionate Action. Together with their spiritual guru Buddha Amitabha, they work tirelessly to benefit all beings.

 

Research proves that Vajrayana meditation techniques improve cognitive performance.
The practice of Avalokitesvara is entirely within the mind, supported by guided meditation words (if needed), spoken sounds such as mantras, and some physical gestures (in advanced practices) such as mudras. But the entire generation of deity is within mind.

 

Practicing Avalokitesvara: Universally Approachable          

Kindness is by nature, approachable. Avalokitesvara’s compassion is available to anyone who suffers, even those who are not his followers. It is said that Avalokitesvara cares for all equally, and that he can manifest instantly to anyone in a form they can understand. This may be in the form of an inspirational thought, or as a vivid dream. Or, as a nagging worry in your mind warning you to “turn around it’s not safe.” Or, as a neighbor who sees your house on fire and calls emergency. Or, literally as anything, anywhere, anytime.

 

In Tibet and some areas of India or Nepal you might come across Mani walls or Mani rocks like this one. These numerous tributes to Chenrezig remind us to keep compassion in our heart as we go about our daily tasks. The Mani wheel shown here has the "Hrih" seed syllable in the centre and the full Om Mani Padme Hum mantra in Tibetan letters.
In Tibet and some areas of India or Nepal you might come across Mani walls or Mani rocks like this one. These numerous tributes to Chenrezig remind us to keep compassion in our heart as we go about our daily tasks. The Mani wheel shown here has the “Hrih” seed syllable in the centre and the full Om Mani Padme Hum mantra in Tibetan letters.

 

Meditating on, or visualizing Avalokitesvara can bring compassion into your life: compassion for others, but equally, compassion for you from others. No special empowerment is required to visualize and meditate on this spectacular being, although it is always useful to obtain meditational instructions from someone who as “realized” the practice. This is normally a qualified teacher, or guru.

In Tibetan Buddhism, empowerment or initiation is often offered “to one and all.” The entirely benign and wondrous loving energy of Avalokesvara carries no risk, even in Tantric practice. Since it is often available, meditators truly interested in bringing the power of compassion into their practice and lives — and, after all, compassion is one of the “two wings of Buddhism” — are encouraged to seek out empowerment from a qualified guru with a proven lineage. (For example, this Tuesday is a rare opportunity to take initiation from the most Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche if you’re near Toronto>>)

 

Physics at least partially supports the notion or rebirth. Matter is never destroyed, it is converted to energy. All beings are born out of the same elemental soup—romantically thought of as "stardust."
Visualizations within the mind are entirely in the nature of the nature of light.

 

Preparations to Practice

In absence of instructions from a qualified teacher, here is one of the simpler, visualized meditations (sadhana) — a nice visualization only loosely based on formal Tibetan sadhanas.

Note: The visualization of Chenrezig is “in front” of you, and very basic, thus not requiring empowerment. Someone who is initiated might visualize themselves as Chenrezig, or other variations as instructed by their qualified teacher.

It is helpful to undertake some preliminaries to set your frame of mind, and to build a little merit. This would normally include:

  • Taking of Refuge in the Three Jewels, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
  • The Four Immeasurables prayer to establish Bodhichitta
  • Some kind of offering, either a stick of incense, a candle, fruit offerings or mentally transformed (imagined) offerings you visualize. (NOTE: it is NOT appropriate to offer meats to the Lord of Compassion, who values all life.)
  • It is helpful to recite the Seven Limbs as well, as within that prayer is contained the “entire path.”
  • At this point you would begin your visualization and meditation, usually accompanied by mantra recitation. Some people recite the visualization, then close their eyes and imagine it while reciting the mantras. Other people mentally note the visualization, then half close their eyes and visualize. Some people I know even record the guided visualization and allow it to play while they meditate.
  • It’s important at the end to “dedicate the merit from the meditation to the benefit of all sentient beings.

Preliminaries

Refuge

Until I reach enlightenment I take refuge in the Three Jewels: The Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. By the virtues of practicing generosities and other perfections, may I attain Enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.

Four Immeasurables

(Note: some people substitute “they” for “we” but usually we are instructed that we must also have compassion on ourselves. We covers both others and ourselves.)

May all beings have happiness and its causes.

May we never have suffering nor its causes,

May we constantly dwell in joy transcending sorrow,

May we dwell in equal love for both near or far.

Offerings

I like to place out seven bowls of clean water, symbolic of purity and compasion as an offering. Otherwise, mentally visualize offerings at the feet of Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara).

Seven Limbs

I prostrate in faith with body, speech and mind;

I make each and every offering, both those actually performed and those mentally transformed;

I declare every non virtuous act since beginningless time;

I rejoice in the virtues of all Holy and Ordinary beings;

Please, Avalokitesvara, remain as our guide through samasara;

Please turn the wheel of Dharma for all sentient beings;

I dedicate my own virtues to cultivate Enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.

 

A red, glowing HRIH syllable (shown) is visualized at Avalokitesvara's heart.
A red, glowing HRIH syllable (shown) is visualized at Avalokitesvara’s heart.

 

Visualization and Meditation

This is a visualization of the four-armed Avalokitesvara. Try to visualize as realistically and three dimensionally as possible. However, the deity is always visualized as “the nature of light”.

NOTE: If you have trouble visualizing, just “know” that he is there as described—and see as much as you can, even if it’s only a fleeting glimpse. If all you can see is a glow of white light, this is already a glimpse of the Bodhisattva of Infinite Light. Feel his presence rather than see him if you are not yet able to vividly visualize.

Here, the visualization is written in the first person. If you are pre-recording and playing back, or doing group practice out loud, you could change the “I” to “you.” You can read aloud, or silently, then visualize:

I am floating in an area with nothing but a vast blue sky, spanning all directions, unnaturally clear and vibrant and radiant. Intuitively, I feel this is symbolic of the emptiness of self-nature.

I enjoy the blue sky, allowing my non-senses to reach out to infinity—vast, unending, and horizonless. It is comforting in this non-place— empty of self nature. In this empty, serene sky we can let go of the nightmare of samsara and suffering, for here there is nothing fixed or limited, and nothing to grasp.

Then, in the nature of numinous light, and area in front of me glows brighter and brighter, but it doesn’t hurt to stare at it. The light begins to take form, and I see that it is a stunningly beautiful lotus flower, absolutely perfect in every way, pure white and glowing with unnaturally beautiful light. I can see, as I adjust to the new image, a glowing circular area of white, that seems as luminous and wondrous as an autumn moon. The glow of the moon intensifies again, and in the bright light I see the shape of an even brighter form. This blossoms into the shape of a perfectly-shaped man — a being so beautiful I feel instant and radiant joy.

I know that this is Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Infinite Compassion. His body resolves, sharper and sharper, the glow fading to reveal a splendid being made entirely of brilliant white light, different shades of white that define a beautiful youthful man, ageless rather than young, of perfect appearance. He has long tresses of blue black hair that cascade over his wide shoulders, although even this glows with light. He has four arms which only add to his appearance of perfection. Brilliant jewels and silks adorn his perfect body.

His two inner hands are clasped near his heart, grasping a astonishing jewel, vast and glowing with it’s own light. I know this is the wish-fulfilling gem. The outer left hand holds a perfect lotus, an achingly beautiful blossom. His outer right hand holds a glowing white crystal mala.

 

Sacred images of compassion that are "beyond human fallibility" are used in clinical practice to help relieve stress and overcome traumas.
Visualize Avalokitesvara as a being of perfect appearance, with no flaws. Thankhas such as this are guides only. They do not convey the “nature of light” or the three dimensionality required in visualizations.

Light is all around the Bodhisattva, beautiful light that heals and reassures everyone it reaches. Nowhere in the universe is out of range of this wondrous light.

Most captivating of all are his eyes. I have never seen more caring eyes. They are eyes that laugh and cry at the same time. His smile is as radiant as the sun.

Then, over his head, I see another figure. A glowing red Buddha. I know this is Amitabha, his spiritual guru-father, the Buddha of Infinite Light. His light is warmer, like a setting sun, but in the nature of boundless love.

Hrih syllable on a lotus in red.
Hrih syllable on a lotus in red.

 

As I penetrate the light, at Avalokitesvara’s heart, I see a hotly glowing red light, the red of his father Amitabha. On a lotus and moon throne, is a syllable. A single syllable, representing the essence of Avalokitesvara. This bija mantra is also glowing from Amitabha’s heart. It’s penetrating ruby light shoots out in gentle rays in all directions. Around this seed syllable I can see more letters. It is the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, each syllable of a different colour, representing the six realms.

Om Mani Padme Hum with HRIH at centre as a mandala. Visualize this three dimensionally at the heart of the Compassionate Bodhisattva, glowing red in the centre.
Om Mani Padme Hum with HRIH at centre as a mandala. Visualize this three dimensionally at the heart of the Compassionate Bodhisattva, glowing red in the centre.

 

Comforting light rays project out from his heart, from the shining syllables and bija letter, and penetrate to all of the six realms. Nothing can escape this compassionate light. I can hear a sound. Om Mani Padme Hum, over an dover. I begin to chant along.

The light and the sound go out to every sentient being in all the universes. The light warms me, empties me of tensions and feelings of negativity. I feel lighter. I know instinctively that all my past negative karma has been extinguished by this nectar light. I am filled with a blissful feeling.

Ending the Meditation

You should hold this meditation in bliss and visualize the cleansing light blessing all beings continuously. Allow your mind to stay in this place free of suffering, free of attachment, free of samsara.

When you are ready to end your meditation, you can visualize making another offering to Avalokitesvara. Most people absorb Avalokitesvara back into themselves. Since this visualization was the nature of your own mind, this peaceful being stays with you, a reassuring, calming, loving, compassionate presence.

End Thoughts: The Heart Sutra

This is my favorite translation of the Heart Sutra, by the most Emminent Thich Nhat Hanh:

Avalokiteshvara

while practicing deeply with

the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore,

suddenly discovered that

all of the five Skandhas are equally empty,

and with this realisation

he overcame all Ill-being.

“Listen Sariputra,

this Body itself is Emptiness

and Emptiness itself is this Body.

This Body is not other than Emptiness

and Emptiness is not other than this Body.

The same is true of Feelings,

Perceptions, Mental Formations,

and Consciousness.

“Listen Sariputra,

all phenomena bear the mark of Emptiness;

their true nature is the nature of

no Birth no Death,

no Being no Non-being,

no Defilement no Purity,

no Increasing no Decreasing.

“That is why in Emptiness,

Body, Feelings, Perceptions,

Mental Formations and Consciousness

are not separate self entities.

The Eighteen Realms of Phenomena

which are the six Sense Organs,

the six Sense Objects,

and the six Consciousnesses

are also not separate self entities.

The Twelve Links of Interdependent Arising

and their Extinction

are also not separate self entities.

Ill-being, the Causes of Ill-being,

the End of Ill-being, the Path,

insight and attainment,

are also not separate self entities.

Whoever can see this

no longer needs anything to attain.

Bodhisattvas who practice

the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore

see no more obstacles in their mind,

and because there

are no more obstacles in their mind,

they can overcome all fear,

destroy all wrong perceptions

and realize Perfect Nirvana.

“All Buddhas in the past, present and future

by practicing

the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore

are all capable of attaining

Authentic and Perfect Enlightenment.

“Therefore Sariputra,

it should be known that

the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore

is a Great Mantra,

the most illuminating mantra,

the highest mantra,

a mantra beyond compare,

the True Wisdom that has the power

to put an end to all kinds of suffering.

Therefore let us proclaim

a mantra to praise

the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore.

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!”

 

End Thoughts: Compassion is Universal

One of the early Pali Sutta’s, the Karaniya Metta Sutta, expounds concisely on the Buddha Shakyamuni’s words on Loving-Kindness (Metta)—thoughts which are universal to all schools of Buddhism (and to many non-Buddhists):

This is what should be done

By one who is skilled in goodness,

And who knows the path of peace:

Let them be able and upright,

Straightforward and gentle in speech,

Humble and not conceited,

Contented and easily satisfied,

Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.

Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,

Not proud or demanding in nature.

Let them not do the slightest thing

That the wise would later reprove.

Wishing: In gladness and in safety,

May all beings be at ease.

Whatever living beings there may be;

Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,

The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,

The seen and the unseen,

Those living near and far away,

Those born and to-be-born —

May all beings be at ease!

 

Let none deceive another,

Or despise any being in any state.

Let none through anger or ill-will

Wish harm upon another.

Even as a mother protects with her life

Her child, her only child,

So with a boundless heart

Should one cherish all living beings;

Radiating kindness over the entire world:

Spreading upwards to the skies,

And downwards to the depths;

Outwards and unbounded,

Freed from hatred and ill-will.

Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down

Free from drowsiness,

One should sustain this recollection.

This is said to be the sublime abiding.

By not holding to fixed views,

The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,

Being freed from all sense desires,

Is not born again into this world.

 

NOTES

[1] Avalokitesvara and the Tibetan Contemplation of Compassion, Karen M. Andrews, May 1993

[2] Avalokiteshvara, Encyclopedia Britannica

[3]Wisdom and Compassion in Psychotherapy: Deepening Mindfulness in Clinical Practice, Christopher K. Germer and Ronald D. Siegel (Guilford Publications)

[4] A Guide to the Bodhisattvas (Meeting the Buddhas) by Vedssantara (Windhorse Publications)

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