Avalokiteshvara: Discovery of the Bodhisattva of Compassion

Avalokiteshvara is what we call a bodhisattva, that is, an individual who has achieved the state of enlightenment.

A mythological figure for some and a historical character for others, there are dozens of different peoples and cultures who worship Avalokiteshvara.

When translated into Sanskrit (the ancestral language of India), its name means “ the lord who looks down from above ”.

As we will see together in this article, we are indeed talking here about a superior figure who helps and guides men from a higher point.

More precisely, we can talk with him about support and protection. Avalokiteshvara is in fact known to be the “Buddha of compassion”, the one who listens most to the complaints of men and who works to reduce our suffering.

Faced with such a benevolent figure, it is difficult to remain unmoved, that much is clear!

In any case, one thing is certain: we are talking here about a positive deity who carries messages that are interesting to understand.

This is what we are going to try to do now together.

Contents :

Introduction: what is a bodhisattva?

Representation of Avalokiteshvara

Avalokiteshvara: a deity who knew how to export

A great message carried by this divinity

Some Hindu legends about him

Two statues of the Buddha and a Buddhist thangka from Asia

The precepts of the Buddha

by Buddhist jewelry and lucky charms


Introduction: what is a bodhisattva?

From a linguistic point of view, the word "bodhisattva" is formed from the two roots bodhi (spiritual awakening, illumination, grace) and sattva (that which is, the essence, the principle).

A bodhisattva is thus a being who represents the essence of spiritual awakening.

This quality is most often acquired following enlightenment and accession to spheres of consciousness to which the average human does not have access. (This concept from Eastern philosophies is quite interesting, but is not the topic of the day. To learn more, here is some additional information on it. )

Another characteristic of these beings, and what actually differentiates them from other enlightened ones, is the choice they have made to remain in our world.

When someone reaches the end of their spiritual journey, a choice would then be imposed on them: disappear into the universe or stay on earth to help other souls.

While figures like Buddha Shakyamuni or Buddha Siddhartha transmitted their mystical teachings to men, yes, but have not remained in our world since then, the boddhisattvas made the second choice.

As such, Avalokiteshvara is undoubtedly the most emblematic (and that's why we're talking to you about it today).

A branch of Hinduism that we could not ignore when talking about bodhisattvas is that which we call “the Mahayana school”.

Those faithful to this religion consider that each enlightened being has something unique to bring to them, and therefore do not make distinctions or classifications between them.

Concretely, Mahayana temples are decorated with dozens of sculptures and lucky statues representing the different boddhisattvas.

According to this doctrine, these characters could serve us as help, as spiritual guides or even come themselves to the aid of those who suffer.

In any case, one thing is certain: Hinduism is a rich religion that has a lot to teach us.

Moreover, it is not without reason that our collection dedicated to this religion (here) is so appreciated!

Colorful statue of Avalokiteshvara with its eleven heads and thousand arms.

Representation of Avalokiteshvara

As a boddhistava of compassion, Avalokiteshvara experienced enlightenment but, out of a desire to help his fellow human beings, decided to stay on earth in order to push us on the same path as him.

All this tells us more about its meaning, yes, but not really about how we can represent it.

It is precisely this subject that we will deal with now.

As we told you previously, the name “Avalokitesvara” can be translated as “the lord who looks down from above”.

Without too much surprise, many representations of this character show him looking down.

Another of its major characteristics is the presence of a giant lotus on which it sometimes sits. This flower is actually an Indian symbol linked to wisdom.

One of the very first written records speaking of Avalokiteshvara is found in a manuscript known as the “Lotus Sutra”.

Without us knowing why (probably there is a reason, but we do not know it and would not want to mislead you), the boddhisattva of compassion is very often represented with eleven heads and "a thousand arms". ». (Obviously, there are not that many on a statue, this number is just used to describe an uncountable character.)

In all, the traditional Avalokiteshvara can take thirty-three distinct forms listed in Indian esoteric tradition.

However, over the centuries and as he gained popularity in Asia, many variations of our bodhisattva were created, even going so far as to change his name... and his sex!

But we will talk about all of this in the following paragraph.

Chinese massive stone statues representing the goddess Guanyin.

Avalokiteshvara: a deity who knew how to export

An interesting thing to note about Avalokiteshvara is the disconcerting ease with which it has been able to export itself and conquer the hearts of many cultures.

In Tibet for example, many Buddhist movements consider him to be a powerful protective deity linked to Dharma and the energy of Tantra. In the local language, it will then be better known as “ Chenrezig ”.

For the record, some also think that the Dalai Lama himself would be a reincarnation of this famous Chenzezig (or rather an expression of his essence).

The Japanese know Avalokiteshvara under the name Kannon, one of the most influential religious powers of the archipelago.

With its many sects (in Tibetan Buddhism, this term is not basically pejorative) and esoteric schools, Japan knows many different ways of celebrating this character.

If, however, there was an iconic entity that we should connect to Avalokiteshvara, it would be Guanyin, the Chinese goddess of compassion and mercy.

A very important character in China, Guanyin is often represented in the form of small lucky amulets (like this one for example) that we wear to bring us luck and to ward off demons.

Three lucky amulets: one from voodoo, one Christian and one from Wicca

A lucky place for you

by the power of these lucky amulets


A great message carried by this divinity

The main characteristic of bodhisattvas is therefore a great desire to help men, and in particular to facilitate their accession to the state of enlightenment.

This is true for Avalokiteshvara… but he also brings with him some notions that are personal to him.

In this regard, some interesting elements were noted, notably:

  • Great compassion : Avalokiteshvara knows how to be understanding when faced with human weaknesses
  • Patience : this ties in with the previous point
  • Helping the weak : this character particularly likes to help the poor, the destitute and the unfortunate.
  • Victory : Avalokiteshvara never gives up until he has succeeded in helping us as he wanted

Ultimately, the life and teachings that this enlightened being transmits to us express quite well the Buddhist vision according to which compassion, empathy and kindness are the greatest forces.

To learn more on the subject, here is an article which deals precisely with the place of compassion in Buddhism.

In short, the message of Avalokiteshvara therefore invites us to also apply this in our lives and, if we can, invite our loved ones to do the same.

Indian religious altar with flowers, incense and offerings prepared for a ceremony.

Some Hindu legends about him

A significant part of India's religious legends and customs are transmitted orally via a tradition that has lasted for millennia.

A whole lot of things we've heard about Avalokiteshvara come from elsewhere.

The other major source of information about him consists of writings and manuscripts, some of which are sometimes very old.

We can for example cite the “ Lotus Sutra ” which we mentioned a little earlier, but also the Mañjuśrīmūlakalpa, a tantric manual from the 6th century considered as a compendium of esoteric Hindu knowledge.

In short, we can find a whole bunch of legends about Avalokiteshvara, each more interesting than the other. We have selected three here for you.

According to the first, we bodhisattva would have sworn to remain incarnated on earth until all human beings had accessed the same wisdom as him. So he would still be here, somewhere, hidden in a cave or under the stump of a tree.

The second tells us that he would rather have made this wish... as long as each grain of sand had not also achieved enlightenment. Needless to say, there is still work to be done.

The third, and undoubtedly the most thought-provoking, describes Avalokiteshvara as a reincarnation of Amitabha Buddha whose essence continued to incarnate even after his death.

In any case, one thing is certain: if this figure of holiness has so many disciples, it is because great goodness emanates from her. Tibetan tradition teaches us this, but many others agree on this point.

Dozens of Buddhist rituals pay homage to him and monasteries or stupas are dedicated to him. Avalokiteshvara is a venerable figure from whom healing flows to all living beings in the cosmos, including you/

Lucky charm featured in this article

Amulet of the Thousand-armed Bodhisattva Guan Yin

Amulet of the Thousand-armed Bodhisattva Guan Yin

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author picture(Cyril Gendarme)

Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.