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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Avalokitesvara

(Avalokiteśvara) “The down-looking Lord,” a Buddhist term that has several levels of meaning:

(1) In popular Buddhism, he is one of the most important Bodhisattvas of compassion. In China, Avalokitesvara is Kwan-yin or Kwan-shi-yin, the most popular goddess whose name means “one who hears the sound of the world.” While androgynous, she is typically represented as a female. In Japan, she is called Kannon. In Tibet he is called Chenrezi, or Padmapani Chenrezi, the “lotus bearer,” who is the protector of Tibet. The mantra “Om mani padme Hum” is used to invoke his help. He is sometimes depicted with four arms, or, as Chantong, with a thousand arms. H. P. Blavatsky also states that he is, like Daksha, the progenitor (spiritually) of human beings. “ He is evidently, like Daksha, the synthesis of all the preceding Races and the progenitor of all the human Races after the Third, the first complete one, and thus is represented as the culmination of the four primeval races in his eleven-faced form” (SD II:178).
(2) In The Secret Doctrine of H. P. Blavatsky, Avalokitesvara is also a term equivalent to the creative third Logos, the synthesis of the seven planetary spirits or Dhyani-Buddhas. She distinguishes between Kwan-Shi-Yin and Kwan-Yin. “Kwan-Shi-Yin and Kwan-Yin are the two aspects (male and female) of the same principle in Kosmos, Nature and Man, of divine wisdom and intelligence. They are the ‘Christos-Sophia’ of the mystic Gnostics — the Logos and its Sakti” (SD I:473). In another passage, she writes that there are two Avalokitesvaras in Esotericism, the first and second logos (SD I:72).
(3) Avalokiteshvara is also referred to as one’s higher self, the Ātma.

V.H.C.

 

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