The Universal Gateway of the Bodhisattva Who Hears the Cries of the Poor

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Those reading this title from Chapter 25 from translations that don’t utilize the sanskrit might not realize this refers to non-other than our own beloved Avalokiteśvara. This entire chapter is in honor of the Greatest (in our own saha-realm) Bodhisattva of Compassion, the Universal-Gateway that invites all the “spiritually” poor, all the lost and forsaken, those stricken with vile diseases and addictions—yea all who are in desperate need of spiritual healing, to come and find spiritual refuge. Yes, Avalokiteśvara is the one who hears and comforts all those who are in physical, mental, or spiritual bondage. Avalokiteśvara is the one who hears the cries of the poor!

If innumerable hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of sentient beings who experience suffering hear of Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara and wholeheartedly chant his name, Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara will immediately perceive their voices and free them from their suffering;
“If anyone, whether guilty or innocent, is bound with fetters or chains, such bonds will be broken into pieces; and those who have been bound will become free by chanting the name of Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara;
“If there are any sentient beings who are greatly subject to sensual desires, if they contemplate Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara with respect, they will become free from these desires. If there are any sentient beings who often become angry, if they contemplate Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara with respect, they will become free from anger. If there are any sentient beings who are greatly confused, if they contemplate Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara with respect, they will become free from their confusion. O Akṣayamati! Thus Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara greatly benefits sentient beings through his transcendent power. For this reason sentient beings should always turn their thoughts to him…

While Avalokiteśvara in the Lotus Sutra is addressed as a male, in other asian cultures, most notably the Chinese, Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva is represented in female form and is known as Kuan Yin. In Japan as Kannon. In Korea as Kwan Um. Indeed, Avalokiteśvara is often depicted in many androgynous forms:

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This one also illustrates the “thousand arms”, the Universal Gateway that reaches out, embraces, and heals all those myriad forms of suffering. This chapter includes that magnificent litany—revealing Avalokiteśvara’s unassailable vow to put an end to all distress and misery; out of respect and adoration it is reproduced here in full:

Listen to the practices of Avalokiteśvara,
Which have their application to all!
His vow is deep like the ocean
And his kalpa is of inconceivable length.
After having attended
Many thousands of koṭis of buddhas,
He made a great, pure vow.
I will now explain it to you in brief:
If you hear his name and see his body,
And contemplate him in thought,
Your life will not be in vain;
And you will extinguish all suffering.
If anyone wants to hurt you
And pushes you into a great firepit,
If you contemplate the power of Avalokiteśvara,
The firepit will change into a pond.
If you drift upon the great ocean and meet danger
From dragons, fish, and demons,
If you contemplate the power of Avalokiteśvara,
You will not be swallowed by the waves.
If you are on the peak of Sumeru
And are pushed by somebody,
If you contemplate the power of Avalokiteśvara,
You will stay suspended in the air like the sun.
If any evil one chases you
And pushes you from Mount Diamond,
If you contemplate the power of Avalokiteśvara,
Not even a single hair will be hurt.
If evil robbers surround you
Each with a sword and the intent to harm,
If you contemplate the power of Avalokiteśvara,
The thought of mercy will awaken in them.
If you suffer under the punishment of a king
And your life is to be ended by execution,
If you contemplate the power of Avalokiteśvara,
The sword will be immediately broken into pieces.
If you are imprisoned with a neck chain,
Your hands and feet fettered,
If you contemplate the power of Avalokiteśvara,
They will disappear and you will be released.
If anyone wants to hurt your body
With a curse or poison,
If you contemplate the power of Avalokiteśvara,
These ills will return and afflict their authors.
If you meet evil rākṣasas,
Poisonous dragons, or demons,
If you contemplate the power of Avalokiteśvara,
They will not dare to hurt you.
If you are surrounded by evil animals
Whose teeth and claws are fearfully sharp,
If you contemplate the power of Avalokiteśvara,
They will run away swiftly
And to an immeasurable distance.
If there are lizards, snakes, vipers, or scorpions,
Whose breath is poisonous like a flaming smoke,
If you contemplate the power of Avalokiteśvara,
They will turn away swiftly at the sound of your voice.
If thunder resounds, lightning flashes,
Hail falls, and a great rain pours out of the clouds,
If you contemplate the power of Avalokiteśvara,
They will disappear immediately.
If sentient beings are in great adversity,
And immeasurable pain afflicts them,
The wonderful power of the wisdom of Avalokiteśvara
Can relieve the suffering of the world.
Endowed with transcendent powers
And having fully mastered wisdom and skillful means,
In all the worlds of the ten directions,
There is no place where he will not manifest himself.
The suffering of those in the troubled states of being:
Hell-dwellers, hungry ghosts, and animals;
And the suffering of birth, old age, illness, and death
Will gradually be extinguished.
He who perceives the world with truth, purity,
And vast knowledge,
And with benevolence and compassion,
Should be ever longed for and looked up to.
He is a spotless pure ray of light,
A sun of wisdom that destroys the darkness,
A flame that withstands the winds of calamity.
He brilliantly illuminates the entire world.
His will, the essence of which is compassion,
Shakes like thunder;
And the mind of mercy
Is like a beautiful overspreading cloud,
Which pours the Dharma rain of immortality
And extinguishes the flame of desires.
In a dispute before judges,
Or fearful in the midst of battle,
If you contemplate the power of Avalokiteśvara
All enemies will flee away.
He has a wondrous voice,
The voice of one who perceives the world,
A voice like Brahma’s, a voice like the rolling tide,
A voice unsurpassed in this world;
For this reason you should always contemplate him.
You should have no doubt, even for a moment.
The pure seer Avalokiteśvara will be a refuge
When suffering distress or the misery of death.
He is endowed with every quality,
Sees the sentient beings with his benevolent eyes,
And his ocean of merit is immeasurable;
For this reason you should pay him homage.

Blessed Be Avalokiteśvara.
Blessed Be Avalokiteśvara’s sacred Intercession for all…

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2 Responses to The Universal Gateway of the Bodhisattva Who Hears the Cries of the Poor

  1. n. yeti says:

    What a beautiful and stirring elogy in honor of this great saint!

    I am reminded somehow of the deva Ganesh, who is dear to many, even some Buddhists (I suppose particularly in Japan). As a remover of obstacles, one of the chief ways Ganesh manifests is by revealing the obstacles to enable the devotee to act on his or her own behalf. For me, devotion to Avalokitesvara is somewhat similar to this, because in calling to this powerful Bodhisattva, we can also discover the infinite compassion buried under a mountain of our own delusion.

    One of the most powerful lessons I took from a moment of rapture, which I have referred to in this virtual space so graciously provided by Vajragoni, was that compassion is the default characteristic of our being. It is easy to forget this when deluded by suffering and to become inured to the suffering of others. I walked for almost two months in a near daze, in total and complete compassion, something indescribable unless it has been experienced. Tears flowed freely. I felt indescribably close to everything.

    Now, that years have passed, no longer do I reside in this state, but I do from time to time remind myself of this experience and share a special devotion ever since for Avalokitesvara, for some reason especially in the form of the infinitely beautiful Kuan Yin.

    • Vajragoni says:

      Thank-you for your moving reply…

      “I walked for almost two months in a near daze, in total and complete compassion, something indescribable unless it has been experienced. Tears flowed freely. I felt indescribably close to everything.”

      I experienced roughly the same kind of rapture (for 3 months or so)–during my early 20’s during those 3 years in South Florida. At that time my only reference to that type of freely-flowing compassion towards everyone and everything was in a Christian vein; but reflecting back I can now see the movement of Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara at work.

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