Jonathan Cohen

Jonathan Cohen

Posted on 02/01/2014


Photo taken on November 17, 2012



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Avalokitesvara – Royal Ontario Museum, Bloor Street, Toronto, Ontario

Avalokitesvara – Royal Ontario Museum, Bloor Street, Toronto, Ontario
In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is an enlightened being. Traditionally, a bodhisattva is anyone who, motivated by great compassion, has generated a spontaneous wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. Avalokitesvara (from the Sanskrit "Lord who looks down") is a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. Avalokitesvara is one of the more widely revered bodhisattvas in mainstream Mahayana Buddhism, as well as unofficially in Theravada Buddhism.

The Chinese name of Avalokitasvara is Guanshìyin – which means "Observing the Sounds (or Cries) of the World." The name is often shortened to Guanyin. Commonly known in English as the Mercy Goddess or Goddess of Mercy, one Buddhist legend presents Guanyin as vowing to never rest until she had freed all sentient beings from the samsara or reincarnation.

Avalokitesvara was originally depicted as a male bodhisattva, and therefore wears chest-revealing clothing and may even sport a moustache. Although this depiction still exists in the Far East, Guanyin is more often depicted as a woman in modern times. Additionally, some people believe that Guanyin is androgynous (or perhaps of neither gender). The Lotus Sutra describes Avalokitesvara as a bodhisattva who can take the form of any type of male or female, adult or child, human or non-human being, in order to teach the Dharma to sentient beings. This text and its thirty-three manifestations of Guanyin, of which seven are female manifestations, is known to have been very popular in Chinese Buddhism as early as in the Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty. Additionally, Tan Chung notes that according to the doctrines of the Mahayana sutras themselves, it does not matter whether Guanyin is male, female, or genderless, as the ultimate reality is in emptiness.

This statue in the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum dates from the Yuan dynasty (around 1300 CE) and comes from the Chinese province of Shanxi.

Comments
Nylonbleu
Nylonbleu
A fabulous wood carving, I love the expression of the face.
the background painting is fabulous too ...
4 years ago.