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Avalokitesvara and the Tibetan Contemplation of Compassion

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Karen M. Andrews

May 31, 1993


Tibetan Contemplative Traditions


Who is Avalokitesvara?

What is his place in Buddhist doctrine and history?

Why is he important in Tibetan Buddhism?

What is his function in Tibetan Buddhism?


What does he do? What are the philosophical explanations of his existence?


How is he used in contemplative practice? Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, is one of the most important and popular Buddhist deities. Although he originally was conceived of in a Mahayana context, he has been worshipped under different names and in different shapes in nearly every form of Buddhism in every country Buddhism has entered. Avalokitesvara first appears in Indian Buddhism. He is originally mentioned as one of a number of

bodhisattvas. These bodhisattvas are personifications of various attributes of the Buddha. Avalokitesvara is the personification of compassion. The development of a Buddhist doctrine of bodhisattvas is more or less contemporaneous with the development of brahmanic deity worship. Either the same societal forces led to both developments, or the bodhisattva doctrine was a response to the rival movement of brahmanic deity worship. The bodhisattva

doctrine may have appeared as early as the second century B.C.E. Originally, bodhisattvas were considered to be less important than buddhas. Buddhas, of course, are completely enlightened beings, whereas bodhisattvas are beings who are on the verge of being completely enlightened. Bodhisattvas originally

appear as attendants of the buddhas. Texts speak of there being vast numbers of bodhisattvas. A few of the bodhisattvas are more important than others. Avalokitesvara does not appear in the earliest texts about bodhisattvas. However, after a while he becomes one of the important bodhisattvas. By the second

century C.E., in the larger Sukhavativyuha, Avalokitesvara is described along with Mahasthamaprapta as one of the two bodhisattvas in Sukhavati, the pure land of the Buddha Amitayus. The two of them are described as the source of the light that illumines the pure land. They also teach the devotees of Amitayus, adapting their techniques to the understanding of the listeners. Avalokitesvara's prominence changed as the doctrinal position of Mahayana Buddhism changed. In Mahayana, compassion and wisdom are seen as being the two most important qualities a person can develop. In early Mahayana, wisdom was seen as more important than compassion. Therefore, Manjusri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, was the most highly regarded bodhisattva. However, with time, compassion came to be seen as the more important quality, and thus Avalokitesvara became the most honored bodhisattva. Avalokitesvara's rise in prominence

did not stop at this point. Probably around the fifth century C.E., a full-blown cult of Avalokitesvara emerged. Avalokitesvara evolves into the supreme savior of all suffering beings. He takes on the characteristics of various brahmanic gods, such as Brahma, Visnu, and Siva. Like Brahma, Avalokitesvara is described as the creator of the universe. "From his eyes arose the sun and the moon, . . . from his mouth, the wind, . . . from his feet, the earth."1 He

is also described as being the creator of the brahmanic dieties. This attribution of power to Avalokitesvara may well have been aimed at proselytizing among brahmanic followers. Descriptions of his physical form become increasingly fantastic. He is described as being enormously large. His face is a hundred thousand yojanas in circumference (a yojana is a few miles long). His body is gold colored. He has a halo in which there are five hundred buddhas,

each attended by five hundred bodhisattvas, each attended by numberless gods. From the hair between his eyebrows there flow eighty-four kinds of rays. Each ray contains a vast number of buddhas and bodhisattvas. Each of his ten finger tips has eighty-four thousand pictures and each picture has eighty-four

thousand rays which shine over everything that exists. And so forth. At this point, Avalokitesvara takes precedence over the buddhas. Even the buddhas cannot estimate Avalokitesvara's merit. It is said that just thinking of him garners more merit than honoring a thousand buddhas. Avalokitesvara's rise to prominence may be partially caused by the Mahayana doctrine of the bodhisattva vow. This doctrine says that the most wonderfully compassionate decision is to vow to stay a bodhisattva instead of becoming a buddha, because bodhisattvas can more effectively help other beings become enlightened. Because of his

compassion, Avalokitesvara has vowed not to become a buddha and slip into nirvana until after all sentient beings are saved from the nearly endless round of suffering in samsara. Instead, he has committed to continued existence so that he can help suffering beings. Avalokitesvara is not the only bodhisattva who has made this vow. However, he embodies the compassionate motivation which led all bodhisattvas to the vow. Thus, valuing the bodhisattva vow leads to

valuing Avalokitesvara and everything he signifies. As compassionate action is Avalokitesvara's essence, he is supremely helpful. 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. In addition to being the personification of compassion, Avalokitesvara has been connected with light more thoroughly than any other Buddhist deity. The stories say that he was


created from a ray of light which emanated from Amitabha Buddha. 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. Similarly, he sees everything and everyone in all corners of the universe, a fact that is emphasized by his name. "Avalokitesvara" comes from two roots, "avalokita" and "isvara". "Avalokita" means "glance" or "look".

"Isvara" means "lord". "Avalokitesvara" has been taken to mean such things as "Lord of what we see", "Lord who is seen", "Lord who is everywhere visible", "Lord who sees from on high", and "Lord of compassionate glances". None of these interpretations are definitive, but regardless of how his name is interpreted, Avalokitesvara is certainly connected with lightness and sight. His ability to see everywhere is important because it allows him to manifest

his compassion everywhere. The light that he emanates everywhere is sometimes described as a representation of the flow of his compassion to all parts of the universe. As Buddhism spread throughout Asia, the teachings about Avalokitesvara were carried everywhere Buddhism went. In China and Japan, Avalokitesvara is the most popular bodhisattva. However, he has undergone a sex-change, and is almost always portrayed in feminine form. In China, he/she


is called Kuan-yin or occasionally Kuan-tzu-tsai. In Japan, she is called Kan-non or Kwan-non. In both countries, she is seen as the supreme savior of suffering beings and is worshipped widely as the goddess of mercy and compassion. She gives children to women who pray to her for offspring. The cult of Avalokitesvara also spread to Sri Lanka. This is a little surprising as Sri Lanka primarily follows Theravada Buddhism, while Avalokitesvara was originally


a strictly Mahayana conception. In Sri Lanka, he is called Natha, which is an abbreviation of Lokesvaranatha, which means "Lord of the World". He has become identified with the bodhisattva Maitreya, the "future Buddha". He is also seen as being identical with several Hindu gods. Natha is seen as the guardian deity of Sri Lanka, and is reportedly worshipped primarily because he is regarded as a pragmatically useful source of advantages in the phenomenal world. Although I have been able to find very little information on it, apparently the cult of Natha has also spread with little change to other Theravada Buddhist countries, such as Cambodia and Burma. In Nepal, Avalokitesvara is conflated with the Brahman deity Matsyendranath. He is worshipped in elaborate rituals which are performed by a priestly caste. Ordination is handed down from father to son, with some important positions being sold to the highest


bidder from within the caste. According to one reporter, the meanings behind the rituals have been largely forgotten. However, they continue to be performed because they are customary and are considered to bring luck. In Tibet, Avalokitesvara has reached a position of tremendous importance. The stories surrounding him, his integration in the practicalities of life, and his use in meditative practice have all been highly developed. The Tibetans

started with Avalokitesvara (here called Chenrezi) where the Indians left off. Traditional Tibetan belief holds that the cult of Avalokitesvara was brought to Tibet by the eighth century C.E. During the eighth century, King Srong-btsan sgam-po was active in bringing Buddhism to Tibet. This king is considered an incarnation of Avalokitesvara. Tibetans traditionally believe that he was active in propagating a cult of Avalokitesvara. Not long after his reign,

Buddhism went into a decline, and did not revive until the eleventh century. Western scholars believe that although there may have been a small following of the Avalokitesvara cult during the reign of Srong-btsan sgam-po (and there is not much evidence that there was any such cult then), the cult certainly died out between then and the eleventh century. Traditional Tibetan belief holds that the cult continued in secret during this period. However, everyone

agrees that the cult of Avalokitesvara first became widely popular during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The belief that Avalokitesvara is the creator of the universe was accepted and elaborated upon. In Tibetan writings, he is seen as not only creating the world and the Hindu gods, but also as creating the buddhas and the buddha-fields. The whole cosmos exists as a manifestation of Avalokitesvara's creative activity. This is especially true of Tibet,

which is depicted as having a particularly close relationship with Avalokitesvara. His vow to save all beings becomes a vow to first save Tibetans, because they need his teachings particularly badly and because the Buddha asked him to concentrate on Tibet. Stories arose which describe Avalokitesvara as being intimately involved with the creation of Tibet. One of the more popular of these stories describes the creation of the Tibetan people. Once there was a


monkey who was an incarnation of Avalokitesvara. He lived in the mountains, where he practiced meditation. One day, a demoness saw him and fell in love with him. She tried unsuccessfully to court him, and finally said that she would bring disaster on all the living beings in the area if he did not marry her. The monkey was confused, and asked Avalokitesvara what to do. Avalokitesvara told the monkey to marry the demoness. The monkey and the demoness wed

and had six children, who were the progenitors of the Tibetan people. Thus, all Tibetans are direct descendants of a manifestation of Avalokitesvara. Tibetan Buddhism also produced the innovation of recognizing mortal human beings as the incarnations or manifestations of dieties. As far as I am aware, Tibet is the only Buddhist country that has this understanding. Incarnations of Avalokitesvara are particularly important in Tibetan history. I have

already mentioned the progenitor monkey and King Srong-btsan sgam-po. Another manifestation of Avalokitesvara which plays a crucial role in Tibetan history is the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama has been repeatedly incarnating in Tibet since the fifteenth century. He is now in his fourteenth incarnation. The Dalai Lama is the head of the Kagyu-pa school, which is one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Also, from the time of his fifth incarnation in the


early seventeenth century until the Chinese conquered Tibet, the Dalai Lama was the ruler of Tibet. Thus, Tibet was governed by a manifestation of their protective deity, who was also the progenitor of the Tibetan people and the ruler who had brought Buddhism to Tibet. Further, this deity, and therefore also his manifestation, is the personification of compassion, which should guarantee that his rule is kind and reduces suffering. Avalokitesvara is

important not only in Tibetans' understanding of their history, but also in their practice of Buddhist meditation. Particularly in tantric visualization practices, Avalokitesvara, as the embodiment of compassionate action, is critically important. In tantra, practitioners create visualizations which are structured so as to bring about experiential realizations of Buddhist teachings2. In order to understand the purpose of these visualizations, it is

necessary to understand the philosophy which the visualizations serve to make experientially real. What is this philosophy? It is beyond the scope of my paper to lay forth the entire teachings of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, but I will try to briefly outline the philosophies which are most commonly used in tantric visualizations of Avalokitesvara. The most obvious Buddhist teaching used in these practices is the importance of compassion. What, precisely,

is the Buddhist understanding of compassion? Compassion starts with sorrow at the suffering of others. As such, it incites action aimed at reducing the suffering of others. Compassion is the motivating force behind useful action. It is a warm, positive energy directed towards helping others. Compassion can only arise when we do not have a strong sense of separation from others. If there is a feeling that I am over here, and you are over there, and we are


totally separate individuals, then we will not be able to truly sorrow at each others' pain, because others' pain will not touch us. In order to truly be touched by the suffering of others, we have to abandon our attachment to sharp divisions between individuals. We need to live in awareness of the flow of energy between ourselves and others. Chšgyam Trungpa explains, "When a person develops real compassion, he is uncertain whether he is being generous to

others or to himself because compassion is environmental generosity, without direction, without 'for me' and without 'for them.'"3 This sense of identity with others is taken to its logical conclusion, producing a profound awareness of the relational, open, empty nature of reality. Reality is relational because everything is intimately affected by everything else. There is no such thing as an independent entity. My well-being is affected by your well-

being. The consequences of every action spread throughout the universe just as ripples spread from a splash in a pond. Reality is open because there are no boundaries. "There is the . . . panoramic vision of open meditation--the experience of dhyana--openness. You do not regard the situation outside yourself as separate from you because you are so involved with the dance and play of life."4 Openness involves accepting everything just as it is. There is no

boundary between "pure" and "impure" or "good" and "bad". Everything is seen as a manifestation of pure wisdom mind. Reality is called empty because everything is empty of permanent, individual, essence. Thinley Norbu says, "In the undeluded purity of self-appearance, . . . there is no reality of an object of sentient beings and no substantiality of an object of dieties."5 There is no individual existence of things. Everything is intimately


interconnected. When we live in awareness of the empty, interconnected nature of reality, then compassion arises spontaneously. In the Madhyamaka school of Buddhist philosophy, "wisdom" means an experiential understanding of emptiness and interconnectedness. Using this definition of wisdom, it seems that the development of compassion and wisdom are integrally intertwined, each arising from the other. H. H. the fourteenth Dalai Lama has written, "These three,

the awakening mind of bodhicitta, compassion and discriminating wisdom, should be totally . . . combined, integrated and enhanced."6 Bodhicitta is the mind which is seeking enlightenment in order to be of benefit to all sentient beings. So from a philosophical point of view, seeking enlightenment, caring for the welfare of all beings, and understanding the empty interconnected nature of reality, all go together as pieces of the same enterprise. These elements

are brought together in the tantric visualization practices. In practices focusing on Avalokitesvara, compassion is emphasized, but compassion is so integrally connected with wisdom that they cannot be separated. Nearly every element of the visualizations brings forth another aspect of compassion and empty interconnectedness. All of the tantras on Avalokitesvara that I have read use many of the same elements. Different tantras have somewhat different


emphases. Some leave out aspects which are included in others. In order to demonstrate how the tantric visualizations use Avalokitesvara to lead to an experience of compassion and wisdom, I will analyze a single tantra which was written by the second Dalai Lama7. I chose this tantra because it includes all of the most common elements and few of the unusual elements of the tantras I have read. Also, it is described in a way which makes the philosophical


roots of the visualizations especially clear. This tantra skips the traditional preliminaries to meditative practice. These preliminaries differ a little from practice to practice, but most contain at least three elements. Briefly, the traditional preliminaries are to take refuge in the Buddha, the dharma (teachings), the sangha (Buddhist community), and usually also the lamas, the meditational dieties, and the beings in the retinues of the deities (dakas,

dakinis, and dharma protectors). Then, one generates the wish to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Finally, one wishes that all beings have happiness, be free from suffering, never be separated from happiness, and abide in equanimity. The preliminaries are there to assure that people do the practice with an appropriate intention. The tantra we are looking at begins with a visualization of a light, transparent stupa on the crown


of your head. This is the only practice I have found which includes a stupa. Within the stupa sits "your root Guru in the form of the venerable Noble Avalokitesvara." Your "root Guru" is your spiritual teacher. In Tibetan practice, the spiritual teacher is seen as being "the manifestation and humanly intelligible formulation of Buddhahood."8 In the spiritual teacher, the transcendent finds expression. Similarly, the deity is also an expression of the


transcendent. In the guru, the transcendent manifests with more personal, individual, and conditioned traits, whereas is the deity, the transcendent manifests in a more ethereal, divine form. However, in both the important thing is that they manifest the transcendent. In so far as this is the case, the guru can be envisioned as being the deity.


Next, the form of Avalokitesvara is described. His form, posture, clothing, and the items he is holding and sitting on are all filled with symbolism. They primarily symbolize compassion, purity, and enlightenment. The final description of him says, "Thus he appears in the midst of a great burst of rays, like

a rainbow in the sky with no true independent existence." Having just built up an elaborate description of Avalokitesvara's form, we are reminded that that form is empty of independent existence. We are not to attribute a permanent essence to his form. The stupa on your head has a thousand doors. At each door you imagine the thousand buddhas of this eon. Although the particular form of this visualization is unique, it is quite common for tantras of

Avalokitesvara to invoke lots of other buddhas and bodhisattvas at some point. Having visualized your guru as Avalokitesvara on the crown of your head, you next visualize Avalokitesvara as himself in your heart. His form is identical as on your head. He is sitting on a red lotus with a thousand petals. On each

petal is the letter A. "A" symbolizes emptiness. At his heart is a moon-disk with the syllable "HRIH" on it. "HRIH" is the seed syllable of Avalokitesvara. It symbolizes Avalokitesvara and all he signifies. The moon symbolizes bodhicitta, the altruistic aspiration to attain enlightenment for the sake of all beings. Moon disks are common in Avalokitesvara visualizations. Around the edges of the moon disk are the syllables of the six-syllable mantra, OM MANI PEME HUNG. This mantra is Avalokitesvara's mantra. It literally means something like "the jewel in the heart of the lotus." It is used in every

Avalokitesvara tantra, and has a myriad of meanings and uses. This Avalokitesvara is in your heart. The heart is symbolic location of the mind. So Avalokitesvara is in your mind. The instructions say he is "inseparable from your own mind." Although you are maintaining an image of him which is not totally unified with your own self, you are not actually separate from him. Next, thinking of the guru-diety and the thousand buddhas on your head, you

generate faith "so intense that tears stream from your eyes and the hairs of every pore of your body quiver." With great yearning, you beg the guru-diety thus: My mothers and fathers, all the beings of the six rebirth states, are drowning in the great ocean of samsara's suffering. They have no one to protect them, no refuge, these poor beings who are in such agony. I beseech you, please save them right now from this great ocean of samsara's suffering. Firstly,

what does it mean to refer to "my mothers and fathers, all the beings in the six rebirth states"? Traditionally it is thought that all beings have been reborn so many times that at some point, every single sentient being has been our mother. Mothers are considered to be a source of unconditional love and nurturing. So at some point, all sentient beings have been a source of unconditional nurturing for us. If we live in awareness of this, then we will


automatically want to return the nurturing we have received from each being, just as we return our mother's love and wish the best for her. Seeing beings as our parents makes it easy to generate an altruistic attitude towards them. This is a very common image in Tibetan contemplative practice. The six rebirth states refer to the six realms of samsara. The realms include all of the forms in which beings can be reborn. All forms contain suffering. Second,

why do we ask the guru-diety to save all beings from the suffering of samsara? It is clear why we would want beings to be saved from suffering. But why do we ask the guru-diety to save them? The second Dalai Lama says, "Until you have become a Buddha, . . . it will be impossible for you to liberate all sentient beings from samsara."9 Since we are not yet capable of causing the liberation of all beings, we request help from the manifestation of

transcendence and compassion which is our guru. It is common in tantric visualizations to request either the guru or Avalokitesvara himself to save all sentient beings in the six realms of samsara. It is especially appropriate that we ask for help from the guru, because in Tibetan tradition it is impossible to practice at all without the help of a spiritual teacher. Tantras cannot be practiced without an initiation from a teacher. Since access to

spiritual practice is granted by our teacher, it is appropriate that help in reaching the goal of such practice would also be granted through the vehicle of the teacher or guru. What happens next? Rays of light are emitted from Avalokiteshvara's body on the crown of your head and touch the Avalokiteshvara in your heart. And rays of light stream forth from the from the thousand Buddhas . . . and strike the thousand A's in your heart. From these thousand A's and


the Avalokitesvara in your heart streams of white nectar flow in immeasurable waves. The nature (of this nectar) is the wisdom of non-duality; it merely appears in this (white) form. The manifestation of the guru as Avalokitesvara activates Avalokitesvara as deity of compassion. The buddhas activate the symbols of the empty, interconnectedness of reality. Together, the A's and Avalokitesvara (empty interconnectedness and compassion) emanate nectar which is

the "wisdom of non-duality". This image of nectar is common. Sometimes it is referred to as nectar of compassion. So the nectar may be both wisdom and compassion. The nectar fills your body, purging you of all your unripened karma and all your unwholesome instincts. All the unwholesomeness within you oozes out of your pores as black tar, filth, and scorpions, leaving you completely purified. This is the essence of an extremely important Tibetan

contemplative practice of purification. Traditionally, every practitioner does this practice at least 100,000 times. It is also included within various tantras. In this tantra, once your impurities have left you, "your body becomes fully transformed into Avalokiteshvara." So you are now a manifestation of the transcendent, a manifestation of the principle of compassion. Although you already recognized that Avalokitesvara is inseparable from your own mind,

now you are visualizing that inseparability in a much more palpable manner. In fact, at this point it becomes impossible to say whether "your" actions are yours or Avalokitesvara's. There is not any differentiation. Next, you as Avalokitesvara act with the enlightened power and compassion of Avalokitesvara, answering the prayer you made earlier when you were still seeing yourself as separate from Avalokitesvara. "Streams of nectar flow from all the pores and


openings of your body." The nectar flows in turn to each of the realms of samsara, where it purges all the inhabitants of their sufferings and the causes of suffering, which are karma and delusion. It also purifies the surroundings, turning them into pure buddha-fields. All beings are transformed into Avalokitesvara, and have "no true independent nature, just like rainbows in the sky." You as Avalokitesvara save all sentient beings from the sufferings of

samsara. This transforms them into Avalokitesvara and samsara into pure land. This is the working out of a principle elucidated in the Havajratantra, which says, "When an individual is no longer confused, samsara is experienced as pure and hence samsara turns into nirvana."10 In this visualization, all delusions have been purified, so samsara and sentient beings are experienced as pure. All beings are experienced as manifestations of transcendent,


enlightened, compassion, and have no independent existence. Now, you as Avalokitesvara may recite the six-syllable mantra, OM MANI PEME HUNG. As you do so, imagine that all beings who are all also manifestations of Avalokitesvara recite the mantra with you. "It is as if the sound of this mantra causes the universe to shake." All of reality becomes a manifestation of compassion, and invokes itself. Finally, you imagine light coming from the HRIH at the heart

of the deity in your heart. The light lands on all the pure lands you have been imagining. When the light strikes: These places completely melt into light and dissolve into the beings you have been envisioning as Avalokiteshvara. These beings then completely melt into light and dissolve into yourself. The Avalokiteshvara at the crown of your head melts into light and dissolves into the Avalokiteshvara at your heart. The thousand Buddhas of the fortunate eon

dissolve into the thousand A's in your heart. The stupa vanishes like a rainbow in the sky. Then you yourself, whom you have been visualizing as Avalokiteshvara, dissolve into the lotus in your heart with the A's on its petals. This dissolves into the Avalokiteshvara at its centre and he into the

(moon-disk) seat in his heart, with the rosary of the six syllabled mantra around it. This then dissolves into the HRIH at its centre and finally even this disappears into a state of clear mind without any object. All throughout this tantric practice, the lack of individual essences has been mentioned, while we have maintained individual appearances. Now, the individual appearances collapse into one another, as their non-dual nature becomes manifest in complete


oneness, beyond subject-object distinctions. When all individual appearances are dissolved, what is left is "a state of clear mind." This is analogous to what Thinley Norbu calls "the undeluded wisdom mind of all Buddhas [which] continues permanently in one stainless, unchangeable essence of sky."11 This is sometimes referred to as dharmakaya. Mahayana philosophy says that there are three realms of manifestation of enlightened energy. The first is dharmakaya, which is simple, stainless, enlightened existence. Pure appearances arise from dharmakaya. These comprise sambhogakaya, which is the realm of intuitive and

imaginative communication. Radiant deity appearances belong to this realm. Pure tangible phenomena arise from sambhogakaya. These comprise nirmanakaya, which is the realm of physically existent phenomena which communicates enlightened energy. Incarnate buddhas and other physical manifestations which guide others towards enlightenment belong in this realm. In this tantra (as in others), practitioners start with their guru, who is an aspect of nirmanakaya.

Their guru gives them access to deity appearance, which is sambhogakaya. Most of the practice takes place in this realm, as the realization of emptiness, interconnectedness, and compassion gets spread to more and more aspects of reality. Finally, sambhogakaya dissolves into dharmakaya, and the practitioners concentrate single-mindedly in non-dualistic wisdom mind. The idea of Avalokitesvara has been used for numberless purposes. He has been used for

philosophically unsophisticated rituals and story-telling, and for highly sophisticated syntheses of Mahayana doctrine and practice. He has gone from being a relatively unimportant attendant deity to being the tool which brings tantric practitioners into an experiential understanding of the most profound level of wisdom mind. Bibliography Dalai Lama, H. H. the fourteenth. "Activating Bodhicitta: The Awakening Mind." In rya´ra's Aspiration and a Meditation on Compassion. Edited and Translated by Brian C. Beresford, L. T. Doboom Tulku, Gonsar Tulku, and Sherpa Tulku. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1979. Dalai Lama, H. H. the fourteenth. A Mahayana Method for Accomplishment: The Sadhana of the Inseparability of the Spiritual Master and Avalokiteshvara: A Source of all Powerful Attainments. Translated by Sherpa Tulku. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1975.

Encyclopedia of Buddhism, 1967 ed. S. v. "Avalokite½vara." by S. K. Nanayakkara. Goodman, Steven. Institute of Buddhist Studies, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California. Lectures, Spring semester, 1993. Govinda, Lama Anagarika. Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism. New York: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1969. Guenther, Herbert V. "The Spiritual Teacher in Tibet." In Tibetan Buddhism in Western Perspective, pp. 178-195. Berkeley, CA: Dharma Publishing,

1989. Guenther, Herbert V. "The Symbolic Re-creation Process." In The Creative Vision, pp. 10-21. Novato, CA: Lotsawa, 1987. Gyalpo, Terton Thangton. "The


Meditation and Recitation on the Great Compassionate One Benefitting Beings Throughout the Universe." (Xeroxed.) Holt, John C. Buddha in the Crown: Avalokite½vara in the Buddhist Traditions of Sri Lanka. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. Kapstein, Matthew. "Remarks on the MaÃi bKa'-'bum and the


Cult of Avalokite½vara in Tibet." In Tibetan Buddhism: Reason and Revelation, pp. 79-93. Edited by Steven D. Goodman and Ronald M. Davidson. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1992. Locke, John K. Karunamaya: The Cult of Avalokitesvara-Matsyendranath in the Valley of Nepal. Kathmandu: Sahayogi

Prakashan for Research Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies, Tribhuvan University, 1980. Mullin, Glenn H. and Richards, Michael, eds. Meditation on the Lower Tantras: from the collected works of the previous Dalai Lamas. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1983. Norbu, Thinley. White Sail: Crossing the Waves of Ocean Mind to the Serene Continent of the Triple Gems. Boston: Shambhala, 1992. Trungpa, Chšgyam. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. Boston: Shambhala, 1987. Wangyal, Geshe, ed. and trans. The Door of Liberation: Essential Teachings of the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition. New York: Lotsawa, 1978. 1 John C. Holt, Buddha in the Crown. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 41. 2 I am only beginning to understand tantra, myself. Therefore, my explanation is necessarily elementary and may very well contain serious errors. I have tried to set forth my current understanding of

this difficult and profound subject. 3 Chšgyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. (Boston: Shambhala, 1987), pp. 98-99. 4 Ibid., p. 100. 5 Thinley Norbu, White Sail: Crossing the Waves of Ocean Mind to the Serene Continent of the Triple Gems. (Boston: Shambhala, 1992), p. 106. 6 Dalai Lama, H. H. the fourteenth. "Activating Bodhicitta: The Awakening Mind," in rya½´ra's Aspiration and a Meditation on Compassion, ed. and trans. by Brian C.

Beresford, L. T. Doboom Tulku, Gonsar Tulku and Sherpa Tulku (Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1979), p. 111-12. 7 H. H. the second Dalai Lama, "Oral Teachings Concerning the Method of Requesting your Guru and Meditational Diety," in "The Steps of Visualization for the Three Essential Moments (A Stairway for Ascending to Tushita Buddha-field)," in Meditation on the Lower Tantras: from the collected works of the previous Dalai Lamas, eds. Glenn H. Mullin and Michael Richards (Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1983), pp. 53-57. 8 Herbert V. Guenther, "The Spiritual Teacher in Tibet," in Tibetan Buddhism in Western Perspective, (Berkeley, CA: Dharma Publishing, 1989), p. 188. 9 H. H. the second Dalai Lama, "Requesting your Guru and Meditational Diety," pp. 53-54. 10 Hevajratantra, II, iv, 34, quoted in Herbert V. Guenther, The Creative Vision (Novato, CA: Lotsawa, 1987), p. 15. 11 Thinley Norbu, White Sail, p. 147.




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