Apr 23rd, 2011
Taigen Dan Leighton writes, in his wonderful book Faces of Compassion: Classic Bodhisattva Archetypes and their Modern Expression ...
One meaning of Avalokiteshvara's name is "Regarder of the World's Cries or Sounds," indicated in the Japanese name Kanzeon. A shortened form of this is Kannon (or the Chinese Guanyin), "Hearing or Regarding Sounds." Avalokiteshvara is the one who calmly hears and considers all of the world's sounds of woe. This name implies that empathy and active listening are primary practices of compassion. Just to be present, to remain upright and aware in the face of suffering without needing to react reflexively, is compassion. Kanzeon acknowledges beings and their cries, and responds when appropriate or when it would be useful ... Considering all the many manifestations encompassed by Avalokiteshvara, however, we might also remember to carefully regard our own cries, the suffering of all the beings included within us. We cannot offer compassion to others if we cannot be compassionate, accepting, and forgiving of ourselves. We can hear and acknowledge our own feelings of fear, frustration, and anger with calm uprightness, rather than needing to react externally and act them out inappropriately.
I feel this is a wonderful reminder that we should offer Compassion and Loving Kindness to this Sentient Being, you and me, even as we reach out to help all Sentient Beings and the world (we are sentient beings in this world too!).
Kannon is often depicted with 1000 arms and eyes, seeing and reaching out toward suffering wherever it manifests. Truly, those hands and eyes are our hands and eyes.