Avalokitesvara is a Bodhisattva who is widely revered in Buddhism. This Bodhisattva embodies the compassion of all Buddhas, and has a great connection or affinity with living beings in this world. He uses kindness, compassion, joy, and giving to save all living beings.
In Chinese Buddhism, Avalokitesvara is usually portrayed as a female figure because it symbolizes a caring mother loving her innocent children, as if Bodhisattva loving all the sentient beings.
His Chinese name, Guan Shi Yin, means the Perceiver of the World's Sound. He teaches, transforms and inspires living beings to bring forth their Bodhi mind. He first observes what a particular being wants, and responds to their wishes in order to build up their faith in Buddhism. Through this method, living beings are more motivated to practice Buddhism. Then, Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva can gradually rescue them by removing their karmic obstacles and making their good roots grow.
The happiness that sentient beings are wishing for are subjected to "outflows". One ought to seek the non-outflow happiness of Buddhahood through cultivation in precepts, concentration, and wisdom. Worldly riches, honor, and glory all have an end, but non-outflow happiness in attaining Buddhahood is endless and infinite.
Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva has been associated with many Sutras. “Universal Door of Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva” is chapter 25 in “Lotus Sutra”, and this scripture describes how he works tirelessly on assisting those who call upon his name. In “Flower Garland Sutra”, Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva reveals his methods on relieving beings from disasters and dangers. In “Shurangama Sutra”, he shares his method on achieving Samadhi, which is a state of consciousness in meditation. His method is that rather than listening to the world outside, Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva turns his hearing back to his own nature. He investigates for an inconceivable state through Perfect Wisdom, which can illuminate and dispel all the darkness due to ignorance. Together, these three important scriptures are called the “Three Sutra of Guan Yin”.
“Great Compassion Mantra” and “Six-Character Great Bright Mantra” are also popularly recited in many Buddhism temples.
Similar to Buddha, Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva is in a state of unmoving suchness, for which he spreads out and fills up all the empty space in the universe. He is in every place and yet not in any place. He perceives beings who call for his help, and appears in a form that is appropriate to spread Dharma for that being. Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva will appear as a Buddha to save those who are ready to be a Buddha. His identity is flexible and can manifest in thirty-three different forms, such as God, Dragon, Braham King, Elder and so on.
Reciting Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva's name is a quick and simple way to unlock oneself from ignorance that is due to greed, anger, and stupidity. Each time a person recites his name with concentration, the lock of ignorance opens up a bit. The recitation is like an ever-flowing stream, until everything becomes one. Gradually, compassion, patience, giving, Samadhi, and Prajna (true wisdom) will be accumulated. When the lock opens, one will gain sudden enlightenment. He will break through ignorance and cut off the root of births and deaths without beginning.
Kindness and compassion are Guan Shi Yin. Joy and giving provide greater strength for people to overcome obstacles. If one is being kind and giving to everyone, one is truly practicing the Dharma of Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva.