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From Wikipedia,

Avalokiteśvara (Sanskrit: अवलोकितेश्वर , Bengali: অবলোকিতেশ্বর, lit. “Lord who looks down”, Chinese: 觀世音) is a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. He is one of the more widely revered bodhisattvas in mainstream Mahayana Buddhism. In China and its sphere of cultural influence, Avalokiteśvara is often depicted in a female form known as Guan Yin. (However, in Taoist mythology, Guan Yin has other origination stories which are unrelated to Avalokiteśvara.)

Avalokitesvara is also referred to as Padmapāni (“Holder of the Lotus”) also Thirumai (Tirupati) or Lokeśvara (“Lord of the World”). In Tibetan, Avalokiteśvara is known as Chenrezig, and is said to be incarnated in the Dalai Lama,[1] the Karmapa[2][3] and other high Lamas. In Mongolia, he is called Megjid Janraisig, Xongsim Bodisadv-a, or Nidüber Üjegči.

Etymology

The name Avalokiteśvara is made of the following parts: the verbal prefix ava, which means “down”; lokita, a past participle of the verb lok (“to notice, behold, observe”), here used in an active sense (an occasional irregularity of Sanskrit grammar); and finally īśvara, “lord”, “ruler”, “sovereign” or “master”. In accordance with the rules of sound combination, a+iśvara becomes eśvara. Combined, the parts mean “lord who gazes down (at the world)”. The word loka (“world”) is absent from the name, but the phrase is implied.[4]

It was initially thought that the Chinese mis-transliterated the word Avalokiteśvara as Avalokitasvara which explained why Xuanzang translated it as Guan Zizai instead of Guan Yin. However, according to recent research, the original form was indeed Avalokitasvara with the ending svara (“sound, noise”), which means “sound perceiver”, literally “he who has perceived sound” (the cries of sentient beings who need his help). This is the exact equivalent of the Chinese translation Guan Yin. This name was later supplanted by the form containing the ending -īśvara, which does not occur in Sanskrit before the seventh century. The original form Avalokitasvara already appears in Sanskrit fragments of the fifth century.[5]

The original meaning of the name fits the Buddhist understanding of the role of a bodhisattva. The reinterpretation presenting him as an īśvara shows a strong influence of Shaivism, as the term īśvara was usually connected to the Hindu notion of a creator god and ruler of the world. Attributes of such a god were transmitted to the bodhisattva, but the mainstream of the Avalokiteśvara worshippers upheld the Buddhist rejection of the doctrine of any creator god.[6]

An etymology of the Tibetan name Chenrezig is chen (eye), re (continuity) and zig (to look). This gives the meaning of one who always looks upon all beings (with the eye of compassion).[7]

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