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The Thousand-Armed Avalokitesvara (Avalokiteshvara)

The Thousand-Armed Avalokitesvara (Avalokiteshvara)

The Thousand-Armed Avalokitesvara (Avalokiteshvara)

Item Code: IDE051
Author: Lokesh Chandra
Publisher: Abhinav Publication
Language: English
Edition: 1988
ISBN: 8170172470
Pages: 303 (Color Illus: 4, B & W Illus: 34, Figures: 255)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 11.2" X 8.7"
weight of the book 1.244 kg
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From the Jacket:


A fundamental work based on Original Sanskrit, Chinese Korean, Japanese, the lost Iranian language Sogdian and Tibetan works - on the origin of Avalokitesvara. It identifies the several prevalent folk-deities which were assimilated into the iconographical form. The workship of Avalokitesvara was accompanied by a dharani (recited hymn). This work describes five versions of the dharani. This dharani is an essential part of the Zen repertoire of sutras. It was transliterated into Chinese eight times over a span of eight centuries: from the 7th to the 14th century.

The present edition is not only a reconstruction of the original Sanskrit text of the hymn, but a detailed study with the texts of Bhagavad-dharma. Amonghavajra, Vajrabodhi and Chih-t'ung is Chinese characters. The Korean, Sogdian, and Tibetan texts are also given in this indigenous scripts. Siddham manuscripts from Korea and Japan have been done in facsimile.

Popular iconic vocabulary becomes the essence of ever renewing theogony. From an attendant acolyte of Amitabha in the Sukhavativyuha, Avalokita gained independence as a separate deity in his own right.

The system of iconographic classification of 33 types, with their symbols, bijas and mudas presents a new model for Buddhist iconographic studies.

The Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Tibetan and Sogdian transliterations of Sanskrit hymns to the thousand-eyed, thousand armed Avalokitesvara have the attributes of Hari and Hara and have the faces of Narasimha and Varaha. In reconstructing these versions it became imperative that Sanskrit texts bearing on Harihara be consulted and the iconography of Harihara be analysed with precision. The 36 morphological types of Harihara have been defined in a succinct manner on the principles of icono-taxonomy. A novel departure in the study of the history of art.

Comparison has resulted in the discovery of the mythogenesis of primal Arya Avalokitesvara, as well as his form with a thousand arms, with a thousand eyes on each of the thousand palms. The emergence of the Thousand-armed Avalokitesvara is linked with the interiorisation of Isvara/Siva into Avalokita as Visvarupa. Amoghavajra's version indicates the connection of the Thousand-armed Thousand-eyed Avalokitesvara with the security of the State. The new readings of the dharani that emerge out of comparative exegesis are refreshing like the ozone-laden morning air, with a distinct character, with poetic profundity and devotional fervour. While this volume resurrects the dharani, it traces the very origins of the first Avalokita-svara, and the continuous and perplexing processes of assimilation that travel into a phantasmagoria of universes. Avalokita becomes a wave made of many waves.


About the Author:


Prof. Lokesh Chandra is a renowned scholar of Tibetan, Mongolian and Sino-Japanese Buddhism. He has to his credit over 360 works and text editions. Among them are classics like his Tibetan-Sanskrit Dictionary, Materials for a History of Tibetan Literature, Buddhist Iconography of Tibet, and his ongoing Dictionary of Buddhist Art in about 20 volumes. Prof. Lokesh Chandra was nominated by the President of the Republic of India to the Parliament in 1974-80 and again 1980-86. He has been a Vice-President of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, and Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research. Presently he is Director, International Academy of Indian Culture.



THE concept and image of the Avalokitesvara has been an enigma to historians and scholars of Indian and Asian art. Like his Thousand Arms, the interpretation has been as multi-dimensional. Critical writing on Avalokitesvara ranges from its being identified as a purely Buddhist image to its being interpreted as a syncretical image of Buddha and Siva. The debate has not been restricted to Buddhist and Saivite iconography, or the relationship of Lokesvara and Avalokitesvara, but has understandably expanded to include the many manifestations of Avalokitesvara in South East Asia and East Asia. In China, Avalokitesvara is familiar an Kuanyin, in Nepal as Sahasrabhuja Loka-nathah, in Korea he is worshipped as Kwan-um, and in Japan as Senju—kannon. Despite the pervasiveness, the origins are as mysterious. Where did the concept originate? Can it be traced back to the Rgvedic description or the primordial Man in the Purusa Sukta thousand-armed and thousand- eyed? Does it appear in Hindu mythology? Is it a post-Buddhist development, especially in its later Mahayana phase? Does the concept appear in the Puranas? Does it appear only in the Tibetan, Chinese, Korean, Japanese texts? These and many more intricate and complex problems confront one at the very moment of the supplication before the icon known as the embodiment of Karuna.

As in other spheres, here too it would appear that the original Sanskrit text is lost in oblivion. Nevertheless, it is equally clear that the concept and the text traveled to Tibet, China, Korea, Japan. The image is known by several names and the text has several versions. Underlying this multiplicity are two distinct levels, of formal elements of iconography and hymnology. Iconographical structure constitutes the basis of the concrete image, hymnology gives life to the image through invocation. It is significant that Suzuki in his manual of Zen Buddhism repeatedly speaks of the repetition of the Dharanis (hymns) of the Thousand-Armed Avalokitesvara as an essential part of the Zen monk`s daily routine.

Dr. Lokesh Chandra has spent many decades of his life trying to unravel these deep layers of meaning and principles of form. He has reconstructed piece by piece, fragment by fragment the several manuscripts relating to the Avalokitesvara and the Dharanis —available in different versions. With meticulous care, he reassembles the text, lays bare iconography, describes attributes, analyses mud ras, compares each version. The articulation of the Dhimmi, the accompanying hymn which evokes the image, is equally important. Contemporary recitations of the Dharani of the Avalokitesvara are difficult to obtain but with the help of the Chinese colleagues, it has been possible to include a tape of the Dharani. The text, the versions and the illustrations, along with the vocal enunciation will give the experience of the cosmic grandeur of the image, and the Dharanis. The relationship of text and image, image and sound is a valuable unique contribution.

In the programme of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, it was important to include a work which exemplifies the intrinsic multi-disciplinary nature of the Indian and Asian traditions. Also the Avalokitesvara as a theme was ideally suited to demonstrate the complexity of the interplay of the Buddhist, Hindu and many popular traditions. The interaction amongst diverse regions—India, Tibet, China, Korea and Japan—is convincingly demonstrated. It is hoped that with the publication of this very important and seminal work, many more scholars will be inspired to undertake comparative work of this kind. The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts acknowledges its gratitude to the author for permission to publish the work in its publication programme.




  Foreword: Kapila Vatsyayan 7
Chap. 1 Introduction 9
Chap. 2 The Origin of Avalokita-savara / Avalokitesvara 18
Chap. 3 Assimilation of Deities into Avalokitesvara 29
Chap. 4 Iconography of the Thousand-armed Avalokitesvara 48
Chap. 5 Vulgate Version of the Hymn to Thousand-armed Avalokitesvara
    Constituted text of the Vulgate Version 93
    Text of Bhagavaddharma (T 1060) 99
    Text of Amoghavajra (T 1113B, commentary on Bhagavaddharma) 105
    • System of transliteration in the text of Amoghavajra (T 1113 B) 116
  • Second text of Amoghavajra (T 1111, a new transcription) 120
    Suzuki's translation 130
    Text of Ji-un Sonja 134
    Korean text in transcription 139
    • Constituted Korean text 142
      Korean text from a hymnal 143
      Calligraphed Korean text 163
  • Tibetan / Chinese text 184
Chap. 6 Longer Version of the Hymn of Thousand-armed Avalikitesvara
    Constituted text of Vajrabodhi (T 1061) 189
    • Text of Vajrabodhi (T 1061) 192
      Siddham text of Vajrabodhi (T 1061) 210
      Transliteration system of Vajrabodhi (T 1061) 215
  • Second text of Ji-un Sonja 221
    Sogdian text 228
    Sarva-tathagata-tattva-sangraha version 232
Chap. 7 Tibetan Version of the Hymn to Thousand-armed Avalokitesvara
      Text of Tibetan Version 235
Chap. 8 Early version of the Hymn to Thousand-armed Avalokitesvara
    Constituted Text of Chih-t'ung (T 1057) 240
    Siddham text of Chih-t'ung (T 1057) 241
    Text of Chih-t'ung (T 1057) 245
    Text of Chih-t'ung in the Korean Tripitaka 259
Chap. 9 Later Version of the Hymn to Thousand-armed Avalokitesvara 265
  Devanagari text of the different versions 267
Chap. 10 Iconographic Types of Harihara 274
  Literature cited 294

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