Thousand-Armed Bodhisattva – To Aid the Suffering Multitudes

In Buddhist art, Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva is sometimes shown with eleven heads, 1000 hands and eyes on the palms of each hand. The thousand eyes allow the Bodhisattva to see the sufferings of sentient beings, and the thousand hands allow her to reach out to help them.

thousand-hand-bodhisattva
                           Thousand-Hand Kwan-yin

One prominent Buddhist story tells that Avalokitesvara vowing never to rest until he had freed all sentient beings from Samsara. Despite strenuous effort, he realizes that still many unhappy beings were yet to be saved. After struggling to comprehend the needs of so many, his head splits into eleven pieces. Amitabha, seeing his plight, gives him eleven heads. Upon hearing these cries and comprehending them, Avalokitesvara attempts to reach out to all those who needed aid, but found that his two arms shattered into pieces. Once more, Amitabha comes to his aid and invests him with a thousand arms with which to aid the suffering multitudes.

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The Bao’en Temple located in northwestern Sichuan has an outstanding wooden image of the Thousand-Armed Avalokitesvara, an example of Ming dynasty decorative sculpture.

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