The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

In praise of Avalokiteśvara (a new translation)

by Kestrel Slocombe
January 8, 2014
Wed, 01/08/2014 - 15:17 -- Kestrel Slocombe
Praise and Prayer to Noble Avalokiteśvara
Bringing Forth the Rains of Happiness and Well-Being

Homage to Ārya Lokeśvara
The compassion of all the conquering buddhas of the ten directions,
numbering as many as the atoms of the countless worlds,
as deep as an ocean and attached, completely attached, to living beings,
from which was born that perfect splendor of wonderful qualities
renowned as Avalokiteśvara, the great guide,
the jewel mountain upon whom we should all rely.
To you I bow.

Upon a mandala replete with the light of the moon,
your feet like pure lotus petals stand together
in the center of a pure and fresh lotus.
In the world you radiate with perfect clarity like the moon when full.
Seeing you, the heart is relieved of all pain,
and great joy is spread everywhere.

Though your compassion is as cool as the touch of snow,
it nevertheless burns away the hordes of demons.
Though your wisdom is far beyond phenomena characterized by signs,
mandalas of detailed elaboration nevertheless appear to it.
Though you have crossed over samsara, you constantly show birth in the three realms.
The wise are amazed at such illusion-like activities.

Permeating all phenomena, you are the orb of the sky on a clear autumn night,
Relied upon constantly by all fortunate beings, you are the uncomplaining great earth.
Dispelling the darkness of ignorance of the entire world you are the blazing sun.
Soothing the torment of the mind burned by anger you are the moon.

You show the mandala of your beautiful face like a fully bloomed white lotus.
As white as rock crystal and a pure conch shell, you possess the beauty of youth.
In the midst of limitless and vast clouds of offerings
you enjoy magical play with the liberating goddess,
radiant amid an entourage of countless sugatas, bodhisattvas, and wrathful deities.

All those who have fallen to the wretched states of being,
tormented by the myriad sufferings brought on by fire, water,
pernicious fortune, the wrath of kings, and the like,
are drawn up one after the other by your rays of light,
as if they were being bathed by the moon,
and brought to enjoy the supreme bliss of the gods.

Your fragrant braids of hair tied up upon your head blend with the blue light of the sky,
the mighty Buddha Amitābha sits beautifully in its center as your lineage crown.
Your right hand in the mudra of giving, from whose fingertips constantly fall
drops of white nectar like shining pearls that soothe the torment of the hungry ghosts.

Your left hand resting upon your hip in graceful pose,
a beautiful and pure form prostrated to by Brahma, Indra and other arrogant gods.
You are, therefore, the Mighty One of the World.
You reveal a thousand other hands adorned with mudras
of the wheel the lotus, the arrow, the bow, and so on.
Possessing a thousand eyes, you show perfectly eleven beautiful faces.

To some you emanate as Siṃhanāda, the leader of the malicious nāgas,
and to others you are Amoghapāśa, Nīlakaṇṭha, and so forth.
At times you are Hayagrīva, the destroyer of hindrances and lord of the wrathful,
Sometimes you are black Mahākāla, and others who shatter the three worlds,
but your mind never strays from compassion.

The vast expanse of worlds that stretches throughout space knows no end,
and yet you emanate as many forms as there are living beings in these worlds,
all of which is done without the thought to move even a single hair.
Like rain falling from the clouds, you have no deliberation.

You have left behind all words that do not in any way serve living beings.
Your unending melody of speech in tune with the mentality of each being
teaches pathways of Dharma greater in number than the drops in an ocean.
Those whose ears receive your speech will dwell perfectly within your words.

Like the singing of a beautiful youth that blends with the sounds
of the many-stringed vina of the celestial musicians,
your words delight the mind, but will destroy the desires of the desirous.
Like the thunder that roars through the sky, your speech resounds far and high,
and yet for those struck by fright, their fear is at once reduced to mere words.

When you turn the wheel of the Dharma
in a voice of high and pure tones endowed with every quality
in order to liberate those wandering in samsara,
constantly trapped by unstable birth and death,
you have already perfected the features of the speech
of the buddhas of the past, present, and future.
Therefore, as master of peerless qualities of speech,
you are renowned as the guru of all worlds.

Living beings love themselves, and yet sometimes,
out of anger, they are intent on killing themselves.
You, however, constantly look upon living beings
as a mother would look upon her only child.
Long ago your mind cast away
even the tiniest thought of doing harm to others.
The love, therefore, that those like me have for themselves
cannot come anywhere near a fraction of your compassion.

Your never-ceasing peaceful gaze is as calming as being bathed
in the scented waters of camphor, sandalwood, and vetiver grass.
One part of your eyes is forever fixed on the six types of living beings,
and yet, your mind, resting in the dharmadhātu,
where all proliferation of experience and appearance has dissolved,
is constantly embraced by the supreme bliss, with all movement stilled.
To such a mind, I prostrate.

I pray that the rains of your nectar will cool the hot hells
where beings are burned alive by flames that blaze on all sides,
where murderous butchers surround and terrify them,
their mouths agape and their eyes red and staring,
where others are boiled like grains of wheat in vats of molten copper.
I pray that your warm touch protect those in the cold hells,
where flesh and bones are torn apart by the cold.

I pray that you send forth the nectar rain of food and clothing to hungry ghosts
whose stomachs are the size of mountains, and yet whose throats are blocked,
whose limbs are as thin as veins, whose bodies are emaciated and covered with dust,
with sparks flying from their limbs where their joints rub together,
for whom merely looking at water causes it to dry up,
and who are constantly weary and tormented by thirst.

For animals who will even throw away their precious lives
in pursuit of the tiny happiness of just a morsel of food,
who have no way of developing virtue and reducing non-virtue,
who are ugly in shape and color, and consequently of low merit,
I pray that you grant them the ability quickly to remember virtue,
and that they will be able to live a life of happiness.

Even the delights and pleasure of the celestial king, Brahma,
enjoyed within divine mansions that radiate with jeweled light,
will one day, through the force of transience, fade away,
and he too will plunge into the fires of hell,
where even his bones and marrow will be burned away.
The young gods who lie on the soft beds that bring pleasure to the touch,
and who play and frolic in the beautiful pleasure gardens
will one day drink boiling molten metal,
and be dragged across ground strewn with sharp iron thorns.
Those that are high will quickly become lowly servants fit only to be kicked.
Like the flowers at the end of autumn, this time of youth will soon fade.
Like enjoying a borrowed ornament, this wealth will definitely disappear in time.
Like a flash of lightning, even my life appears only for a moment.
The world after this one is far from the one we are used to,
and it is I alone who must wander in its dense darkness.
And so it is that in this terrifying state of samsara
the deception of the mental afflictions will ultimately let us down.
I beg that you lift us with the hand of compassion from this ocean of suffering.

It is true that the teachings of the Buddha are a tradition
well established in this land surrounded by snowy mountains,
but most Dharma practitioners are shorn of the clothes of ethics,
and like naked wanderers, have abandoned all shame.
They befriend lay people, look toward them,
and engage in acts looked down upon by the wise.
Alas! the sun of the sacred Dharma has almost set between the mountains.

The powerful eagerly pursue their own desires,
fight among each other, and mistreat the weak.
The poor are constantly in servitude,
and cannot even find meager food.
In such a dreadful state of degeneration,
if we were to be ignored by you, noble one,
then what did your promise of the past mean?
Who can your subjects turn to for refuge?

Even your own name is blessed.
Whoever hears it will be freed from fear.
Those who keep your name in mind will reap fruit
similar to performing devotions to countless buddhas.
This has been taught by the great sage with words of truth,
and so with great hope we make a prayer that you, great protector,
who have left behind the mind that is distracted elsewhere,
will rescue these desperate sentient beings.

I pray that all living beings devote themselves to the Three Jewels,
that they have faith in cause and effect and follow always the path of Dharma.
I pray that with countless wrathful and peaceful magical emanations,
all perfectly suited to the various types and merits of living beings,
you bring to happiness to all dear friends
who have fallen into this dreadful state of samsara.

May I, too, who have great devotion to you,
have the stainless intelligence that knows the truth of the way things are,
as well as a complete disenchantment with samsara,
and may I strive over many lives to work for others with compassion.
May I attain the perfection of wisdom whose power will crush all māras,
may I dwell in the ways of the pure and joyful Dharma,
and nourish living beings over a long time.

I am one of low intelligence, but the milk lake of faith in my mind
has risen up to produce these animated and beautiful white bubbles
that is this garland of words of exultation and lament.
Whoever reads, hears, or recalls it,
may they all be freed from the taints of wrong deeds,
and be cared for in the Potala pure land
by that great and supreme conqueror, Avalokiteśvara.

This praise and prayer to the noble lord of the world, Avalokiteśvara, that brings forth the rains of happiness and well-being, was composed by the Dharma teacher, and fully ordained monk of Śākyamuni Buddha, Losang Kalsang Gyatso (the Seventh Dalai Lama).

Translated, in accordance with the commentary of Könchok Jikmé Wangpo (first incarnation of Jamyang Shepa), by Gavin Kilty, January 2014.

Image by Donald Macauley.

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