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Q3: How does Bodhisattva Guanyin hear sentient beings’ cries for help?

A: In the Universal Gate Chapter, the Buddha introduced the greatest characteristic of Guanyin (Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, in Sanskrit)—liberating sentient beings' suffering by responding to their calls for help. Regardless of their location or the nature of the sounds produced—whether of pain, delight, sadness, or joy—sentient beings' calls are simultaneously and instantaneously heard by Bodhisattva Guanyin. Regardless of whether sentient beings are virtuous or not, Bodhisattva Guanyin will eradicate their afflictions and grant them peace and happiness, provided that they sincerely chant the Bodhisattva's name.

Long ago, at the time of his initial resolution, Bodhisattva Guanyin had practiced the Dharma by following a buddha who went by the same name of Guanyin. During Bodhisattva Guanyin’s causal stage, Buddha Guanyin taught him the Dharma method of perfect penetration through the faculty of hearing. Upon perfecting the practice of the method, he thus also came to be known as "Bodhisattva Guan-shi-yin."

Bodhisattva Guanyin was so named because he listens to sentient beings' cries for help and comes to rescue them from suffering. In the sutra passage which reads "…sentient beings who experience suffering hear of Bodhisattva Guanyin and wholeheartedly recite his name”, the term "hear" indicates that sentient beings hear the Bodhisattva's name and recite it with praise. Conversely, Guanyin also hears sentient beings' cries for help when they recite his name, upon which he comes to their relief and saves them. As a result, sentient beings hear Guanyin, and vice versa. In fact, it is in the mutual hearing between sentient beings and bodhisattvas that sentient beings' requests for help are fulfilled.

Extended reading:

Q1: Why is Guanyin known as "Guan-shi-yin" in Chinese Buddhism?

Q2: From which kinds of suffering does Bodhisattva Guanyin liberate us from?

Q3: How does Bodhisattva Guanyin hear sentient beings' cries for help?

Q4: How does Bodhisattva Guanyin rescue sentient beings?

Q5: How do sentient beings resonate with Bodhisattva Guanyin?

Q6: Why does Bodhisattva Guanyin often manifest into a female form, if he has a myriad amount of manifestations?

Q7: Is it especially efficacious to pray and ask Bodhisattva Guanyin for a child?

Q8: Why didn't Bodhisattva Guanyin accept Bodhisattva Inexhaustible Intent's offerings?

Q9: What is the meaning of the term "Universal Gate" from the Lotus Sutra's Universal Gate Chapter on Bodhisattva Guanyin?

Resource: Humanity Magazine #386 (人生雜誌第386期)
Translation: Ariel Shen (沈純湘)
Edited by: Keith Brown, Chia-Cheng Chang (張家誠)
Photo: Quan Tsai (蔡全)