'Siva and Avalokitezvara

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Dec 15 23:16:54 UTC 1998

N. Ganesan wrote:
>[...] see Lokesh Chandra,
>The Thousand-armed Avalokitezvara, New Delhi, 1988, especially Ch. 2
>18-28): "The Origin of Avalokita-svara/Avalokit-ezvara." [...]
>Have not seen this book yet. But, I have read a little
>on Avalokita-iizvara and Avalokita-svara (from Avalokita-lokasvara?).
>Avalokita -svara may be an ingenous way of delinking
>Avalokitezvara from Hindu ('Siva) connections.

**It seems rather to be the other way round: the zivaitic
**avalokitezvara as an ingenious way of delinking him from his
**origins. Lokesh Chandra's point of departure are the two companions
** of Buddha in early Buddhist mythology (in which rudra-ziva does
** not yet play any part): zakra (indra) as lord of
**the sky, and brahmA sahAMpati as lord of the earth (sahA).
**Later, when the buddha was seen as amitAbha, the two companions
**became the bodhisattvas mahAsthAmaprApta and avalokitasvara,
** "He by whom the Sound (svara, word, logos) is perceived".

  The Bodhisattva doctrine in Buddhist Sanskrit literature,
  Har Dayal (author), Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1932

p. 44
"In the early Mahayaana, the bodhisattvas are inferior
and subordinate to the Buddhas; but they acquire greater
importance in course of time till they are at last
regarded as equal to the Buddhas in many respects.... They
are to be worshipped like the Buddhas, or even in preference
to them. This gradual exaltation of the Bodhisattvas at
the expense of the Buddhas culminates in the apotheosis of
Avalokitezvara, who is declared to be a kind of
"Buddha-maker", while he himself remains the eternal
bodhisattva. ..""
p. 46,
"MahAsthAmapraapta is one of the two active ministers
in the Buddha AmitAbha's paradise SukhaavatI and Vajra-garbha
figures in the Da. BhU. .. VajrapaaNi is described as the
chief of Buddha's servants (zikSA 316, 7). But all these
are rather shadowy figures. The two most important bodhisattvas
are Manjusri and Avalokitezvara".

p. 47
"It has been objected that avalokita-svara is a queer
sort of compound, which would convey no clear meaning
to an Indian [71]".

[71] E. J. Thomas, JRAS, 1929, p.359


I would rather take the Japanese Scholar Daiyo Goto's
and Har Dayal's view that Avalokitezvara is the original
Indian name. Chinese translator KumarajIva delinks
the 'Saivaite connection at 400 AD. Hsuan Tsang (630 AD), the
Pilgrim Prince makes the necessary correction to restore

Sanskrit texts portray 'Siva as horrifying and terrorful.
Further we go back in time, 'Siva appears to be more
terrible according to Sanskrit texts. May be 'Siva is
a late incomer into Vedic Aryan society.

But 'Siva is very benign in Classical Sangam texts;
A joyous dancer all the time in Tamil texts.
He is very compassionate in literally 1000s
of poems in the Tamil Saiva texts (from 5th century).
Tamil stalapurANams, 1200 in all, must contain
about 200,000 extant viruttams on 'Siva. Even their
surface has not been scratched academically.

"anbE 'Sivam" - Lord 'Siva is Love, Tirumantiram, 5-6th century.
"appan nI, ammai nI, anbuDaiya maaman nI .." tEvAram (7th century).
  - Lord 'Siva is my father, my mother, my beloved
    maternal uncle.
Traditional vyAkhyAnakartAs explain this line: Look,
The Saivaite saint gives no adjectives to mom and dad,
but see what he says about maternal uncle.
In Dravidian kinship systems, maternal uncle
is close to sisters' kids than anybody else.
Learnt from Indology, cross-cousin weddings
were present at Buddha's household too.

N. Ganesan

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