'Siva and Avalokitezvara

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Tue Dec 15 21:02:37 UTC 1998

In a message dated 12/15/98 2:38:42 PM Central Standard Time,
naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM writes:

> I read that "avalokita" is to gaze, to look down, to perceive.
>  I do not understand why Mahayanists would coin a name
>  "to look down at the Sounds (svara)". Rather,
>  "One who hears sounds of the world" sounds natural.
>           ^^^^^
>  avalokita+svara is little strange. A scholar wrote in
>   a publication that avalokitaSvara sounds very odd to Indian ears.
>  (Trying to recollect the paper or book. I will
>  give it soon.)

I do not know if the following will be of any help. Regarding the terms
avalokitezvara and avalokitasvara, this is what Shu Hikosaka says in Buddhism
in Tamilnadu: A New Perspective, p.78.

"The differences of opinion regarding the terminology continued till recent
times. In 1927, some fragments of an old manuscript namely avalokitezvara
bodhisattva samanta-mukha-parivarta have been discovered from east Turkestan,
in which this name is mentioned as avalokitasvara.

On the basis of this evidence, many scholars express the opinion that there
are two Sanskrit forms namely avalokitezvara and avalokita-svara. Among them
the name avalokita-svara is considered to be the oldest form. In the later
period, under the influence of Hinduism as well as Tantric Buddhism, this has
changed into avalokitezvara. Although this opinion has been accepted in
general, it could be interpreted in a different way. TaiyU GotO gives an
interesting suggestion in this regard. According to him, in the Buddhist texts
which have been brought from Central Asia, this term has been translated as
Kanzejizai. This gives the clue by which to consider that this term was
originallyavalokitezvara in India. when this term had entered into Central
Asia, it might have been written as valokita-svara owing to dialectal change
or the misreading of the copyists."

S. Palaniappan

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list