'Siva and Avalokitezvara

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 16 23:01:30 UTC 1998

Prof. G. v. Simson wrote:
*When Buddhism arrived in South India, the popular
*bodhisattva avalokitasvara could without major difficulties
*be adapted to the benign South-Indian god 'Siva (dakSiNamUrti).
*  Is this model still far away from yours?

 My model would replace the above with something like:

"When Mahayana deity Avalokitezvara was developed in
South India, the popular bodhisattva avalokitezvara
meant to the masses, their always familiar god, iizvara. A small
group of learned monks developed the smart explanation
on avalokitasvara which can be linked to Brahman,
attested earlier as assistant to Buddha. They admitted
Avalokitezvara with the satisfaction that A. is after all old
assistant to Buddha. This explanation was sometimes carried to
Gandhara and China also."

  Would like to hear your views on this scenario.

The two terms might have started concurrently in time -
avalokitezvara among the masses, avalokitasvara among
a small elite group. The available ratio of svara to
iizvara supports this statement. There is only one
fragment mss. saying avalokitasvara.

The earliest occurences of Avalokitezvara are Southern
(saddharmapuNDarika, suhrllekha).

GaNDavyUha (2-3rd cent. AD) places Avalokitezvara and
Mahadeva right next to each other. It says Avalokitezvara's
permanent home is in South India.

Devotinal piety was hard to resist by priests or monks.
We know for sure the later Hindu bhakti as a mass movement
was first established in the Tamil India and spreads
northward, both in 'Saivism and Vaishnavism. The foundations of
 Mahayanism also are from devotional piety stemming
from the masses. Avalokitezvara, who is first attested
in Southern texts, whose residence is South India
may well be a precursor to bhakti movement three
centuries later.

N. Ganesan

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