Kannon Bodhisattva, Kannon Bosatsu (観音菩薩)

Kannon Bodhisattva, Kannon Bosatsu,(अवलोकितेश्वर Avalokiteśvara in Sanskrit) is a sacred image (一尊) of Bosatsu in Buddhism and a kind of Buddha (尊格) that has attained widespread faithful since ancient times, particularly in Japan.
It is also called 'Kanzeon Bosatsu' or 'Kanjizai Bosatsu.'
It has many other names such as 'Kuse Bosatsu' or 'Guse Bosatsu.'

Origin of name
A superior thesis at present regarding the Sanskrit Avalokiteśvara is that it was mixture of words, ava (universally) +lokita (see, saw) + īśvara (universalist). A translation by Genjosanzo, 'Kanjizai Bosatsu' can be seen as having adopted that thesis.

It is pointed out that the origin relates to the goddess Anahita, a daughter of Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism and Laksmi in the Indian mythology.

In an old translation by Kumaraju, it was called Kanzeon Bosatsu, while at that time the name in China was also Kanzeon Bosatsu. Accordingly, there is a thesis that it was translated freely, complying with the point of Kannon-gyo Sutra (Myoho Renge-kyo Kanzeon Bosatsu Fumon Hon No. 25, 妙法蓮華経観世音菩薩普門品第二十五). Additionally, in the old Sanskrit "Hoke-kyo Sutra," which was discovered in Central Asia, it was written as 'avalokitasvara,' so that it can be interpreted as avalokita (see) + svara (sound); there is another old translation as "Koseon Bosatsu," so that it is possible to assume these were different texts. Because the character "世" could not be used due to the taboo against using the name of the second Tang Emperor Shi Min LI, it became established as Kannon Bosatsu after the Tang period in China.

It was translated as Kanjizai Bosatsu in the new version after Genjosanzo. Kanjizai means that contemplation with prajna leads to the religious fruit (妙果) of the universalist. Moreover, it is also called semuisha (施無畏者), the person who gives one a fearless mind, or guse daishi (救世大士), who can relieve this world.

Based on Kannon-gyo Sutra and others, it is widely believed and worshiped. In addition, it is the Bosatsu who appears in the beginning of Heart of Great Perfect Wisdom Sutra (Hannya Shingyo) and is a symbol of Hannya's prajna as well. In Jodo-kyo, it is often placed as an attendant of Amidanyorai with Seishi Bosatsu by the preaching of Kanmuryoju-kyo Sutra. The fundamental sword (本誓) of Kannon Bosatsu is great compassion and mercy. In Japan it had been shaped into a statue from the Asuka period and, linked with practical benefits in this world, it is widely believed without regard to time and place. It has a suibyo (a small water bottle). It is said that in the suibyo there is kudokusui (功徳水), meaning water that never dries up.

The pure land where Kannon lives is called Potaraka (Fudaraku) and is preached in 'Kegon-kyo Sutra' as 補怛落迦 of 摩頼矩咤国 in southern India.


Kanzeon Bosatsu is often assumed to be a female, as in the term 'Jibo (affectionate mother) Kannon.'
This is because Jizo Bosatsu is seen as a pair of Ichi-Sendai-Daihi-Sendai(一闡提大悲闡提) like Kannon, and many Kannon statues have feminine faces while Jizo is a male monk. Because Shaka calls Kannon 'zennanshi, a man who believes Buddhism' in Sutras and there is a word 'Kannon Daishi,' it was originally regarded as a male; however, in Kannon-gyo Sutra it gives a sermon with a feminine appearance to women (婦女身得度者、即現婦女身而為説法) so that gradually it has been assumed to have no sexuality. In later ages it tends to be seen as female. This is because the faith for Kannon spread widely from Fudaraku (Zhoushan islands and the east-central Chinese province of Zhejiang), a great holy place, to the East China Sea and Huang Hai, so that it came to be related to the folk faith of praying for a safe voyage and the faith in goddesses such as Matsu (of Taoism). Therefore, some people discuss the sexuality of Kannon, associating it with 'Henjo Nanshi (変成男子)' in Hoke-kyo sutra, but apparently there is no relationship between them.

Fumonjigen (普門示現)

When Kannon relieves people in this world, it changes its appearance in various ways according to the person's mind (character or ability to understand the teachings of Buddhism). This is called Fumonjigen (普門示現) by Kannon.

According to 'Kanzeon Bosatsu Fumon Hon No. 25' of the Hoke-kyo (Kannon-gyo) sutra, in order to provide relief to all people, Kanzeon Bosatsu adopts one of 33 different appearances to meet the needs of the particular person; these appearances include 'Busshin,' 'Shomonshin,' and 'Bonnoshin' (as below).

The number '33,' which is seen in the names such as the 33 Temples of Saigoku (西国三十三箇所) or Sanjusangendo (33-gendo) Temple, stems from this. Additionally, '33 Kannon' (see below) came to be believed based on the concept of Hoke-kyo Sutra in China and modern Japan, but there is no description of the 33 Kannon's names in Hoke-kyo sutra.

This idea of Fumonjigen led to the creation of various appearances of Kannon, such as Roku Kannon, Shichi Kannon, Jugoson Kannon and Sanjyu-san Kannon.

For this reason there are various shapes of statues of the Kannon, called Henge (Changed) Kannon (other than the basic Sho Kannon). Unlike the perception of Kannon as an attendant of Amidanyorai, Kannon Bosatsu, which was worshiped as an independent Buddha, tends to be prayed to for practical benefits in this world. Therefore, it is often portrayed as having a superhuman appearance with many faces and many hands, this being from the viewpoint of relieving all people and achieving all people's wishes.

33 forms of Kannon
(1) Busshin
(4) Daibonoshin
(7) Daijizaitenshin
(10) Shooshin
(13) Saikanshin
(16) Bikunishin
(19) Jinshin
(22) Doumokutennyoshin
(25) Tenshin
(28) Kendatsubashin
(31) Kinnarashin
(2) Byakushibutsushin
(5) Taishakushin
(8) Tendaishogunshin
(11) Chojashin
(14) Baramonshin
(17) Ubasokushin
(20) Hijinshin
(23) Donanshin
(26) Ryushin
(29) Ashurashin
(32) Magorakashin
(3) Shomonshin
(6) Jizaitenshin
(9) Bishamonshin
(12) Kojishin
(15) Bikushin
(18) Ubaishin
(21) Fujoshin
(24) Donyoshin
(27) Yashashin
(30) Karurashin
(33) Shukongoshin

Roku Kannon, 6 Kannon

In the Shingon sects Sho Kannon, Juichimen Kannon (i.e. Kannon with 11 faces (十一面観音), Senju Kannon, Bato Kannon, Nyoirin Kannon and Jundei Kannon are called Roku Kannon (six Kannon), and in the Tendai sects Fukukensaku Kannon is added to Roku Kannon instead of Jundei Kannon. The image of Roku Kannon was created from the idea that six kinds of Kannon relieve people who have lost their way in six worlds, based on Rokudo (Rokudo Rinne, a belief that every life repeats reincarnation into six types of worlds) as the following combinations show: Jigoku-do (地獄道) - Sho Kannon, Gaki-do (餓鬼道) - Senju Kannon, Chikusho-do (畜生道) - Bato Kannon, Shura-do (修羅道) - Juichimen Kannon, Jin-do (人道) - Jundei Kannon, Ten-do (天道) - Nyoirin Kannon.

Additionally, although Senju Kannon is thought to have 1,000 hands and one eye in each of those hands, many statues show '1,000 hands' using 42 hands because it is difficult to in fact shape 1,000 hands (with minor exceptions such as Toshodai-ji Temple Kondo). The origin from which Kanzeon Bosatsu got 1,000 hands is "Senjusengen Kanzeon Bosatsu Kodaienmanmugedaihishin Darani-kyo," as translated by Gabon-Datsuma. Daihishindarani, in the last part of this sutra, is still recited at Zen sect temples in China and Japan.

Shichi Kannon, 7 Kannon

Shichi Kannon is the seven appearances of Kannon in order to civilize people. It consists of the six Kannon of the Shingon sects and the Fukukensaku Kannon.

Jyugoson Kannon, 15 Kannon

Jyugoson Kannon is the fifteen appearances of 33 Kannon (see next section), i.e. Byakue, Yoe, Suigetsu, Yoryu, Amadai, Tara, Shokyo, Ruri, Ryuzu, Jikyo, Enko, Yuge, Renga, Takimi and Seyaku.

Sanjusan Kannon, 33 Kannon

The following names of 33 Kannon are described in "Butsuzozui (仏像図彙)," a book published in 1783. There are various origins of the 33 Kannon; among them, while some kannons (such as Byakue Kannon and Tarason Kannon) originated in India, others developed uniquely in China and Japan. Some kannons, such as Byakue Kannon and Yoryu Kannon, are often drawn in Buddhist pictures of Zen sects and in ink wash, but most kannons do not have the independent form of a statue.

Names of the 33 Kannons
(1) Yoryu Kannon
(4) Enko Kannon
(7) Renga Kannon
(10) Gyoran Kannon
(13) Ichiyo Kannon
(16) Enmei Kannon
(19) Nojo Kannon
(22) Yoe Kannon
(25) Kori Kannon, Hamaguri Kannon
(28) Merofu Kannon
(31) Funi Kannon
(2) Ryuzu Kannon
(5) Yuge Kannon
(8) Takimi Kannon
(11) Tokuo Kannon
(14) Shokei Kannon
(17) Shuho Kannon
(20) Anoku Kannon
(23) Ruri Kannon
(26) Rokuji Kannon
(29) Gassho Kannon
(32) Jiren Kannon
(3) Jikyo Kannon
(6) Byakue Kannon
(9) Seyaku Kannon
(12) Suigetsu Kannon
(15) Itoku Kannon
(18) Iwato Kannon
(21) Amadai Kannon
(24) Tarason Kannon
(27) Fuhi Kannon
(30) Ichinyo Kannon
(33) Shasui Kannon

Major temples that enshrine Kannon Bosatsu
Tochigi Rinno-ji Temple (Tachiki Kannon) - Senju Kannon Ryuzo Statue (千手観音立像) (an important cultural property)
Tochigi Oya-ji Temple - Senju Kannon (the Buddhist stone images of Oya) (a special historic site, important cultural property)
Tochigi Terayama Kannon-ji Temple - Senju Kannon oyobi Ryowakijizo (千手観音及両脇侍像) (an important cultural property)
Tokyo Senso-ji Temple - Sho Kannon
Kanagawa Hase-dera Temple (Kamakura City) - Juichimen Kannon
Kanagawa Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple - Byakue Kannon
Fukui Haga-ji Temple - Juichimen Kannon (an important cultural property)
Shiga Ishiyama-dera Temple - Nyoirin Kannon (an important cultural property)
Shiga Kogen-ji Temple (Dogan-ji Temple) - Juichimen Kannon (a national treasure)
Shiga Rakuya-ji Temple - Juichimen Kannon (an important cultural property)
Kyoto Koryu-ji Temple - Fukukensaku Kannon (a national treasure), Senju Kannon (standing image) (a national treasure), Sho Kannon (an important cultural property), Nyoirin Kannon (an important cultural property), Senju Kannon (seated image) (an important cultural property)
Kyoto Kiyomizu-dera Temple - Senju Kannon (main hall), Senju Kannon (penetralia) (an important cultural property)
Kyoto Sanjusangendo Temple - Senju Kannon (a national property, shaped by Tankei), the 1,000 statues of Senju Kannon (千手観音1,001躯)
Kyoto Rokuhara Mitsu-ji Temple - Juichimen Kannon (a national treasure)
Kyoto Daihoon-ji Temple - Roku Kannon (an important cultural property)
Kyoto Sanzenin Temple - Kuse Kannon (Guze Kannon) (an important cultural property)
Kyoto Kannon-ji Temple (Kyotanabe City) - Juichimen Kannon (a national treasure)
Nara Horyu-ji Temple - Kudara Kannon (a national treasure), Yumechigai Kannon, Yumetagai Kannon (a national treasure), Kuse Kannon, Guze Kannon (a national treasure), Kumen Kannon (a national treasure)
Nara Kofuku-ji Temple - Senju Kannon (a national treasure)
Nara Yakushi-ji Temple - Sho Kannon (a national treasure)
Nara Toshodai-ji Temple - Senju Kannon (a national treasure)
Nara Hokke-ji Temple - Juichimen Kannon (a national treasure)
Nara Hase-dera Temple - Juichimen Kannon (an important cultural property)
Nara Murou-ji Temple - Juichimen Kannon (a national treasure)
Osaka Taisho Kannon-ji Temple (Abiko Kannon) - Sho Kannon
Osaka Shitenno-ji Temple -Kuse Kannon (Guze Kannon)
Osaka Kanshin-ji Temple - Nyoirin Kannon (a national treasure)
Osaka Fujii-dera Temple - Senju Kannon (a national treasure)
Osaka Domyo-ji Temple (Fuiidera City) - Juichimen Kannon (a national treasure)
Hyogo Kakurin-ji temple (Kakogawa City) - Sho Kannon (an important cultural property), Juichimen Kannon (an important cultural property)
Hyogo Kanno-ji Temple - Nyoirin Kannon (an important cultural property), Sho Kannon (an important cultural property)
Hyogo Ikaruga-dera Temple - Nyoirin Kannon (an important cultural property)
Nara Todai-ji Temple - Nigatsudo - Juichimen Kannon, Hoke-do (Sangatsudo) - Fukukensaku Kannon (a national treasure), Kondo - Nyoirin Kannon (an important cultural property)
Nara Hase-dera Temple - Juichimen Kannon (an important cultural property)
Nara Daian-ji Temple - Juichimen Kannon, Bato Kannon, Yoryu Kannon, Sho Kannon, Fukukensaku Kannon (all are important cultural properties)
Nara Shorin-ji Temple - Juichimen Kannon (a national treasure)
Wakayama Dojo-ji Temple - Senju Kannon (a national treasure)
Wakayama Kongosanmaiin Temple - Juichimen Kannon (an important cultural property)
Wakayama Fudarakusan-ji Temple - Senju Kannon (an important cultural property)
Fukuoka Kannon-ji Temple - Juichimen Kannon, Bato Kannon, Sho Kannon, Fukukensaku Kannon (all important cultural properties)

Works of fiction in which Kannon Bosatsu appears
Journey to the West, "Monkey King"
In every scene Kannon Bosatsu appears several times to protect Sanzohoshi by the order of Shaka Nyorai. This story took a hint from the legend that Genjosanzo, a model of Sanzohoshi, traveled to the west with the Heart of Great Perfect Wisdom Sutra (Hannya Shingyo).

Kannon Bosatsu, in Buddhism, was depicted as Jiko Shinjin, having been changed by Dokyo during the Ming Dynasty; and there is a character, Jiko Dojin, in a novel "Feng-Shen-Yen-I," which was written at nearly the same time period, and later he became Kannon Bosatsu without any activity as Kannon Bosatsu. Additionally, in this novel Monju Bosatsu and Fugen Bosatsu appear as sacred images (天尊) and later come to be Bosatsu of Buddhism, thus showing the rich imagination of the Chinese.

[Original Japanese]