Guanyin is a Bodhisattva associated with compassion. Popularly known as the Goddess of Mercy, this was an adage given to her by Jesuit missionaries. Guanyin is short for Guanshiyin, which means “The Being Who Perceives the Sounds of the World.”
This Bodhisattva is associated with hearing the cries of those who need his or her help. She is an all-seeing, all-hearing being who is called upon by worshipers in times of uncertainty, despair and fear.
The Thousand-Armed representation of Guanyin is the most popular among her different esoteric forms.
In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is a person who is on the path towards bodhi awakening. A key element of the awakening path is the concept of a bodhisattva’s praṇidhāna – which refers to a resolution, vow, prayer, wish and aspiration.
The most common bodhisattva vows are a series of “four extensive vows” as outlined by the Tiantai Patriarch Zhiyi. There are many others with differing schools of thoughts regarding the path that can and should be taken.
The destination, however, is one and the same.
“Those who have not yet been ferried over, I will ferry over.
Those who have not yet understood, I will cause them to understand.
Those who have not settled themselves, I will cause them to be settled.
Those who have not attained nirvana, I will cause them to attain nirvana.”
The bodhisattva of Guanyin is seen as compassionate saviour figure that constantly works for the good of all beings.
The Avalokiteshvara chapter of the Lotus Sutra even states that calling Avalokiteshvara can help save someone from natural disasters, demons and other calamities. It can also protect one from afflictions such as: lust, anger and ignorance.
Bodhisattvas can also transform themselves into whatever physical form is useful to help sentient beings–a god, a bird, a male or female and even a Buddha.
Due to this, bodhisattvas are seen as beings that one can pray to for aid and consolation from the sufferings of everyday life as well as for guidance on the path to enlightenment.