The Lotus Sutra, expounded by the Buddha at the end of his teaching career, was first written down in approximately 200 C.E. In the following excerpt, taken from Chapter 25, Shakyamuni Buddha explains to a member of the assembly, the Bodhisattva of Inexhaustible Intent, why Avalokiteshvara is called “Perceiver of the World’s Sounds.”


 Avalokiteshvara, Thailand, 7th Century, bronze with inlaid eyes. Courtesy of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco/The Avery Brundage Collection.
Avalokiteshvara, Thailand, 7th Century, bronze with inlaid eyes. Courtesy of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco/The Avery Brundage Collection.

The Buddha said:

“Good man, suppose there are innumerable hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of living beings who are undergoing various trials and suffering. If they hear of this bodhisattva Perceiver of the World’s Sounds and single-mindedly call his name, then at once he will perceive the sound of their voices and they will all gain deliverance from their trials.

“If someone, holding fast to the name of Bodhisattva Perceiver of the World’s Sounds, should enter a great fire, the fire could not burn him. This would come about because of this bodhisattva’s authority and supernatural power. If one were washed away by a great flood and called upon his name, one would immediately find himself in a shallow place.

“Suppose there were a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a million living beings who, seeking for gold, silver, lapis lazuli, seashell, agate, coral, amber, pearls, and other treasures, set out upon the great sea. And suppose a fierce wind should blow their ship off course and it drifted to the land of the rakshasa demons [malignant forces that sometimes also appear as protectors of the dharma]. If among those people there is even just one who calls the name Bodhisattva Perceiver of the World’s Sounds, then all those people will be delivered from their troubles with the rakshasas. This is why he is called Perceiver of the World’s Sounds.

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