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The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (see entry) is often depicted with one Thousand Hands, each hand containing its own eye, to indicate the vows and powers of the Bodhisattva to see all those suffering (Dukkha) in the world and to reach into the world and pull them out of their suffering (Dukkha).

“If you cultivate the Great Compassion Mantra (see entry), you can obtain a Thousand Hands and a Thousand Eyes.

“But you say, 'I have two hands to pick things up with and two eyes to see things with. This is the scientific age. What possible use would I have for a Thousand Hands and a Thousand Eyes?'

“If you don't want them, then don't cultivate the Great Compassion Mantra. However, with a Thousand Eyes, you can shut your two eyes and give them a rest, and still see things. Isn't that wonderful Dharma?

“A Thousand Eyes can not only see, but illuminate. Your ordinary eyes can see ten or twenty miles, or with binoculars, perhaps a hundred miles. With a Thousand Eyes, you can see for a million miles, to the end of empty space and the Dharma Realm. You don't even need a television to watch the astronauts walking on the moon. It's so much less expensive than buying a television or photographs, or magazines. Now don't do you think a thousand eyes are useful?

“Not only that, but with a Thousand Eyes, you can look out from the back of your head and see what is in front of you. looking out in front of you, you can see what is behind you. And so the Venerable Hsu Yun wrote:

From behind your brains you can see your face:

You've caught the sparrow hawk;

A full set of eyes at the gate of the crown:

You've seized a flying bear.



Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara with One Thousand Hands and One Thousand Eyes

Most people can't see their own faces, but with a Thousand Eyes, you can see your own face and you can see behind you. You can even see what's inside your stomach. You can know how many little bugs, lazy bugs, gluttonous bugs, and dead bugs there are in your stomach. From the outside, you can see inside, and from the inside, you can see outside, just as if you were looking through a pane of glass. You can see it all: what your heart looks like and what your stomach is about to say, every movement of those machines inside you. Do you want a Thousand Eyes or not? Do you still think your two eyes are sufficient? Such is the miraculous function of a Thousand Eyes.

“What about a Thousand Hands? If you have only two hands, then when you pick something up in each of them, you can't pick up anything else. With one hand, you can take the thousand dollars; with a Thousand Hands, you can take a hundred million.

“Now let's divide some apples. You may take as many as you want. Of course, if you only have two hands, you can take only two. If you have a thousand, you can take a thousand. Isn't that useful? But a Thousand Hands are not for child's play. The reason to have a Thousand Hands is to save other people. If a thousand people are drowning and you have only two hands, you will only be able to rescue two of them. If you have a Thousand Hands, you will be able to reach into the water and pull them all out. Is that useful or not?

A Thousand Eyes observe, A thousand ears hear all; A Thousand Hands help and support living beings everywhere.

“Regardless of what trouble living beings find themselves in, you can save them with your Thousand Hands and pull them out of the sea of suffering (Dukkha). Without a Thousand Hands, you can't rescue so many people.

“The Bodhisattva Who Regards the sounds of the world has a Thousand Hands, not for stealing things, but for rescuing people. They are not for the purpose of surreptitiously picKing a thousand apples. You should be clear about this point.

“Where do the Thousand Hands and Eyes come from? They are born from the Great Compassion Mantra. You must recite the Great Compassion Mantra and cultivate the Great Compassion Dharma of the Forty-Two hands. The last of the Forty-Two hands is called the ”Uniting and Holding, the Thousand Arms hand.” Every time you recite this Mantra, your hands increase by Forty-Two. recite it once and you have Forty-Two more hands; recite it again and they increase by Forty-Two. recite it a hundred times and you will have 4,200, a thousand times, 42,000, and so forth. It's simply a matter of whether or not you cultivate. But the Thousand Hands and Eyes are not obtained in a day and a night. You must cultivate with effort every single day, never missing a day. If you cultivate daily according to Dharma, you will perfect the inconceivably wonderful function of enlightenment, but if you cultivate today and quit tomorrow, it is of no use at all. In the world, if you want a Ph.D., you have to study for fourteen or fifteen years. How much more effort is needed to study the Buddha Dharma! Unless you continually use true, genuine effort, you will have no success. . . .” (DS 2-4)

In the Shurangama Sutra, the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara states:

For example, I may make appear one head, Three heads, five heads, seven heads, nine heads, eleven heads, and so forth, until there may be one hundred eight heads, a thousand heads, ten thousand heads, or eighty-four thousand Vajra heads; two arms, four arms, six arms, eight arms, ten arms, twelve arms, fourteen, sixteen]], eighteen arms, or twenty arms, twenty-four arms, and so forth until there may be One [[hundred eight arms, a thousand arms, or eighty-four thousand mudra arms; two eyes, Three eyes, four eyes, nine eyes, and so forth until there may be One [[hundred eight eyes, a Thousand Eyes, ten Thousand Eyes, or eighty-four thousand pure and precious eyes, sometimes compassionate, sometimes awesome, sometimes displaying wisdom to rescue and protect living beings so that they may attain Great self-Mastery. (SS V]] 178-179)


1) Chinese: chyan shou chyan yan , 2) Sanskrit: .

See Also: Bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara (Bodhisattva)*, Dharani Sutra.

BTTS References: SS IV]]; Great Compassion Dharma transmission verses; DS 2-5; SS V]] 178-179; VBS

  1. 197, p. 3.

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thousand_hands_and_eyes.txt · Last modified: 2018/02/26 18:13 (external edit)