Avalokiteshvara supremely exemplifies the bodhisattva’s resolve to postpone his own buddhahood until he has helped every sentient being on earth achieve liberation (moksha; literally, “release”) from suffering (dukkha) and the process of death and rebirth (samsara). His name has been variously interpreted as “the lord who looks in every direction” and “the lord of what we see” (that is, the actual created world). In Tibet he is known as Spyan-ras gzigs (“With a Pitying Look”) and in Mongolia as Nidü-ber üjegči (“He Who Looks with the Eyes”). The title invariably used for him in Cambodia and Thailand is Lokeshvara (“Lord of the World”). In China, where he is often worshipped in female form, he is Guanyin (“Hears Cries”). In Sri Lanka he is known as Natha-deva (often mistakenly confused with Maitreya, the buddha yet to come).
Avalokiteshvara protects against shipwreck, fire, assassins, robbers, and wild beasts.