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IMAGE: Senju Kannon (Guanyin, Avalokiteshwara)
In the Karandavyuha Sutra, Avalokiteshwara is called "The One with a Thousand Arms and Thousand eyes" and is described as superior to all gods and buddhas of the Indian pantheon. The Sutra also states that "it is easier to count all the leaves of every tree of every forest and all the grains of sand in the universe than to count the blessings and power of Avalokiteshwara". This version of Avalokiteshwara with a thousand arms depicting the power of all gods also shows various buddhas in the crown depicting the wisdom of all buddhas. It is called Senju Kannon in Japan and 1000 statues of this nature can be found at the popular Sanjūsangen-dō temple of Kyoto.
One Buddhist legend from the Complete Tale of Guanyin and the Southern Seas presents Guanyin as vowing to never rest until she had freed all sentient beings from saṃsāra or cycle of rebirth. Despite strenuous effort, she realised that there were still many unhappy beings yet to be saved. After struggling to comprehend the needs of so many, her head split into eleven pieces. The buddha Amitābha, upon seeing her plight, gave her eleven heads to help her hear the cries of those who are suffering. Upon hearing these cries and comprehending them, Avalokiteśvara attempted to reach out to all those who needed aid, but found that her two arms shattered into pieces. Once more, Amitābha came to her aid and appointed her a thousand arms to let her reach out to those in need.
Many Himalayan versions of the tale include eight arms with which Avalokitesvara skillfully upholds the dharma, each possessing its own particular implement, while more Chinese-specific versions give varying accounts of this number.
In China, it is said that fishermen used to pray to her to ensure safe voyages. The titles Guanyin of the Southern Ocean and "Guanyin (of/on) the Island" stem from this tradition.