觀音菩薩出家法會The Renunciation of Guan Yin Bodhisattva


In Buddhism, a person who vows to become a fully enlightened Buddha is called a bodhisattva. There are different grades of bodhisattvas.

Just as in the university there are students studying for a bachelors’s degree, those studying for a master’s degree, those studying for a PhD, and those with only their dissertation to complete, so too bodhisattvas fall into four broad levels.



First, there are bodhisattvas who have newly generated bodhicitta, the aspiration for full enlightenment, and have just started to accumulate merits and wisdom. These are like students seeking a BA or BS degree.

Second, there are bodhisattvas who have been diligently practicing the six pāramitās: generosity, etc. These are like students in a master’s program.

首先,是初發心菩薩, 志求圓滿覺悟,才剛開始積集福德智慧資糧。這些就像大學部求取(文學院或理學院的學士)學位的學生。


Still further, there are bodhisattvas at a very high level, who have advanced in their practice of the six pāramitās and gained deep wisdom and high realizations. These are like the PhD students.


And finally, there are bodhisattvas who are very close to buddhahood, with just a few steps remaining. These are like PhD students who are writing their doctoral dissertation—who are almost finished with their work.


In Chinese Mahāyāna Buddhism, there are four bodhisattvas at this last level who are most highly venerated.

These are: the great wisdom bodhisattva, Manjushri; the great practice bodhisattva, Samantabhadra (Puxian); the great vows bodhisattva, Kshitigarbha (Dizang Wang); and the great compasssion bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara, or in Chinese, Guan Yin.



In a Buddha, these four qualities are perfectly combined, but bodhisattvas specialize in one or the other. Today we are celebrating the renunciation of Guan Yin, the bodhisattva of great compassion.


In Indian Buddhism, Avalokiteshvara is primarily depicted as a male, but in Chinese Buddhism, at some point, he was transformed into a female. Thus people often describe Guan Yin as “the goddess of mercy.” But actually Guan Yin is not a goddess, but an advanced bodhisattva. I will refer to Guan Yin as female.

在印度佛教,觀音主要說為男身, 但在中國佛教,在某個時候,轉為女身,因此,人們經常稱她為慈悲的觀音娘娘。不過事實上,觀音不是女神娘娘,而是高階的菩薩。我說觀音時,以女身來說她。

The name “Guan Yin” means “one who contemplates sounds,” or Guan Shi Yin, “one who contemplates the sounds of the world.” Why is Guan Yin called by this name? Because Guan Yin directs her mind to listen to the cries of suffering arising from the world.


Every day, millions of beings are undergoing suffering. If they hear of Guan Yin and single-mindedly call her name, then, it is said, she will perceive their cries and deliver them from their suffering.


Just as sufferings are of many different kinds, so the activity of Guan Yin is of many kinds, corresponding to these different kinds of suffering. Guan Yin delivers those caught in a raging fire; she rescues those caught in a disaster at sea; she rescues those threatened by demons and evil spirits; she rescues those being attacked by bandits. She rescues those overcome by passion from their passions. She helps a woman who wants a child to conceive.


Guan Yin manifests in many different forms in order to benefit beings. She takes on the form appropriate for the people to be trained. The Lotus Sutra mentions 32 forms. She manifests as a Buddha, as a wise disciple of the Buddha, as a deity, as a king, as a monk or nun, as a layman or laywoman. Just as the needs of people are many, so GY’s manifestaions are many.


Today’s ceremony celebrates the renunciation of Guan Yin.今天的法會,紀念/慶祝觀音菩薩出家。

The Chinese expression, chu jia, means “to leave home.” This expression has a profound meaning. We usually think that chu jia means merely “to give up the household life to be ordained as a monk or nun.” But that is only part of the meaning.

The “home” in which we have been living is not only a house and family, but at a deeper level, it is “the home of saṃsāra,” of birth and death.



Because we have been attached to our “home” in saṃsāra through time without beginning, we have been taking birth, growing old, and meeting suffering over and over.

The Buddha says that during our time in saṃsāra we have shed more tears than the water in the great ocean, more blood than the water in the great ocean. So much suffering, it is inconceivable!

The Buddha taught that we wander in saṃsāra because of our craving and attachments.

We’re attached to wife, to husband, to children; to money and position and power, to fame and status. We find it hard to let go.




We form attachments because of our ignorance, and thus we live in a false home, an insecure home–the home of impermanence, of birth and death.


But beyond this false home of saṃsāra is our “true home,” the really secure home of nirvāna—the state of perfect bliss and freedom.

To arrive at our true home we have to cut off craving and destroy ignorance. And so we leave our “false home,” our home in birth and death, in order to take up the practice that will lead to our true home.



That is the deeper meaning of monastic ordination. We enter the monastic life not merely to perform ceremonies and rituals, but to cultivate the Buddha’s path without the obstacles of the household life. One leaves home to be free from the thousand troubles faced by people living at home.

So Guan Yin left home in order to cultivate the path. Having left home, she took up the precepts of a homeless person.



She practiced meditation and cultivated samādhi, perfecting the one-pointed mind. She developed insight and cultivated wisdom. With her wisdom she broke through her ignorance and delusions and eliminated her defilements. In this way, she gradually entered the world-transcending bodhi path and became an accomplished bodhisattva.



In our own lives, we can rely on the great compassion of Guan Yin to help us in times of difficulty.

But we must develop an affinity with Guan Yin. We cannot just call on her on rare occasions.


We need to practice: to recollect her name, to recollect her qualities, to meditate on her image, to make offerings to her.

She is a light to guide us out of darkness, a boat to carry us to the far shore, a hand that lifts us up when we have fallen, a mother that hears our sorrows and comforts us.

我們要憶念她的名號,憶念她的功德、 觀想她的形相,對她作供養。





But we should not only worship Guan Yin. We should try to be like Guan Yin. this means we must listen to the cries of the world and try to help those afflicted with suffering.


It is said in the Avatamsaka Sutra (Hua Yen Jing) that the essence of buddhahood is the mind of great compassion. Guan Yin is the bodhisattva who most fully manifests the great compassion of all the buddhas. Therefore, if we wish to follow in the footsteps of Guan Yin, we should not only venerate Guan Yin, but also follow Guan Yin in the practice of great compassion.


Now we will begin the ceremony. 我們現在法會開始。

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