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Hearing the cries

Avalokiteshvara is the one who calmly hears and considers all of the worlds sounds of woe. The name Regarder of the World's Cries implies that empathy and active listening are primary practices of compassion. Just to be present, to remain upright and aware in the face of suffering, without needing to react, is compassion. Often, when we are troubled, what we most yearn for is this acceptance, to be heard and have our pain recognized. Such attentive presence may be more the essence of compassion than our attempts to problem-solve, to manipulate the world or our psyches in order to "fix" difficult situations.

This careful observation of the words and cries is the compassionate practice of counselors and therapists, empathetically giving their presence and paying attention to the conflicts and confusion of others. We might also remember to carefully regard our own cries, the suffering of all the beings included within us. We cannot offer compassion to others if we cannot be compassionate, accepting, and forgiving of ourselves.

Avalokiteshvara uses implements effectively and responds with awareness and skill, but she also has a strong receptive component. Avalokiteshvara is less of an activist than Samantabhadra. Thinking of the stately pace of his elephant, we can see Samantabhadra as deliberate, imbued with intention, using his knowledge to systematically change the conditions of the world. Avalokiteshvara is instead responsive without deliberation, simply meeting the immediate cries and needs of beings as they appear before her.