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Kanzeon is the Bodhisattva of Compassion
"Kanzeon" or "Kannon" is the Japanese name for the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Her name is usually translated as "she who hears the cries of the world." However, it would be just as appropriate to translate "she" as "he;" "hears" as "sees;" and "cries" as "sounds."
Historically, Kanzeon Bodhisattva appears to have been an Asiancultural reinterpretation of the original Indian Bodhisattva of Compassion, "Avalokitesvara." The latter was traditionally depicted in masculine form, and was viewed as the counterpoint to another masculine figure: Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom.
When Buddhism arrived in China, the Chinese people found it more appropriate to regard compassion as a relatively feminine quality. Accordingly, they began to portray their adaptation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, "Guanshiyin" or "Kwan Yin," as a female. Kanzeon underwent the same feminine transformation in Japan.
With her headress and flowing robes, the traditional Kanzeon bears a significant resemblance to the Blessed Virgin of Christianity. Some scholars believe that that resemblance is not coincidental, and that Asian artists were inspired by early missionary paintings of Mary. It would not be surprising for the Eastern and Western personifications of mercy to have been so mutually identified.
Although Kanzeon is honored as a Bodhisattva, she is not worshiped as a distant deity. Rather, she is invoked as the embodiment of the compassion within each of us, whether we be male or female, and in whatever corner of the world we live.