The answer is clear when we think about how the mothers of the world look after their children. When a mother suspects a fever, she quickly places her hand on the child’s forehead. Her hand is doing the work of her eyes. To know her child’s condition, with her entire being, she observes the child’s appearance, expression, complexion, tone of voice and so forth. That is why a mother knows the sound of her child’s voice well. When she hears her baby cry, she knows, by just hearing that sound, whether the child is hungry or wants his diaper changed.
Kannon is the work of seeing (kan) sounds (on). Sound is voice. For the child, the mother, who sees his voice with her entire being, is certainly the Kannon.
The Kannon’s work of compassion is to watch over us with His entire being working as His eye.
Shinmin Sakamura wrote a poem “Te ga Hoshii” (I Wish for a Hand), which is related to the Thousand-Hand Kannon. “In a drawing called ‘Mother,’ by a blind child, many hands were depicted. When seeing this, I clearly knew the truth of the Thousand-Hand Kannon. From that time on, each of those hands seemed full of life. Your strange figure was not strange in the least, I came to see your true noble form….”
When the blind child drew a picture of his mother, he had drawn many hands. For the child, the mother was a hand. The hand that always fed him. The hand that changed his clothes. The hand that led him wherever he went. The child had expressed his mother by drawing many hands.
When we think about it, haven’t we too have lived until this day by the help of many hands. No matter how many hands we draw, we could not draw all of those helping hands. This is surely what we call a thousand hands.
It is said that in the thousand hands there are a thousand eyes. We have lived by constantly being watched over. A parent is always watching over the child. Even if the parent has entered the grave, the parent is probably continuing to watch over the child. This is the mind of a parent. And that mind does indeed transform the entire body into an eye, and it is watching over the child. We can acquire the power to live when we feel that we are being watched over.
Moreover, if we realize that a thousand hands have helped us, we must next want to become a thousand hands ourselves and work for the sake of others. What had, until now, received the helping hands, changes to become the side that gives those helping hands.
Shinmin closes his poem by writing: “Oh, I also want those hands. For the sake of the children of Vietnam and Pakistan, and for the sake of the children of India and Nepal.”
I wish to have the courage to actually extend out my hands for everyday things and things that I can do. It is important that each one of us have the mind of the Thousand-Hand Kannon That Greatly Gives Happiness and Removes Suffering (Daiji Daihi Senju Kannon).
Compiled by Rev. Takamasa Yamamura.
Translated by Mr. Dean Makinodan