1,000 Armed Avalokitesvara – Laura Santi


Avalokitesvara made a vow to relieve suffering and help others reach enlightenment.  He worked for eons but found that he hadn't helped others at all. In despair, his arms shattered into 1,000 arms, giving him the ability to help many more people.  He holds to his heart the wish-fulfilling gem of the Bodhichitta, the desire to grow spiritually. Three of his faces are loving, three peaceful, and four are fierce. Just like the idea of “tough love”, sometimes help isn’t delivered with a sweet smile, and sometimes it knows that its gifts are only received through fierce action.

Avalokitesvara’s dilemma at feeling like he wasn’t helping others is a window into the idea that we, as humble small people, can do very little in the tiny car of our ego.  We somehow have to transcend our limited existence to become a helper in the world. His form is bizarre, and his snarling faces confuse us—his image as a whole shows that form, and sometimes lifestyle, become “out of the norm” when a human being makes the leap that allows them to do such work.

Laura Santi began her working life as a graphic designer in 1981, before the time of computers, when art was done by hand. She moved into the Movement Center Ashram which teaches tantric practice following two lineages received through Sri Saraswati Swami Chetanananda and Lama Tsering Wangdu Rinpoche. Switching careers, she practiced acupuncture for 23 years, incorporating the silent version of Chöd in her practice. She returned to the arts in 2001, and now writes, and paints Buddhist and Hindu deities.

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