Kanzeon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, is usually depicted as having myriad hands and eyes. The symbolism is clear: she sees the suffering of individual beings through her manifold eyes and she relieves that suffering through acting with her manifold hands.
But the name Kanzeon doesn’t mean someone who sees the suffering of the world, it means someone who hears the suffering of the world.
So what are we to make of her manifold eyes and hands?
Kanzeon is not the bodhisattva of kindness or good deeds, or pity; she is the bodhisattva of compassion, ‘feeling with.’ If her eyes and hands are manifold -limitless- then the entire universe is hands and eyes, expressions and perspectives. And nothing else. We can’t simply see those hands and eyes from our limited perspective. If we were an ocean, we might imagine that each wave, each current was our hand and each glint of light was our eye.
Why do we suffer? We don’t suffer because we feel pain, we suffer because we don’t feel anything. Or, we suffer because our experience of our feeling world is just a frozen and fixed mass of thought and emotion, that we can neither remove or dissolve.
Kanzeon is identical with the practice of zazen because when we practice zazen we are in this simple feeling state, unconstrained by self, by ownership, by interpretation, by fear, by attachment.
When we are sitting, sitting in a balanced way, our experience of ourselves is not as something fixed or closed, but as something open and spacious, and rather than experiencing ourselves as something in opposition to the world, it as if all being and all time is flowing into this person and leaping out of this person.