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Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara) is the Bodhisattva of Compassion. A bodhisattva is an enlightened being who has decided to delay becoming a fully enlightened Buddha and who lives in a compassionate spirit life for the sake of all beings He has taken vows to save all beings. With a mantra, Om mani padme hum! (Hail the jewel in the lotus), he tirelessly attempts to deliver all beings from suffering. He appears in many different forms to assist suffering beings. Tibetans believe that Chenrezig, as a disciple of the Buddha, made a vow of compassion to free the Tibetan peoples from their violent ways: "May I be able to establish in emancipation all living beings in the barbaric Land of Snow; where the beings are so hard to discipline and none of the buddhas of the three times has stepped...May I be able to mature and emancipate them, each according to his/her own way. May that gloomy barbaric country become bright, like an island of precious jewels." (Geshe Wangyal , Door of Liberation, New York, Lotsawa, 1978, pp. 54-55).
He is the patron of Tibet. The Tibetan people claim descent from Chenrezig, who in the form of a monkey sired the original inhabitants of Tibet. Chenrezig, according to Tibetan legends, has appeared in numerous forms to defend Buddhist teachings. He has been identified with the Tibetan emperor Songtsen Gampo (617-698 C.E.) and the successive lineage of Dalai Lamas. The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the current incarnation of Chenrezig.
Tibetans believe that every person whose heart is moved by love and compassion, who deeply and sincerely acts for the benefit of others without concern for fame, profit, social position, or recognition expresses the activity of Chenrezig. Love and compassion are the true signs revealing the presence of Chenrezig. Compassion is the most important religious practice. For Tibetan Buddhists, compassion is sensitivity to the sufferings of others and attempt to relieve suffering. It is the realization that we (human beings, animals, and the earth itself) are all interconnected. The Buddha is an example of compassion, for he taught human beings the way to freedom.