For centuries, Kuan Yin has epitomized the great ideal of Mahayana Buddhism in her role as 'bodhisattva (Chinese 'p'u-sa)--literally 'a being of Bodhi, or enlightenment,' who is destined to become a Buddha but has foregone the bliss of Nirvana with a vow to save all children of God.
Quan Yin carries the Goddess and Divine Mother aspect of Buddhism. The same Goddess and Divine energy carried by the Virgin Mary in Christianity. In the Egyptian mysteries it is carried by Isis. In Hinduism it is carried by Shakti, wife of Vishnu, by Parvarti, wife of Shiva, by Radha, wife of Krishna, and by Sita, wife of Rama.
Quan Yin's name is a translation of the Sanskrit name of her chief progenitor which is Avalokitesvara, also known as Avalokita. In its proper form it is Kuanshih Yin, which means 'She who harkens to the cries of the world.'
In Korea, Japan, and China she is called Quan Yin. She is a celestial bodhisattva and an ascended master. One of her jobs in the celestial spheres is to sit on the board of the Lord of Karma.
Buddhist mythology tells of Avalokitesvara's being born from a ray of light that sprang from Amitabha Buddha's right eye. He immediately said, 'Om Mane Padme Hum'. This is one of the mantras by which he can be invoked in Buddhist tradition.
Avalokitesvara came to be known by most Tibetans as Buddha's earthly representation and as chief guardian of the dharma (doctrine) until the advent of Maitreya Buddha.
Avalokitesvara and Quan Yin are embodiments of compassion.
She is roughly equivalent to Green Tara in Tibetan Buddhism.
In Tibetan Buddhism Quan Yin is seen in her male form as Avalokitesvara. Some feel that the current Dali Lama is an incarnation of Avalokitesvara. It is thought that the female form of Avalokitesvara, Quan Yin, originated in the twelfth or thirteenth century in both China and Japan.
The Saddharma Pundarika Sutra affirms that Avalokitesvara had 357 incarnations.