Special Topics

Q9:What is the meaning of the term "Universal Gate" from the Lotus Sutra's Universal Gate Chapter on Bodhisattva Guanyin?

"Universal," in the context of the chapter's title means "widespread and prevalent," whereas "Gate" indicates that the door is "unobstructed, embracing, and open" to all sentient beings from the ten directions. The "Universal Gate" is also a term that marks Bodhisattva Guanyin's (Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, in Sanskrit) meritorious epithet.

When Bodhisattva Guanyin initially aspired to practice the Dharma, he made a great vow by wishing all sentient beings to leave suffering behind and attain happiness. After realizing the Dharma method of the perfect penetration of the faculty of hearing, Bodhisattva Guanyin has since been engaged in universally saving and delivering sentient beings from all kinds of distress without discrimination. With his wondrous supernormal powers as the fruition of his perfect penetration, Bodhisattva Guanyin can observe the various causes and conditions that would allow a person to be delivered. He can then manifest into myriad forms, making use of all kinds of Dharma methods and utilizing his transcendental power to accommodate sentient beings with different needs. This is why Bodhisattva Guanyin's Dharma method of showing great compassion is also known as the Universal Gate with Manifold Forms of Manifestations.
"Great Compassion," "Equality," and "Universal Gate" are all synonymous. The Tiantai and Huayen scholar Ying-Shan Chen believes that these three Buddhist terminologies perfectly express how Bodhisattva Guanyin aspires to embrace, transform, and educate all sentient beings without leaving anyone behind. In the Flower Adornment Sutra (the Avatamsaka Sutra, in Sanskrit), the three aforementioned terminologies are called the great compassionate practices. In the Lotus Sutra's Universal Gate Chapter on Bodhisattva Guanyin, they are referred to as the "Universal Gate," indicating that Bodhisattva Guanyin regards all beings in an entirely equal manner. After all, this is the genuine meaning of great compassion and universal gate.

Extended reading:

Q1: Why is Guanyin known as "Guan-shi-yin" in Chinese Buddhism?

Q2: From which kinds of suffering does Bodhisattva Guanyin liberate us from?

Q3: How does Bodhisattva Guanyin hear sentient beings' cries for help?

Q4: How does Bodhisattva Guanyin rescue sentient beings?

Q5: How do sentient beings resonate with Bodhisattva Guanyin?

Q6: Why does Bodhisattva Guanyin often manifest into a female form, if he has a myriad amount of manifestations?

Q7: Is it especially efficacious to pray and ask Bodhisattva Guanyin for a child?

Q8: Why didn't Bodhisattva Guanyin accept Bodhisattva Inexhaustible Intent's offerings?

Q9: What is the meaning of the term "Universal Gate" from the Lotus Sutra's Universal Gate Chapter on Bodhisattva Guanyin?

Resource: Humanity Magazine #386 (人生雜誌第386期)
Translation: Ariel Shen (沈純湘)
Edited by: Keith Brown, Chia-Cheng Chang (張家誠)
Photo: Quan Tsai (蔡全)