Zen Wisdom 220

Avalokitesvara serves as a giant reflector, upon which thousands of people direct their thoughts. If these individuals direct their thoughts to different objects, it is like thousands of weak flashlights shining with limited power. But if people concentrate their thoughts on a single entity, it is like shining all of the flashlights' beams onto a giant mirror, increasing tremendously the illumination. Avalokitesvara is such a mirror. Externally, this may seem similar to the practices of many other religions, but the perspective is different. Other religions say that power comes from the deity one prays to. Buddhism maintains that power comes from the person or people who pray.

Some Buddhists who do not practice well, or do not have strong faith in themselves and their methods, will seek the help of bodhisattvas, or ask that a master transfer spiritual power to them. Ch'an masters, as well as serious practitioners, would never seek anything ─ except Dharma ─ from Buddhas and bodhisattvas. They are willing to help and give to others, but they will not seek supernatural power or spiritual benefits. It is alright for beginning practitioners to seek external help, as long as they realize that, eventually they must not seek at all, that they must rely solely on themselves. Help that comes from outside can only temporarily relieve your problems. It will not penetrate to the root and solve your problems. The basic approach, and in fact, the only thing that works, is to rely on yourself, and to solve your own problems through practice.