This classic Avalokiteshvara Tibetan thangka painting depicts him with 1000 arms and 11 heads. One time long ago Avalokiteshvara made a vow to forgo Buddhahood until he had relieved all the suffering of sentient life. However, when he realized the enormity of the obstacles that blocked his path he exploded into thousands of pieces.
Fortunately, Amitabha Buddha was able to reconstruct Avalokiteshvara. The purpose of the 11 heads is so that Avalokitesvara can better see and hear all of the suffering of sentient life. There are nine heads for Avalokitesvara, one head for Amitabha (top) and one head for wrathful Vajrapani. Additionally, the 1000 arms are so that the deity can work much faster to provide assistance to all sentient beings.
Each of Avalokitesvara’s 1000 hands has the eye of perfected wisdom in the palm. This symbolizes the union of the five method perfections (fingers) with the sixth perfection of wisdom (eye). Click here to learn more about the symbolism of 1000 Armed Avalokiteshvara.