Guan Yin is the bodhisattva of compassion, revered by buddhists as the goddess of mercy. Her name is short for ‘Guan Shi Yin’. ‘Guan’ means to observe, watch, or monitor; ‘Shi’ means the World; ‘Yin’ means sounds, specifically sounds of those who suffer.
Bodhi means wisdom or enlightenment; sattva means being or essence. The two together and you get bodhisattva, a being who is enlightened and ready to transcend the cycles of birth and death, but chooses to return to the material World in order to help other people reach the same level of enlightenment. This is the ultimate demonstration of pure compassion.
The thousand hands of this bodhisattva represent Guan Yin‘s many abilities to render assistance. There are a thousand eyes on these hands which give Guan Yin great powers to observe the World. Guan Yin also has many faces so she can become who people need her to be, because her help is given in a way that is literally selfless.
Although Guan Yin is depicted as a beautiful Asian woman, anyone can be a bodhisattva regardless of appearance, race and gender. Whenever you act in accordance with a natural impulse of total compassion, you have taken another step toward becoming a bodhisattva yourself.