In Buddhism, the “Bodhisattva” (Snskt) is one who has realized enlightenment, or “nirvana,” but out of compassion for the suffering of sentient beings has deliberately resolved to delay reaching final nirvana, complete release from samsaric rebirth, in order to aid others in achieving enlightenment. This is a principal doctrine of the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, also known as the northern transmission, since it passed into the rest of Asia from India northwest via the Silk Road. It is the motivation that drives spiritual development in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions in contrast with the model of the arhat, which is the motivating ideal in Theravada Buddhism, the southern transmission, going from Sri Lanka to the rest of Southeast Asia.
The Bodhisattva vow is taken by lay and monastics alike in the Mahayana tradition and involves the commitment to work for the release not only of oneself (the goal of the arhat) but for all sentient beings. The eighth-century Indian Buddhist...
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