Skip to main content
Select Source:

Bodhisattva

Bodhisattva (Skt.; Pāli, bodhisatta, ‘Enlightenment-Being’; Chin., P'u-sa; Jap., Bosatsu; Korean, Posal; Tib., byang.chub sems.dpa, ‘Hero of the Thought of Enlightenment’). In Theravāda Buddhism a title exclusively identifying historical Buddhas (i.e. Śākyamuni) in their previous lives, before their Buddhahood was attained; and in Mahāyāna Buddhism to describe any being who, out of compassion, has taken the bodhisattva vow to become a Buddha for the sake of all sentient beings. Strictly, an ordinary person who has ‘engendered bodhicitta’ (generated a desire for enlightenment in order to save all beings from suffering) and taken the bodhisattva vow is a bodhisattva, but there are also ‘celestial bodhisattvas’, such as Mañjuśrī and Avalokiteśvara, who are almost Buddhas in their attainments.

A bodhisattva's progress is determined by his practice of the six (sometimes given as ten) perfections (pāramitās) which are: generosity and morality; patience and energy; meditation and wisdom.

This contrast between the bodhisattva and the arhat or pratyekabuddha ideals is the principal distinction between the Mahāyāna and Theravāda schools, since the overwhelming message of the Mahāyāna is that the nirvāna with which the arhats and pratyekabuddhas content themselves is not the highest goal. Some bodhisattvas, such as Avalokiteśvara, who in some Tibetan schools is considered to have already attained Buddhahood, even enter the hell-realms in order to alleviate pain there. The Mahāyāna notion of the bodhisattva as a being who views his own comfort (and sometimes his vows) as concerns subordinate to the needs of others, thus increased the social dimension of Buddhism and emphasized the value of lay life alongside monkhood. In Vimalakīrtinirdeśa-sūtra (c.2nd-3rd cents. CE), for example, it is the lay bodhisattva Vimalakīrti who is the hero, and Mañjuśrī is the only other bodhisattva deemed wise enough to converse with him.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bodhisattva." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 14 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bodhisattva." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 14, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bodhisattva

"Bodhisattva." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved December 14, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bodhisattva

bodhisattva

bodhisattva (bō´dĬsät´wə) [Sanskrit,=enlightenment-being], in early Buddhism the term used to refer to the Buddha before he attained supreme enlightenment; more generally, any being destined for enlightenment or intent on enlightenment. The spiritual path of the bodhisattva is the central teaching of Mahayana Buddhism. One becomes a bodhisattva by arousing the "mind of enlightenment," taking a vow to attain supreme enlightenment for the sake of all beings. The bodhisattva does not aspire to leave the round of birth-and-death (samsara) before all beings are saved; he is thus distinguished from the arahant of earlier Buddhism, who allegedly seeks nirvana only for himself and who, according to Mahayana teaching, has an inferior spiritual attainment. The practice of a bodhisattva consists of the six "perfections" or paramitas: charity (dana), morality (sila), forbearance (ksanti), diligence (virya), meditation (dhyana), and wisdom (prajna). Both laymen and monks may be regarded as bodhisattvas. In addition, many celestial bodhisattvas are worshiped along with the Gautama Buddha and the buddhas of other worlds. The most important celestial bodhisattvas are Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion; Manjusri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, and Maitreya, who in heaven awaits birth as the next buddha. See also sunyata.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"bodhisattva." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 14 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"bodhisattva." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 14, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bodhisattva

"bodhisattva." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 14, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bodhisattva

Bodhisattva

Bodhisattva

A Buddhist term for one who exists in enlightenment of truth and compassion guided by love and wisdom. In Mahayana Buddhism, the bodhisattva is the ideal of progress; in Theravada Buddhism, the bodhisattva is an aspirant for Buddha-hood. In Theosophy the bodhisattva is the director of the spiritual development of each root-race and founder of religions, which he propagates through his messengers.

Sources:

The Bodhisattva Doctrine in Buddhism. Waterloo, Ontario: Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1981.

Candragomin. Difficult Beginnings: Three Works on the Bodhisattva Path. Boston: Shambhala, 1985.

Dayal, Har. The Bodhisattva Doctrine in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature. Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass, 1970.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bodhisattva." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. 14 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bodhisattva." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 14, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bodhisattva

"Bodhisattva." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved December 14, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bodhisattva

bodhisattva

bodhisattva (bodhista) In Theravada Buddhism, an individual who is about to reach nirvana. In Mahayana Buddhism, the term is used to denote an individual on the verge of enlightenment who delays his salvation in order to help mankind.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"bodhisattva." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 14 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"bodhisattva." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 14, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bodhisattva

"bodhisattva." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 14, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bodhisattva

bodhisattva

bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism, a person who is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so through compassion for suffering beings.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"bodhisattva." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 14 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"bodhisattva." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 14, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bodhisattva

"bodhisattva." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved December 14, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bodhisattva