Bodhisattva, aka: Bodhi-sattva, Bodhisatta; 11 Definition(s)


Bodhisattva means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

"A being (striving) for Awakening"; the term used to describe the Buddha before he actually become Buddha, from his first aspiration to Buddhahood until the time of his full Awakening. Sanskrit form: Bodhisattva.(Source): Access to Insight: A Glossary of Pali and Buddhist Terms

'Enlightenment Being', is a being destined to Buddha-hood, a future Buddha.

According to the traditional belief a Bodhisatta, before reaching his last birth as a Buddha on this earth, is living in the Tusita-heaven (s. deva), the heaven of bliss. Cf. A. IV, 127; VIII, 70.

In the Pāli Canon and commentaries, the designation 'Bodhisatta' is given only to Prince Siddhattha before his enlightenment and to his former existences.

The Buddha himself uses this term when speaking of his life prior to enlightenment (e.g. M.4, M.26).

Bodhisatta-hood is neither mentioned nor recommended as an ideal higher than or alternative to Arahantship; nor is there any record in the Pāli scriptures of a disciple declaring it as his aspiration.

See bodhi and the Pail Names Dic.

(Source): Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines
context information

Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

1) Bodhisattva (बोधिसत्त्व) according to the according to the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra (chapter VI).—“Bodhi is the path of the Buddhas (buddhamārga); Sattva is either a being or a great mind. The Bodhisattva is the being who is going to obtain the mind, indestructible (aheya) and infrangible (acyuta) like a diamond mountain (vajra-parvata), of the qualities (guṇa) of the Path of the Buddhas. Such is the great mind”.

There are two kinds of Bodhisattvas, with regression (vaivartika) or without regression (avaivartika) as is the case for the Arhats who are susceptible of falling back (parihāṇa-dharman) or not susceptible of falling back (aparihāṇa-dharman). The non-regressing Bodhisattvas are called the true Bodhisattvas for they are it truly; the others, the Bodhisattvas susceptible of falling back, are called Bodhisattva by extension. In the same way, those who have found the fourfold path are called the true assembly (saṃgha) for they are really it; the others, those who have not found the path, are called assembly by extension.

2) Bodhisattva (बोधिसत्त्व) or Bodhisattvabhūmi refers to one of the ten grounds (bhūmi) shared by adepts of the three Vehicles (sādhāraṇabhūmi) according to a note from the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra (chapter XX). This (bodhisattva-bhūmi) is the shared grounds from Śukladarśanabhūmi to Kṛtāvibhūmi, as has been said above. It is also the shared grounds going from the pramuditā-bhūmi to the dharmamegha-bhūmi: all are called bodhisattva-bhūmi. Some say that all the grounds from the production of the first mind of bodhi to the diamond-like concentration (vajropama-samādhi) are called bodhisattva-bhūmi.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

Bodhisattvas have realized profound emptiness, the realization that their own personalities as well as all phenomena are actually empty of any self-nature. This realization is called non-dual wisdom [gnyis su med pa’i ye shes] and endows them with greater compassion for all sentient beings. Having no doubts, they do not hesitate to directly enter into any situation that could benefit beings. Such courage and compassion can only spring from absolute bodhicitta. This complete realization of bodhicitta clearly distinguishes followers of the Hīnayāna vehicle from followers of the Mahāyāna.

Bodhisattvas are heroes who pursue the benefit of other beings without the slightest hesitation. The word bodhisattva means ’a courageous being determined to gain enlightenment’.

(Source): Kunpal: Shantideva's Bodhisattva-charyavatara
Mahayana book cover
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Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.


Bodhisattva (बोधिसत्त्व) according to the according to the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra (chapter VII).—“In the Abhidharma, the disciples of Kātyāyanīputra say: Who is called Bodhisattva? He who has awakened himself and then awakens others is called Bodhisattva; he who necessarily will become Buddha is called Bodhisattva. Bodhi is the wisdom (prajñā) of the saint who has destroyed the impurities (kṣīṇāsrava). The person born from this wisdom, protected by the sages and served by the sages, is called Bodhisattva”.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra (Abhidharma)
Abhidhamma book cover
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Abhidhamma (अभिधम्म) usually refers to the last section (piṭaka) of the Pali canon and includes schematic classifications of scholastic literature dealing with Theravāda Buddhism. Primary topics include psychology, philosophy, methodology and metaphysics which are rendered into exhaustive enumerations and commentaries.

General definition (in Buddhism)

Bodhisattva in Sanskrit, Bodhisatta in Pali. A Future Buddha who is a being destined to Buddhahood. Bodhi means Enlightenment and Sattva means Sentient and Conscious. Therefore Bodhisattva refers to the sentient being of or for the great wisdom and enlightenment. Bodhisattvas vow/aim is the pursuit of Buddhahood and the salvation of others and of all. He seeks enlightenment to enlighten others. He will sacrifice himself to save the others. He is devoid of egoism and devoted to help the others. The way and discipline of Bodhisattva is to benefit the self and the others, leading to Buddhahood.(Source): Buddhist Door: GlossaryDivine beings that, although enlightened, deny themselves Buddhahood in order to help others along the path to enlightenment. Still tied to the material world in this manner, they are usually represented in sumptuous garments and adorned with jewelry and crowns (a reference to Shakyamunis earthly existence). Bodhisattvas are usually represented as extremely calm and benevolent beings.(Source): The Art of Asia: Who is Who in Heaven

1) In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is either an enlightened (bodhi) existence (sattva) or an enlightenment-being or, given the variant Sanskrit spelling satva rather than sattva, "heroic-minded one (satva) for enlightenment (bodhi)." The Pali term has sometimes been translated as "wisdom-being," although in modern publications, and especially in tantric works, this is more commonly reserved for the term jñānasattva ("awareness-being"; Tib. ཡེ་ཤེས་སེམས་དཔའ་་, Wyl. ye shes sems dpa’). Traditionally, a bodhisattva is anyone who, motivated by great compassion, has generated bodhicitta, which is a spontaneous wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.

etymology: bodhisattva (Sanskrit: बोधिसत्त्व bodhisattva; Pali: बोधिसत्त bodhisatta)

2) In Buddhism, a bodhisattva means either "enlightened (bodhi) existence (sattva)" or "enlightenment being" or, given the variant Sanskrit spelling satva rather than sattva, "heroic minded one (satva) for enlightenment (bodhi)". Another translation is "Wisdom Being".

The various divisions of Buddhism understand the word bodhisattva in different ways, but especially in Mahayana Buddhism, it mainly refers to a being that compassionately refrains from entering nirvana in order to save others.

(Source): WikiPedia: Buddhism

An enlightened being who has put aside his own salvation so as to save all sentient beings.

(Source): Buddhism Tourism: Glossary of Buddhist Terms

(Sanskrit) A term from Mahayana Buddhism, referring to one who delays complete enlightenment for the sake of helping other beings reach enlightenment first.

(Source): Amaravati: Glossary

Bodhisattva Skt., lit., “enlightenment be­ing”; in Mahāyāna Buddhism a bodhisattva is a being who seeks buddhahood through the sys­tematic practice of the perfect virtues (pāramitā) but renounces complete entry into nirvāna until all beings are saved. The determin­ing factor for his action is compassion (karunā), supported by highest insight and wis­dom (prajñā). A bodhisattva provides active help, is ready to take upon himself the suffering of all other beings, and to transfer his own kar­mic merit to other beings. The way of a bodhi­sattva begins with arousing the thought of en­lightenment (bodhichitta) and taking the bodhisattva vow (pranidhāna). The career of a bodhisattva is divided into ten stages (bhūmi). The bodhisattva ideal replaced in Mahāyāna the Hīnayāna ideal of the arhat, whose effort is directed towards the attainment of his own liberation.

(Source): Shambala Publications: General

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