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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.