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In Buddhism, a bodhisattva (from the Sanskrit words bodhi, meaning "awakened", and sattva, meaning "existence") is an enlightened person who delays reaching Nirvana in order to help others reach Nirvana. Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism have different attitudes towards bodhisattvas. In the Theravada tradition, a person can achieve complete enlightenment as an individual without becoming a bodhisattva. In contrast, Mahayana take a dim view of such individuals and argue that in order to achieve true and complete Nirvana, one must become a bodhisattva.

The Bodhisattva Vow is recited throughout the Mahayana Buddhist world:

However innumerable sentient beings are, I vow to save them.
However inexhaustible the defilements are, I vow to extinguish them.
However immeasurable the dharmas are, I vow to master them.
However incomparable enlightenment is, I vow to attain it.