Compound word formed from bodhi (spiritual awakening, enlightenment) and sattva (a being, essence, spirit)
There are three principle meanings of the term “bodhisattva,” each of which I will discuss in more detail below:
1. In early Buddhism, bodhisattva meant “the previous lives of a (or the) Buddha.”
2. In Mahayana Buddhism, bodhisattva refers to a human being committed to the attainment of enlightenment for the sake of others. Becoming a bodhisattva is the goal of Mahayana Buddhism.
3. Bodhisattva may also refer in Mahayana Buddhism to archetypal bodhisattvas: mythical beings such as Avalokiteshvara and Manjushri, who are objects of devotion.