Bodhisattva

Tib., byang-chub-sems-dpa' and/or dbang-phyug

Translating the above Tibetan term, one arrives at "heroically committed to pure and total presence", but in a more practical sense a Bodhisattva is better defined as an enlightened being dedicated to the liberation of others.

Taking the so-called Bodhisattva-vow (Skt., pranidhana), a man or woman thus makes the commitment to return to the cycle of life until all beings are equally liberated. Although most texts usually speak mainly of male Bodhisattvas, the Tibetan pantheon does know at least eight female ones: the Bodhisattva Dakinis.

The male bodhisattva's are sometimes combined into groups of four or eight individuals, and are then classified as the "Four Great Ones" or as the "Eight Great Ones" (Skt., mahabodhisattvas). In the following list, the "Four Great Ones" have been placed on top:

  1. Avalokitesvara (Tib., Chenresi) holds a white lotus and represents Amithaba
  2. Kshitigarbha (Tib., Sai Nyingpo) holds a wish-fulfilling jewel/gem and represents Ratnasambhava
  3. Manjusri (Tib., Jampelyang) holds an utpala flower and represents the Adi-Buddha
  4. Samantabhadra (Tib., Kuntuzangpo) holds either the sun or a ghanta and represents Vajrasattva
  5. Akasagarbha (Tib., Namkai Nyingpo) holds a (blazing) sword and represents Vairocana
  6. Maitreya (Tib., Jampa) holds a naga tree and represents the Adi-Buddha
  7. Sarvanivarana-vishkambhin, Nivarana-vishvakambin (Tib., Dripa Namsal) * holds the moon and represents Amoghasiddhi
  8. Vajrapani (Tib., Chana Dorje) holds a dorje and represents Akshobhya

* is sometimes replaced by a bodhisattva called Mahasthamaprapta (Tib., Thuchenthop)