Twenty-five Bodhisattvas Descending from Heaven | Japanese painting, c.1300
“In Buddhism,a bodhisattva (Sanskrit: बोधिसत्त्व bodhisattva; Pali: बोधिसत्त bodhisatta) 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.
The bodhisattva is a popular subject in Buddhist art. Usage of the term bodhisattva has evolved over time. In early Indian Buddhism, for example, the term bodhisattva was primarily used to refer specifically to the Buddha Shakyamuni in his former lives. The Jatakas, which are the stories of his lives, depict the various attempts of the bodhisattva to embrace qualities like self-sacrifice and morality.”