What is a boddhisatva?
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Boddhisatva

painted head of an Asian man
A bodhisatva from the Horyuji
monastery in China (600s AD)

A bodhisatva, in Buddhist religion, was a holy man or woman who was special, closer to God than other people, like a holy man in ancient West Asia, or a saint in Christianity.

Among Buddhists, the main goal of life was to become enlightened so that you could stop being reincarnated when you died, and instead enter nirvana (like Heaven) and be one with God. Boddhisatvas were people who had achieved enlightenment, and could enter nirvana, but chose to stay on Earth anyway so they could help other people towards enlightenment.

In his previous incarnations, before he was the Buddha, the Buddha was a boddhisatva. Some other famous bodhisatvas are Kuanyin and Jizo.

Learn by doing: visit a Buddhist temple
More about Nirvana
More about Buddhism

Bibliography and further reading about ancient Buddhism:

More about Buddhism
More about Indian religion
More about India
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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