THE HISTORICAL SPECTRUM OF THE BODHISATTVA CONCEPT AND CAREER
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This paper offers a modest contribution towards the historical and doctrinal evolution of the Bodhisattva concept and career. Initially the term Bodhisattva occurs in a few passages of the Pali canon, in which the Buddha uses it with reference to himself prior to his enlightenment. After the Buddha's demise the early Buddhist schools debated the character of the Bodhisattva, but without formulating a coherent theory. Then eventually certain stories were invented, and the term Bodhisattva became also applied to the Buddha's previous lives. Then with the emergence of the Mahayana, the concept of Bodhisattva was reinterpreted and presented as a universal ideal to be followed by all Mahayana adepts. While in the Theravada the term is applied exclusively to the Buddha's previous existences, in the Mahayana it is applied not only to the Buddha's existences prior to his enlightenment, but also to all beings who take the Bodhisattva vow in order to gain enlightenment and strive for the welfare of all sentient beings.
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