Bodhisattva in Theravada

My understanding is that the Bodhisattva path exists in Theravada, it just isn’t emphasized the way it is in Mahayana schools. I’ve searched past discussions on D&D for this topic, but so far haven’t found the sort of very basic intro to the topic I need to know enough to research further myself.

Does anyone have suggestions for beginner resources on this topic?

Thank you.


I assume you’re already aware of Bhikkhu Analayo’s monograph on the topic?


One traditional source for the Bodhisatta career in the Theravada tradition is the Mahanipata - the last 10 Jataka tales which tell the story of how the Bodhisatta perfected the ten pāramī:


Thank you so much, Bhante. I had not found Bhikkhu Analayo’s monograph. Interestingly, I was first exposed to the idea in his book on Superiority Conceits.

Thank you for both links - to Analayo’s monograph and the Jataka tales!


Theravada, maybe, but most EBT scholars wouldn’t say it exist in EBT. Anyway, Buddhavamsa is the book to go, in KN. I dunno where to get the english translation for it.

“The Great Chronicles of Buddha” (Google it) is the one with the most detailed Bodhisatta path in Theravada I had seen.

Basically, meet a living Buddha as a male, able to become arahant there and then (or in that life), but decide to become Buddha instead, get prediction from the living Buddha that one will become a Buddha far far into the future, use that time period to train in the ten perfections.

Very simple, short compared to Mahayana details.


I have one funny analogy :sweat_smile:
Theraveda is like going to nirvana.
Mahayana is like pulling nirvana to you.
End result is same both ways!

I would put it like this… what is easier? calling buddha to you or going to buddha by yourself using your own body…haha.
Theraveda is way of wisdom with compassion.
Mahayana is way of compassion with wisdom.
Both are characterized by selflessness only.
Nirvana is the ultimate goal for both!

Its my pondering only…can be wrong as well.

To follow the thread historically forward from the material Ven. Anālayo looks at, there’s Gil Fronsdal’s book based on his dissertation, Dawn of the Bodhisattva Path: The Early Perfection of Wisdom, an analysis of the Perfection Of Wisdom in 8000 Lines, the earliest of the Prajñāpāramitā texts.

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On how you train to be Bodhisattva according to Theravada text


Even if the bodhisattva path doesn’t show up in the EBTs, don’t each of the ten paramis show up in some way shape or form throughout the EBTs? They might not be defined in the same way as laid out by later texts, but I do think it is interesting to take a deep dive the connections and divergences between early and later texts as they pertain to these ten terms.

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  1. Morality- in EBT? Yes, lots.
  2. Generosity - Yes, in EBT.
  3. Patience- Yes, to some extend.
  4. Renunciation- Yes
  5. Energy- Yes
  6. Truthfulness- Yes
  7. Wisdom- Yes
  8. Determination- Only one which is not that easily come to mind as something positive in EBT. Maybe on the dutanga practises? Adhiṭṭhāna - Wikipedia
  9. Loving kindness- Yes
  10. Equanimity- Yes

But the goal matters as well, not just the method of perfecting these ten perfections.

Theravada lore is that private Buddhas, great disciples also got practise these perfections. So the goal, direction matters on where one ends up.


Perfections are the same just the degree of required perfections is different, so technically it is given in EBT completely!

I don’t think there is diversion.
It is degree of perfections which is different, but perfections are important for all the three vehicles.

One can be Bodhisattva only if one is qualified to be arhat. So all those who think they are Bodhisattva that they are embarking on grand pathway different than arhat…are having beautiful wrong view.:rofl:
Lord Gautama Buddha also said, he became Bodhisattva at the feet of Lord Dipankara…only after that he was called Bodhisattva! So how can person with many defilements call himself Bodhisattva!
So I think it is appropriate to wish to be Bodhisattva…but to say I am Bodhisattva would be definitely wrong view!
Buddha never told his disciples to be Bodhisattva! It’s everyone’s own aspiration.

My understanding is it’s actual harder to become arhat than to become Bodhisattva, because it’s easy to do practice generosity, limited morality and limited virtue while living with family while wishing to be Bodhisattva but to renounce the entire samsara is hardest thing!

There is one abstract from text called The Great Chronicle Of Buddhas…where it is said that why venerable sariputra when serving the Lord Anomadassi one asankheya and one hundred thousand aeons ago, as a person named sarada failed to become arhant!
Here it is…

Sarada’s Aspiration for Chief Discipleship

It may be asked: Why did he fail to attain arahatship though he was a great teacher? The answer is: Because he was then distracted. Expanded answer: Since the time when Nisabha the Chief Disciple(of Lord Anomadassi Buddha), the Right Flanker, started preaching, Sarada had been repeatedly distracted by the thought: “It would be well if I should gain the same position as this Chief Disciple’s in the dispensation of the Buddha to come.” Because of this distraction, Sarada failed to penetrated and gain the knowledge of the Path and Fruition. (He was left behind with no acquisition of the magga and phala)

So it can be said, wish to be Bodhisattva, would be biggest distraction for achieving nibbana which is the ultimate goal of every person!

Buddha also entered nirvana in the end, great arhats also entered nirvana. So in the end, whatever path you follow, you will enter city of nirvana only and in nirvana there is no distinction!