Bodhicitta is the mindset or the wish to attain enlightenment (to reach Buddhahood) for the benefit of all sentient beings.

In sanskrit, bodhi means enlightenment or awakening. The word Buddha, derived from the same sanskrit root verb budh (to be enlightened or to awake), means the person who is awakened or enlightened. The word citta means the mind. Thus, the word bodhicitta means the awakened mind, the enlightened mind, or the mindset of enlightenment.

This mindset is the foundation of the Bodhisattva vows, the disciplinary guides in performing compassionate activities. Also, it is the foundation of the 84,000 Dharma gateways to awakening. In the Mahayana path, the Bodhisattvas are motivated by compassion to work toward Buddhahood while continuing to help other sentient beings in reaching the same enlightenment. They embrace the Six Perfections (generosity, discipline, patience, effort, meditation, and wisdom) as their practices in order to accomplish those Bodhisattva vows.

Generating and Preserving Bodhicitta:

In cultivating this mindset, one initially needs to generate an aspiration for Bodhicitta. Then then next step is preserving this Bodhicitta by putting it through practice using compassion to work physically and mentally for the welfare of others.

In order to generate Bodhicitta, one needs to constantly wish or think, "I will attain perfect Buddhahood for the sake of sentient beings." This aspiration is like the wish to travel somewhere. Then one takes steps to perform wholesome acts in order to actualize this wish, thinking "I will cultivating Bodhicitta and train myself in the Six Perfections for the sake of all sentient beings." This is the preservation of Bodhicitta. Taking this step is like starting to set foot out on the road for actual traveling. For an effective cultivation of Bodhicitta, one should at least recite this Bodhisattva vow once during the day and once during the night.

Textual Resources:

1. An excellent resource for the cultivation of Bodhicitta is The Bodhicaryavatara (The Conducts to Attain Enlightenment) written by Santideva, the famous Mahayana Buddhist monk at Nalanda Monastery, the Buddhist University in ancient India, around 685-763 CE. Various translations and commentaries concerning this world's classics text can be obtained from the large public libraries, especially from the university libraries.

2. Another of book by Santideva, Siksa Samuccaya: A Compendium of Buddhist Doctrine Compiled by Santideva, is also extremely useful.

3. The Bodhisattva vows are taught by the Buddha in the Brahmajala Sutra (The Brahma Net Sutra).