Bodhisattvas or the enlightened beings are characterized by a number of features that distinguish them from the arhants (Humboldt, n.d.). The bodhisattva path lays emphasis on karuna (compassion). The Mahayana tradition explains that arhant is a noble path as it stresses that every being should concentrated on the spiritual achievement of one’s self but in doing this one does not embrace the suffering of others. Buddha intended that Buddhism should be used as a vehicle to liberate all sentient beings from sufferings. This is possible through Mahayana which believes that compassion and compassionate love for all beings makes one help others to attain the same liberation.
The basic doctrine of Mahayana centers around the tenet that eternal Buddha is present but hidden in all sentient beings and it is possible to understand this presence through the process of liberation from sufferings. Hence it focuses on the bodhisattva path and emphasizes that this liberation has to be for all beings and not for the self alone (Kaplan, 1998). To help all beings liberate from sufferings requires compassion for all beings. The goal of Mahayana is not to remain an arhant but to attain buddhahood. Thus to save all sentient beings from samsara is the basic concept on which Mahayana is based.
Various definitions of compassion can be found. For instance, karuna in Pali is related to our concern for others. It is more than an attitude of mind. It is anukampa and daya. Compassion is essential for a just and a harmonious society. It is essential towards the path of wisdom. it is an action towards liberation by those who have become enlightened and by those who sincerely follow the path towards attaining it. When others suffer it makes the heart of good people tremble (kampa) and this is compassion (Jenkins, 2000). Effort to demolish others’ suffering is karuna. Mahayana emphasizes that one should postpone one’s liberation so