A bodhisattva has achieved the goal of enlightenment through his life. He could therefore enter nirvana after his death.
But he has created a vow that he will renounce nirvana for as long as he lives. Compassion for all living beings becomes more important than the finality of one's own salvation.
Having attained enlightenment, he therefore does not enter nirvana. Instead, he continues to act as an active helper for the liberation of all beings suffering in the cycle of rebirths. Until all beings - including not only humans, but also animals and gods - have been led to enlightenment, a bodhisattva does not accept the nirvana he has earned.
Bodhisattvas are traditionally described as beings who aspire to attain enlightenment and help others to achieve it. They can be male or female and are portrayed adorned with crowns, jeweled Ornaments, and garments of Indian royalty.
The greatest of the bodhisattvas are near enlightenment and are regarded as deities with abilities nearly equal to those of buddhas. They can be identified by distinctive attributes that symbolize their particular enlightened qualities-such as the book and sword as representations of wisdom.