In Buddhism, bodhicitta, “enlightenment-mind”, is the mind that strives toward awakening, empathy, and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Etymologically, the word is a combination of the Sanskrit words bodhi and citta. Bodhi means “awakening” or “enlightenment”. Citta derives from the Sanskrit root cit, and means “that which is conscious” (i.e., mind or consciousness). Bodhicitta may be translated as “awakening mind” or “mind of enlightenment”.
Mahayana Buddhism propagates the Bodhisattva-ideal, in which the Six perfections are being practiced. Arousing bodhicitta is part of this Bodhisattva-ideal.
In Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna Buddhism, the goal of Buddhist practice is primarily to be reborn infinite numbers of times to liberate all those other beings still trapped in samsāra.
Mahāyāna Buddhism teaches that the broader motivation of achieving one’s own enlightenment “in order to help all sentient beings” is the best possible motivation one can have for any action, whether it be working in one’s vocation, teaching others, or even making an incense offering. The Six Perfections (Pāramitās) of Buddhism only become true “perfections” when they are done with the motivation of bodhicitta. Thus, the action of giving (Skt. dāna) can be done in a mundane sense, or it can be a Pāramitā if it is conjoined with bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is the primary positive factor to be cultivated.