A Bodhisattva means one who has essence of enlightment. Anyone who has a spontaneous wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all is a Bodhisattva. It’s a very popular subject in Buddhist art. A bodhisattva is bound to enlightment and refers to all who are destined to become Buddhas in this life or another life. There are celestial bodhisattvas which are manifestations of Gautam Buddha. Important 8 Bodhisattvas are as follows:
Avalokiteśvara encompasses all Buddhas. In China he is known as Guānshìyīn Púsà, in tibetan as Chenrezig, in Thai as Avalokitesuarn. He is said to incarnate in Dalai Lama. He is depicted as holding a lotus flower. He is depicted as female also. A cave wall painting of Avalokiteśvara is devoted in Ajanta Caves as Padmapani.
He is known as Wénshū in Chinse, Jampelyang in Tibetan and is a manifestation of great wisdom and meditation. Mañjuśrī is depicted as a male bodhisattva wielding a flaming sword in his right hand.
Samantabhadra means Universal Worthy and he is associated with meditation. Known as Fugen Bosatsu in Japanese and very popular in Japan among the Tendai and Shingon sects. His manifestation is Action and he is key figure in Flower Garland Sutra.
Ksitigarbha is usually depicted as a Buddhist monk in the Orient / East Asia. Ksitigarbha means Earth Womb. he is regarded as Bodhisattva of Earth or Hell beings or Mortals. He is regarded as guardian of children and patron deity of deceased children and aborted fetuses in Japanese culture. he carries a staff.
Ksitigarbha, Samantabhadra, Manjusri, and Avalokitesvara are the principal Bodhisattvas of East Asian Mahayana Buddhism.
Maitreya will be successor of Gautama Buddha. He is also known as Ajita Boddhisattva. He holds a “water phial” in his left hand. Earliest mention of Metteyya is in the Digha Nikaya 26 of the Pali Canon. It is said that he will arrive when oceans will decrease in size (that is why keeps a Kumbha or philial in his hand) and will rule the Ketumati Pure Land (Varanasi).
We note here that popular Budai or laughing Buddha is claimed to be an incarnation of Maitreya. Budai was a Chinese Zen monk who lived during the Later Liang Dynasty (907–923 CE) in China. In Japanese, he is called Hotei and is one of the 7 Lucky Gods of Japan.
Vajrapani is depicted as one of the 3 protective deities around Buddha, other are Manjusri and Avlokiteshwara. Vajrapani manifests Buddha’s power, Manjusri manifests Buddha’s wisdom and Avlokiteshwara manifests Buddha’s compassion. In Japan a dharma protector called Nio is also Vajrapani.
Sadāparibhūta is a Bodhisattva which manifests “never disparaging” spirit.
Akasagarbha is boundless as space. He is known as twin brother of Ksitigarbha. He is menifestation of wisdom.