Bodhisattva mind is the aspiration to awaken, to help others, and to help others awaken. The intention to do so is sometimes roused without conscious effort; in other cases, teachers encourage self-inquiry:
On the path to moving out into the world, a crucial shift occurs when the desire to relieve suffering becomes a firm resolve to do so. In Mahayana Buddhism, resolute practitioners take four bodhisattva vows. Today, formal vows may seem quaint or fanatical, but true vows are more than ceremonial promises; they have transformative power.
Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to liberate
Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to put an end to them.
Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them.
Buddha’s Way is unsurpassable, I vow to attain it.
The first bodhisattva vow is: "Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to liberate them." This bold declaration means many things; in the context of engaged Buddhism, it signifies an unbounded commitment to practice compassion.
Any worthy aspiration can be kneaded into a homemade vow. Robert Aitken does this by composing short verses, such as:
Waking up in the morning
I vow with all beings
to be ready for sparks of the Dharma
from flowers or children or birds.