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Specifically, I am looking to describe a person whose only purpose is to help others, not caring about what happens to himself or herself (physically or otherwise), though without actively seeking pain.

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    The question is unclear. Do you want an adjective such as "selfless" to describe such a person? A noun such as "philanthropist"? Can you give the context in which such a word would be used? – MetaEd Aug 14 '13 at 4:10
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Selfless

  1. Having, exhibiting or motivated by no concern for oneself but for others; unselfish.

Also altruistic. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altruism

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    +1 for altruistic, which is probably the best choice, depending on the context. – Barrie England Aug 13 '13 at 19:58
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    Benevolent, charitable, self-sacrificing, compassionate, merciful, tenderhearted, giving, generous to a fault, "He'll give you the shirt off his back." There are many words and phrases from which to choose, although each one denotes/connotes various shades of meaning. – rhetorician Aug 13 '13 at 21:21
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    Agreed with rhetorician; context is important in choosing the best word here. Someone who truly lives for nothing other than helping others, regardless of the impact it might have on his or herself, is altruistic. Someone who is willing to periodically help others at their own expense is charitable. Someone who generally has a positive impact on society is benevolent. Also if you do not care what happens to you but do it for the benefit of your cause could make you a martyr. – Herr Pink Mar 28 '15 at 0:54
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Your best bet would probably be

selfless: Having, exhibiting or motivated by no concern for oneself but for others;

Or maybe:

philanthropist: A very generous person or institution.

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Magnanimous

proceeding from or revealing generosity or nobility of mind, character, etc.: a magnanimous gesture of forgiveness.

A magnanimous person is someone whose generosity of spirit is large. A person willing to forgive an evil deed, demonstrating nobility and generosity of mind to his/her enemies.

Considerate

Always thinking of what other people need or want and being careful not to upset them He was always kind and considerate.

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self-abnegating

adj. denying one's own interests in favour of those of others

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Found this site while searching for the word I needed. In case it is of help to others in the future, the word I was looking for was "facilitator".

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In Mahayana Buddhism, a bodhisattva is "a person who is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so through compassion for suffering beings."

Nirvana is (in Buddhism) "a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth. It represents the final goal of Buddhism."

"A person whose only purpose is to help others, not caring about what happens to himself or herself (physically or otherwise)" is a bodhisattva.

protected by tchrist Feb 26 '15 at 2:13

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