When I first encountered Mahayana Buddhism, the Bodhisattva vow to liberate all sentient beings seemed laughable to me at best and delusional at worst. Much of it seemed to me to be priestly self-serving and self-justifying: yet another way for a monk to convince a community that sitting on his arse in a temple all day is actually for their benefit and hence worthy of their support in the form of food, land, shelter, clothing and boys.
These days, while my opinions of monks have not improved, my view on the Bodhisattva vow has changed markedly. I see the Boddhisatva vow as an ideal to strive for and a reminder as well that in a very real way, we’re all in it together and that the suffering of even one person diminishes the dignity of all. The fact that this may be used by monks and other retreat Buddhists to justify doing nothing is not relevant. The very real possibility that the Boddhisatva vow may actually have been designed specifically for that purpose is not important.
Ultimately, as a vision for living, as a reason for existence and a daily reminder of our better selves in these increasingly selfish and cruel times, the Boddhistva vow is powerful enough to stand by itself.