Bodhichitta (also bodhicitta) is a Buddhist term for an infinitely open heart. This is not an unattainable goal; indeed, it is our own true nature as sentient human beings and there for the asking. All we need do is reach out and grasp it.

Bodhichitta is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning "noble or awakened heart", and can be described in terms of its absolute and relative natures.

Absolute bodhichitta

Absolute bodhichitta is our natural state. It is our basic goodness, the warmth in our heart we feel for all other beings. Though we may layer many ways of reacting to the world over our true nature, bodhichitta has a way of shining through. At the most unexpected times, we can feel our hearts warming and opening to others. This can be disconcerting, and we often recoil back into our habitual ways of thinking and doing, but we cannot deny that this impulse was there. If we are honest with ourselves, we will also know that this openness of our hearts felt wonderful, if a little scary. This is bodhichitta, the natural, wide-open state of our true selves.

Relative bodhichitta

Relative bodhichitta is the courage required to investigate and abide with our open hearts. One way of looking at the relationship between absolute and relative bodhichitta is that the absolute is constantly there, as a force of nature is, and the relative is our ability to investigate the absolute. In practical application, relative bodhichitta is the cultivation of compassion and loving-kindness for all beings (including ourselves), and renunciation of the impulse to cover our fear with other things. We must at the same time cultivate joy and equanimity in our daily lives. Meditation is an invaluable way of getting in touch with our bodhichitta, because meditation is, above all, giving in to who we truly are, without pretense or judgment. "The key point of cultivating relative bodhichitta is to keep opening our hearts to suffering without shutting down." Emily Hilburn Sell, in the introduction to Comfortable With Uncertainty, by Pema Chödrön.

Chödrön, Pema. Comfortable With Uncertainty. Boston and London: Shambhala, 2002.