Extracted from Transform Your Life by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

The supreme good heart is bodhichitta. ‘Bodhi’ is the Sanskrit word for ‘enlightenment’, and ‘chitta’ the word for ‘mind’; therefore ‘bodhichitta’ literally means ‘mind of enlightenment’.

It is defined as a mind, motivated by compassion for all living beings, that spontaneously seeks enlightenment.

Bodhichitta is born from great compassion, which itself depends upon cherishing love.

Cherishing love can be likened to a field, compassion to the seeds, taking and giving to the supreme methods for making the seeds grow, and bodhichitta to the harvest.

The cherishing love that is developed through the practice of exchanging self with others is more profound than that developed through other methods, and so the resultant compassion and bodhichitta are also more profound.

Without great compassion, the spontaneous wish to protect all living beings from suffering, bodhichitta cannot arise in our mind; but if we have great compassion, especially the great compassion generated through exchanging self with others, bodhichitta will arise naturally. The strength of our bodhichitta depends entirely upon the strength of our great compassion.

Of all Dharma realizations, bodhichitta is supreme. This profoundly compassionate mind is the very essence of the Bodhisattva’s training. Developing the good heart of bodhichitta enables us to perfect all our virtues, solve all our problems, fulfill all our wishes, and develop the power to help others in the most appropriate and beneficial ways.

Bodhichitta is the best friend we can have and the highest quality we can develop. We generally consider someone who is kind to his or her friends, takes care of his parents, and gives freely to worthwhile causes to be a good person; but how much more praiseworthy is a person who has dedicated his or her whole life to relieving the suffering of each and every sentient being?

Atisha had many Teachers, but the one he revered above all was Guru Serlingpa. Whenever he heard Serlingpa’s name, he would prostrate. When Atisha’s disciples asked him why he respected Serlingpa more than his other Teachers, he replied, ‘It is due to the kindness of Guru Serlingpa that I have been able to develop the good heart of bodhichitta.’ Through the power of his bodhichitta, Atisha was able to bring great joy and happiness to everyone he met, and whatever he did was of benefit to others.

To find out more about bodhichitta, see the books Eight Steps to Happiness, Universal Compassion, and Meaningful to Behold.