An Invitation to the
Awakening Field of Consciousness
What in the World is Going On?
Each and every day, as we look around the world we inhabit, we shake our collective heads. We look in dismay at where we are and think, "What is going on? How did we get ourselves into this situation?" The whole world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket – Global warming, terrorism, political upheaval, economic collapse, massive destruction of ancient forests, worldwide environmental pollution, new incurable diseases, the extinction of plant and animal species at an alarming rate, the poverty and starvation of millions, escalating teen suicide and murder, legal and illegal drug use, our ever-increasing loss of freedoms, you name it. All you have to do is look around.
So what in the world IS going on? It’s as if the whole world has become stupid. We watch seemingly helplessly as the world spirals down and down into a place we dare not even imagine!
And yet, another part of us maintains hope. We look and pray for a solution to all the troubles in the world. We spend a great deal of time with our friends, considering the problems and pointing out the innumerable stupid things that are going on around us — what everyone else is doing. We are never the problem; it is always ‘Them.’ And herein lies the problem. By our very nature, we live in a divisive consciousness. We see and act from a particular viewpoint – a viewpoint that in essence says, "I’m right and they’re wrong." From this viewpoint, no matter where we stand, someone else will be standing in opposition to us. The whole world becomes a place of dualities, of good and bad, right and wrong, me and you, us and them. We live, not with an Absolute consciousness, or even a Universal or Global consciousness, but with a "ME" consciousness, and "ME" will always be in opposition to "not-ME".
As long as we maintain a sense of separation, that separate entity has to get its share. It means competition, duplicity, and selfishness in all its manifestations. As long as these ideas of I and mine are prevalent, this trend will continue. All the processes of greed, selfishness, power, and separateness come from the personalized and separate sense of ego. However, if we try to fight these trends from a fragmented, egoistic view, as mentioned before, it will only compound the problem. You can’t fight ego with ego. Well, you can, but it gets bloody! The only true solution is to see and act from a level of Absoluteness, free from ego separateness – working communally as One Awakening Being.
Who is waking up?
Now, we are seeing a new trend, a hopeful trend. More and more people are talking about waking up, shifts in consciousness and enlightened living. But even here, you get a variety of ideologies and viewpoints. For the most part, individuals are trying to become enlightened; that is, they are seeking, on an individualized and ego level to wake up. It is still coming from the consciousness of "ME."
When you boil down spiritual ideology, you essentially come to two schools of thought, or some mixture of those two: Dualism and Non-Dualism. Although adherents of each argue endlessly, the end results of both point in the same direction.
The followers of Dualism, generally those practicing some form of devotion, seek to dovetail their wills to that of God or the Absolute. They see themselves as having a ‘soul’ independent of God and work to surrender their ego and soul, if not their entire sense of individuality and separateness, to that Original Source of all, God, even merging their whole identity into God.
The followers of Non-Duality, on the other hand, generally followers of the path of knowledge and discrimination, believe that there really are no separate individual entities; that all individuality is totally an illusion; and strive to eradicate the illusory appearance of individuality and return to the natural state of Absolute Oneness.
So, the question becomes…
If there 1) Are no individuals, or 2) There is, but the goal of the individual should be to surrender their individuality to the Absolute, then...
WHO OR WHAT IS WAKING UP???
More and more it appears that there are not a lot of little individuals waking up to Enlightenment, but rather that the Universe, or Absolute, is awakening to itself. In Sanskrit, the Absolute is termed Sat-Chit-Ananda (Being-Awareness-Joy). The nature of Chit is knowledge or awareness. In the case of a Singularity, a Oneness or Wholeness, such as the Absolute, there is nothing else for the Universe to wake up to. The Absolute is aware of itself – waking up to itself. The Absolute knows itself. The creation, (which is an expression of Chit or Awareness) in order to express Ananda or joy, awakens to Itself.
Why? It is the nature of Knowingness to know. The ultimate Knowing is Source Knowing – Self-reflective Knowing – Knowing without an object of knowing: Self Realization or Enlightenment.
So…in us, as apparent individuals, what is it that stops or inhibits this Knowing? In a word – Habit. It is the habit of separation, of divisiveness, of duality: The subject/object duality, along with all other dualities in general including I/not I, right/wrong, good/bad, left/right, and the multitude of other judgments and comparisons we make daily.
Habits are simply patterns of the mind. The mind’s function is to make these distinctions between one thing and another. However, the mind goes too far, and instead of simply making a distinction (chocolate/vanilla), it goes on to make an evaluation (chocolate good / vanilla bad). Instead of simply experiencing something as it is, we make a judgment about it, and then we create a story about it to defend our judgment. All of this facilitates and strengthens our sense of individuality AND isolation.
How are we to overcome these habits?
Through an understanding of the Absolute nature of everything; being totally open without judgment to every experience that arises; and through the recognition of the old patterns as they arise. However, what you will find repeatedly as you try to open and surrender into the totality of experience is ‘resistance’. Resistance is the mind’s tendency to remain stagnant, to not change, to hold on to those old patterns.
How is resistance eliminated? Primarily, through recognizing the resistance. When you can recognize the resistance, and then not resist the resistance ("Oh Damn! I’m resisting again."), but simply notice its nature, it will also begin to evaporate into Openness.
The greatest resistance is the holding on to the idea of individuality and particularly localized individuality or separation – being cut apart from the whole. It is called the Ego, which in Sanskrit is ahamkara or literally, "I-maker". In other words, the very concept of an individual ego is ‘made-up.’
The removal of the separation habit from our consciousness means we find (recognize) our natural, non-separation, or our actual position as aspects or manifestations of the One Absolute (like waves of the ocean). The sense of separation is an illusion, a deception. Letting go of the patterns of separation or isolation is known as surrender and openness, resulting in knowledge, realization, recognition, or awakening.
If we are engaged in seeking to Realize the Absolute, won’t the world continue to decline?
Often, we find that there is a divergence of thought between individuals (and sometimes even within the mind of a single individual) regarding "social" action versus "spiritual" action. In other words, one group states that we should focus on the world and not on our own salvation, while the other group states that we can’t save the world (or that the world is only an illusion) and we should focus on our own enlightenment.
Our focus is on spiritual Unfoldment. And because there are ultimately either no individuals, or individuals seeking to surrender their will to the Absolute, it is a process of Universal Spiritual Awakening. In this process, we cannot deny the existence of anything that we are aware of. So we do not simply turn a blind eye to what is happening around us. This simply becomes another form of duality. We must let go of the consciousness of separation or fragmentation and see with the true eye of Wholeness or Oneness. The traditional method of fighting "atrocities" comes from a place of divisiveness, from a place of feeling oneself as being separate. This only compounds the problem. "I" am fighting the problems caused by "Them." Fighting fire with fire only makes a bigger blaze! Separation must not be fought, but resistance dissolved into Unity, Wholeness – into the Awakening Field of Consciousness. Or as Einstein said: "We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
What Should I Do on a Practical Level?
About now you may be saying, "Gee, all of this sounds great, but what am I supposed to do? I can’t use my mind to dissolve my mind and surrender into the Awakening Field of Consciousness, so what is the process of surrendering? How should one live their life in a way that is most harmonious with, and most beneficial to, this Awakening Field of Consciousness?" First, we would ask you, "Does this feel right?" In other words, does some part of you recognize that the old paradigm of fighting, resistance, and separation seem to be obsolete? Do you feel that there is a more substantial, a more fundamental shift that is required? Perhaps one that you can’t quite fathom in your mind, but seems just out of your field of vision? If so, then perhaps the following ideas can help. Below, we have outlined what we recognize (through more than 30 years of research and experience) as the most powerful methods.
1. Self Inquiry (Atma Vichara)
In order to dissolve resistance, one must first recognize it. This is the process of Self Inquiry. By inquiring into who or what one is, the illusory concepts or patterns of limiting identification arise allowing us to release them through recognition. Left unrecognized, these patterns tend to remain as subtle and subconscious habits that deeply affect and cover the pure reflection of the Absolute. As these old habits and limitations are dissolved, you begin to directly realize that You are that One Absolute, which is without boundaries or limitations, always peaceful, happy and free!
2. Surrendering Resistance (Prapanna)
Simultaneous with Self Inquiry, one should be open to Infinite Wholeness. In other words, as the resistance or patterns are released, be open to recognizing and encourage the recognition of that Absolute which is already and always Present. This takes the form of consciously letting go to God, or inviting that sense of personal non-doership through surrendering to Divine Doership. This incorporates such ideas as intending to experience the Absolute in all things and all beings, at every moment; experiencing oneself as a ‘wave’ of the Absolute; or as in a phrase such as "Not my will but Thy will," or like in the Vedic statements, "aham brahmasmi" (I am Brahman, the Absolute), and "sarvam khalvidam brahma" (All is indeed the Absolute).
3. Pure Action (Satkarma)
Be open to and participate in those activities (ancient and modern) that foster wholeness, healing and non-fragmentation on a universal level. In other words, don’t do actions out of selfish motivations in order to personally enjoy (including the selfish motive to personally wake up), but out of what is the highest and fullest benefit for the universe at large. These may include such "spiritual actions" as meditation, chanting mantras or prayers, and performing spiritual rituals; or may include "social actions" such as feeding the poor, volunteering to help the elderly, donating a percentage of income to spiritual and service organizations, etc. All such actions should be performed not with an end result in mind, but free from attachment or expectation of the fruits of those actions.
4. Performing One’s Own Duty (Svadharma)
This is not duty in the "Oh, I have to do it" vein, but rather recognizing one’s natural path. You (as an ‘individual’) are a manifestation of the Absolute. Allow that manifestation to express. Let go of the resistance to being fully Who you are. Don’t stand in the way of God expressing through and as You. Although in Sanskrit this is called dharma (duty or true path), we might better express it in the words of Joseph Campbell as "Follow your Bliss." Be and do what you are, but not from the level of separation or smallness, but as a manifestation of God, and returning or reflecting that wholeness of the Absolute. This requires certain discrimination in recognizing what are small or ego desires from those that are your divine dharma. And don’t confuse what someone else does as what you should do because it seems "better" or "more." Your path or bliss is distinctly your manifestation to express.
5. Spiritual Communion and Community (Satsang and Sangha)
The sense of separation or isolation, which is particularly prevalent in the West, is reduced by association with spiritual persons, and by community participation, fostering a sense of being a part of a whole. Now, when we have very little sense of community or even family, sociologists have coined the phrase "Career in conversion." We have been conditioned by and to restlessness. We are constantly changing and never settling into any one thing – always joining something new and then leaving it for something else: jobs, marriages, relationships, practices. This only increases the sense of isolation. As we open ourselves more deeply to spiritual communion and community, and as we learn to communicate on a deeper and more intimate level, we grow in that Awakening Field, lose that sense of isolation, and recognize our sense of wholeness as one spiritual family.
6. Simplicity (Arjavam)
Simplicity is often not well understood. It is frequently used in scriptures as a positive quality to possess or express. It stands in contrast to duplicity and compoundedness. When we speak of living simply, it suggests a mode of living that is single, not complicated; without extraneous things, ideas or endeavors; modestly; and without duplicity (contradictory doubleness of thought, word, or action). It also suggests not fault finding or judging oneself or others. Thus, the single word ‘simplicity’ itself suggests a whole mode of living in tune to the Absolute. We can also remember the words of Gandhi, "Live simply that others may simply live." Look at what you are buying, eating, wearing, wanting, thinking. Is it important? Is it necessary? Does it promote a false sense of separateness, or does it foster the Awakening Field of Consciousness?
Is There a Choice?
All of this suggests that there is a choice to be made. Many people, particularly some strong proponents of the ‘choicelessness’ school of Non-Dualism, and others who hold to the ideas of pre-destination, believe that there is no choice to be made and no one to make it. And yet, it appears that we make choices every day: what to eat, what to wear, whether to get up or sit down. Every moment, it appears that choices are arising, and we must act as if there is a choice right now. The ultimate outcome of that apparent choice may very well be already, fatalistically, pre-determined. Our appearance of making a choice may indeed be nothing but an illusion. But in this moment, we must nevertheless appear to make a choice. Even choosing not to choose, is obviously a choice. So "choosing" is going on.
The question is:
In that choosing, do we choose: wholeness, oneness, divinity, healing, global wellness, beauty, freedom, peace, awakening...
do we choose: fragmentation, separateness, duality, materiality, disease, ego, destruction, extinction, bondage, aggression, and ignorance.
The choice appears to be yours…
The Atma Institute is a 501(c)3 non-profit entity (a dba of the Bhaktivedanta Society, Inc. founded in 1981). In 1991, we moved to our present location of approximately 7 acres on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon and lovingly named it ‘Barnashram.’ This was because we considered it an ashram (a spiritual community) and we lived in a converted barn, hence Barnashram. However, it was also a play on words, because in the Vedic civilization, there is a term Varnashram, which means the four social (varna) and four spiritual (ashram) stages of society. In other words, everyone or all of society! (In Hindi, the ‘v’ and ‘b’ are practically interchangeable.)
We see varnashram or more specifically our Barnashram, as a place of spiritual unfolding – a "hermitage" where all are welcome to come join in the Awakening Field of Consciousness. We are trying to develop both a place and programs that support the ideas we have mentioned above. These include: A strong spiritual community; a space for retreats, farming and other rural ventures; and programs with Aja including Satsang and Self Inquiry, Sanskrit, Mantra Initiation, and individual counseling and instruction. While some of these programs have been going for years, others are either things that come and go from time to time, or visions for programs we would like to see become a permanent part of Barnashram. We also welcome and invite your input and participation. In fact, Barnashram is nothing without you!
Community encompasses both residential and extended. We have always had an attraction to the tales of ancient forest hermitages, where the rishis spent their time in meditation and spiritual discussion. Since we neither wish to move to India, nor back to the ancient past, part of our vision is to create such a hermitage here and now – a place where people can spend their time in spiritual inquiry and pursuits, helping to express that Awakening Field. We are also gradually creating spaces, cabins, where people can come and stay, whether it is for a night, a week, or permanently. In addition, we want to create opportunities for people to become an extended family, to participate in all the ‘spiritual’ activities of Barnashram, but also to regularly get together for potlucks, movies, gardening, and just sharing. Everyone should feel a part of the larger whole, and we want people to feel that Barnashram is their home and family.
The garden is one of the ways in which we hope to manifest more self-sufficiency, by producing pure and natural organic foods, which will promote healthy living and a lifestyle less dependent on commercialism. This might include individual garden plots, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm, etc.
Programs with Aja
Aja is a Self-realized teacher, who has been studying spiritual and healing sciences for more than 30 years. He was ordained as a Brahmana (Vedic Priest) in 1975 in Vrndavana, India. His lineage is an unbroken chain of spiritual teachers going back thousands of years. He was also awarded a Doctorate degree in Naturopathy from the International University in 1984, and given the title Sanskrit Adhyapaka (teacher of Sanskrit) by the American Sanskrit Institute in 1989. And in 2003, he was given the title Acharya (Spiritual Teacher). In 1990 through Self Inquiry, Aja had a breakthrough in Consciousness, recognizing the Infinite Self. Now, Aja’s Presence and instruction helps to guide others into this pure spiritual awareness.
Aja regularly holds programs of Satsang and Self Inquiry, as well as daylong and weekend intensives. He also teaches Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, for those who wish to dive more deeply into the Vedic scriptures, or for better understanding mantra, yoga, and bhajan. Aja also offers individualized counseling sessions and ongoing spiritual instruction for those who wish a more committed spiritual relation. He also offers spiritual initiation into Gayatri mantra and the giving of Sanskrit spiritual names which help to spiritualize how one sees them self.
We are offering one possibility to the destructive and separatist present day view of living. It is certainly not the only one, but it is a vision based on both ancient wisdom and present day Realization. If this vision speaks to you, then please, by all or any means, feel free to join us. We yearn for your excitement to share in this vision – to participate in programs, to seek spiritual instruction, to donate time and money, to feel a part of a larger family, to want to help in manifesting an Awakening Field of Consciousness.
All you have to do is "appear to make a choice" and call us at (503) 690-9513 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.