How to separate your awareness from what you are aware of and enjoy a part of your mind that is always peaceful & all-pervasive
By Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami
Omnipresence is defined as the state of being present everywhere at the same time. In a religious context, omnipresence is generally thought of as an attribute unique to God. God is present everywhere; whereas man is only present in the location of his physical body. Hindu thought differs from this perspective. Not only is God omnipresent, He has graciously shared that attribute with us. Omnipresence is found at the core of our soul. We can compare this to the Internet, which was created by the US Department of Defense for their use but was ultimately given to the world for everyone to freely use. I have coined a word for the omnipresent network that is accessed by experiencing the core of the soul. I call it the “Innernet.”
Realized beings have shared their experience of the Innernet. My guru’s guru, Yogaswami of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, expressed it in this way: “Bliss, bliss, bliss! I am here, I am there, I am everywhere!” To make sure his devotees didn’t think that this was an attainment unique to him, he would also state, “I am everywhere. You are everywhere, but you don’t believe it.” He also made seemingly outlandish statements such as, “Now I am sitting here. I am in England also. I am also in America.” Not only was Yogaswami able to experience the Innernet, he was able to utilize it to accomplish tasks at a distance: “We can give initiation by thought to people in Singapore while remaining here [in Sri Lanka].” This interior network has a parallel to the external Internet with which we remotely access digital devices that are thousands of miles away from our computers! In Hindu philosophy, the Sanskrit term most commonly used for the Innernet of omnipresence is Satchidananda. Our online lexicon defines this as:
Satchidananda: Existence-consciousness-bliss. A synonym for Parashakti. Lord Siva’s Divine Mind and simultaneously the pure superconscious mind of each individual soul. Satchidananda is perfect love and omniscient, omnipotent consciousness, the fountainhead of all existence, yet containing and permeating all existence. Also called pure consciousness, pure form, substratum of existence, and more. One of the goals of the meditator or yogi is to experience the natural state of the mind, Satchidananda, holding back the vrittis through yogic practices.”
Paramaguru Yogaswami had a terse way of stating this: “Sat Chit Ananda. That is one thing—Satchidananda. Sat is ‘you are.’ Chit is omnipresence—prakasha, light as from the sun, all-knowing. Ananda is bliss. They are three; but they are one. That is your nature.”
In Hinduism, it is not enough to simply state that omnipresence resides at the core of our soul. This truth ultimately must be experienced by each of us. We can move toward experiencing omnipresence using a series of progressive practices. The first step is to understand and then identify ourselves as awareness rather than what we are aware of. A clear statement of this idea is found in the first four verses of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: “Now, the exposition of yoga. Yoga is the restraint of mental activities. Then awareness abides in its essential nature. At other times, awareness takes on the form of the mental activities.” Awareness is the soul’s ability to sense, see or know and to be conscious of this knowing. In the Yoga Sutras, awareness is termed drashta, drik, chit and chitshakti. The state referred to in verse three—“Then awareness abides in its essential nature”—is the result of awareness disuniting with the mental activities and remaining temporarily aware only of itself until thoughts again arise.
Exercise 1: Identifying Yourself as Awareness
Mentally repeat the question “Who am I?” for one minute while being aware that you are repeating it. During the next minute, cease the repetition and simply be aware of what was aware of repeating it.
An example may be helpful. I hold up a piece of paper and say, “I see the paper.” That makes sense, right? I see the paper in my hand.
If I say, “I am the paper,” how many would agree? No one. We are trained from childhood that we are not physical objects. We perceive them. We see the paper. We smell the incense. We hear the water flowing. We are different from them. That’s the way we think.
But then we say, “I am happy.” Think about it: we identify with the happiness we experience, but not with the paper we see. Returning to Patanjali’s verses, happiness is the mental activity that awareness has taken the form of. The goal is to distinguish ourself from what is mental in the same way we distinguish ourself from what is physical. We don’t want to think: “I am happy.” We want to think: “I, awareness, am experiencing the emotion called happiness, but I am not happiness. I am the experiencer of happiness. Happiness isn’t who I am, just as I am not the paper I see.”
Exercise 2: Moving Your Awareness
A good second step toward claiming our soul’s omnipresence is to control the state of consciousness that you, as awareness, are currently experiencing. If you are in a slightly depressed state of mind, move awareness into a happier one. If you are jealous of someone, move into a state of being happy for what he or she has achieved. My guru, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, compared the states of consciousness an individual experiences to a large city and awareness to the traveler through the city. He wrote: “Generally people take problems too personally by identifying closely with them. When they experience anger, they are angry. When they experience bliss, they are blissful. The mystic identifies with the experiencer instead of the experience. He sees himself as pure awareness that travels in the mind. When he is in San Francisco, he is not San Francisco. Similarly, when he is in anger, he is not anger. He says to himself, ‘I am pure energy. I am the spiritual energy that floods through mind and body. I am not the body, the mind or the emotions. I am not the thoughts I think or the experiences I experience.’ Thus, he molds a new identity of himself as a free being who can travel anywhere in the mind. Such a person is always at the top of the mountain.”
Omnipresent consciousness has other qualities, such as being eternal and changeless. You, as omnipresence, have always existed and have never changed. A charming story told by a former Canadian Ambassador to Sri Lanka illustrates this idea. “My wife and I brought our three children to see Yogaswami. Turning to the children, he asked each of them, ‘How old are you?’ Our daughter said, ‘Nine,’ and the boys, ‘Eleven’ and ‘Thirteen.’ To each in turn Yogaswami replied solemnly, ‘I am the same age as you.’ When the children protested that he couldn’t be three different ages at once, and that he must be much older than their grandfather, Yogaswami just laughed, and winked at us, to see if we understood. At the time, we took it as his joke with the children, but slowly we came to see that he meant something profound, which was for us to decipher. Now I think this was his way of saying indirectly that although the body may be of very different ages on its way from birth to death, something just as real as the body, and for which the body is only a vehicle, always was and always will be. In that sense, we are in essence all ‘the same age.’”
Here are three more exercises in connecting with your inherent omnipresence. Give them a try.
1. When you come home from visiting a temple, imagine you are still in the temple in front of the Deity and feel the spiritual vibration of the temple within you.
2. When you walk down the street, imagine that you are in two places—where you are standing and also ahead of your body at the end of the block.
3. When walking, strive to go deeply enough within to see that you, as awareness, are actually standing still, not moving.
The next time you find yourself in a negative state of consciousness, move awareness out of it into the positive consciousness that you are a spiritual being whose essence is identical with God. Identifying yourself as awareness and learning to move awareness out of negative states into positive ones brings you closer to experiencing yourself as omnipresence, Satchidananda, the most subtle level of existence you can be aware of.