Richard Harvey - Psychotherapist, Author and Spiritual Teacher

Richard Harvey

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Interview on The Arhat Project

Richard Harvey answers questions about a proposal for a residential spiritual community and an experiment in sacred living

What is the Arhat project? And what has inspired it?

The Arhat project is a response to the individual and collective need to combine together, share resources, and cultivate genuine authentic spiritual practices in an environment that is wholly supportive to psycho-spiritual growth and development.

Up to now serious adherents of inner self-exploration and spiritual practices have had to do it on their own, join an established traditional, or breakaway or rebellious psycho-spiritual collective. Communities may be somewhat out of vogue; there may have been more thirty or forty years ago, but they are the way of the future.

Why are they the way of the future?

For many years now individual psychotherapy, group work, spiritual retreats, and similar approaches have been the staple activities of psychological and spiritual seekers. The way of the future will be the way of community: local, provincial, decentralized, national, international, global and cosmic, and spiritual, transcendental, and divine. The beginning of this tremendous undertaking will take place in small communities reminiscent of the traditional monastic and ashram establishments and the psycho-spiritual experiments of the last century. But if they are to succeed, the new spiritual communities must be bound by a single focus and learn from the experiences of the earlier pioneers of communal spiritual living, as well as going beyond them and the paradigm they set.

It’s very hard to develop spiritually with the surrounding ignorance and misunderstanding of the common world and the conventional people in it. Particularly when so much esoteric spiritual teaching has been subsumed, incorporated, and corrupted through commercialism, media forces, and diluted presentation. People think they know when they don’t. They may have a little knowledge without the humility to understand that there is much more they need to know to be truly informed. So one of the curiosities of presenting a new innovative model of spirituality is that people find their closest point of reference and say things like, “Oh, it’s like A Course in Miracles,” or “Yes, I see, you are really a Buddhist.” What I am proposing is not like other approaches. It is not Zen, not an encounter group, group therapy or Buddhist meditation. It is an entirely new, integrated approach that goes further than existing approaches. It is an innovative, profound and serious way of addressing the unique circumstance we find ourselves in at the beginning of the 21st century.

Rather than being open to understanding and exploring something new, people have an overriding cynicism and doubt and they try to fit genuinely new ideas into their known framework, rather than think, acknowledge and recognize. There’s an inner conformist within everyone’s character. It serves the impulse to survive in physical form. The conservative resists change and is threatened by change. Essentially Arhat is a communal living project for souls seeking personal authenticity and Self-realization. The flowering of the collective living experience of the founding collective can lead to further endeavors.

What are the main resistances to spiritual practice today?

From people in individual therapy to spiritual practitioners one of the most potent, insidious forms of resistance that results in personal and spiritual entropy or stagnation is complacency: the idea that we have all the time in the world. The other is psychological and spiritual materialism: the idea that when we have done enough work, read enough, trained enough, meditated enough, we will get there.

Both of these apparently opposing views are identical; they get you nowhere. You must act, you must practice, but you must do both wisely with guidance and profound intelligence. Thinking you have all the time in the world or never enough time to do all you have to do (which is never ending) are both forms of self-sabotage.

What does Arhat mean?

Arhat is a Sanskrit word meaning one who is worthy, one who has gained insight into the true nature of existence and achieved spiritual enlightenment. The arhat, having become free from the bonds of desire, is not reborn. It is the fourth and final state of spiritual attainment in the Theravada tradition (the Mahayana Buddhist equivalent of bodhisattva). Except under extraordinary circumstances, a human being can become an arhat only while a monk or a nun. 

In China, Korea, Japan, and Tibet, arhats are depicted on the walls of temples in groups of 16 or more, representing disciples of the Buddha who remain in the world rather than enter Nirvana to provide people with a focus for spiritual attainment

What are the aims that an Arhat community sets out to reach?

TThe Arhat Project is a vision of courageous individuals bringing their lives to a tremendous experiment. What if a small group of dedicated people potentially bring their every waking moment to the spiritual endeavor; how long can it take for awakening to occur? Imagine you are pushing a boulder that won’t budge and someone joins you to help and it still won’t budge and then another and another person joins you. Eventually the boulder begins to move and you can roll it along the ground. If everyone joins in and lends their full weight to the endeavor, then the time comes when your original initiating impulse to move the boulder succeeds. What if spiritual awakening has never really been an individual endeavor? What if a collective, a community of like-minded souls is required? In Arhat then, with everyone pushing, pulling, and aiming in the same direction, we can accomplish far more than we ever could individually.

The aims of the Arhat Project are to accelerate the growth of individual members and the community collectively, to transcend the processes of the ego, and to live the life of transformation and authenticity, with the practices of The Three Stages of Human Awakening as the chosen method and background philosophy for the individual members and community collective.

The Arhat Project - a Residential Spiritual Community and an Experiment in Sacred Living

The Arhat Project—a residential spiritual community for people seeking personal authenticity and Self-realization, where the processes of personal inner enquiry and transformation are accelerated through a sacred engaged schedule and life-style of spiritual discipline and focus, and psychological exploration and awakening. Based on the psycho-spiritual approach summarized in Richard Harvey’s book Your Essential Self, particularly The Three Stages of Awakening, Arhat is a spiritual living project where personal and spiritual development are intensified and potentized through communal life, group work, psycho-spiritual discourses, and study, meditation, spiritual and sacred practices, and spiritual direction.

If you are seriously interested in being a part of a residential community based on The Three Stages of Human Awakening (see interview on the stages of awakening and human awakening on this site), please familiarize yourself with this new paradigm of psychological and spiritual growth before you read on. If you find yourself in the first, or possibly the second, stage of this model and you would be inspired and enthusiastic about establishing a core group for a spiritual community where personal and spiritual development is accelerated, intensified and potentized in a semi-monastic, secular structure of scheduled tasks and spiritual discipline, then write via the contact form on this site.

“Do not settle for less than everything—the transformation of the human heart and the courage to demand and bear the responsibility
of leading a spiritual life in the world.”

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This article was published on this site in 2013.

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