Witnessing is a Myth



Question: I have seen that the doer does not exist. I have seen that I am nothing.

Acharya Prashant: Who was seeing?

L: Witnessing of this witnesses.

AP: Who was seeing?

L: I can’t say.

AP: Then you must not say. Witnessing is not about coming to conclusions. You can never witness that the doer is not there. You can observe all that, you can notice all that. Witnessing is never a definite statement. Witnessing is not like looking at something through your eyes or with a camera. Witnessing is extremely subtle. You do not see anything in witnessing. Witnessing in fact means not-seeing.

When people come with fanciful statements like, “I witnessed myself walking out of my body” – It is just a projection. When witnessing is happening, then you cannot even know it is happening, because you cannot witness the witness. What kind of witness it is, that ‘you’ are able to see?

Witness means, the one, that sees everything but cannot be seen.

That means that you can never know the witness. That means that you can never know what has been witnessed. But we keep talking of what has been witnessed.

Are you the witness behind the witness?

L: Yes

AP: Then what is behind that that you are talking of? To talk of anything, you must be behind that thing. So, you are the witness behind the witness behind the witness.

L: Everything is perceived.

AP: Everything is perceived  and who is saying this? Is there not the perceiver who is saying this?

L: Yes

AP: Witnessing is still not happening.

When witnessing will happen, then you will not be able to say anything about it because, witnessing never gets registered in the memory.

When it doesn’t get registered in the memory, then how can you talk about it later on? The very mark of witnessing is, that you are not a participant. And when you are not a participant, how will the event go into your memory? So, never say that I witnessed such and such thing. You may have observed it. You observed it using the senses and the mind and that is not witnessing.

Observation too has its benefits. We are not saying that observation is merit less. But observation is not witnessing. Observation is the point from where you begin. And if you are insistent enough, then you reach the point of witnessing, where there is only the witness and not you. When you begin observation, then you very well know what is being observed. But as the observation keeps getting deeper, then only the observation remains, and the observer keeps disappearing. Ultimately there is no observer and hence no memory. Right?

L: How to get established in that?

AP: You are already that. You are witnessing even right now.

L: But it’s not in my experience.

AP: Yes. See, now you just opened the whole thing up.

You are craving for experience. And when you are craving for experience, then witnessing is something that will remain alien to you. Because in witnessing,  since there is no memory, hence no experience, but you want an experience.  And there are enough teachers who sell you experiences. And there can be no experience of the Real. I don’t know whether that is a good news or bad news for you.
But whatever is Real, can never be experienced, it is beyond experience. True love, cannot be experienced. Real Joy, no experience. Freedom, beyond experience. Of these, there can be no experience. Now, is that bad news? No, not really. Why?

Because whatever you have experienced has only brought  grief to you. Hence, this non experiencing is such a relief. Celebrate it. Seeing is happening all the time.

L: So, Seeing is happening all the time. So, why is our experience grief? How can we end grief?

AP: Because you want to bring that into your limited mind.

L: How can we understand that then?

AP: By not being so egoistic. By not thinking of yourself as God.

L: How?

 AP: I will then ask you, “Who made you first of all think that experience is necessary?” Today you are saying that I want experience, pleasure, hope, peace, and I want to experience that. When you are saying I want to experience peace, ultimately you just want to experience pleasure. If grief/pain comes and you are told it is peace, will you take it?

L: That’s not what I am talking of, I am talking of peace as in stillness, not in pleasure.

AP: If something is still, can there be experience of it? There can be experience, only of the moving, right?

From your daily observation, tell me, can you ever observe something that is absolutely still? The mind is configured to observe only movement. The mind is not configured to observe stillness. The mind is configured to detect only stress and tension. The mind is not configured to detect relaxation. That is why the mind is very active, when there is excitement of any nature. Happiness and pain, both are excitements. The mind is very active then. But in peace, mind relaxes. Hence, it can have no experience of peace.

The demand for experience, comes from the assumption that experience can give something to you.

I invite you to inquire, what has experience given you so far that you want more and more of experience.” You have been experiencing all your physical life, have you not been? What has experience given you so far? Why do you want more of experience?

So, when you honestly admit that experience does not give you anything, then your expectation from experience drops. And then you abide in simple witnessing, simple self, simply life.

There are no spiritual experiences. None at all. And if you are experiencing something ever, it is my duty to advice you that it will only lead to more grief. Whatever comes into your mental domain, is just a time bomb, waiting to explode.


L: Nothing can be said.

AP: Now begins the Satsang. After we are done with all that could be said and heard.


L: You are asking us to?

AP: I am asking you to be a little careful and honest. Everything that is happening to you at every moment, is waiting to tell you the entire Truth. In fact, it is chasing you to tell you the entire Truth, if you are just prepared to pause and listen. The cup of tea, the glance you throw at a woman, the way you choose your clothes, the book you pick up to read – all of these are daily actions and all of them contain your entire story. If you can just pause and look, you will be able to read. And then you require honesty, to acknowledge. Because you can read and dismiss. You can read and then say, “No No, what I have read is untrue.”

If you could put your finger on anything, you will come to know of everything. If you could just know, why you are here, you will know everything.

And things are happening all the time, there is no moment when there is no happening. Which means, there is no moment when God is not sending its angels to you. There is no moment when the book of life is not open in front of you. Just read it.

Is it without any reason that you stare at somebody? Is it without any reason that you like a particular shop? Is it without any reason that you demand from the Hotel manager, that you be given a particular room? All of these things are happening, right? Can we just be a little alert and see, from where they are coming? What their fact is? Is it really so complex that it is going over your head?

We all have our choices, preferences, fears, ambitions. And they are operational all the time. In every action. So, if we are a little careful, we come to see everything.

Are you asking the same question that he asked? No. So, why are you asking this question? I often ask my audience, that I must answer your question and you must answer, why you ask this question? While it is upon me to answer the question, it is upon you to find out, why at all did you ask? What is the root, the center from which the question is coming? It is a very interesting thing to see, why only this question? Out of so many questions, why did you ask only this? Do you see that from a space of infinite possibilities, you picked up only this question?

You could have asked me, “What’s happening in Columbia today?” You could have asked me, “What is the weather like, on one of the moons of Saturn?” But you asked something specific. Why? And then everything opens up. And when things open up, don’t take them personally. Don’t mind what you see.

You know, it is not without a reason, that he is sitting there, somebody is right here. All of these things, are great pointers.

L2: Pointers of what?

AP: Pointers to the configuration of the mind. Whatever is in here (mind), keeps expressing itself, through the external. And you are lucky that you can watch the external through your eyes, ears, touch it, feel it, think about it. So, these (senses) that are normally talked of as illusions, can actually become your helpers. Use these two eyes, not even the third one, to come closer to the Truth.

When you are not too interested in something, then you know everything about it. That sounds so paradoxical. And when you are interested in something, then it is guaranteed, that you will be in dark about that thing. Witnessing just means, not being interested in anything. Not attaching your self-interest and self- worth to anything. And when you are not interested, you are suddenly the Knower and the master. It is a kingdom in which the kingship comes only to the reluctant king. When you don’t want it, it is given to you.

L: So, there is nothing called effortful observation.

AP: No. But since all observation that we make, involves certain effort, so you may as well, give up on all that.

L: So, you are saying, “Self Observation.” To observe ourselves on a daily basis, small things, day to day things. The more we do that, the more we understand the nature of why things are happening the way they are. And come to understand the artificiality of that. And slowly we will have the realization of our true nature?

AP: You would at least want to drop it. Or not hold it any more.

L: Hold what?

AP: That fakeness.

What happens is that Observation does happen. But all good observation, just like everything that is good about us, has a nature of deepening. When it starts deepening, then we start resisting, we start suppressing. So, you come to know something – Till a point you are alright with it. But as the realization intensifies, you start becoming afraid and start resisting. So, the observation that could have sublimated into witnessing, gets blocked.

You see, it is like this, an example – People come to me, it’s my eighth or ninth day here. They come on the first day, second day they like it even more, third day the attraction increases, fourth day intensifies, fifth day, reaches a peak, sixth day, a U turn. Because the sixth day, it has reached a position, where something very important is about to be exposed, now it is dangerous, so you will have to run away. You are running away, exactly at a point where you are going to be blessed.

And that is what we do with Observation. We impede it, exactly when it is about to take off. We keep welcoming it, till it is harmless. Harmless to whom? Us, the ego. The moment it starts encroaching on our core, personal space, we shoo it away. We close the door on it. So,

Witnessing is nothing but fearlessness and honesty.

Even if what I see is like poison to all my beliefs, my total personality, yet I will not deny it. Even if, what I am coming to realize, proves that I have been an idiot all the while, still, I will not run away. I have a certain commitment to the Truth. Now that I am coming close to the Truth, how can I turn my back on it. That is witnessing.

Observation itself, rises into witnessing. But we kill observation. Have you not seen, that if you are seeing something that you do not like, you go away from that place? This is called killing of observation. Now, how can witnessing happen? Have you not seen that you keep clinging to what you like, and keep away from what you dislike? Now, if you keep away from what you dislike, how will you ever know the fact of your dislike? I dislike someone, so I never meet him, will I ever now come to know about him. The more I do not know about him, the more I keep disliking.

I feel I have only one well-wisher, only one friend. So, I spend my all time with him, Why? Because I feel that I have only one well-wisher and the entire world is hostile. Now that I am spending all my time with him, how will I get another friend? And because I won’t get another friend, my belief that I have only one friend, will become even deeper, and appear like a fact. This is called, a blocking of observation. Fear impedes observation.

L: So, it means when we are observing our so called destructive routines, that do not serve us any more, we know. Then through observation we would start questioning those routines, those patterns?

AP: No, because even the questions will come from the conditioned self. Observation is not about questioning. Observation, is about just passively being there. Not even asking questions. Because the moment you ask the question, you have distorted the happening. Something is happening and you start questioning it. What will happen to the happening?

Just observe. Questioning is an activity.

L: Wouldn’t observation lead to questioning?

AP: When the question comes, question comes from the same center of the fear, so you observe the question also.

L: And this process of observation will lead to changes in the life.

AP: It will lead. And when those changes come, some of those changes may not be welcome to the world around you. And then the world will encourage you to block the observation. When you really come to know something that you have not been knowing all this while. Your action changes, your conduct, your behavior, your entire way of relating with the world changes. The world may not take kindly to that. And then the world will want to push you back to your former self. The world wants its continuity. For the world to continue, it is important that you continue as you are. You change, the world is threatened.

L: What about selectivity in observation?
AP: You were walking with me an hour back. What do you remember an hour back? You remember hot women. Now, why do you remember only the hot women out of what you saw? They were hot to?

L: Me

AP: Did the monkey on the tree find them hot? No. They were hot to you. You will only see that, which suits your being. The ego will be interested only in that which furthers the ego.

But it doesn’t matter. Whatever you observe, in that lies the key. Wherever you are standing, there is the gate. So, don’t be worried about right observation. Whatever you are observing holds the key. Just go into it.

-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Witnessing is a myth

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