What Is Witness Consciousness? By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Anandmayi Ma with Swami Yoganand Witness consciousness as a concept and a spiritual practice has become better known now in the West. In the psychology of Advaita and Yoga of thousands of years ago, it has always been a fundamental tool for self development and self understanding on the path to Self-Realization.

To be a witness of something implies that one is watching and observing it objectively. To be witness of phenomena means that one is standing apart from the situation and not identifying with it.

According to Advaita philosophy, whatever can be witnessed by us is not our essential nature but a transient phase. This idea has been brought forth by ancient sages who described the nature of the Self as Brahman, the highest Divinity which sits in our heart as our Heart.

The human condition by its very nature is associated with various emotions. Some emotions are positive, some are neutral, and some are destructive. Fear, anger, rage, and guilt are some of the emotions which can undermine our peace of mind and efforts to fulfill our potential. The practice of Witness Consciousness is meant to enable us to more clearly observe the origins of our emotions.

The philosophy of Witness Consciousness teaches us that our emotions are a passing phase and not our true nature. By developing this watchfulness and our ability to observe ourselves even in difficult circumstances, we are able to gradually weaken the roots of negativity and transform our mind.

The philosophy behind Witness consciousness is very deep and profound. Sometimes, those with superficial understanding view this approach as leading to inaction and simply letting life pass by as your observe. In fact, by reducing the power of negative emotions and then uprooting these, Witness Consciousness can lead to an optimistic and a positive frame of mind.

Those who practice watchfulness become more sensitive to their own nature as well as that of others. They develop a wonderful richness of the spirit and are helpful to their fellow human beings. Witness Consciousness helps us develop a nonjudgmental and a forgiving attitude towards ourselves as well as others and thus can bring more acceptance and harmony in our lives.

The origin of the idea of  Witness Consciousness and its practice is found in the Upanishads. Upanishads are the sacred Hindu scriptures and are thought to be between 5000 and 7000 years old. For example, In the Brihadaranyak Upanishad, the great sage Yajnavalkya when asked to describe Brahman (God-Self or the Highest Divinity) responds beautifully by saying neti, neti, neti. Neti, means “not this”. Yajnavalkya emphasizes that however we conceptualize the Divine, it is not that.

In the Advaitic approach to Self-Realization, one rests in Witness Consciousness and that becomes ones meditation. One may be walking, eating, and engaging in other activities and yet be maintaining an alert watchfulness.

In meditation on the Self, whatever thought or emotion comes, one can practice neti, neti, and bring the attention back to the Witness. Although the philosophy of neti, neti, and witnessing of phenomena was developed by the Vedic sages as a spiritual philosophy, it has the effect of creating a better understanding of the nature of our mind as well.

7 thoughts on “What Is Witness Consciousness? By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

  1. Thanks Harsha. Is the Witnessing Consciousness same as “I” which Ramana Maharishi explains in Who Am I? Where he says that all arising of thoughts and perception depend on the arising of the “I” sense and When we take hold or pay attention to the “I” , this sense of existence and being?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been practicing Witness Consciousness seriously as best as I can, after reading & listening to ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. I find it so interesting although it is not that easy. Thank you.

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  3. Reblogged this on mira prabhu and commented:
    “Witness consciousness as a concept and a spiritual practice has become better known now in the West. In the psychology of Advaita and Yoga of thousands of years ago, it has always been a fundamental tool for self development and self understanding on the path to Self-Realization.” Read on for more of Harsh Luthar’s wonderful post…

    Liked by 1 person

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