Witness (Sakshi)

Q1). What is witness of individual consciousness – jiva sakshi ? 

At individual level, there are two aspects of  individual consciousness (jiva).  The transactional  (vyavaharika)  aspect of  individual consciousness and transcendental aspect (paramarthika).  The transcendental aspect of individual consciousness (jiva) is called witness consciousness (sakshi).

Q2 ).  How does all pervading Brahman takes the form of individual (jiva) ? 

          Gross and subtle bodies appear in all pervading reality Brahman.  Upanishads say Brahman enters into the subtle body ( anupravesha).  Since, Brahman s all pervading reality, Brahman cannot enter anything other than itself. This is logically impossible. The right interpretation of  teaching of upanishad is Brahman manifests as individual consciousness (jiva).  Indivisible, infinite Brahman “appeared” as multiple individuals (jivas).  Formation of  reflection ( pratibimba)  or reflected consciousness in the subtle body (intellect) is called Brahman entering the subtle body.

          Non dual Brahman “appeared” as many individual consciousness (jivas) by identifying with local attributes (upadhi) of the intellect.   Due to reflection (chidabhasa)  in the subtle body, infinite Brahman “appeared” as finite.  The reflection depends on the quality of reflecting surface -intellect.  The reflection appears as ” I am”.  Here “I” refers to the consciousness (chit) aspect of Brahman and “am” refers to existence(sat) aspect of Brahman.   An analogy can be given here.  Sun forms multiple reflections in well, lake, river, stone and mirror. One sun appears as many.  Reflection in mirror has closer resemblance to sun as compared to reflection in stone. The quality of reflection is subtle body ( intellect/mind) is dependent on the material modes – satva/rajo/tamo guna mixture.

    Another example can be given. Sun representing Brahman (universal consciousness) reflects in multiple pots containing water. Reflection of sun in each pot is chidabhasa or reflected consciousness.  Pot represents the body of the organism and water represents mind.  If there is disturbance in water, the reflection also appears shaky.

           After reflection (chidabhasa – I am) is formed, the limited reflected consciousness (chidabhasa) identifies with the attributes (upadhis) of mind in the form of body-mind-intellect.  Due to presence of reflected consciousness, a thought arises in the mind called ” I am this”.  ” I am body/ I am mind/I am intellect” thoughts arise thereby identifying chidabhasa with the attributes of the mind in the form of body-mind-intellect.  Thus all pervading Brahman appears as limited individual consciousness (jiva).

3).  What is the distinction between individual consciousness (jiva) and witness consciousness ( jiva sakshi) ? 

Individual consciousness (jiva) is identified with the attributes of body mind and intellect.  Witness consciousness is the conditioned consciousness by the subtle body but not identified with the attributes.   An example can be given in the form of a pot half filled with water. Pot represents body. Water represents mind. The infinite outer space representing Brahman gets reflected in water (mind). The reflected image is chidabhasa. Chidabhasa is conditioned by water and pot. Any ripple (representing thought) in water ( mind) affects the reflection. This is jiva – individual consciousness. The space within the pot not reflected in water is sakshi or witness. Witness is conditioned by the body ( pot) but not affected by the disturbance (thought) in the mind ( water).  The total outer space is Brahman.  This is the example given by Shri Vidyaranya in Panchadashi.

We are speaking of three aspects of consciousness.

a). Unconditioned Consciousness – Brahman – It is called attributeless (nirupadhika) – In the above example total unconditioned space.

b). Conditioned consciousness –  Jiva Sakshi – upahita chaitanya. Upahita means depending upon the conditions. In above example conditioned space in the pot.

c).  Conditioned consciousness identified with attributes – Jiva – reflected consciousness –  chidabhasa identified with attributes. It is called vishista chaitanya.

There is really no difference between b) and c) since space inside the pot and outside the pot is one and the same. Similarly jiva-sakshi is Brahman only.

4). What is jivan mukti ? 

The jiva due to identification with the attributes of body and mind undergoes suffering. Any condition of body like old age and health affects jiva. Similarly status of mind like joy and sorrow affects jiva. Jiva undergoes repeated cycle of birth and death due to karma. Jiva has identification with the body/mind/intellect as “I am body, I am mind, I am intellect”.

When Jiva recognizes that I am sakshi (witness), rather than conditioned (upadhis), reflected consciousness, is called Self Realization.

Jiva sakshi is different for different people even though it is one with Brahman. It is as if saying, the space in my house is different from space in your house. Walls of the house cannot really break the infinite space. Still notionally the spaces are different. Similarly sakshi in me can only witness the thoughts in my mind not in other peoples mind.


– Prabhuji – http://www.lightoftheself.net





  1. What is the difference between Conditioning and Identification.
    Isn’t Space Inside Pot Identified with the Pot that it feels conditioned by the Pot walls.
    Kindly clarify


    1. Space inside the pot walls feels conditioned by wall. Conditioned means feeling limited. However, walls cannot put a boundary to space. Similarly witness cannot be limited by boundaries. However chidabhasa which is reflected consciousness feels bound by the body. It forgets itself as infinite witness and identifies with body.


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