Meditation : Being a Witness


There is much difference between awareness and witnessing.

There are three steps: consciousness, witnessing, awareness.

Where we exist is the lowest rank: that is, in unconscious activity. Unconscious activity is the state of our minds. You can do something and be unconscious – our ordinary activity is unconscious activity – but if you become conscious in it, it becomes witnessing. So from ordinary unconscious activity to awareness there is a gap that can be filled by witnessing.

Through consciousness you can achieve witnessing, and through witnessing you can achieve awareness, and through awareness you can achieve “no achievement.” Through awareness you can achieve all that is already achieved. After awareness there is nothing; awareness is the end.

Witnessing is a state, and consciousness is a means toward witnessing. If you begin to be conscious, you achieve witnessing. If you begin to be conscious of your acts, conscious of your day-to-day happenings, conscious of everything that surrounds you, then you begin to witness.

Witnessing comes as a consequence of consciousness. You cannot practice witnessing; you can only practice consciousness. Witnessing comes as a consequence, as a shadow, as a result, as a byproduct. The more you become conscious, the more you go into witnessing, the more you come to be a witness. So consciousness is a method to achieve witnessing. And the second step is that witnessing will become a method to achieve awareness.

Witnessing is still an act; you are doing it, the ego is there. So the phenomenon of witnessing is divided between the subject and the object. Witnessing is a relationship between subject and object.

Witnessing is a technique, a method toward awareness. It is not awareness, but, as compared to ordinary activity, unconscious activity, it is a higher step. Something has changed: activity has become conscious, unconsciousness has been replaced by consciousness. But something more still has to be changed. That is, the activity has to be replaced by inactivity. That will be the second step.

It is difficult to jump from ordinary, unconscious action into awareness. It is possible but arduous, so a step in between is helpful. If one begins by witnessing conscious activity, then the jump becomes easier – the jump into awareness without any conscious object, without any conscious subject, without any conscious activity at all. This doesn’t mean that awareness isn’t consciousness; it is pure consciousness, but no one is conscious about it.

Consciousness is a quality of your mind, but it is not your total mind. Your mind can be both conscious and unconscious, but when you transcend your mind, there is no unconsciousness and no corresponding consciousness. There is awareness.

Awareness is absolutely devoid of any subjectivity or objectivity. There is no one who is witnessing in awareness; there is no one who is being witnessed. Awareness is a total act, integrated; the subject and the object are not related in it; they are dissolved. So awareness doesn’t mean that anyone is aware, nor does it mean that anything is being attended to.

Awareness means that the total mind has become aware. Now the old mind is not there, but there is the quality of being conscious. Awareness has become the totality; the mind itself is now part of the awareness. We cannot say that the mind is aware; we can only meaningfully say that the mind is conscious. Awareness means transcendence of the mind, so it is not the mind that is aware. It is only through transcendence of the mind, through going beyond mind, that awareness becomes possible.

Awareness is total – total subjectivity and total objectivity as a single phenomenon – while in witnessing a duality exists between subject and object. Awareness is nondoing, witnessing is still an act ; witnessing implies a doer. But through witnessing awareness is possible, because witnessing means that it is a conscious act; it is an act, but conscious.

Consciousness is a quality of the mind, awareness is the transcendence; it is going beyond the mind. Mind, as such, is the medium of duality, so consciousness can never transcend duality. It is always conscious of something, and there is always someone who is conscious. So consciousness is part and parcel of the mind, and mind, as such, is the source of all duality, of all divisions, whether they are between subject and object, activity or inactivity, consciousness or unconsciousness. Every type of duality is mental. Awareness is nondual, so awareness means the state of no mind.

Awareness is the end of spiritual progress; unawareness is the beginning. Unawareness means a state of material existence. So unawareness and unconsciousness are not both the same.

Unawareness means matter. Matter is not unconscious; it is unaware.

Animal existence is an unconscious existence; human existence is a mind phenomenon – ninety- nine percent unconscious and one percent conscious. This one percent consciousness means you are one percent conscious of your ninety-nine percent unconsciousness. But if you become conscious of your own consciousness, then the one percent will go on increasing, and the ninety- nine percent unconsciousness will go on decreasing.

If you become one hundred percent conscious, you become a witness, a sakshi. If you become a sakshi, you have come to the jumping point from where the jump into awareness becomes possible.

In awareness you lose the witness and only witnessing remains: you lose the doer, you lose the subjectivity, you lose the egocentric consciousness. Then consciousness remains, without the ego.

The circumference remains without the center.

This circumference without the center is awareness. Consciousness without any center, without any source, without any motivation, without any source from which it comes – a “no source”

So you move from the unaware existence that is matter, prakriti, towards awareness. You may call it the divine, the godly, or whatever you choose to call it. Between matter and the divine, the difference is always of consciousness.

Witness meditation

In Witness meditation, one consciously withdraws his attention toward the back of the head, mentally looking at the ‘screen’ behind the forehead. Through this process, one becomes aware of the Buddhist ‘monkey mind’ that is constantly distracted by new thoughts, old concerns, past makeovers, and future desires.

The goal is to detach emotionally from this mental activity, simply standing back and focusing your attention in the center of your head while observing the chatter.

You will soon recognize repetitious thoughts, which come, leave, return, leave, ad infinitum. You may also realize that many of your thoughts are negative, fomenting a deeper sense of inadequacy and self-defeat. At this stage, it is only necessary for you to begin to bring awareness to what’s occurring constantly and repetitively in your mind. As you develop an emotional detachment from your thoughts, consciously maintain an empowered sense of “I” as the witness.

When you begin meditation. or when meditation happens, you become a witness. That happening is simply the watching of what is, of all the information conveyed to you by your exterior and interior senses, and even the thoughts that keep chattering on about it all.

You don’t try to stop those thoughts, you just let them run as if they were birds twittering outside, and they will eventually become tired and stop.

Just simply watching whatever it is that you are feeling, think­ing, or experiencing — that’s it. Just watch it, and don’t go out of your way to put any names on it. This is really what meditation is.

Witnessing is the art of transcending the world. Witnessing is the very essence of Zen, of religion itself.  Don’t make it a thought—it not a thought at all. Thoughts have to be witnessed. Witnessing is not a thought but you can start thinking about witnessing, you can make it a thought. The moment you make it a thought, it is no longer witnessing. Either it is witnessing or it is a thought, it cannot be both together.

Even if the thought of witnessing arises, witness that thought. Remember that it is not witnessing, it is only a thought—it has to be witnessed. It is there in front of you. You are not it.

When you are witnessing you are not thinking that you are witnessing. If you are thinking that you are witnessing, this is not witnessing at all, it is another kind of thought. If the witnessing is simple, there is no thought of witnessing at all. If the thoughts are just passing in front of your vision and you are witnessing them, and no idea arises in you that “I am witnessing,” then it is pure witnessing. It is not a thought at all, it is a state of no-thought, no-mind. You are simply reflecting whatsoever is passing by.

The witness is irreducible to any thought; it always goes on sliding back. You cannot catch hold of it through any thought. It can witness each and every thought, the thought of witnessing included; hence, it can never itself become a thought.

One should not start enjoying the thought that “This is a beautiful moment. My mind is silent, my being is still. This is witnessing!” The moment you say it, have lost it. The moment you say, “Aha! This is witnessing. So I am witnessing. This is what meditation is. This is awareness,” you have missed the point. You have fallen back into the mud of the mind. You are no longer a witness. You have become identified. Witnessing cannot be reduced to a thought.

We have become so habituated to witnessing in a wrong way. We think that we witness. We judge, we evaluate, but we think that we witness. We think that we witness, and it is not witnessing.

Second Article:

There are so many, very different kinds of techniques. Do they have some common meeting ground?

There are one hundred and twelve methods of meditation, but witnessing is an essential part of all one hundred and twelve methods. So as far as I am concerned, witnessing is the only method. Those one hundred and twelve are different applications of witnessing.

The essential core, the spirit of meditation is to learn how to witness. You are seeing a tree: You are there, the tree is there, but can’t you find one thing more? – that you are seeing the tree, that there is a witness in you which is seeing you seeing the tree. The world is not divided only into the object and the subject. There is also something beyond both, and that beyond is meditation.

So in every act…and I don’t want people to sit for one hour or half an hour in the morning or in the evening. That kind of meditation is not going to help, because if you meditate for one hour, then for twenty-three hours you will be doing just the opposite of it. Meditation can be victorious: witnessing is such a method that it can spread over twenty-four hours of your day.

Eating, don’t get identified with the eater. The food is there, the eater is there, and you are here, watching. Walking, let the body walk but you simply watch. Slowly, the knack comes. It is a knack, and once you can watch small things…. A crow crowing…you are listening. These are two – the object and the subject – but can’t you see a witness who is seeing both? The crow, the listener, and still there is someone who is watching both. It is such a simple phenomenon. Then you can move into deeper layers: you can watch your thoughts; you can watch your emotions, your moods.

There is no need to say, “I am sad.” The fact is that you are a witness that a cloud of sadness is passing over you. There is anger – you can simply be a witness. There is no need to say, “I am angry.” You are never angry, there is no way for you to be angry; you are always a witness. The anger comes and goes; you are just a mirror. Things come, get reflected, move – and the mirror remains empty and clean, unscratched by the reflections.

Witnessing is finding your inside mirror. Once you have found it, miracles start happening. When you are simply witnessing the thoughts, thoughts disappear. Then there is suddenly a tremendous silence you have never known. When you are watching the moods – anger, sadness, happiness – they suddenly disappear and an even greater silence is experienced.

When there is nothing to watch – then the revolution. Then the witnessing energy turns upon itself because there is nothing to prevent it; there is no object left. The word object is beautiful. It simply means that which prevents you, objects you. When there is no object to your witnessing, it simply comes around back to yourself – to the source. This is the point where one becomes enlightened.

Meditation is only a path: the end is always buddhahood, enlightenment. To know this moment is to know all. Then there is no misery, no frustration, no meaninglessness; then life is no longer an accident. It becomes part of this cosmic whole – an essential part, and a tremendous bliss arises that this whole existence needs you.


Jiddu Krishnamurti – Observing is meditation

Questioner: Am I to understand we have to meditate, but our minds are prevented from meditating because they tick over automatically and so we are unable to observe what happens around us? Does this mean that we must therefore observe what goes on inside our minds first?

Jiddu Krishnamurti : ‘To observe one needs to meditate’ – I didn’t say so. Observing is meditation, it is not that in order to observe you must meditate. To observe is one of the most, difficult things. To observe a tree, for example, is very difficult, and that is because you have ideas, images, about that tree, and these ideas – botanical knowledge – prevent you from looking at that tree.

To observe your wife or your husband is even more difficult, again because you have an image about your wife and she has an image about you, and the relationship is between those two images. That is what is generally called relationship, which is two sets of memories, images, having a relationship. Just think of the absurdity of it – all relationship as we generally know it, is dead.

To observe means actually to be aware of the interference of thought; to see how the image you have about the tree, about the person, about whatever it is, interferes with looking – observe that you forget what you are looking at, which is the tree, or the person; and see why thought interferes, why you have an image about that person. Why do you have an image about anybody? Here we are, you are looking at me, and I am looking at you – the speaker and you, the audience.

You have an image about the speaker – unfortunately – but because I don’t know you, I have no image and I can therefore look at you. But I cannot look at you if I say to myself, I’m going to use that audience to achieve power, position, to exploit it, become a famous man – you know all the rest of it – all that rubbish which human beings cultivate.

So, to observe means to observe without the interference of one, background; but one is the background – you follow?-one’s whole being which looks is one’s background – as a Christian, as a Frenchman, or as an intellectual. in observing one discovers this background and observing it without any choice, without any inclination, is tremendous discipline, – not the absurd discipline of conformity, imitation. Such observation makes the mind extraordinarily active, extraordinarily sensitive – and the whole of that is meditation. Not, ‘to observe you must meditate; but rather it is in observing that all these things take place, and all this is meditation – not just some kind of control of thought, which we will discuss another time.

Source: J. Krishnamurti Talks in Europe 1967 1st Public Talk Paris 16th April 1967


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