Swami Satchidananda: We all have a witness in our own system. That’s what you call the Self. It is a constant witness. What is it witnessing? It witnesses the play of the mind. The mind constantly creates drama. When you go to a movie theater, what do you do? You sit and watch, that’s all. You don’t go and fight in a fighting scene, or cry in the crying scene. Although some people do seem to do that! They get caught into the drama and then they are not just watching the movie anymore.
You don’t have to become a witness. You already are a witness; you just have to know that. You think that you are part of the mind when you say, “My mind is disturbed.” What do you mean when you say that? Analyze that sentence. If you are the mind, then how would you know that you are disturbed? To say, “my mind,” you must be different from your mind. You possess the mind. When you say, “my car, my home,” you don’t become the car or the home. You are the owner of the car and of the home. So when you say, “my mind, or my body,” you are really completely different from that. But you don’t realize the difference. You say, “My mind is very disturbed, so I’m unhappy.” There is a contradiction in that statement. Do you say, my car has a dent so I am suffering? If that’s what you say, then that means you identify yourself with the dent. The dent is in the car, not in the “I.” But you i-dent-ify.
The witness doesn’t worry about the positive or negative. It remains neutral and doesn’t get involved. A movie will have many scenes: a nice marriage ceremony, and then the next minute, there will be a divorce ceremony! There will be a happy scene, an unhappy scene. Of course, that’s what makes a movie, a movie. The world is like a movie; it’s a dramatic stage. It has both positive and negative, pleasure and pain. If you become mingled with that, then you are no longer a witness. Even in courts, if it is proved that you are associated or related with one of the parties in the case, you will be dismissed as a witness. A witness should be a neutral person; not associated with either party. Your Self is like that. It’s always witnessing the mental activity.
And, that is how you “practice” being a witness. Watch your own drama. That is a good meditation. During meditation, you don’t have to do anything. Let the mind do its own thing while you just sit and watch. That’s a higher form of meditation. The minute you start putting yourself in the witness attitude, the mind knows that you are not involved in that and it knows it’s being watched by the witness. It’s almost like a naughty child. If the child knows the mother is watching, the child won’t be mischievous. It will be careful. If nobody watches, it can do anything it wants. So the same way, if you, as the Self, watch the mind it will slowly calm down and stop its pranks. That is the benefit of being a witness.
Always know that you’re not the mind nor the body. They are your instruments, for you to use well. Detach yourself from the identification. That is the only way to realize that you are a witness. When you become a witness, you don’t worry about anything; whatever happens, happens. That is the qualification of a Jivanmukta; a living, liberated soul. The scriptures say that Jivanmuktas don’t worry about what has gone, or what is going to come. When they walk through a graveyard, and all of a sudden, a grave opens up and somebody gets out and walks away, Jivanmuktas won’t be surprised. It’s not a big thing for them.
If, on a hot sunny day, you see the full moon, it’s a surprising thing to you. But, to those who are Jivanmuktas, it’s not a surprise at all, because everything is possible to them. They are not amazed or surprised by anything. They just accept everything. They would not say that this is good and that is bad. It’s all part of nature. They accept both. That is the witness attitude, and one has to develop that.
It’s very hard because the ordinary mind won’t allow you to detach yourself from it. It wants to have a hold on you. For that reason, you work with the mind. Make the mind a little clean, a little calm. “Blessed are the pure in heart.” Make it pure. Get rid of all the impure thoughts first. Then, it’s easy to get rid of the remaining waves in the mind. At some point, your mind should become wave-free. But for that to occur, first, you have to make the mind have good thoughts. Use the good thoughts as a catalytic agent, to get rid of the unhelpful thoughts.
We often use a good dirt, to get rid of a bad dirt. The good dirt is the soap. You buy some soap, which is a good smelling dirt, with a nice name. Only dirt can remove dirt. We put some soap on a dirty cloth, dip the cloth in the water, and rub and scrub. Then, when you pull it out, both the good and bad remain in the water but the cloth comes out clean. In the same way, with the help of good thoughts, the bad thoughts will be removed. When the bad thoughts are gone, the good thoughts will say, “I’ve done my duty, now I’m also going.”
All the Yoga practices such as asana, pranayama, deep relaxation, and mantra japa are catalysts. One day, when they have finished their job of cleaning the mind, they should all go away. Only then are you totally free. So until the negative thoughts are removed, use the good, positive ones. That’s where the practices come in; they clean the mind, and once it’s clean and calm, you don’t have to do anything. You are free.