Q.475 Witness-Consciousness

Q: Can you help me to clear the following doubts?

  1. What part of the body is referred to as the mind?
  2. Why cannot the witness consciousness be a 5th part of the mind, Ego (changing subject), Emotion, Reasoning, Memory and the witness (unchanging subject)? In other words why cant the witness Atman be limited?
  3. Why cannot there be multiple witness consciousness or multiple Atman’s.
  4. Can each Mithya have different Satyam? To me it is quite a big jump to say Satyam of everything is one and the same. I can get that everything can be reduced to atoms and particles but beyond that it is difficult to conclude that there is one Satyam?

A: A good selection of subtle questions!

  1. The mind is (in) the subtle body and is not part of the gross body (which includes the brain).
  2. We ‘witness’ the mind and its working in the same way that we witness the gross body. The observer cannot be a part of the observed. There is not a witness of the witness. The buck stops with Atman-Brahman.
  3. The belief that there are many Atman-s (or puruSha-s, as they call them) belongs to nyAya-vaisheShika and Sankhya philosophies, and the sort of argument they use is that, if there were only one and this one was happy, then everybody would be happy. The sAMkhya philosophy is rejected in the Brahmasutra 2.2.1-10 (and vaisheShika in 11-17). And Gaudapada and Shankara refute it in Mandukya kArikA-s 4.11 onwards. They do not specifically address the many-Atman idea.

You have to understand that it is not possible to establish the nature of reality by perception, inference etc. (or by thinking deeply about it). The only pramANa that can tell us about brahman is shabda – scriptures. They explain and point to reality in a way which does not contradict reason. You just have to keep listening (reading) and asking questions until it all finally ‘clicks’ – that is ‘enlightenment’.

  1. As for 3. If you think in terms of ‘name and form’, you can see that tables are just a name we give to a particular form of wood; wood is the name we give to the particular naturally occurring matter that is the substance of trees. And so on. When you get down to atoms and particles, you can say these are name and form of energy if you like. Brahman is that ‘substrate’ beyond which you can go no further. You could say at the first level of understanding that wood is the satyam of the mithyA table. But then you look more closely… Ultimately there is only one satyam. Everything else is just name and form.