There are four verses in the Guru Gita that refer to a concept called The Witness:
It is the Guru who illuminates the mind, not the mind that illuminates the Guru. I bow to my Guru who is the supreme witness of waking, dreaming and deep sleep states.
O Beloved, those who know say the Guru is Shiva, the witness of all, but without his three eyes; he is Vishnu, but without his four arms; he is Brahma, but without his four faces.
O Beloved, pranam with love to the Guru’s feet every day, making an offering of prayers and devotion to him wherever he may be. He is always fully awake and at one with Pure Consciousness, witnessing the drama of myriad world systems arising and dissolving.
He is ekam – one; he is nityam – eternal; he is vimalam – free from impurities; he is achalam – steadfast. He is the abode of knowledge and bliss, and is forever omniscient, omnipresent and vast like the sky. He is the witness.
What does the Guru Gita really mean when it refers to The Witness? Here are excerpts from four different talks that Mark Griffin has given in which he explains this profound concept to us. As you read these quotes, reflect back that it is not only an aspect of creation and of our own essential nature that Mark is describing; as the Guru Gita explains, the witness is the Guru.
from Mark Griffin:
“The manifestation of the luminous nature of mind takes the form of an aspect of consciousness that is called the witness. It is the dream-like expression of the turiya. The turiya refers to the luminous quality of mind – its capacity to be aware. Yet the awareness itself is empty, it has no quality; so it reflects the nature of formlessness. We find that the mind is completely reflective in its nature.”
“The witness is a language. If you were the master of your own witness, you would be able, in an instant, to see the formless nature of your own mind. You’d be in Savikalpa Samadhi, you could cross the ten states of God, you would be in the complete unfoldment of the ten streams of the Nirvikalpa, absolute formless quality, then you’re in the complete non-duality. It’s there. It doesn’t go anywhere, it doesn’t suddenly arrive. The missing ingredient is your capacity to experience on that level of formless expression.”
“As you progress through the awakening of the three worlds, it is the witness that is constant. It is important to understand your witness…when you are in the waking state, the witness is like a reflection of your own mind. It records absolutely everything that happens within you and around you. But because the brain can’t consciously process that much information, it’s forced to stratify itself into layers of subconscious and unconscious attention. A lot of what the awakening impulse of Shaktipat is about is giving you more energy. This energy awakens more brain mass, and the areas of the brain mass that are dedicated to processing formless forms of information.”
“As the process of unfoldment and expansion continues, you’ll find that the witness is constant. As you come to the awakening of the subtle physical body, which is an extremely dramatic event, and as you begin to live in that universe, then begin to cross over into the causal body and the causal world, you find that this capacity of witness is constant. Thus when you begin to hit the Savikalpa Samadhi, where you have the first full-on darshan of the nature of your own mind as empty, the nature of the witness changes, and expresses and experiences itself in that awakened dream in the terms of emptiness. As it begins to go further into emptiness, and you begin to experience the ten states of God, which are profoundly empty and non-dual, the witness is present as the luminous turiya, witnessing that infinite non-duality. But it’s not the same language that you’re experiencing now, it’s something else. It’s a different language. Its the language of the formless nature of non-dual being. I’m speaking it to you now; I’ve been speaking it to you since the day you met me. Even though you’re not conscious of it, or you are intermittently conscious of it, the witness has heard everything I’ve said. You’ve heard it, it’s impacted you and changed you. It’s like a force of nature: it must register. It can’t not. That’s why this path never fails.”
If you’d like to study more about the Witness, the Hard Light Online Store has a talk Mark gave in the spring of 2009 all about the witness that is truly excellent.