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Sakshi or Sākśī (Sanskrit: साक्षी) means – 'observer', 'eye-witness' or the 'Supreme Being' or the 'ego'. In Hindu philosophy, the word, Sākshī or 'witness' refers to the 'Pure Awareness' that witnesses the world but does not get affected or involved. Sakshi is beyond time, space and the triad of experiencer, experiencing and experienced; sakshi witnesses all thoughts, words and deeds without interfering with them or being affected by them, other than sakshi there is nothing else in the entire universe.
With regard to the word, साक्षी (sākśī), used in the following verse from Shvetashvatara Upanishad,
- एको देवः सर्वभूतेषु गूढः सर्वव्यापी सर्वभूतान्तरात्मा |
- कर्माध्यक्षः सर्वभूताधिवासः साक्षी चेता केवलो निर्गुणश्च ||
- "The same Deity remains hidden in all beings, and is all-pervasive and the indwelling Self of all beings. He is the supervisor of actions, lives in all beings, (He is) the Witness, the bestower of intelligence, the Absolute and devoid of the (three) gunas." (Shvetashvatara Upanishad Sl. VI.11)
Panini states that the same indicates a direct seer or eye-witness (Panini Sutras V.ii.91), Sakshi means Ishvara, the चेता (cetā), the sole Self-consciousness, who is the witness of all, who gives consciousness to every human being, thereby making each rational and discriminatory.
Vedanta speaks of mind (chitta) or antahkarana ('internal instrument'), and matter as the subtle and gross forms of one and the same reality; being the subtle aspect of matter, mind is not a tangible reality. The field of mind (Chittakasha) involves the duality of the seer and the seen, the observer (drg) and the observed (drshya), which duality is overcome in the field of pure Consciousness. Drg-drshya-Viveka tells us:-
- "When form is the object of observation or drshyam, then the eye is the observer or drk; when the eye is the object of observation, then the mind is the observer; when the pulsations of the mind are the objects of observation, then Sakshi or the Witnessing-Self is the real observer; and it is always the observer, and, being self-luminous, can never be the object of observation. When the notion and the attachment that one is the physical body is dissolved, and the Supreme Self is realized, wherever one goes, there one experiences Samadhi. "
Sakshi, the Atman, the unchangeable eternal Reality, is the Pure Consciousness and knowledge, in which regard Sankara explains that knowledge does not destroy or create, it only illumines, that the senses (indriyas) are not the mind, the mind uses them as an implement.
The Varaha Upanishad (IV) refers to the Bhumika ('stage of development of wisdom') which is of the form of pranava (Aum or Om) as formed of or divided into – akāra, ukāra, makāra and ardhmātra, which is on account of the difference of sthula ('gross'), sukshama ('subtle'), bija ('seed' or 'causal') and sakshi ('witness') whose avasthas ('states') are – 'waking', 'dreaming', 'dream-less sleep' and 'turiya'. Sakshi which is 'turiya' is the essence.
The faculty which perceives the individual personality is Sakshi or 'Witness' or the higher 'Ego'. Mind (manas), Ego (ahankara) and Sakshi, all perform different functions but that difference of functions does not mean difference in nature or essence. Indian Philosophy discovered the concept of Sakshi, the ultimate Observer, or Witness behind the sense of individuality, or the ego; the Sakshi is the timeless Being which witnesses all this ceaseless flow and change in the world of thought and things.
- Vaman Shivram Apte. Sanskrit – English Dictionary. Digital Dictionaries of South Asia.
- Hinduism. Chinmaya Mission. pp. 69–70.
- Śvetāśvatatra Upanisad 1986 Ed.. Advaita Ashrama. pp. 190–191.
- Paramahamsa Hariharananda. Kriya Yoga. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 133.
- Swami Ranganathananda. Human Being in Depth. SUNY Press. pp. 86–87.
- Swami Akhilananda. Hindu Pschology: Its Meaning for the West. Routledge. p. 55.
- IslamKotob. Thirty Minor Upanishads. Islamic Books. p. 23.
- B.R.Rajam Iyer. Rambles in Vedanta. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 280, 289.
- T.N.Achuta Rao. Manoniyantran. Gyan Books. p. 102.