Question: What is the difference between awareness and witnessing?
There is much difference between awareness and witnessing. 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. 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 is total – total subjectivity and total objectivity as a single phenomenon – while in witnessing a duality exists between subject and object. Awareness is non-doing; 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. 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.
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 Something has changed: activity has become conscious; unconsciousness has been replaced by consciousness.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.
There is still a difference between consciousness and awareness. 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 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.
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.
Then what is the relationship between consciousness and witnessing? 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 by-product. 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.
So these are the three steps: consciousness, witnessing, awareness. But where we exist is the lowest rank: that is, in unconscious activity. Unconscious activity is the state of our minds.
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.
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” consciousness – is awareness.
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.
From Meditation: The Art of Ecstasy, Chapter 14
Copyright© OSHO International Foundation
You can read the entire book online at the Osho Library.