Sri Atmananda Krishna Menon on "Witness of Thoughts"
- At any moment in the stream, only a single
thought appears. For in that moment, there's
no time to think two thoughts or more. Nor is
there time to think of different things, in
that single moment. To think of more than just
one thing, there must be more thoughts than one,
taking place at different times.
So when the mind thinks of itself, it's there
alone, thought momentarily, in a passing moment.
Most of the time attention turns to other things,
and then the mind has gone away. In its own
stream of thought, mind only shows up now and
then -- as a passing thought of ego, where the
mind conceives itself. On the occasions when this
fitful ego-thought appears, mind identifies it
as a self that knows experience. This passing
ego-thought thus claims that it somehow carries
on, even when it gets replaced by many other
thoughts which keep succeeding it in time.
This thought of ego is self-contradictory, confused
and absurdly inflated in its claims. Most people
realize there's something wrong with ego, in the
way that it centres what they see and feel and
think upon their partial bodies and their shifting
minds. But then, what exactly is the problem? And
how might it be corrected?
The problem is that when mind thinks, it does not
really know. The thoughts of mind are only changing
acts, each of which distracts attention from the
others. Each drowns out the others with its noisy
clamouring. As these thoughts replace each other,
knowing is what carries on. It is a silent
witnessing that is completely detached and
impartial, not at all involved with any changing action.
The self that knows is thus a silent witness to
all thoughts which come and go. As mind and body
do their acts, the witness only witnesses. Its
witnessing is not a changing act. In its pure and
quiet knowing, it does not do anything. It just
stays the same, utterly unchanged and unaffected,
completely free and independent of what is witnessed.
By the mere presence of that silent witness,
what appears gets illuminated and recorded. On
that witness, everyone depends, for all memory and
communication. To remember or communicate, there
has to be a standing back into its quiet knowing
presence, which is shared in common by all changing
times and different personalities. From there,
all things are known, impartially and truly.
Thus, to correct the partialities and the confusions
of ego, all that's needed is a change of perspective,
achieved by realizing that all knowing stands in
the silent witness. That is the only true
perspective -- standing as the silent knower, quite
detached from thinking mind, perceiving senses,
doing body, happy or unhappy personality.
In the end the detachment does not come from any
physical or mental change, nor from any forced
renunciation. It comes just by taking note of
where in fact one stands, as that which witnesses
all happenings that appear. That witness is by
nature unattached: quite unchanged and unaffected
by the changing doings of body, sense and mind,
in personality and world.