Chapter

‘I Am of the Nature of Seeing’:Phenomenological Reflections on the Indian Notion of Witness-Consciousness

Wolfgang Fasching

in Self, No Self?

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780199593804
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595691 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199593804.003.0008
‘I Am of the Nature of Seeing’:Phenomenological Reflections on the Indian Notion of Witness-Consciousness

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In contrast to the Buddhist anātman doctrine, Advaita Vedānta centrally posits the existence of a permanent ‘self’ (ātman). This self is characterized as the ‘witness’ (sākṣin) of the experiences, that is as that which is conscious of them—yet not in the sense of some substantial entity that performs the witnessing, but rather as nothing but the taking place of witnessing (consciousness) itself. This chapter argues for the plausibility of this notion of a witness-consciousness, interpreted as the abiding experiencing of the ever-changing experiences. Synchronically and diachronically, manifold experiences are presented in one and the same consciousness, whose oneness is not reducible to some unifying relations between the experiences, but rather forms the dimension in which they, together with all their interrelations, have their existence in the first place. This presence-dimension is, this chapter suggests, what is called ātman (qua witness) in Advaita.

Keywords: Advaita Vedānta; witness-consciousness; sākṣin; self; ātman; consciousness

Chapter.  10149 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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