Tuesday, February 19, 2008

why witnessing falls short

questioner: I do self-inquiry just as you are describing it, and I guess you are using different words for it such as "tasting yourself," "seeing yourself directly." I set aside time to do it, and I guess it is different from meditation practices, where one would follow the breath or do different concentrative practices. I want to get a little clarification.

John Sherman: That's good. I did it as a practice, when I finally abandoned my allegiance to these neo-advaita ideas about effortlessness, and not doing a practice, and so forth.

questioner: It's just a little confusing. I guess it's mainly because of the challenges inherent in talking about it. You say things such as "a practice can't help and it can't hurt."

John Sherman: When I talk about the practices that can't help and can't hurt, I mean the practices that try to change your mind; practices that seek to change the way in which this life unfolds.

questioner: But you also included the practice of witnessing, which to me seems very close to this that you describe.

John Sherman: It seems close, but it really isn't. From what I understand about witnessing, it is the practice of taking on the point of view of the witness, of sinking into the point of view of the non-involved, detached witness. But the enactment of that practice is witnessed by you. The only way it is possible to report on that is because you see it. So, the trying to adopt this viewpoint of the witness is still turning around this central idea that I am this life and this mind, and what is required here is for me to become detached, dispassionate, and witness only. It is okay. However, in no way does this practice bring you to a direct meeting with yourself. You are the one who is seeing all of this witnessing that is going on. You are the awareness of the witnessing. You are the source of that. You are the source of the impulse to do this practice. You are not a witness that is here today and gone tomorrow. You are here always. So, the practice of self-inquiry is, in all cases and all states whatsoever, to look for the subject: Okay, here I am, in the state of witnessing. Who sees that?

~ for the rest of this talk, see this.

And for Sadhu Om's view of the practice of witnessing, please see this post.

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