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Sakshi, the silent witness

In sanskrit, sakshi is the observer, the aspect within able to watch the body, mind and events without judgement, attachment or analysis. If our lives were a movie, the sakshi would be the one in the audience just simply watching all that is happening without getting caught up in the plot, critiquing the performances, or being preoccupied by whether or not more popcorn or a trip to the toilet is needed. The state of sakshi is one of suspended judgement.

In today’s world of rapid, media-based communication it is easy to forget that we are “watching a movie”. We see and hear people all around us acting up and acting out in response to daily events big and small–even being encouraged to do so by the media and by those around us who have been conditioned to do so–and before long we are joining in. In this sense we become victims; many things are happening to us, being done to us or against us, and we think that by acting out or acting up we will somehow be vindicated. However, the more we react to the events and actions of those around us, the more we’re taken ’round and ’round on the rollercoaster, never in a place for long enough to stay still or to quiet the mind. In this way the fluctuations of the mind are fed and the cycle of samsara continues.

Through the practice of meditation, yoga asana, and pranayama, comes pratyahara, the movement inwards to the dwelling of the sakshi.

For the sakshi, time disappears, the need to decipher events evaporates, as does the desire to speculate on the future. All the events continue to happen, but we remain unaffected. We realize we are not the doers.

I was once told a story of a yogi and his wife. Their son was taken away by the army to serve as a warrior during a time of war. The yogi’s wife was very upset by this and said, “isn’t it horrible, we may never see our son again, he may be killed on the battlefield.” The yogi replied, “I don’t know, we shall see.”

Time went by, and one day the son showed up on the doorstep, wounded from battle, but alive. His mother was ecstatic, delighted to see her son, and happy he wouldn’t be taken away again to serve on the battlefield. “Oh, isn’t it wonderful to have our son back!” she said. The yogi replied,”I don’t know, we shall see.”

After some time, messengers of the king arrived at the door of the yogi’s home and requested the son to leave with them to attend to the king’s garden and remain at the palace. The woman was terribly distraught to think her son would be taken away again, and cried out,”They can’t take my son away a second time, how can they be so cold hearted?” The yogi responded, “I don’t know, we shall see.”

Time went by, and after awhile, the messenger of the king showed up at the yogi’s door again, this time with an empty coach on hand. He informed the yogi and his wife that their son had fallen in love with the princess and they were due to get married. The king requested that the yogi and his wife go with the messenger to take up residence on the palace grounds to reunite with their son and his new wife. The woman was elated. She couldn’t believe her luck and joyously shouted out, “This is the best news I’ve ever heard! Aren’t we fortunate to have this luck!” The yogi replied, “I don’t know, we shall see.”

This is the sakshi, quietly observing, remaining even keeled and unaffected despite the chaos and ups and downs of all that changes so rapidly and uncontrollably in our world today.

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