That man, who in the midst of pain, does not feel pain, who is not affected by pleasure,
affection or fear, and who looks alike upon gold and dust;||1||Pause|| who is not
swayed by either slander or praise, nor affected by greed, attachment or pride;
who remains unaffected by joy and sorrow, honor and dishonor;||1||
who renounces all hopes and desires and remains desireless in the world;
who is not touched by lust or anger - within his heart, God dwells (sggs 633).

The above is an excellent description of someone established in perfect Witnessing Consciousness.

Spiritual practices are designed to enable the seeker's mind eradicate false ego-sense (Haume), and attain the Higher Consciousness, the blissful meditative state of Divine Union. For example, the devotional singing (Kirtan) and listening to God's glory, are recommended because they enable the mind without much effort to become enraptured by the Divine auspicious qualities. Similarly, Vichaar (spiritual inquiry) helps gain Self-knowledge (Aatam-Giaan), Naam-simran (Jap) helps quieten the noisy mind (Haume), Saadh-sangat (Company of the Holy persons) helps bring about the inner transformation, Viveka (discrimination) helps to distinguish between the right and wrong, introspection ("Mann Khoj") is the ability of daily impartial intuitive self-analysis, and so on. But, as we know very well, control of the mind is easier said than done; for the Gurbani says our "mind is like a drunken elephant".

Witnessing Consciousness is an essential spiritual practice to assist the mind rid of its bondage, negativity or impurity (ego or Haume). Simply put, it is uninterestedly observing everything as a totally detached observer (Saakshi Bhaav). It is being able to remain "unaffected and untouched" in any situation, not to "get infatuated by anything", to be in "continuous remembrance of the Lord". As many terms in the Gurbani indicate, it is to be in the state of "Alipat, Niraaraa or Niraalaa, Bikhiaa maahi oudaas, Anaraagaa, Niaarou, Nirjog, Niraas, Niraalam, Alep, Nirlep, ikaant, etc.", and so on. It is being in the world like the lotus flower that remains untouched in the water or the duck that swims in the water without becoming wet or the bird that flies in the sky without leaving any footprints behind, or an actor who reads his part without attachment. In nutshell, witnessing is to remain "untouched and unperturbed within, under all circumstances". The Gurbani repeatedly emphasizes remaining unaffected within, under all happenings. That is the eternal state of witnessing — living a fully Conscious Life (Gurmukh lifestyle), the state of no-Haume or no-mind.

  • ਮਨ ਕੀ ਮਤਿ ਮਤਾਗਲੁ ਮਤਾ ॥ ਜੋ ਕਿਛੁ ਬੋਲੀਐ ਸਭੁ ਖਤੋ ਖਤਾ ॥ ਕਿਆ ਮੁਹੁ ਲੈ ਕੀਚੈ ਅਰਦਾਸਿ ॥ ਪਾਪੁ ਪੁੰਨੁ ਦੁਇ ਸਾਖੀ ਪਾਸਿ ॥: Mann kee mati mathaagal mataa ...: The intellect of the mind is like a drunken elephant. Therefore, whatever one utters is totally false. So what face should we put on to offer our prayer, when both virtue and vice are close at hand as witnesses? (sggs 351).
  • ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਹਰਿ ਲਿਵ ਉਬਰੇ ਅਲਿਪਤੁ ਰਹੇ ਸਰਣਾਇ ॥: Gurmat har liv oubare alipat rahe saranaai: Through the Guru's Teachings, some embrace love for the Lord, and are saved. They remain detached and unaffected, and they find the Sanctuary of the Lord (sgs 41).
  • ਤੂੰ ਆਪੇ ਕਮਲੁ ਅਲਿਪਤੁ ਹੈ ਸੈ ਹਥਾ ਵਿਚਿ ਗੁਲਾਲੁ ॥: Toon aape kamal alipat hai sai hathaa vich gulaal: You Yourself are the lotus, unaffected and still brightly-colored in hundreds of feet of water (sggs 85).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਅਲਿਪਤੁ ਰਹੈ ਸੰਸਾਰੇ ॥: Gurmukh alipat rahai sansaare: The Gurmukhs remain unaffected in the midst of the world (sggs 118).
  • ਡਾਕੀ ਕੋ ਚਿਤਿ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਲਾਗੈ ॥ ਚਰਨ ਕਮਲ ਸਰਨਾਇ ॥: Daakee ko chit kashoo na laagai charan kamal saranaai: My consciousness is not affected by the witch, Maya; I surrender (ego) to the Lord's Lotus Feet (sggs 378).
  • ਜਿਉ ਆਕਾਸੈ ਪੰਖੀਅਲੋ ਖੋਜੁ ਨਿਰਖਿਓ ਨ ਜਾਈ ॥ ਜਿਉ ਜਲ ਮਾਝੈ ਮਾਛਲੋ ਮਾਰਗੁ ਪੇਖਣੋ ਨ ਜਾਈ ॥੨॥ ਜਿਉ ਆਕਾਸੈ ਘੜੂਅਲੋ ਮ੍ਰਿਗ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਭਰਿਆ ॥ ਨਾਮੇ ਚੇ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਬੀਠਲੋ ਜਿਨਿ ਤੀਨੈ ਜਰਿਆ ॥੩॥੨॥: Jiou aakaasai pankheealo khoj nirkhio n jaaee. Jiou jal maajhai maashalo maarag pekhano n jaaee. ||2|| Jiou aakaasai gharhooalo mrig trisanaa bhariaa. Naame che suaamee beethalo jin teenai jariaa ||3||2||: As the path of a bird’s flight across the sky cannot be seen. As the path of a fish through the water cannot be seen. ||2|| As the mirage leads one to mistake the sky for a pitcher filled with water ( more we move towards the mirage-water, we never find its limit or end)— so is God, says Naam Dev, who fits these three comparisons (i.e., He cannot be completely described; He is Infinite - His Limits cannot be found; etc.) ||3||2|| (sggs 525).

As a true Giaanee or a Gurmukh, one is a detached observer: just as air exists in space, but, since it is not attached to space, it is free from spatial limitations. Even though the Giaanee or a Gurmukh appears to have a body, but he is bodiless. It is just as the space is responsible for the growth of a tree, but the space does not arrest such growth! Most of us are tortured by the mind's memory of the past and worries of the future. Our worries for the future are due to fear of pain and desire for sense pleasures. Since the Giaani or a Gurmukh is free from past-memory and future-anticipation, he is quite happy within, under all circumstances. This is also called "Bhaanaa Mannanaa" — obeying God's Hukam or Will.

  • ਦੁਖ ਸੁਖ ਹੀ ਤੇ ਭਏ ਨਿਰਾਲੇ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸੀਲੁ ਸਨਾਹਾ ਹੇ ॥੮॥: Dukh sukh hee te bhaye niraale Gurmukh seel sanaahaa he ||8||: Those who become the Gurmukhs and wear the armor of humility, remain unaffected by pain and pleasure ||8|| (sggs 1032).
  • ਮਾਯਾ ਵਿਚ ਉਦਾਸ ਗਤਿ ਹੋਇ ਆਸ ਨਿਰਾਸੀ ॥: Maya vich oudaas gat hoi aas niraasee: Becoming neutral amidst hopes, the individuals through the holy congregation go beyond maya (sggs 9).
  • ਗੁਰਮਤੀ ਸਾਲਾਹੀਐ ਬਿਖਿਆ ਮਾਹਿ ਉਦਾਸਾ ॥: Gurmatee saalaaheeai bikhiaa maahi oudaasaa: Praising the Lord, through the Guru's Teachings (Grrbani), one remains unaffected by corruption (sggs 426).
  • ਆਪੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੇ ਸੁ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਹੋਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ Aap beechaare su giaanee hoee ||1||Rahaaou||: One who engages in Vichaar (ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਦੀ ਪੜਤਾਲ) becomes truely Wise or Giaanee (ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਦੀ ਸੂਝ ਵਾਲਾ) ||1||Pause|| (sggs 152).

The Gurbani says that we all are the true Image of God ("Joti-Svaroopa"). But when an individual is unaware of this Reality which is present always within (Self or Aatmaan), wrong notions arise about himself as he identifies his true Self with his false self as the body-mind-intellect personality. The consequent of this mistaken identity is that one gets confused, and mistakenly takes himself "mortal'', " ignorant'', and "limited''. When rooted in this fundamentally wrong or flawed consciousness, we suffer. There is the vision of the Gurbani regarding the Self — that It is not the limited body-mind-intellect personality, rather It is the witness of the body-mind-intellect personality. It is obvious that the body which is an aggregate of the five elements cannot be the Self which is described in the scriptures as Truth, Knowledge, Consciousness, Bliss and Infinite. So, the question arises: how do we realize this Gurbani's vision? Spiritual practices are the techniques for dispelling doubts that may linger, which leads to the experience of the Self within. Since the Self is the detached witness, and since we are this "Joti-Svaroopa", that means our True Nature is also detached witness. But due to the rise of unawareness caused by our false ego-sense (Haume), we have forgotten it. The Gurbani reminds us:

  • ਮੇਰਾ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਬੈਠਾ ਵੇਖੈ ॥: Meraa prabh antar baithaa vekhai: My God sits deep within the Self; He watches over us (sggs 123).
  • ਆਪੇ ਥਾਪਿ ਉਥਾਪੇ ਵੇਖੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਆਪਿ ਬੁਝਾਇਦਾ ॥: Aapae thhaap outhhaapae vaekhai guramukh aap bujhaaeidhaa: He Himself establishes and disestablishes, and watches over all; He reveals Himself to the Gurmukh (sggs 1061).
  • ਆਪੇ ਵੇਖੈ ਆਪੇ ਬੂਝੈ ਆਪੈ ਆਪੁ ਸਮਾਇਦਾ ॥: Aape vekhai aape boojhai aapai aap samaaidaa: He Himself sees, and He Himself understands; He merges all into Himself (sggs1065).
  • ਰੂਪ ਕਰੇ ਕਰਿ ਵੇਖੈ ਵਿਗਸੈ ਆਪੇ ਹੀ ਆਪਿ ਪੂਜਾ ਹੇ ॥: Roop karae kar vaekhai vigasai aapae hee aap poojaa hae: He creates forms, and gazing upon them, He enjoys them; He Himself worships Himself (sggs 1073).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਕਾ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਆਪੇ ਆਪੇ ਕਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਵੇਖੈ ਚੋਜ ਖੜਾ ॥: Nanak kaa prabh aape aape kar kar vekhai choj kharraa: Nanak's God is Himself all-in-all. He creates and stages and watches His wondrous plays (sggs 1082).
  • ਆਪੇ ਵੇਖੈ ਵੇਖਣਹਾਰੁ ॥: Aape vekhai vekhanahaar: The Lord, the Seer, Himself sees (sggs 1129).
  • ਆਪੇ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਆਪੇ ਦੇਵੈ ਆਪੇ ਕਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਵੇਖੈ ॥: Aape gurmukh aape devai aape kar kar vekhai: He Himself is the Gurmukh, and He Himself gives; He Himself creates and beholds (sggs 1235).
  • ਦੁਹੂ ਭਾਤਿ ਤੇ ਆਪਿ ਨਿਰਾਰਾ ॥: Duhoo bhaat te aap niraaraa: He Himself is above both, untouched and unaffected (sggs 250).
  • ਆਪਹਿ ਰਸ ਭੋਗਨ ਨਿਰਜੋਗ ॥: Aapehi ras bhogan nirajog: He Himself enjoys pleasures, and yet He is unaffected and untouched (sggs 292).
  • ਆਪਿ ਅਤੀਤੁ ਅਲਿਪਤੁ ਹੈ ਨਿਰਜੋਗੁ ਹਰਿ ਜੋਗੀ ॥: Aap ateet alipat hai nirajog har jogee: He Himself remains detached and unaffected; while unattached, He is still attached (sggs 514 ).
  • ਆਪੇ ਦੁਖ ਸੁਖ ਭੋਗਿ ਭੋਗਾਵੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸੋ ਅਨਰਾਗਾ ॥: Aape dukh sukh bhog bhogaavai gurmukh so anaraagaa: The Lord Himself causes him to enjoy pleasure and endure pain; the Gurmukh, however, remains unaffected (sggs 598).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਕਾ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਆਪੇ ਆਪੇ ਕਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਵੇਖੈ ਚੋਜ ਖੜਾ ॥: Nanak kaa prabh aape aape kar kar vekhai choj kharraa: Nanak's God is Himself all-in-all. He creates and stages and watches His wondrous plays (sggs 1082).

Thus, to constantly remain in witnessing consciousness is the ideal of a true spiritual being (Gurmukh). It is the shifting of the consciousness from ego-center to spiritual-center. It is the ability to stand aside, observe everything (including thoughts) without any prejudice. To put it otherwise, it's the impartial intuitive self-observing by which one observes one's lower ego-nature without emotional connection.

The analogy of screen will aid us further appreciate the witnessing state. In the cinema hall, the screen is fixed, whilst the pictures move in it. The screen, however, ever remains unaffected by the movement of these pictures. Likewise, the spiritually awakened person is fully aware that the true state of his inner Being ever remains unmodified and that all activities go on around the mind; hence, he considers only the screen and not the moving pictures!

Let's look at some analogies mentioned in the Gurbani — the analogies of (1) paper and salt and Ghee (clarified butter), (2) the snake and its fangs (3) and an actor. So long the paper and salt are protected with a coating of the Ghee, the paper and the salt remain unaffected by water. When a snake is left without fangs, it's harmless. Similarly, with witnessing attitude, the mind (Haume) is left neutral and harmless. Also, an actor who reads his part without attachment to the character he is playing.

  • ਕਾਗਦੁ ਲੂਣੁ ਰਹੈ ਘ੍ਰਿਤ ਸੰਗੇ ਪਾਣੀ ਕਮਲੁ ਰਹੈ ॥: Kaagad loon rahai ghrit sange paanee kamal rahai: Paper and salt, protected by ghee, remain untouched by water, as the lotus remains unaffected in water (sggs 877).
  • ਦਸਨ ਬਿਹੂਨ ਭੁਯੰਗੰ ਮੰਤ੍ਰੰ ਗਾਰੁੜੀ ਨਿਵਾਰੰ ॥: Dasan bihoon bhuyangam mantram gaarurree nivaaram: The snake-charmer, by his spell, neutralizes the poison and leaves the snake without fangs (sggs 1361).
  • ਮਾਇਆ ਭੁਇਅੰਗ ਗ੍ਰਸਿਓ ਹੈ ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਗੁਰ ਬਚਨੀ ਬਿਸੁ ਹਰਿ ਕਾਢਿਬਾ ॥: Maya bhuiang grasio hai praanee gur bachanee bis har kaadhibaa: Maya, the snake, has seized the mortal; through the Word of the Guru, the Lord neutralizes the venom of Maya (sggs 697).

Thus, the real witnessing consciousness occurs when the mind and its thought process is neutralized. It is the state of "killed mind" or "no-mind". Ego demands attention. When we pay attention to the mind and its thought process, we identify with the mind and thoughts. And when we identify with the mind and thoughts, we strengthen our ego or Haume. Witnessing is to eradicate one's ego. "Then are be being inactive or dead?", one may ask. No. In fact it is being fully conscious or aware! Our egos think we are now fully conscious, but the Gurbani says otherwise. Eating, sleeping, breathing, seeing, hearing, mating etc., is not considered being fully aware. Because even animal do all that! To be fully aware is not to identify with the ego-mind and its thoughts (Haume), for the ego-mind is nothing but the thoughts-stuff (Phurne). Witnessing is moving away from the mind and not identifying with the body. It's like being a living dead (Jeevanmukta). So witnessing is the state of complete detachment (Bairaag) or Untainted Consciousness, for the thoughts belong to the ego or lower mind and the witnessing belongs to the Higher Self.

  • ਉਲਟ ਭਈ ਜੀਵਤ ਮਰਿ ਜਾਗਿਆ ॥: Ulatt bhaee jeevat mari jaagiaa: (When the mind) turned away (from the worldly ways), (it) became dead while yet alive and (it) has Awakened (ਆਤਮਕ ਜਾਗ). (sggs 221).
  • ਮਨੁ ਮਾਰੇ ਜੀਵਤ ਮਰਿ ਜਾਣੁ ॥: Man maarae jeevath mar jaan: Whoever kills his mind, knows the state of being dead while yet alive (sggs 1343).
  • ਰਸਨਾ ਸੋਈ ਲੋਭਿ ਮੀਠੈ ਸਾਦਿ ॥: Rasanaa soee lobh meethai saadi: The tongue is asleep, in the greed of eatning sweet flavors (sggs 182).
  • ਸ੍ਰਵਣ ਸੋਏ ਸੁਣਿ ਨਿੰਦ ਵੀਚਾਰ ॥: Sravan soe sun nind veechaar: The ears are asleep, listening to slanderous stories (sggs 182).
  • ਨੈਨਹੁ ਨੀਦ ਪਰ ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਵਿਕਾਰ ॥: Nainahu need par drisatt vikaar: The eyes are asleep in corruption, gazing upon the beauty of another (sggs 182).
  • ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਸੂਤਾ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹਿ ਪਿਆਰਿ ॥: Manmukhi sootaa Maya mohi piaar: The Manmukhs are asleep, in love and attachment to Maya (sggs 160).
  • ਉਰਝਿ ਰਹਿਓ ਇੰਦ੍ਰੀ ਰਸ ਪ੍ਰੇਰਿਓ ਬਿਖੈ ਠਗਉਰੀ ਖਾਵਤ ਹੇ ॥੧॥: Urjh rahio indree ras prerio bikhai thagouree khavat hai ||1||: (Man) lures in the pleasures of the senses is eating poison (of Bikaars, sense-objects, etc., ||1|| (sggs 821).
  • ਜਾਗਹੁ ਜਾਗਹੁ ਸੂਤਿਹੋ ਚਲਿਆ ਵਣਜਾਰਾ ॥: Jaagahu jaagahu sootiho chaliaa vanajaaraa: Wake up! Wake up! O sleepers, see that the travelling merchant is leaving (sggs 418).
  • ਜਾਗ ਲੇਹੁ ਰੇ ਮਨਾ ਜਾਗ ਲੇਹੁ ਕਹਾ ਗਾਫਲ ਸੋਇਆ ॥: Jaag laehu rae manaa jaag laehu kahaa gaafal soeiaa: Wake up, O mind! Wake up! Why are you sleeping unaware? (sggs 726).
  • ਜੋ ਜਾਗੇ ਸੇ ਉਬਰੇ ਸੂਤੇ ਗਏ ਮੁਹਾਇ ॥: Jo jaagae sae oubarae sootaae geae muhaae: Those who remain awake and aware are saved, while those who sleep are plundered (sggs 34).

Therefore, witnessing consciousness is selfless living. It is the complete abandonment of self-centeredness (selfishness). It is perceiving all situations, without our perception marred by the shadows of our egos (Haume) and its preconceived designs. A state beyond mind, in witnessing consciousness one observes everything but without becoming emotionally attached or involved. Thus, witnessing consciousness is one's natural state of being. Here are few more reminders from the Gurbani emphasizing to remain unaffected or neutral within, under all circumstances.

  • ਜਿਉ ਜਲ ਮਹਿ ਕਮਲੁ ਅਲਿਪਤੋ ਵਰਤੈ ਤਿਉ ਵਿਚੇ ਗਿਰਹ ਉਦਾਸੁ ॥: Jiou jal mahi kamal alipato varatai tiou viche girah oudaas: As the lotus flower floats unaffected in the water, so does he remain detached in his own household (sggs 949).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਪਾਪ ਪੁੰਨ ਨਹੀ ਲੇਪਾ ॥: Nanak paap punn nahee lepaa: O Nanak, is not affected by sin or virtue (sggs 266).
  • ਮਨਿ ਬਿਰਾਗੈਗੀ ॥ ਖੋਜਤੀ ਦਰਸਾਰ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Man bairagegee. Khojatee darasaar ||1||Rahaaou||: Seeking the Lord's Vision (ਦਰਸਨ), my mind has become detached ||1||Pause|| (sggs 1230).
  • ਵਾਟ ਵਟਾਊ ਰਾਤ ਸਰਾਈਂ ਵਸਿਆ ॥ ਉਠ ਚਲਿਆ ਪਰਭਾਤ ਮਾਰਗ ਦਸਿਆ ॥ ਨਾਹਿ ਪਰਾਈ ਤਾਤ ਨ ਚਿਤ ਰਹਸਿਆ ॥ ਮੁਏ ਨ ਪੁਛੈ ਜਾਤ ਵਿਵਾਹਿ ਨ ਹਸਿਆ ॥ ਦਾਤਾ ਕਰੈ ਜੁ ਦਾਤ ਨ ਭੁਖਾ ਤਸਿਆ ॥ ਗੁਰਮੁਖ ਸਿਮਰਣ ਵਾਤ ਕਵਲ ਵਿਗਸਿਆ ॥੫॥: Vaat vataaoo raat saraaee vasiaa...: A wayfarer, on the way halts in an inn. Then moved forward on the told path. He neither got envious with anyone nor did he get infatuated by any. He neither asked the caste (identity) of any dying person nor he felt any delight witnessing the marriage ceremonies etc. He happily accepted gifts of the Lord (takes life as it comes) and thus never feels hungry or thirsty. The lotus face of the Gurmukh always remains in blossom due to continuous remembrance of the Lord (Bhai Gurdaas Ji, Vaar 19).

— T. Singh