…. Witness means an observer, someone who looks on and does not act himself. So, when the mind is very quiet, one can withdraw a little in this way from circumstances and look at things as though he were a witness, a spectator, and not participating in the action himself. This gives you a great detachment, a great quietude, and also a very precise see of the value of things, because it cuts the attachment to action….
The Mother – Questions and Answers : CWM, Vol. 6, p. 360
There are witnesses everywhere. It is a capacity of the being to detach itself, to stand back and look at what is happening, as when one looks at something happening in the street or when one looks at others playing and does not himself play, one remain seated, looking at the others moving but does not move. That’s how it is.
In all the parts of the being there is one side which can do this: put itself at the back, remain quiet and look, without participating. This is what is called the witness. One has many witnesses inside oneself, and often one is a witness without even being aware of it. And if you develop this, it always gives you the possibility of being quiet and not being affected by things. One detaches oneself from them, looks at them as at a dramatic scene, without participating in it. This does not change things very much.
The Mother – Questions and Answers : CWM, Vol. 6, p. 426
It is indeed a great thing that you can keep this calm and this unaffected witness attitude. It is always the sign of a strong inner foundation in the consciousness and that even the physical being shares in this result of the realisation.
Sri Aurobindo – Letters on Yoga – III : CWSA, Vol. 30, p. 243
An equal Cause of things, a lonely Seer
And Master of its multitude of forms,
It acted not but bore all thoughts and deeds,
The witness Lord of Nature’s myriad acts
Consenting to the movements of her Force.
His mind reflected this vast quietism.
This witness hush is the Thinker’s secret base:
Hidden in silent depths the word is formed,
From hidden silences the act is born
Into the voiceful mind, the labouring world;
In secrecy wraps the seed the Eternal sows
Silence, the mystic birthplace of the soul.
Sri Aurobindo – Savitri: CWSA, Vol. 33, Book Two, p. 283
…. A witness is one who looks at what is done, but does not act himself. So when the soul is in a state in which it does not participate in the action, does not act through Nature, simply draws back and observes, it becomes the witness soul.
If one wants to stop the outer activities, this is the best method. One withdraws into one’s soul, to the extreme limit of one’s existence, in a kind of immobility―an immobility which observes but does not participate, does not even give orders….
The Mother – Questions and Answers : CWM, Vol. 8, p. 102
It is not by thinking and reading that consciousness comes. There are many who read and think a great deal but are not conscious, have not the witness developed in them. There are others who work all day like X, yet are very strongly conscious. When one has the power of stopping thinking altogether and only looking, then the Witness becomes very strong and conscious. This consciousness can come by practice, but it can also come by turning to the Mother and thinking of her always and offering to her everything. The being opens, the Mother’s force begins to work and one becomes more and more conscious.
Sri Aurobindo – Letters on Yoga – III : CWSA, Vol. 30, p. 243
You have to become conscious—that is to say, there must be something in you which is not carried away by thoughts and feelings, but looks at them and observes how they work and how they affect you. The part that observes and knows is called the Witness sākṣī in man. It is always possible to develop this in oneself.
Sri Aurobindo – Letters on Yoga – III : CWSA, Vol. 30, p. 242
A man with a very developed introspective mind often identifies himself with the witness part of his mind and observes his own thoughts and studies their nature. That is a beginning which makes it easy for the full detachment to come. For others it is less easy, but it can be done by all.
There is a stage in the sadhana in which the inner being begins to awake. Often the first result is the condition made up of the following elements:
(1) A sort of witness attitude, in which the inner consciousness looks at all that happens as a spectator or observer, observing things but taking no active interest or pleasure in them.
(2) A state of neutral equanimity in which there is neither joy nor sorrow, only quietude.
(3) A sense of being something separate from all that happens, observing it but not part of it.
(4) An absence of attachment to things, people or events.
Sri Aurobindo – Letters on Yoga – III : CWSA, Vol. 30, p. 241
When one wants to detach oneself from something, from a certain movement or activity or state of consciousness, this is the most effective method; one steps back a little, watches the thing like that, as one would watch a scene in a play, and one doesn’t intervene. And a moment later, the thing doesn’t concern you any longer, it is something which takes place outside you. Then you become very calm.
The Mother – Questions and Answers : CWM, Vol. 8, p. 103
It is difficult to say generally what is conscious; but naturally, if something observes, it is always the “witness” element in this part—in each part of the being there is something which is a “witness”, which looks on. There is even a physical witness which can get very much in the way; for instance, if it watches you playing, this can paralyse you considerably. There is also a vital witness which looks at you, sees your desires and enjoys highly all that happens; it acts also as a brake. There is the mental witness which judges ideas, which says, “This idea contradicts this other”, and which arranges everything. Then there is the great psychic Witness, who is the inner divinity.
Sometimes there is no relation among these different witnesses—there ought to be, but it is not always there. But if there is in the being a will to become perfect, the relation is established quite quickly; one can refer to another and finally, if there is a sufficient sincerity, sufficient concentration, you come to the supreme inner Witness who can judge all things. But generally it may be said that it is always a part of the mind, more or less enlightened, in a little closer contact with the inner being, which observes and judges.
The Mother – Questions and Answers : CWM, Vol. 4, p. 233