You ask: Is the Witness Consciousness, which is to say: standing to one side of experience, noticing what is occurring in thoughts, feelings, sensations and so on, permanent or not?
Life answers: It is not permanent. The knower rises and sets with the known. That in which both the knower and the known arise and set, is beyond time. The words permanent or eternal do not apply.
You say: In sleep there is neither the known, nor the knower. What keeps the body sensitive and receptive?
Life answers: Surely you cannot say the knower was absent. The experience of things and thoughts was not there, that is all. But the absence of experience too is experience. It is like entering a dark room and saying: ‘I see nothing’. A man blind from birth knows not what darkness means. Similarly, only the knower knows that he does not know. Sleep is merely a lapse in memory. Life goes on.
You say: And what is death?
Life says: It is the change in the living process of a particular body. Integration ends and disintegration sets in.
You say: But what about the knower. With the disappearance of the body, does the knower disappear?
Life says: Just as the knower of the body appears at birth, so he disappears at death.
You say: And nothing remains?
Life says: Life remains. Consciousness needs a vehicle and an instrument for its manifestation. When life produces another body, another knower comes into being.
You say: Is there a causal link between the successive body-knowers, or body-minds?
Life says: Yes, there is something that may be called the memory body, or causal body, a record of all that was thought, wanted and done. It is like a cloud of images held together
You say: What is this sense of a separate existence?
Life says: It is a reflection in a separate body of the one reality. In this reflection the unlimited and the limited are confused and taken to be the same. To undo this confusion is the purpose of spiritual enquiry.
You say: Does not death undo this confusion?
Life says: In death only the body dies. Life does not, consciousness does not, reality does not. And life is never so alive as after death.
You say: But does one get reborn?
Life answers: What was born must die. Only the unborn is deathless. Find what is it that never sleeps and never wakes, and whose pale reflection is our sense of ‘I’.
You say: How am I to go about this finding out?
Life answers: How do you go about finding anything? By keeping your mind and heart in it. Interest there must be and steady remembrance. To remember what needs to be remembered is the secret of success. You come to it through earnestness.
You say: Do you mean to say that mere wanting to find out is enough? Surely, both qualifications and opportunities are needed.
Life says: These will come with earnestness. What is supremely important is to be free from contradictions: the goal and the way must not be on different levels; life and light must not quarrel; behaviour must not betray belief. Call it honesty, integrity, wholeness; you must not go back, undo, uproot, abandon the conquered ground. Tenacity of purpose and honesty in pursuit will bring you to your goal.
You say: Tenacity and honesty are endowments, surely! Not a trace of them do I have.
Life says: All will come as you go on. Take the first step first. All blessings come from within. Turn within. This ‘I am’ consciousness you already know. Be with it all the time you can spare, until you revert to it spontaneously. There is no simpler and easier way.
The above text comes from Sri Nisargadatta’s I Am That.