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Sri Vidyaranya Swami on the Vedantic Idea about Who Really Witnesses

The light in the dancing hall uniformly reveals the person who presides over the concert, the audience and the dancer. Even when they are absent, the light continues.

The unchangeable witness is ever present as selfluminous consciousness; the intellect functions under its light and dances in a variety of ways.

The patron is the ego, the various sense-objects are the audience, the intellect is the dancer, the musicians playing on their instruments are the sense-organs, and the light illumining them all is the witness-consciousness.

The streak of sunlight coming into the room through an opening is motionless; but if one dances one’s hand in the rays, the light appears to be dancing.

Sri Vidyaranya Swami
(Source: Sri Vidyaranya Swami’s book Panchadashi, Chapter X verses 11, 13, 14, 15 and 18.)

The statement - the patron is the ego, the various sense-objects are the audience, … witness-consciousness - appears to be an analogy or metaphorical description of the relationship between different aspects of human experience, often found in philosophical or spiritual contexts. Let's break it down:

The Patron as the Ego: The ego is typically understood as the individual's sense of self or identity. In this analogy, the patron could represent the ego because it is the driving force behind the experience, much like a patron might commission or support a performance.

Various Sense-Objects as the Audience: Sense-objects refer to anything that can be perceived by the senses, such as sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and tactile sensations. In this analogy, they are likened to an audience observing the performance.

The Intellect as the Dancer: The intellect is the faculty of reasoning and understanding. It is compared to a dancer in this analogy, suggesting that it is the active agent or performer within the experience, guiding and directing the action.

Musicians Playing on Their Instruments as the Sense-Organs: Sense-organs are the physical organs through which we perceive the world, such as the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin. They are compared to musicians playing instruments, indicating that they produce the sensory experiences that the intellect (dancer) interprets.

The Light Illumining Them All as Witness-Consciousness: Witness-consciousness refers to the underlying awareness or consciousness that observes all experiences without being directly involved in them. It is likened to a light that illuminates the entire scene, suggesting that it is the fundamental awareness that enables all experiences to be perceived.

Overall, this analogy presents a way of understanding human experience by comparing it to a performance, with various elements representing different aspects of consciousness and perception. It illustrates how the ego, intellect, senses, and underlying consciousness interact to create the rich tapestry of human experience.