In the question here ,I ask about who performs the actions of our senses ? In reply I have been told that the Atma performs the actions of our senses but is not the experiencer of the fruits of the actions. He is just a witness. However it is also said that when we die, the Witness ceases to be the Witness because there is nothing to be witnessed.

So my question is : Can Atma be both the Witness and non-Witness?

  • My question is can Atman be sometimes not witnessing at all? For example after I die. Will my Atma be witness of my then state of existence? Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 5:59
  • I have not marked as "duplicate", but as "related". In other words, your Qn and other Qn have certain similarities. Don't worry, it's not for closing this Qn. :-) Regarding your Qn on -- "Will my Atma be witness of ..". Atma is not mine & yours & his & hers. Atma means "self" and it's in oneness. It's everyone's common "Me". Refer What is "soul"?. In general Atma is indifferent to whether we die or not. It's Witness & no-witness at the same time. For understanding purpose we call it "witness" (assuming it's non-dual term).
    – iammilind
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 6:04
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    In what scripture does it say 'non-witness'??? What does non-witness mean exactly??? Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 6:09
  • @SwamiVishwananda When I die will my Atma be able to hear,speak , touch , see,taste, smell etc ? I was told that the Atma will cease to hear , speak , see,touch , taste or smell. Is that correct? I am a beginner so please bear with me if I ask little basic questions. Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 6:17

2 Answers 2


It is necessary to first understand Yoga physiology to answer this question.

Yoga physiology says that the human body and personality are contained in 5 sheaths or koshas:

Annamaya kosha, Pranamaya Kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Vignanamaya Kosha and Anandamaya Kosha.

Of these koshas, Annamaya Kosha is the gross body. The word anna means food and the name suggests that our physical body is sustained by food.

The next three koshas make up the subtle body.

The word prana means life and is the vital energy that permeates all existence. Our physical life is sustained by prana. We die when this prana leaves the body.

This pranamaya sheath or kosha is more subtle than annamaya kosha but more gross than the other three sheaths.

The word manomaya means mental. This manomaya sheath is the mental sheath. This is where part of our mind resides. This is more subtle than annamaya and pranamaya koshas but more gross than the remaining two.

The word vijnanamaya means intellect and is the intellectual or discriminating sheath. It is the seat for rational thought and most people mistake it for the self.

The last Anandamaya Kosha is the causal body. The word ananda means bliss. This last sheath is blissful because it is very close to the blissful Atman. You may be wondering why this sheath is also called the causal sheath. The reason is that the record of all our karmas is kept in this sheath and since our karmas lead to rebirth this sheath may be thought of as causing rebirth.

At the center of these 5 koshas lie the Atman. The practice of Yoga in practical terms leads to digging though these 5 barriers and finally reaching the Atman.

A detailed description of these sheatths is in Taittiriya Upanishad II.1.1, II.2.1, II.3.1, II.4.1 and II.5.1.

Now that we understand Yoga physiology, we can answer your question. After death a person only has the subtle and causal bodies and the Atman. The Atman is always a witness whether in the earth plane or in hell and never suffers and is never a non-witness. It is the subtle body that suffers in hell.

I am adding the following reference that states explicitly the witness role of the Atman.

No act done with the aid of the organs of sensual perception, is ever lost. The five sensual organs and the immortal soul which is the sixth, remain its witnesses.

Mahabharata Anusasana Parva Section VII

  • And this atma that lies in the centre of all five sheaths, does this atma transmigrate along with the subtle/causal sheaths? Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 8:43
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    Only the subtle body transmigrates. The Atma does not transmigrate. Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 14:04
  • Could you please explain how atman witnesses. I started a new topic with this question but didn't get any satisfactory answers yet. What i'm trying to understand is that, does Atman witness with the instruments called mind & body (in an embodied jiva state) or can Atman witness this whole creation even when its in a non-jiva state, like when its present in the sky, air, outer space etc.? Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 15:15
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    The Atman does not need the body or the mind to witness. "He is never seen, but is the Seer; He is never heard, but is the Hearer; He is never thought of, but is the Thinker; He is never known, but is the knower. There is no other seer than He, there is no other hearer than He, there is no other thinker than He, there is no other knower than He. He is the Inner Controller - your own Self and immortal. All else but He is perishable." (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad III.7.23) Commented Dec 25, 2018 at 6:55

Yes SOUL(ATMA) Witness for everything that he has done. And soul has to go through all the consequences of his deed.After death journey of atma begins. Reference to this can be found in details in GARUD PURANA. In this Grantha you can get details of journey of the soul after death. Find more about GARUDA PURANA here.

Garuda Purana read Here

  • Do you think that the sources you cited in quotes, really discuss about "Atma being a witness"?
    – iammilind
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 9:33
  • @iammilind you are right but this way it is given in garuda puran. I it is not focusing particularly on atma witness but after reading whole "grantha" you will get meaning of atma witness. Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 9:40
  • @iammilind now corrected it instead of adding some line i have added link to the grantha Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 9:54

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