Often, we perform some acts thinking it will not be seen or noticed by anyone…sometimes in the solitude of a closed room. This may even be a secret thought, not necessarily an act of commission. But according to the Sanathana Dharma, nothing that anyone does is ever a secret, since there are always nine witnesses to everything that happens anywhere on this earth. Nothing — no act or not even a thought — ever escapes the attention of these nine witnesses.
So, who are these nine witnesses?
These are the five Elements — Earth, Water, Air, Fire & Space, and the Sun, the Moon, Yama (the God of Death) and the Time Principle..
To those who are not familiar with the foundational concepts of Sanathana Dharma (the Vedic Way of Life), this may sound far-fetched, as almost all of the above mentioned “witnesses” are considered to be inert in today’s “scientific” milieu. That is where the beauty of the Vedic teachings are hidden. Our Vedas say that NOTHING in this Creation is inert. Everything in the Creation, in this Universe has a Conscious Principle behind its very existence and operation, so in this framework, the Earth, the Air, Fire, Water, even Space are all pervaded by Consciousness and there is a Cosmic Mind that operated behind all of Nature. This Cosmic Mind manifests itself in various different aspects and forms which are then perceived as different objects of this Creation.
Going by this framework, all of everyone’s actions and even thoughts are recorded in this Cosmic Mind (it is called Hiranyagarbha) and stored and processed for the eventual computation of the Karma Phalam — the fruits of Action and fruits of Thought — what are commonly referred to as Paapam (sin) and Punyam (virtuous effect)
This process of recording of actions and thoughts is symbolically represented as Chithragupta, who is supposed to be the Assistant to the God of Death, Yama. The word Chithragupta consists of two parts — Chithra and Gupta, the former meaning “picture” and the latter meaning “secret”. Chithragupta, therefore, is the symbolic representation of the “secret filming” of all actions and thoughts of every individual which is then stored in our “kaarmic account” and which has a bearing on how our life moves from time to time.
It is based on this fact alone that our ancient Rishis were able to transform a handful of water into a blessing or a curse or even a powerful weapon that can destroy armies. These Rishis had mastered the art of connecting and communicating with the Cosmic Mind or the Cosmic Intelligence and were able to harness powers that are available in the Creation but not accessible to ordinary mortals.
It is for this very reason, that contracts were signed with Fire as the witness. The Hindu Marriage Ceremony, which is performed with Fire as the main Witness (Agni Saakshi) is essentially a contract between the bride and the groom. In the ancient Bharath, even agreements between Kings and between individuals were verbally entered into, either by taking the Fire, or the Sun or other Devathas (like Mithra or Varuna) as the adjudicating witnesses.
Thus Hindus — those who value the Teachings of the Vedas and who follow the Values enshrined in the Dharma Shastras — would keep these nine Witnesses in mind all the time and perform their actions and harbour thoughts appropriately, with the awareness that NOTHING is kept secret from these nine witnesses EVER.