INQUIRER: Is there a stage beyond the witness?
If the “witness” is the apparent person (jiva), then yes — the self is “beyond” (i.e., the substrate of) the witness.
If the “witness” is the awareness in which the apparent person (jiva) appears, then no — the self is the witness in a figurative sense. In this case, the witness in Sanskrit is referred as “sakshi (sākṣī)“.
INQUIRER: Would this also be called “I AM”?
RESPONSE: The “I AM” is the self, or limitless conscious existence (satcitananda).
INQUIRER: Here I’m referring to that which witnesses all the coming and going (of the body-mind-sense organism), without interest (ordinary self-awareness just watching/aware). I believe this would be called “reflected” awareness [pratibimba caitanya / cidabhasa]. The only stage I could think of that would be next is just knowing you are THAT, which I do. Although there is a shifting going on throughout the day from (a) the witness perspective and (b) the person I appear to be.
RESPONSE: The body-mind-sense mechanism (the apparent person) is reflected awareness. The “next” step beyond is the self, or pure awareness, the nature of which is limitless-conscious-existence.
INQUIRER: Also, I’m aware that “original” awareness is always present, permeates everything, is the background (like a screen) of all there is, and is called the Witness [sakshi] in a figurative sense (since it doesn’t have a mind to know). I know the Jiva depends upon ME awareness for its existence, but I don’t depend on it.
INQUIRER: So, I would say that the “witness” or “I AM” associated with this Jiva (body-mind complex) is as far as one can go (seeing from that perspective that is), in the sense that I can recognize that I, ordinary awareness (the witness), am always present prior to that which appears within my scope of being…
RESPONSE: The “I” that is always present is pure awareness, or limitless conscious existence, which is indicated in Sanskrit by the word “Brahman.”
INQUIRER: …except to also have the knowledge that one is not just the witness (reflected awareness), but Brahman as well. Which is the same as the witness/I AM, except it is associated with a particular Jiva.
RESPONSE: Understanding needs a little tweak. Your essential nature is Brahman, while the apparent person you appear to be is a modification within Brahman that makes limitless-conscious-existence appear to be a limited individual person.
With reference to its association with the body-mind-sense complex — Brahman (i.e., limitless conscious existence) is indicated by the term atman, but the awareness itself is one and the same.
INQUIRER: I was misunderstanding the “reflected awareness” part regarding awareness and the mind. Awareness (atman) is plain old ordinary awareness.
It’s just that when the mind itself sees (recognizes) it — it’s a reflection of original awareness, correct? Because the mind is an insert object and awareness can’t be objectified.
However, when one knows them self AS awareness (seeing from this perspective) — it’s pure awareness, the Self.
I was trying to also understand the other terminology some people use like “I am” and “witness”, but it’s the Self (atman), unless ones referring to the Jiva/person, correct?
RESPONSE: Correct on both accounts.