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Title: Darśana  
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Subject: Ramana Maharshi, Worship in Hinduism, Prana Pratishtha, Pranāma, Prasad
Collection: Hindu Philosophical Concepts, Rituals in Hindu Worship, Spiritual Gifts
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A Darsana literally means glimpse, view. In a Hindu temple, the term refers to viewing the inner sanctum under the main Shikhara or Gopuram of the temple, which hosts the murti (image of god). Above arrangement is for Darsana at the Sri Chalukya Kumara Rama Bheemeshwara Swamy Temple in Andhra Pradesh.

Darśana (also darśan or darshan) is the auspicious sight of a deity or a holy person.

The term also refers to six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, their literature on spirituality and soteriology.[1]


  • Etymology and definition 1
  • In Hinduism 2
  • In Mahayana Buddhism 3
  • In Meher Baba's teachings 4
  • Other meanings 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Sources 8
  • Further reading 9

Etymology and definition

Darśana, also darśan or darshan, Sanskrit: दर्शन from a root dṛś "to see", vision, apparition, or glimpse.

Darshan is "auspicious sight" of a holy person, which bestows merit on the peson who is seen.[2] "Sight" here seeing or beholding, and being seen or beheld, at the same time.

It is most commonly used for theophany, "manifestation / visions of the divine" in Hindu worship, e.g. of a deity (especially in image form), or a very holy person or artifact. One can "receive" darshana or a glimpse of the deity in the temple, or from a great saintly person, such as a great guru.[3]

In the sense "to see with reverence and devotion," the term translates to hierophany, and could refer either to a vision of the divine, or to being in the presence of a highly revered person. In this sense it may assume a meaning closer to audience: "by doing darshan properly a devotee develops affection for God, and God develops affection for that devotee."

In Hinduism

There is a special link between worshiper and guru during pujas, in which people may touch the guru's feet in respect, or remove the dust from a guru's feet before touching their own head.

In chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna is granted a vision of Bhagwan (trans. Telang 1882):

Hari, the great lord of the possessors of mystic power, then showed to the son of Prithâ his supreme divine form, having many mouths and eyes, having (within it) many wonderful sights, having many celestial ornaments, having many celestial weapons held erect, wearing celestial flowers and vestments, having an anointment of celestial perfumes, full of every wonder, the infinite deity with faces in all directions. If in the heavens, the lustre of a thousand suns burst forth all at once, that would be like the lustre of that mighty one. There the son of Pându then observed in the body of the god of gods the whole universe (all) in one, and divided into numerous (divisions). Then Dhanañgaya filled with amazement, and with hair standing on end, bowed his head before the god, and spoke with joined hands. [Arjuna said:] O god! I see within your body the gods, as also all the groups of various beings; and the lord Brahma seated on (his) lotus seat, and all the sages and celestial snakes. I see you, who are of countless forms, possessed of many arms, stomachs, mouths, and eyes on all sides. And, O lord of the universe! O you of all forms! I do not see your end or middle or beginning. I see you bearing a coronet and a mace and a discus—a mass of glory, brilliant on all sides, difficult to look at, having on all sides the effulgence of a blazing fire or sun, and indefinable. You are indestructible, the supreme one to be known. You are the highest support of this universe. You are the inexhaustible protector of everlasting piety.

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna describes several visions of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836–1886), including Kali, Sita, Krishna, Jesus, Mohammed, as does Mother Reveals Herself, an account of the early life of saint Anandamayi Ma (1896–1982).

Darshan also sometimes have a more mundane meaning. For example, Sivananda Saraswati wrote in his book The Practice of Brahmacharya that one of the eight aspects of brahmacharya (celibacy) is not to look lustfully at women: "You should carefully avoid... Darshan or looking at women with passionate resolve..."[4]

In Mahayana Buddhism

On the significance of darśana in Mahayana thought, Paul Harrison writes: "By the second century CE... the vision of the Buddha (buddha-darśana) and the accompanying hearing of the Dharma (dharma-śravaṇa) are represented as a transformative experience of decisive importance for practitioners, be they renunciants or householders."[5]

The Abhidharma, collections of systematic summaries of the sutras, mention Darśana-citta (visions).[6]

Indian Mahayana philosophers Vasubandhu and Asanga acknowledged five paths to liberation, of which the third is darśana-marga, the "path of seeing".[7]

Nagarjuna, a prominent philosopher of the Madhyamaka school of Mahayana Buddhism, wrote that the wise person perceives tattva-darśana—true reality.[8][9]

In Meher Baba's teachings

The spiritual teacher Meher Baba emphasized the importance of darshana, or sight of the Master:

The ancient Rishis have attached great importance to having the darshana of saints and masters, because they are the source of the constant flow of love and light which emanates from them and makes an irresistible appeal to the inner feeling of the aspirant even when he receives no verbal instruction from them.... Having had the darshana of the supreme Beloved, the aspirant naturally desires nothing except to have more of his darshana, and is thus impelled by his inner spiritual urge to seek the sahavasa (company) of the Master as often as possible.[10]

Other meanings

Another common use of the term darshan is its application to the six systems of thought, called darśanam, that comprise Hindu philosophy.

Scholar of religion Richard H. Davis has said that darśana (viewpoint, philosophical school) is one of three terms in classical Indian discourse that could be considered roughly analogous to what today's English-speakers understand as "religion." The other two terms are dharma (duty, morality, a code of proper conduct) and marga (route, spiritual path). According to Davis, "most Hindu texts accepted that religious paths (marga) are relative to the points of view (darśana) and moral responsibilities (dharma) of practitioners, whose individual circumstances may make one or another course of action more appropriate in their particular situations."[11]

Poet Gary Snyder has given a naturalistic meaning to darshan:

It's a gift; it's like there's a moment in which the thing is ready to let you see it. In India, this is called darshan. Darshan means getting a view, and if the clouds blow away, as they did once for me, and you get a view of the [12]

It can mean radiation or radiance, in the sense of a radio signal being radiated from a transmitter aerial.

In Nepalese culture darshan stands for Namaste, reverence to an older or superior person.

In Sikh culture, folios or manuscripts that depict all ten Gurus on a single page are called darshan paintings, simply because they offer a vision of all ten sacred Gurus in one glance.

See also


  1. ^ Klaus Klostermaier (2007), Hinduism: A Beginner's Guide, ISBN 978-1851685387, Chapter 2, page 26
  2. ^ Flood 2011, p. 194.
  3. ^ "Darshan".  
  4. ^ Sivananda 1988, p. 24
  5. ^ Paul Harrison, "Commemoration and identification in Buddhanusmṛti", in Gyatso 1992, p. 223
  6. ^ Gyatso 1992, p. 288
  7. ^ Gethin 1998, p. 194
  8. ^ "Chapter 26".  
  9. ^ Unno 1993, p. 347
  10. ^ Purdom 1955, p. 160
  11. ^ Davis 2008, pp. 363–364
  12. ^ White 1994, p. 148


  • Davis, Richard H. (2008). "Tolerance and hierarchy: accommodating multiple religious paths in Hinduism". In  
  • Flood, Gavin D. (2011), "Miracles in Hinduism", in Twelftree, Graham H., The Cambridge Companion to Miracles, Cambridge University Press 
  • Gyatso, Janet, ed. (1992). In the mirror of memory: reflections on mindfulness and remembrance in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.  
  • White, Jonathan, ed. (1994). Talking on the water: conversations about nature and creativity. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.  
  • Purdom, C.B., ed. (1955). God to Man and Man to God: the Discourses of Meher Baba. London: Victor Gollancz. 

Further reading

  • Coorlawala, Uttara Asha (Spring 1996). "Darshan and abhinaya: an alternative to the male gaze" (PDF). Dance Research Journal 28 (1): 19–27.  
  • DuPertuis, Lucy (1986). "How people recognize charisma: the case of darshan in Radhasoami and Divine Light Mission" (PDF). Sociology of Religion 47 (2): 111–124.  
  • Grimes, John A. (2004). "Darśana". In Mittal, Sushil; Thursby, Gene R. The Hindu world. The Routledge worlds. New York: Routledge. pp. 531–552.  
  • Sanzaro, Francis (Fall 2007). "Darshan as mode and critique of perception: Hinduism's liberatory model of visuality" (PDF). Axis Mundi: 1–24. 
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