Darshan (Indian religions)

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A darshana literally means a glimpse or view. In a Hindu temple, the term refers to viewing the garbhagriha (inner sanctum) of the temple, which hosts the murti (image of a god). Devotees taking darshana of the god Vishnu in the inner sanctum of the Chennakeshava Temple, Belur.

In Indian religions, Darshana, also spelt Darshan, (Sanskrit: दर्शन, IAST: darśana lit.'showing, appearance,[1] view, sight') or Darshanam (darśanam) is the auspicious sight of a deity or a holy person.[2]

The term also refers to any one of the six traditional schools of Hindu philosophy and their literature on spirituality and soteriology.[3]


The word darshana, also in the forms of darśana or darshanam, comes from the Sanskrit root of दर्शन dṛś 'to look at', 'to view', vision, apparition or glimpse.[1]


Darshana is described as an "auspicious sight" of a holy person, which bestows merit on the viewer.[2]

It is most commonly used for theophany, meaning a manifestation or vision of the divine.[4]

In Hinduism[edit]

In Hindu worship, it refers to seeing 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.[4] One can also take darshana of a sacred places like Kashi, Yamuna or Mount Kailash.[5]

The term darshana also refers to the six systems of thought, called darshanam, that comprise classical Hindu philosophy.[6][7] The term therein implies how each of these six systems distinctively look at things and the scriptures in Indian philosophies.[7][4] The six Hindu darshana are Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā, and Vedanta. Buddhism and Jainism are examples of non-Hindu darshans.[4]

Mahayana Buddhism[edit]

On the significance of darshana 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 transformation experience of decisive importance for practitioners, be they who have renounced (mundane life) 'ascetics' or householders."[8]

The Abhidharma, collections of systematic summaries of the sutras, mention Darshana-citta, i.e. visions.[9]

Indian Mahayana philosophers Vasubandhu and Asanga acknowledged five paths to liberation, of which the third is darshana-marga, the "path of seeing".[10]

Nagarjuna, a prominent philosopher of the Madhyamaka school of Mahayana Buddhism, wrote that the wise person perceives tattva-darshana, true reality.[11][12]

Other meanings[edit]

Darshana also sometimes has 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 ... Darshana or looking at women with passionate resolve".[13]

Scholar of religion Richard H. Davis has said that darshana (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."[14]

Poet Gary Snyder has given a naturalistic meaning to darshana:

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 Himalayas from the foothills, an Indian person would say, "Ah, the Himalayas are giving you their darshana"; they're letting you have their view. This comfortable, really deep way of getting a sense of something takes time. It doesn't show itself to you right away. It isn't even necessary to know the names of things the way a botanist would. It's more important to be aware of the "suchness" of the thing; it's a reality. It's also a source of a certain kind of inspiration for creativity. I see it in the work of Georgia O'Keeffe..."[15]

Darshan is also a part of the name of India's public broadcaster Doordarshan combining the word दूर dūra 'far' altogether making दूरदर्शन dūrdarśan 'television'.[citation needed]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Monier-Williams, Monier (1981). "दर्श darśá". A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Delhi, Varanasi, Patna: Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 470–1.
  2. ^ a b Flood 2011, p. 194.
  3. ^ Klostermaier 2008, p. 26.
  4. ^ a b c d "Darshan - Hinduism". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2015. Archived from the original on 26 August 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2013 – via britannica.com.
  5. ^ Ray, Himanshu Prabha; Kulshreshtha, Salila; Suvrathan, Uthara (13 October 2022). The Routledge Handbook of Hindu Temples: Materiality, Social History and Practice. Taylor & Francis.
  6. ^ Nicholson 2013, pp. 2–5.
  7. ^ a b Perrett 2000, pp. 88, 284.
  8. ^ Harrison 1992, p. 223.
  9. ^ Gyatso 1992, p. 288.
  10. ^ Gethin 1998, p. 194.
  11. ^ "Chapter 26". Mūlamadhyamakakārikā [Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way]. verse 10.
  12. ^ Unno 1993, p. 347.
  13. ^ Sivananda 1988, p. 24.
  14. ^ Davis 2008, pp. 363–364.
  15. ^ White 1994, p. 148.

Works cited[edit]

Further reading[edit]