Darśana (also darśan or darshan) is the auspicious sight of a deity or a holy person.
Etymology and definition
Darshan is "auspicious sight" of a holy person, which bestows merit on the peson who is seen. "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.
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."
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.
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..."
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."
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.
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."
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 darshan'; 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..."
It can mean radiation or radiance, in the sense of a radio signal being radiated from a transmitter aerial.
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.
- Klaus Klostermaier (2007), Hinduism: A Beginner's Guide, ISBN 978-1851685387, Chapter 2, page 26
- Flood 2011, p. 194.
- "Darshan". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
- Sivananda 1988, p. 24
- Paul Harrison, "Commemoration and identification in Buddhanusmṛti", in Gyatso 1992, p. 223
- Gyatso 1992, p. 288
- Gethin 1998, p. 194
- "Chapter 26". Mūlamadhyamakakārikā [Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way]. verse 10.
- Unno 1993, p. 347
- Purdom 1955, p. 160
- Davis 2008, pp. 363–364
- White 1994, p. 148
- Davis, Richard H. (2008). "Tolerance and hierarchy: accommodating multiple religious paths in Hinduism". In Neusner, Jacob; Chilton, Bruce. Religious tolerance in world religions. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Foundation Press. pp. 360–376. ISBN 1599471361. OCLC 174500978.
- Flood, Gavin D. (2011), "Miracles in Hinduism", in Twelftree, Graham H., The Cambridge Companion to Miracles, Cambridge University Press
- Gethin, Rupert (1998). The foundations of Buddhism. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192892231. OCLC 38392391.
- 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. ISBN 0791410773. OCLC 24068984.
- Sivananda, Sri Swami (1988) . The practice of brahmacharya (PDF) (1st revised ed.). Shivanandanagar, Uttar Pradesh: Divine Life Society. ISBN 8170520673.
- Unno, Taitetsu (1993). "San-lun, T'ien T'ai, and Hua-yen". In Takeuchi, Yoshinori; Bragt, Jan van. Buddhist spirituality: Indian, Southeast Asian, Tibetan, and early Chinese. World spirituality. New York: Crossroad. pp. 343–365. ISBN 0824512774. OCLC 27432658.
- White, Jonathan, ed. (1994). Talking on the water: conversations about nature and creativity. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. ISBN 0871565153. OCLC 27640603.
- Purdom, C.B., ed. (1955). God to Man and Man to God: the Discourses of Meher Baba. London: Victor Gollancz.
- Coorlawala, Uttara Asha (Spring 1996). "Darshan and abhinaya: an alternative to the male gaze" (PDF). Dance Research Journal 28 (1): 19–27. doi:10.2307/1478103.
- Dass, Ram (2010). "Darshan". Be love now: the path of the heart. New York: HarperOne. pp. 62–84. ISBN 006196137X. OCLC 526084249.
- 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. doi:10.2307/3711456.
- Eck, Diana L. (1998) . Darśan: seeing the divine image in India (3rd ed.). New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231112653. OCLC 40295673.
- Grimes, John A. (2004). "Darśana". In Mittal, Sushil; Thursby, Gene R. The Hindu world. The Routledge worlds. New York: Routledge. pp. 531–552. ISBN 0415215277. OCLC 54103829.
- Sanzaro, Francis (Fall 2007). "Darshan as mode and critique of perception: Hinduism's liberatory model of visuality" (PDF). Axis Mundi: 1–24.