Darśana or Darshan (Sanskrit: दर्शन) is a Sanskrit term meaning "sight" (in the sense of an instance of seeing or beholding; from a root dṛś "to see"), vision, apparition, or glimpse. It is most commonly used for "visions of the divine" in Hindu worship, e.g. of a deity (especially in image form), or a very holy person or artifact. One could "receive" darshana or blessing 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."
Darshan is ultimately difficult to define since it is an event in consciousness—an interaction in presence between devotee and guru; or between devotee and image or sculpture, which focuses and calls out the consciousness of the devotee. In either event, a heightening of consciousness or spirituality is the intended effect.
In Indian culture, the touching of the feet (pranāma or charaṇa-sparśa) is a show of respect and it is often an integral part of darshan. Children touch the feet of their family elders while people of all ages will bend to touch the feet of a great guru, murti or icon of a Deva (God) (such as Rama and Krishna).
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 Brahman 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 decribes several visions of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836 – 1886), describes including Kali, Sita, Krishna, Jesus, Mohammed, as does Mother Reveals Herself, an account of the early life of saint Anandamayi Ma (1896 - 1982).
Receiving darśan ("a sight of", a blessing) from the guru is seen as of utmost importance in Sikhism.
In Meher Baba's teachings
Similar to the respect given to it in Sikhism, Meher Baba also emphasized the importance of darshana, or sight of the Master:
For an aspirant to see saints and masters does not yield its full significance except in the context of all the corresponding happiness of the inner planes. 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....To derive bliss and contentment from the mere darshana of the Master is a great thing because it indicates that the aspirant has desirelessness and love, which are the two essentials of spiritual life. 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. Further sahavasa of the Master implements and strengthens the purifying effect of darshana and also results in drawing the aspirant closer and closer to the Master on the inner planes of life.
The other common use of the term 'darshan' is its application to the six systems of thought, dealt with under Hindu philosophy. It can also mean radiation or radiance, in the sense of a radio signal being radiated from the transmitter aerial.
- Baba, Meher (1967). Discourses. II. Sufism Reoriented. ISBN 1-880619-09-1. http://www.discoursesbymeherbaba.org.
- Dallapiccola, Anna. Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend. ISBN 0-500-51088-1.
- Eck, Diana L. (2007). Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 8120832663.
- Sanzaro, Francis (2007). Darshan as Mode and Critique of Perception: Hinduism's Liberatory Model of Visuality, in Axis Mundi.
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