What does DARSHANA mean

  • This short piece tells you about the deeper meaning of the word darshana and how different is from western philosophy/theology.

The word darshana is a commonly used Sanskrit word. It is used by people, who do not even know Sanskrit, as it is present in almost every Indian language. The widely used meaning of the word darshana is seeing. In many Indian languages, it also means seeing a holy person or the image of a deity. However, it is necessary to see the other meanings and the origins of this word. This is a Sanskrit word. Sanskrit is a classical language like Greek, Latin, and Persian. And in Sanskrit, as in most classical languages, most words are derived from a stem or root.  


The word darshana is derived from the root word drish, which means seeing, viewing, looking at, knowing, discerning, sight, view, look, appearance, the eye, theory, doctrine, the aspect of a planet or the observed spot.


The word darshana means the eye, dream, intellect, dharma, attainment, mirror, scripture, six philosophies, colour, direct perception, sight, the sight of a holy person, the sight of God, the sight of the image of a deity, a vision, a glance, regarding, analysis, rejection, intuition, contemplation, looking after, caring for, viewing, cancelling, flushing, purging, casting out, removal, contradiction, scattering, denying, extermination, spitting out, destruction, refusal, banishment, expelling, driving away, negative reply, negative response, override, rebuff, refusal, putting to shame, who or what puts to shame, obscuring, rival, offer, repudiation, reproach to, command, order, determent, knowledge, prevention, warning, eclipsing, Vedic sacrifice, showing, aspect, appearance, insulting, directing, virtue, moral merit, religious knowledge, understanding, visiting any sacred shrine, worshipping in the presence of any image, demonstrating, teaching, foreseeing, inspection, examination, displaying, exhibition, becoming visible, visiting, going into the presence of, audience, semblance, producing in court, judgement, apprehension, opinion, mention, assertion, experience, and intention.


The word darshana, as used in the context of a philosophical system in Indian traditions, means much more than philosophy in the usual sense of the word. It involves ‘seeing’ or ‘experience and a school of thought or point of view is born because of some experience that the propounder of that school had.


In this sense, the six Vedic and the three non-Vedic philosophies in the Indian tradition were not born by mere armchair thinking or analysing, but are the results of quite palpable experiences, empirical and intuitive.


The word darshana also means the process of analysis, where a deeper level of seeing is involved.


Because of the fundamental difference of always including subjective experiences in the process of the formation of a system of thought, Indian philosophy cannot be straightaway compared with its Western counterpart. However, one cannot set aside these Indian philosophical systems as no philosophy at all, and one should not group them under ‘theology’. That is mainly because, though these philosophical traditions were based on experience, some of them did not preach theism or the worship of a godhead.


The non-Vedic philosophical systems do not need even the support of the Vedas. The Vedic philosophical schools are Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa, and Vedanta. The non-Vedic philosophical schools are Buddhism, Jainism, and Charvaka. The school of materialism, Charvaka, means charu, beautiful; vak, words.


Author is Editor Prabuddha Bharata. The Balabodha series as written is a glossary of words and not an article. So insights is not intended.  


To read all articles by the Author

This article was first published in the January 2019 issue of Prabuddha Bharata, monthly journal of The Ramakrishna Order started by Swami Vivekananda in 1896. This article is courtesy and copyright Prabuddha Bharata. I have been reading the Prabuddha Bharata for years and found it enlightening. Cost is Rs 180/ for one year, Rs 475/ for three years, Rs 2100/ for twenty years. To subscribe https://shop.advaitaashrama.org/subscribe/

Also read

1 Shad Darshanas – The Six Systems of Hindu philosophy

2 The Buddha and the Veda

3 Characteristics of Indian Philosophy

Receive Site Updates