Hinduism is considered to be the third largest world religion after Christianity and Islam. Its affiliates account for about thirteen percent of the world’s population. However, it differs from Christianity and other Western religion in various aspects. Such include lack of single founder; it does not have a specific theological system, a single system of morality or even a central religious organization. It is generally considered to be the world oldest organized religion. The purpose of this paper is to explain the concept of darshan and discuss why it is such an important idea in contemporary Hinduism particularly in relation to the practice of puja-worship in the temples, private worship and in presence of spiritual masters referred to as gurus.
Hinduism has no strict orthodoxy. There are some common beliefs shared in nearly all forms of Hinduism. There is the three-in-one god which is referred to as Brahman that form trinity which consists of Brahma, the Creator, Vishnu, the Preserver and Shiva, the Destroyer.
Hinduism can be considered to be both polytheistic and pantheistic. Beside these three gods, Hindus do worship the ‘wives’ of Shiva for example, Kali or worship one of Vishnu’s ten incarnations. There is karma belief which refers to the most fundamental principle which stipulates that one’s moral actions have a bearing that is inevitable and has automatic effects on one’s fortunes in this life and condition of rebirth after death. It is simply a law that good begets good and bad can only begets bad.
Another, belief is that of reincarnation which is also called ‘transmigration of souls’ which is a journey of ‘circle of life’. In this belief it is maintained that each person experiences a series of physical births, deaths and rebirths. If one during his or her life time had good karma such a person is reborn into a higher caste. It is also very possible for such a person to be reborn even to godhood. Those with bad karma can find themselves to a lower caste or in life as an animal in the next life. Nirvana is also another Hindu belief. It is a believe in release of soul from this seemly endless cycle of the rebirths. This belief in Hindu religion is considered to be the ultimate goal of its affiliates. For individuals who are devotional bent, to them it means to be in God’s presence and for those who are in pursuit of philosophy, it means uniting with God as a drop of rain merging with the sea.
In Hinduism it is believed that all the living things are essentially Brahman which implies that they are Brahman or god in themselves. To these believers, enlightenment is attained by becoming tuned in to Brahman within which in turn helps one to reach Nirvana or ‘mokasha’. There are three possible paths to moksha which is salvation. One of such ways is salvation by devotion or bhakti yoga. This is the most favored way by the common people because it is considered to satisfy the longing for a more emotional and personal approach to religion. It calls for self surrendering to one many personal gods and goddesses. This kind of devotion is manifested through the acts of worship, temple rituals and pilgrimages (Toropov & Buckles, pp 124).
Puja Worship, Darshan and Guru
Puja in Hinduism is considered to be reverence, adoration, honor or worship. It is the act of showing these aspects to a god or a spirit through invocations, prayers and rituals among others. The most important part of puja for a Hindu follower is to make a spiritual connection with the divine. Often contact is made through an object which is an element of nature such as a sculpture, a painting or a print form. When performing puja an image or symbol of the god being worshipped serves as a mean for gaining access to the divine.
Though such are icons used they are not by themselves the deity, but rather they are believed to be filled with deity’s cosmic energy. The icons artistic are taken to be secondary to their spiritual content. These objects act as receptacles for spritual for spiritual energy that allows the devotee to experience direct communication with his or her gods. Usually, puja is a religious ritual that is performed by most of Hinduism devotee every morning after bathing and dressing before eating and in the temples among other places. It is considered to be a way of relating human being to the domain and actions of the divine. When doing puja, it can take many forms and one of them is darshan which is the simplest form (Knipe, pp 68).
Darshan is a term that means the sight, the apparition, the vision or the glimpse. It is considered to be a way of seeing with reverence and devotion for one to be able to receive the grace and blessings. In this practice, touching the feet or bowing is also a way of showing respect and is an integral part of Darshan. Deities images found in the temples are designed in accordance to the explicit details and instructions as indicated in the Vedic texts known as Shastras and then installed in the temples in an elaborated ceremony referred to as Prana Prathistha. It is believed that the Supreme Being do come to dwell in the temple to accept worship and attract the eyes to concentrate and meditate on the Deity icons.
In the process of gazing upon these icons the body, the mind and the senses of the devotee become spiritualized through darshans. Nevertheless, darshan is not just gazing at the Deity in the temple but also considered to be a matter of experiencing the Deity and entering into intimate, reciprocal exchange with the Supreme Personality in form of the Deity in an individual who is spiritually realized. In such state, a devotee begins to have a spiritual exchange as the god commences to reveal his personality. With those who have experienced spiritual exchange with god, the worship of Supreme Being in the deity increase to a different level with limitless of spiritual love which is being shared between the deity and the devotee. Therefore, the darshan of the god is considered to be very important for spiritual enlightenment in Hinduism.
A devotee attaches great importance to experience the darshan of guru. It is valuable to derive bliss from the mere darshan of the guru as this indicates that the disciple has love and desire nothing else other than more of darshan of the master which helps to draw the devotee closer to the master or guru on the inner plane. Amazingly, the concept of darshan transcends that of a devotee seeing the guru. It also includes guru seeing the devotee. Hinduism belief maintains that if a devotee is in presence of guru by virtual of darshan of such disciple, guru is in position of knowing such disciple’s karmas and is a way of receiving grace. This makes darshan two-way phenomenon (Ponmelil, para. 1).
Hinduism has no strict kind of beliefs. Though it has various forms, there are certain beliefs that are prevalent in them. Such include, worship of trinity, karma that determines one destination after death, transmigration of souls and salvation from endless cycle of rebirths. Out of many types of Hinduism worship puja is one of them that involved revering, adoring or worshiping through prayers and rituals to a god. This kind of worshipping facilitates spiritual connection between the devotee and the divine. In this practice, image or symbol of worshipped god serves as means for gaining divine access.
One of the simplest practices in puja is darshan. It simply involves gazing upon an image especially of a god or an artifact. It is considered to be an important way of having reverence and devotion to get grace and blessings. In such context, a devotee can experience a darshan of guru which is a vision of his or her spiritual master. Even the guru can experience darshan of his disciple. If guru receives darshan of a disciple he or she is able to see such disciple’s karma. If a devotee is seen by guru he or she is able to receive grace.
Knipe David M. The Hindu World. The Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 2006
Ponmelil, V.A.: Dashan in Hinduism. Retrieved on 13th March 2009 from: http://temples.newkerala.com/Temples-of-India/Darshan.html
Toropov Brandon & Buckles Luke: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to World Religions. ISBN 1592572227, 9781592572229, Alpha Books, 2004
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