Darshana Upanishad

Darshana Upanishad

The Darshana Upanishad (Sanskrit: दर्शन उपनिषत्, IAST: Darśana Upaniṣad) is one of the minor Upanishads of Hinduism written in Sanskrit. It is one of twenty Yoga Upanishads in the four Vedas, and it is attached to the Samaveda.

The text presents classical Yoga similar to the Patanjali’s Yogasutras-style format in a sequential ascending eight yogic stages, but unlike Yogasutras, the Darshana Upanishad includes kundalini concepts. The ultimate goal of Yoga, states the Upanishad, is self-knowledge and realizing the identity of one’s soul (Atman) with the universal reality (Brahman).

Gavin Flood dates the text to around 100 BCE to 300 CE. Georg Feuerstein suggests the text probably post-dates the Yogasutras.

This Upanihad is also referred to as Yoga Darshana UpanishadJabala Darshana UpanishadJābāladarṣana Upanishad, and Darśanopaniṣad (दर्शनोपनिषत्). It is listed at number 90 in the serial order of the Muktika enumerated by Rama to Hanuman in the modern era anthology of 108 Upanishads.

The Upanishad is structured into ten sections (or chapters) of unequal length with two hundred and nine verses. The text is structured as a discourse by Hindu god Dattatreya to sage Sankriti on Yoga.

The text presents a fusion of Hatha Yoga and eight limbed Patanjali Yogasutras methodology, on a foundation of Vedanta and Yoga philosophies. The first and second chapters describe ethics of a Yogi, as necessary for success in Yoga. Many asanas (yogic postures) are mentioned, and nine explained in chapter 3. Chapter 4 asserts that god (Shiva) is within the temple of one’s body, and the best pilgrimage is something one can make daily to this inner world. Some subsections in chapter 5 discuss its theory of blood vessels and inner energy flows, along with techniques for inner cleansing. One of the largest chapters is dedicated to breathing exercises, while the last four chapters describe steps for concentration, introspection, meditation, self-knowledge and ultimately union of the soul (Atman) with the Absolute Reality (Brahman).

The first chapter of the Upanishad has 25 verses describing the Yamas or virtuous restraints; the second chapter with 16 verses lists the Niyamas or virtuous disciplines; the third chapter’s 13 verses gives explanation on the yogic Asanas or exercise postures; while the fourth chapter, which is the longest, has 63 verses on its theory of the human body, the nadis or the blood vessels.

The fifth chapter’s 14 verses is a further elaboration on the previous section giving detailed procedure for inner cleansing or purification; the sixth chapter with 51 verses elaborates on Pranayama or breath exercises; the seventh chapter through its 14 verses explains Pratyahara or the ability to withdrawal senses from the external world; the eighth chapter with nine verses on concentration or Dharana; the ninth chapter has six verses describing meditation or Dhyana; and the last chapter in its 12 slokas deals with the samadhi stage of yoga which is attained when the Yogin realizes “the Atman (soul) is identical with Brahman”. The text enunciates esoteric theories comparing the human body and blood veins with the terrestrial features of the earth such as river channels with their sacred fords.

The text is notable for presenting its ideas inclusively with some sections opening or closing with praises for Hindu gods Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Dattatreya or Shakti Devis, but the core of text is techniques discussed in nontheistic terminology and Vedantic. The axiology in the text includes a discussion of the value of Yamas and Niyamas, such as non-violence, truthfulness, compassion, abstinence from anger, temperance in food (Mitahara), among others. The text details yogic postures such as Svastikasana, Gomukhasana, Padmasana, Virasana, Simhasana, Bhadrasana, Muktasana, Mayurasana and Sukhasana. These Asanas are discussed in various breathing and cleansing exercises in later sections. The Upanishad thereafter proceeds to presenting its Vedantic ideas on meditation and non-dualism, stating its premise in verse 7.13-7.14, that the Yogin should ascertain his Atman (soul) in the “nondual, cosmic Atman” (Brahman, unchanging, ultimate reality).


About Sunday morning

Sunday Morning Contemplation is informed by Eastern and Western contemplative traditions. The first, lectio divina has its origins in 6th century Europe. It unfolds in four steps or stages: reading (lectio), reflecting (meditatio), responding (oratio), and silent abiding (contemplatio). Our Eastern inspiration come from the Indian Upanishads (800-200 BCE), where contemplative practice consists of three steps or stages: listening (śravana), reflecting (manana), and meditating (nididhyāsana or dhyāna). Our contemplative practice on Sundays embraces both approaches, and each contemplation will be based on a reading from either tradition.

The texts and teachers I have chosen played a significant role in my life and I believe have much to offer. I will read presellected texts, slowly, with pauses between verses or quotes. The readings will be accompanied by soothing background music. To lessen distraction, I suggest participants close their eyes and listen. However, the screen will display the text so that people can choose to read along or mute the sound and read on their own. If there is time remaining after the contemplative period, participants can choose to either leave or stay for a short discussion.

As a preface to the reading, I will provide a 10-15 minute introduction to the text. When relevant, I’ll review facts about the author/teacher’s life. I will also present a brief explanation of the terms and language encountered in the reading.

Finally, when the contemplation is over, all texts read will be available online to read and/or download at any time on the website.

What I mean by
The Symbolic Life

This website makes liberal use of classical Indian visual art and refers mostly to traditional Indian texts (for example, the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras) in the courses, seminars, and discussions on offer. However, I am not presenting lessons in Hinduism; in fact, teaching mainstream Hinduism is neither my area of interest nor expertise. Rather, my interest in Yoga and Tantra is grounded in the concrete situation in which we find ourselves, in the places where we arrive and from which we depart. Beginning in the here and now, we will explore the underlying meaning of the symbols, stories, images, philosophies, and techniques found in Indian philosophical texts and practice, in light of our world and our current circumstance. We will excavate the meaning of the aphorisms and teaching stories; the symbolic figures of gods, people, and nature; and the sometimes terse, sometimes poetic, philosophy of the texts. Thus, in referring to the Symbolic Life of Yoga and Tantra, I mean not just the symbols themselves, but the rich explication of life that the symbols represent.

Our lived, concrete situation is wonderfully captured in the Sanskrit word loka, whose ancient meaning is “the world.”  The root meaning of both the Sanskrit loka and the English locate (and local, locale, and location) is identical. In the ancient Indian mind, the world is where we are located, in our current circumstance. Thus, the meaning of the symbols of Yoga and Tantra can occur only in the now, in the places where we find ourselves, and not in any imagined ancient and/or foreign world.

To emphasize our place of origin and return, I use the terms “archetypal” and “symbolic” quite frequently. Archetypal meaning is associated with the universal and collective aspects of human experience—what we intimately share with all others regardless of culture or era or epoch—while symbolic language forms a bridge between the realms of the universal with the culturally specific and local. Symbols are the scaffolding upon which human beings build a world and imbue it with meaning.

Think for a moment of pain and pleasure, sorrow and joy, hatred and love, and greed and generosity—universal experiences that ancient Indian thinkers called the dvandva-s. This Sanskrit term is a combination of two words, or rather, one word spoken twice: the word dva (meaning the same as the English “two”) duplicated. Dvandva is commonly translated as “the pair of opposites” or literally “the two-twos” (dvadva). The ancients who coined this compact symbol gave voice to an archetypal human experience that can be further unpacked to reveal deep insights into the human condition. Once we gain an understanding of the various symbols of Yoga and Tantra, we can further excavate their meaning and the archetypes they convey, and thus gain access to, in a practical and meaningful way, the vision of life experienced by the sages. These insights are available to us and are still relevant today, as are the resilient and adaptable techniques and forms of practice that can help us lead richer and more fulfilling lives