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Darśana (P. dassana; T. mthong ba མཐོང་བ་; C. jian; J. ken; K. kyŏn) is translated as "seeing," "insight," "vision," etc. In a general sense, it refers to seeing through the eye sense organ or to the insight gained through meditative practices.[1]

More specifically, darśana is said to refer to the seeing that occurs through any of the "five types of eyes":[1]

Darśana appears in the following compound words:

  • jñāna-darśana - knowledge and vision
  • darśana-mārga - path of seeing
  • yathābhūta-darśana - seeing things as they truly are (yathābhūta)

Metaphor for Buddhist "philosophy"

John Dunne states:

Nevertheless, in a fundamental way Buddhist thinkers link their arguments to specific contemplative practices, such as meditations that analyze personal identity. This linkage reflects the avowed soteriological context of all Buddhist thought, namely, the cultivation of meditative experiences that allegedly eliminate suffering and lead to nirvāṇa. Indeed, from the traditional view, the Buddhist thinker’s philosophical work was itself a kind of spiritual practice that moved the thinker closer to these final goals. Philosophy is therefore called “seeing” (darśana), a metaphor that evokes a central goal of Buddhist contemplative practice: an experience (anubhava) in which one sees things as they truly are (yathābhūtadarśana). Thus, in speaking of Mahāyāna “philosophy,” one must recall that it is implicated deeply in this type of contemplative goal.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. darśana.
  2. John Dunne (2005), "Mahayana Philosophical Schools of Buddhism" in Encyclopedia of Religion, Second Edition


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