The Darshan Sashtra in Sanatan Dharma

As students of philosophy already know, there are 6 thought processes with which the Eternal can be visualised. These 6 philosophies are the Darshan दर्शन shastra शास्त्र.

  • Darshan means seeing, knowing, opinion, discernment, examination, observation, vision, experience, presence, intention, appearance, dream, prescience, aspect, contemplation.
  • Shastra means instruction, teaching, book, treatise, manual, discipline, rules, advise, science, direction, art, etc.

The 6 Darshan Shastra based on the Ved and are,

  1. Poorva Mimansa Sashtra by Rishi Jaimini
  2. Nyaya Shastra by Rishi Gautam
  3. Vaisheshika Sashtra by Rishi Kanad
  4. Sankhya Shastra by Rishi Kapil
  5. Yog Shastra by Rishi Patanjali
  6. Uttar Mimansa Sashtra by Rishi Vyas aka Badrayana

Darshan shastra is an advice or a direction which you should follow in order to experience, observe, know, see, contemplate… but what? What should you be observing? These Darshan Shastra are of the Sanatan Dharma, so you observe the only real thing possible. The only Reality. And this is Your Own Self. You are the only real thing in your universe. You are required to experience your Self because there Is nothing else but You. You are Everything. These six Darshan shastra are a way of first intellectually understanding and then experiencing your own self. They all take you to Moksh.

You are the non-Dual, the Advaita, the Nirvishesh Brahma. The intelligence which cannot be described in the words of these created universes. You are the Parabrahma, the beyond awareness, the highest consciousness. But you carry a baggage of karma and start thinking yourself as Amit, Priya, Rajesh and Mihir. This is Maya. The 6 Darshan shastra are tools in your hands, you use these to know yourself again as the Advaita. You are beyond this illusion of creation, you are the Creator, the Eternal. But what you observe depends on your ability to contemplate, to remain still. If you train yourself to see even deeper into your self, you will experience even subtler aspects of your immense self. The most pin-point focus will finally allow you to know yourself in your entirety. The Darshan shastra are guidebooks which guide you to yourself.

The Darshan Sashtra in Sanatan Dharma

Maya is everything that surrounds the Atma/ soul, and tries to keep it unaware of its true reality. Ma-not, Ya-this, so Maya means ‘not this’. But what it actually is, cannot be described. So Maya cannot be proved to be neither an illusion nor a reality. The Mind is an agent of Maya, very highly changeable and highly skilled at creating illusions.

  • A very simple example. I get a phone call. I hear only a voice. The mind takes over, identifies the voice as my brother’s, adds his face, form, his room etc in my imagination. Triggers the love I feel for him and makes me feel as if he is right in front of me. The only thing actually there is a voice in my ear. My mind used this information and worked like crazy to create an illusion for me. I experienced the entire package of ‘brother’ from just a voice over the phone.

This is Maya at work. Most of us are exclusively into experiencing Maya. The Darshan shastra help the spiritual aspirant glean the atom of the real Self around which Maya has enveloped itself. Every Darshan Shastra discusses Maya in some way or the other. And how to ignore its charms and focus on the real Self.

Not everyone is qualified to be a spiritual aspirant. Some souls are more into enjoying the game of creation as per the soul evolution level. A spiritual aspirant is qualified by two essential qualities Vivek and Vairagya.

  • Vivek is the Discerning Intelligence. The ability to focus on the root of the matter. It is the incisive sharpness which can get to the innermost core.
  • Vairagya is the ability to decisively discard everything which is interfering with the Vivek.

Vivek and Vairagya work in tandem, you need both to achieve higher levels of spiritual progress. As you progress, these two qualities also get more refined. Only when you have the intelligence to focus on the real Self and discard every illusory thing, do you gain the Self.

The Darshan Sashtra in Sanatan Dharma

All Darshan shastra teach you to know the constant yourself and to ignore the changing illusions of the created worlds. Now what is ‘constant’ and what ‘changes’? A couple of very simplistic examples,

  • Eg. Your eyes are open, you see the room you are in. The pink walls, the blue curtains. Now you close your eyes, the room vanishes. Was this room ‘real’? Or was the room just an experience, dependant on the physical sense organs?
  • Eg. You have been deaf from birth. You do not know how music sounds like because you does not have the ability to experience it. You think that music is just some words and notations which you can read. But then modern medicine helps you hear with your physical ears. You gain the ability to hear music, classical, raga, blues, reggae, country, all of it. You revise your earlier view and now say that music sounds are ‘real’ not just words. Your frame of reference has changed because you gained the ability to experience.
  • You do not believe in Siddhi-s, you are very ‘rational’ and ‘logical’. Then one day your Uncle decides to give you a demo and sitting next to you in the sitting room, drinks all the milk kept in the fridge in the kitchen. (My Uncle actually did this, I was in my early teens. He just kept on drinking from his glass and the milk kept in the fridge vanished.) 

In all these examples ‘you’ are the same. The experiences varied depending on the conditions. And the conditions were also changing. But this ‘one self’ who was experiencing was unchanging. The 6 darshan shastra help you to experience this, your unchanging ’one self’.

Each Rishi has expounded his hypothesis, the analysis and logic on the nature of existence, the nature of the created worlds, the nature of the soul and the nature of the Eternal Intelligence. Each Darshan Shastra has its own method of deriving things. But common to all these six, is that the Eternal is the Advaita, non-dual, indescribable, unfathomable, attribute-less, observer etc. Each one of these six philosophies give different analysis but in the end their objective is the same. ‘To Be’. Moksh.

Most importantly, each of these six are not complete in themselves. They are not self-contained thought systems. Their scope and purpose is the describe the Eternal Intelligence.

  • Eg. Suppose the objective is to describe an elephant. I start by describing its head. Someone might start by describing its tail first. Yet another might start with his feet. A fourth person starts by describing its anatomy. Finally someone will say that it is a conscious animal, ie talk about its energy.

All the six Darshan Shastra mutually supplement each other. Singly they are neither final nor complete. They are meant for different groups of people who start at different levels of mental and spiritual levels of understanding. All the Darshan Shastra are based on the Ved so they are all describe the Advaita.

The Darshan Sashtra in Sanatan Dharma

Poorva-Mimansa is more concerned with how to live a morally and ethically correct life. This is from where the philosophical evolution begins. To perform ones duties, to take up responsibilities regarding the personal self, the family, society etc. On the spiritual levels, to gain auspicious merit /punya, through personal self-sacrifice and also religious practices involving the society, like public yadnyas etc. Worshipping the moorti of gods and deities, going for pilgrimages, doing charity etc. But this is not blindly following rituals etc. It is understanding the value and power of the the mantra/ pujas and their link to intention and energy of the deepest sort. You can perform anything and everything if you know the correct mantra and the correct way of using the mantra. This can be as simple as getting a job to achieving Moksh.

A practical approach is emphasised here. This certainly does not mean that Rishi Jaimini was unaware of the Advaita, he was a Rishi, ie a self-realised Seer. This Shastra is more designed for householders who have to perform a duty towards mankind in general. Those who have started to understand the essence of truth and are working with the practical aspects of using it in the material life.

I consider this to be the first stage on the spiritual path. You realise that there is something beyond the material. You start using energy to influence the material. You see the practical effects. This is your first step in understanding the pure energy that you really are. And remember that spiritual progress is carried over from several lives. Someone at the Uttar-Mimansa stage has already gone through all the previous stages of understanding and expansion of the consciousness in his very many past lives.

If the Nyaya Shastra stops at the concept of atoms it does not mean that Rishi Gautam was unaware of the Advaita. He was a Rishi, he was a Jivan-mukt. He clearly states that the soul is different from the material and then goes on to describe the material with all sorts of hypothesis and evidences. But with Nyaya he is addressing those students whose interest and level of understanding is on the basic levels. He talks about logic, proofs, calculations, hypothesis etc. Something like our current idea of maths, algebra, logic, probability, calculus, geometry, quantum physics, etc, technical subjects which require a significant level of understanding and intelligence. To create a hypothesis and then to write proofs which prove or disprove this hypothesis. Logic and reasoning is used to pick out the valid from the invalid. Nyaya is how debates on the logical level are arranged so that both the proponent and the opponent gain true understanding on the highest intellectual planes.

Vaisheshika Sashtra is an extension of the Nyaya, where every subject is broken down to its roots. The transition of the material worlds into the invisible atomic and sub-atomic particles and the laws which govern these is the basic idea of the Vaisheshika shastra. ‘Atoms’ in Vaisheshika are not the atoms of physics, these are the Param-anu, these are the basic constituents of the pancha-mahabhoot. Then the nature of the individual soul, time, space, directions etc is elaborated. The Shastra is very deep as the constituents of every thing imaginable, from color, taste, mind, tendencies etc are now discussed. Here the concept of reality is narrowed down even further. The ‘proof’ of reality is pruned down even further. Creation is broken down into even more subtler bits, we reach the roots of ‘energy+intention’. We consider tangible and non-tangible subjects, like senses, tendencies, karma and impressions in depth.

(It is very interesting to go through the concepts of Nyaya and Vaisheshika shastra, our Rishi’s were so comprehensive, they have left out nothing. All our so-called modern knowledge and theory have already been elaborated by the Rishis. But we have forgotten to read our actual mother tongue Sanskrit, so rarely does anyone go through these books.)

The Darshan Sashtra in Sanatan Dharma

Till now, we studied the nature of the manifested creation, its rules and laws. Both Nyaya and Vaisheshka elaborate at the level of the individual soul, ie the Jiv-atma ie the ‘soul+karmic baggage’. If the student has understood this much then he can go onward to the next study course, Sankhya.

The Sankhya. Sankhya starts where Vaisheshika leaves off explaining. Sankhya takes you from the level of the manifested creation and takes you to the unmanifested creation. Most people who read cursorily on this philosophy, take away an erroneous idea that it advocates duality as Sankhya is more popularly linked to the Purush-Prakruti duality. Just because the Sankhya Shastra elaborates more on the Purush-Prakruti concept it does not mean that Rishi Kapil had not realised the Advaita. The concept of Advaita is evident in the first principle of Sankhya ie ‘Sat karya siddhant’. So understand this concept in depth before jumping into the middle of it.

(‘Sat karya siddhant’ is the basic principle of all Darshan Shastra. It explains how things or energy or intention or anything transforms from one form to another. This transformation is only as deep as your ability to perceive the change. At the deepest levels you realise that there is essentially no change.)

The source of everything is called ‘Pradhana’ in Sankhya, ie the most important, the primal energy, this is Non-dual. The Advaita first creates duality by creating individual souls/ jivatma. Further duality is created, this is called the Purush-Prakruti duo. Then Sankhya then takes us onward into the Purush-Prakruti. Describes the qualities of the Purush who is the catalyst or the pivot. Then into the 24 tattvas of the Prakruti, her three Gun. Rishi Kapil explores in fascinating depth how an apparent duality is created from a Non-Dual Pradhana. Then goes on to describe the Prakruti in an ultra-incisive logic. If you do your puja of the Shri Yantra/ Meru sincerely you will actually experience this in your Sadhana. Sankhya elaborates in depth upto the Purush-Prakruti duality.

Yog Shastra follows Sankhya. And it is very crisp, lucid. One good book in English is the commentary on the Patanjali Yog sutra by Swami Vivekananda.

  • Yog योग means connection, union, total, gain, efforts, action, opportunity, meditation, seeking the divine, method, use, yoking, fitting together, discipline, wealth, attention, sum, remedy, property, application of intention, harnessing.

Your spiritual practice in Sankhya allowed you to understand the Purush-Prakruti duality, ie all forms of duality and appreciate the underlying non-duality in everything. But now you have to also experience this state of awareness.

For this you have to perform Yog Sadhana. The fundamental premise of Yog Shastra is clear in the first line itself. ‘Yogah chitta vrutti nirodahah’. This means the ‘Yog’ is the destruction of the tendencies/ vrutti of the lower intelligence/ chitta (Chitta is a part of the Mind). There is only one Desire of your soul, ie to realise itself. The rest of the desires connected to the creation are illusory, so when they are silenced the innermost Desire is expressed and immediately fulfilled. So the Yog-shastra also leads to self-realisation ie the Advaita. The rest of the Yog shastra describes how these tendencies are to be destroyed and what will be the outcome etc. ie control of the Mind, the Ashtang Yog etc. If you do these properly you will reach the Samadhi stage. The process described in the first part of the Amrit Sukta occurs here. Bhagvat Gita is a Yog Shastra.

Here you are putting into practice the concepts described in Sankhya and preparing yourself for the leap of consciousnesses which will come with the understanding of the last Darshan shastra, the Uttar Mimansa.

Uttar Mimansa is also called the Vedant. The primary book is the Brahma-Sutra. The first line is very clear. ‘Athaato Brahmajinyasa’. So this study is meant only for those aspirants who are desirous and capable of understanding the Brahma, the Eternal Intelligence. A person starting on his studies cannot jump into the PhD level stuff, first school and college are necessary. ‘Atha’ means that it is not a new subject, it builds on the understanding which the student has already developed in his earlier studies on the Ved. He must be able to discriminate between the constant/ changeable. Must have developed indifference to the enjoyment/ endurance of Karma. Must be dissociated from the objects/ organs/ desires related to the senses/ actions. And most important, he must have an intense desire to Know the Self. If the student is nor clear on this then just reading the Brahma-sutra is not going to do anything for him. 

Uttar Mimansa culminates with you attaining Sadyo Mukti, ie you realise yourself as the Advaita.

The Darshan Sashtra in Sanatan Dharma

If you analyse, the Six Shastra’s are going in progressively deeper inwards. From the obligations that a householder has towards mankind and using energy to help fulfil these. To a detailed description of the material manifestation till the atomic and sub-atomic levels. The energy of the non-material part of the manifested creation. ie the essence of creation in terms of energy. Yog is where you train yourself to look beyond the material stuff around you and enter in the realm of pure energy and intention. Uttar Mimansa is the apex of the intellectual appreciation of the Self. The core of the Ved, the Advaita, is expounded here in great detail.

I chanced upon a commentary by Rishi Vyas on the Samkhya Pravachan Sutra which is written by Rishi Patanjali. Though these three Darshan Shastra, Yog, Sankhya, Uttar Mimansa discuss on the different aspects of the Advaita, they are essentially interconnected, as they are focussed on the energy and intention aspects rather than the material ones. Read the Bhagvat Gita, Vidnyan Bhairav Tantra and the Brahma Sutra together and you will understand what I mean here.

All Darshan shastra insist that the spiritual aspirant has to turn himself into a Sakshi, a witness, observer, catalyst, the pivot, within everything yet not connected to anything. Existence is perception. As you perceive, so do you exist.

These 6 Darshan Shastra were taught as full-fledged subjects in our ancient Universities like Nalanda and Takshashila. You cannot expect to understand them all in one go in one life. These are not just the words, these are Experiences. Poorva Mimansa is when you use your mantra to make things happen. Unless you actually see the atoms of your body separate, whirl around and again reassemble to create your material body again you cannot say that you have understood Nyaya and Vaisheshikha. Sankhya is when you see the stupendous Shri-Chakra whirling in infinite dimensions about a single Bindu, inside you. Yog is when you see your Kundalini move upwards and reach the Bindu within the Sahasrara. And Uttar Mimansa is the final culmination in Self-Realisation.

Ultimately whichever system you follow, whatever philosophy you subscribe to, you are following the Ved. Do your Sadhana as per your choice, you will reach the Advaita. You will enter Samadhi and your energy of self-identification, ie Kundalini will reach the center of the Sahasrara chakra and at the Bindu will merge into the Non-Dual. So follow whichever system which appeals to your thought process but do the practice regularly. You cannot experience the philosophy if you only read it through, you must practice. There is no other way to self-realisation except regular Sadhana.

(There was a question, so I have tried to reduce this highly intellectually demanding topic to a post. And it has become an exceptionally long post.. )


The Darshan Sashtra in Sanatan Dharma