Darsana Mala




by Nataraja Guru

This file contains Nataraja Guru’s translation of the verses of the Darsana Mala, together with a commentary compiled from two sets of notes taken at his dictation. These are to be found in SAUNDARYA LAHARI/NOTES/ SLP5 and SLC8. The material from these files has been rearranged under chapter and verse, with little or no editing, although we have eliminated duplications and provided linking and clarifications.

We strongly suggest that the serious student study the source files, as well as original unedited texts which we will make available on request.

We apologise for the poor quality of the structural diagrams, which are to be replaced as soon as possible.




DM NOTES 1: notes taken by C. de Bruler from 26/12/70, in Varkala, Kerala, South India      ( SAUNDARYA LAHARI/NOTES/SLC8). They are extracted from file SLC8.

DM NOTES 2: notes taken by P.Misson from the Guru’s lectures at Varkala, Originally extracted from file SLP5 (SAUNDARYA LAHARI/NOTES/SLP5 - SLP5 - p.48 to p.69 and p.73 to 80)



A philosophical system in the West means logic, not experience.
In the West, science and religion have separated.
Religion has different connotations in East and West.
In the East, the emphasis is on an experience: a vision.
Indian Philosophy depends on the experience of a Yogi .
This experience is called a vision, or "Darsana".
Is a Darsana a system of philosophy?

A Darsana is a conceptual and perceptual vision of the Absolute

Philosophy is logical - Philosophy is distinct from experience.
Indian Philosophy has a different kind of logic for each of the Darsanas, which are closed systems, graded in a certain order.
In the Bhagavad Gita there are eighteen chapters, each with contradictions.
Each is a system of its own, with a logic of its own.
This is not like the West, where every philosophy excludes all others.

There are traditionally 6 Darsanas, or schools of Indian Philosophy:
1. Nyaya - founded by Gautama, 2. Vaisesika -founded by Kanada, 3. Samkhya - founded by Kapila, 4. Yoga - founded by Patanjali, 5. Purva Mimamsa - founded by Jaimini, 6. Uttara Mimamsa - founded by Badarayana

This is not unique to Indian Philosophy.
We may read in the Western context:
"The world is in me and I am not in the world, I am not in them, they are in me”
or: " The ocean is not in the wave, but the wave is in the ocean".
These are apparent contradictions or paradoxes.

The many possible systems of thought that may seem to contradict each other are brought together by the Guru in this work and united by a common thread of value. Narayana Guru adopts a different logic for each vision – he grades them by going progressively from the known to the unknown, starting with the vision of a “real” world created by a “real” god, which is the way most people see the universe.

In the first chapter, he starts in the Upanishadic tradition with "Adhyaropa" as the first Darsana.

Adhyaropa means “supposition”, as in:  “let us suppose this world is real”.

The second vision is Apavada: “non-supposition”
“let us suppose, as some philosophers do, that the world is not real”.

Thus, the first question is :"whence this world?".
Narayana Guru respects this question and replies with the first Darsana, in which he first accepts this world as a given datum.

Why is there reference to a "Lord"? Because a “real” universe with a creator is how most people have seen reality.

This commonly accepted view must be respected.

Because of a misunderstanding of this methodology, Vedanta has been charged with:
Solipsism - quoting itself in support of itself; the argument of self-evidence of the self.
Syncretism - that it is an aggregate of miscellaneous opinions, composed of all sorts of heterogeneous things assembled together.
Eclecticism, Escapism , Idealism , Nihilism, Pantheism, Empiricism, Mysticism, Phenomenology, Yogism, Negativity etc.


(“Adhi”-towards,“-aropa” -supposition)

In Western Philosophy, Adhyaropa Darsana, as in the first chapter of the Darsana Mala, is called Empiricism.

It postulates the world given to the senses, the empirical world, as real.
It starts with the ontological and depends on sense-data.

Let us suppose, in this first chapter, that sense-data are real.
In Idealism such as Plato's, sense-data are seen as not real, similarly with Hegel, Kant and Schopenhauer.

Vedanta cannot be Idealist because it depends on sense-data.
In Idealism, too much importance is given to the mind.
If too much importance is given to sense-data, we get Empiricism.

This is included within the complete scheme of Vedanta:
"All is Maya" is NOT a basic principle of Vedanta.
One must put Sat, Chit and Ananda (Existence, Subsistence and Value) in their proper places.



In this chapter we take the sense-data as true to begin with; we progress from the known to the unknown.
We see the physical world before us: if we treat it as real, what are the implications, according to Vedanta?

The second Darsana will say : " Do not put reality out there –
outside you - it is inside, in the mind."

Darsanas 1-5 give primacy to externalization.
Darsanas 6-10 give primacy to internalisation.

In this first Darsana, verses 1-10 give a constant neutral epistemological status, before a fuller view of the Absolute in later chapters.
What is shown here is vertical creation


In the beginning, there was
Non-existence indeed!
Dream-wise then again, by mere willing
Everything existent created He, the Lord supreme.

How does he reconcile " O Lord Supreme" and
"Everything was nothingness"?
Vedanta says that everything was nothingness in the beginning.
The Absolute is a paradox - look at it one way and it exists;
in another way it does not exist.

Put something and nothing as two axis, vertical and horizontal.

Here, in this Darsana, the Absolute both exists vertically and also not exists horizontally.
In the last verse, the horizontal exists and the vertical not.



In this Darsana " The Supreme Lord" or " God" creates the universe - here, as James Jeans says: “God is a mathematician”, creating a mathematical world.

The “Lord Supreme” is the Absolute
The “Lord Supreme” will be changed to Maya, etc. in later chapters.

"Dreamwise" and "willing" mark this as Vedanta.

He created only dreamwise from nothing by his mere willing.
" Dreamwise" means this is a is a conceptual creation.

A cup in a dream occupies no space.
“The Lord” depends on nothing outside himself.

"Again by mere willing" - God was lonely and said “let me be many” and created the world - it could not have been otherwise.
" The world is will and presentiment" : Nataraja Guru

In the beginning, in the form of incipient memory factors,
All this remained. Then the Lord,
By his own power of false presentiment, like a magician,
Created all this world of change.

This vision is not "grosso modo" now, there is a slight tuning.

From a mathematical God, we go to incipient memory factors (in the memory of God). Memory is just beginning to function, it is incipient.
"Incipient memory factor" is the translation of "vasana" in Sanskrit.

" Then the Lord, by his own power of false presentiment"
This is the dark side of nescience, and what is seen through it is false.
If you see a ghost in a post, this is the nescience principle,
this is the negative side of God, negative illusions
- realities are positive.





God is telling lies - this is the negative side of the total situation
God is like a magician, he can represent things that are not there
- this is the “eidetic presentiment” of the mind.
You see a rope and take it for a snake: this is the nescience principle
- this is the eidetic sense, as in the Rorschach test.
The negative side - nescience, creates the positive side, this world.
" Remained" – it is potential and amorphous, not kinetic.

In this Darsana, the Lord stands alone like a magician, there is nothing in the universe other than God.
He has a certain power of specification or qualification called Maya.
This world is false.
The act of creation takes place in and through himself.
Negative nescience creates positive illusions: “realities”, so called.


This world before creation was
Latent within Himself,
Thereafter, like a sprout from seed,
From Himself, by His power, by itself it was created.

This is a vertical creation, from, in, through, by and for God.
The Absolute cannot be an outside cause for God.

The Lord is not subject to any process of becoming: only the potent power within the Lord is capable of creating this world.

God externalises and internalises himself.
He has his own neutral epistemological status.


The power, however, as of two kinds
Is to be known, as the bright and the dark;
There is no co-existence between these two,
As with light and darkness.

Light and Dark: Negative Absolute and Positive Absolute,

These have reciprocity between them.

They are independent and antinomian principles excluding each other.

Here the distinction between positive and negative, the basic structural features, is made by Narayana Guru:  this is the first basic distinction in the Absolute.

The power is of two kinds -
Taijasi: belonging to light, or heliotropic.
Tamasi : belonging to darkness, or geotropic.

There is no coexistence between them.
The arrow of pure becoming goes both forward and backward.
Measured or measurable time is thus ruled out.


In the beginning, this world,
Which was in the form of mind stuff, like a picture
Achieved with all this picturesque variety,
Like an artist, the Lord.

The world has only a mental status before creation
This is a neutral analogy: creation is like a picture in the mind –creation and cause are here brought close: the cause in the mind and the effect on canvas.

Mind-stuff is vertical.

Here, the world is only an artistic expression of the mind of the Lord.
In this Darsana the Absolute is presented in various terms: as Lord, artist, magician, Yogi





This refers to Sai Baba allegedly magically creating objects and presenting them to his disciples.

Potentially, what even as Nature remained
Like the psychic powers of Yoga-
Like a Yogi did He, the Lord of the world, work out
His varied psychic powers thereafter.

This verse deals with cosmology.
Why does he compare the Lord to a Yogi? When a Yogi materialises something, what he puts on the table is positive and overt:
the power in him is inert and negative:

We must view the positive and negative aspects as a whole.
Psychic powers are incipient memory factors.
This analogy is “for those who are willing to believe”:
it is an example for clarification - if you do not like it,
use your own example or ask for another.
Prakrti is nature.
Purusha is the mind with expanding and contracting tendencies
Sankalpa implies willing
Vasanas are incipient memory factors.
Sakti : potent specifying power
Manas : mind

The Lord remains a constant, neutral between cause and effect.
In Verse 10 we see the Ultimate and Totality.


When Self-knowledge shrinks,
Then prevails nescience fearful;
Ghost-like, taking name and form,
In most terrible fashion looms here.

This verse deals with psychology
Ghost-like nescience prevails.
A child is caught between the opposites of dark and bright, this is because the link between intelligible and non-intelligible is not strong.

The world becomes real as the eidetic sense becomes more pronounced.
Creation is terrible without self-knowledge.

Correct knowledge about the self makes suffering disappear.
The subject matter of this work is Atma-Vidya, or final release.
The creation of the Lord includes suffering aspects.


Terrible and empty of content
Like a city infernal,
Even as such a marvel
Did the Lord make the whole universe

The problem of evil is met here. (cf. Voltaire in his “Candide” on Leibniz and the Lisbon earthquake.)
He calls it a wonder: the paradox, when pronounced, becomes a "Misterium Tremendum": there is a paradox is at the core of the Absolute.
Narayana Guru resolves the paradox by accepting this terrible world.

There is a terrible and tragic side to life, do not say it does not exist.
Narayana Guru recognises it.
Include the tragedy in your life.
The Lord is able to create with no basis in reality because he is all-powerful.
It is wonderful because empty of content and yet still a "marvel".


If from a sun in graded succesion
This world came, such was not the case at all.
Presented as if out of slumber,
At one stroke, all came to be.

At one stroke, all came to be
this is an important doctrine of Vedanta, which will not accept cosmic evolution theory, because it is mechanistic.

A slow, gradual process of becoming is not accepted by Vedanta: all came to be at one stroke.
Vedanta favours the Big Bang Theory as opposed to the steady state theory.

Insert the vertical axis, he will not concede the horizontal axis in this verse: he wants a flash of lightning and the vertical axis.

At one stroke from the Self, as in waking from sleep, it came by the willing Self out of the Self.
When you wake from deep sleep, the world appears.

The One Self thought: " Let me be many".
The Lord's power is so great that the universe appeared at one stroke.
Bring the four aspects together - it is the same Absolute.


He from whom, like a fig tree as from seed
Came out this world manifested -
He is Brahma, He is Siva and Vishnu,
He is the Ultimate, everything is He indeed.

Whatever you say, this world came to be and there must be a cause for it.
Trace it backward and find the negative source of everything, as clay is the source of the pot.
The clay is the ultimate material cause, empirically viewed





The manifested is horizontal.
Abolish the three Gods of Creation, Preservation and Destruction into the Absolute as the material cause of the universe.
The Lord is both instrumental and material cause.

The initial supposed position is taken in this Darsana: it will be neutralised in the next Darsana to present the attributeless Absolute.

The concrete universe is proper to this chapter.
The seed and a tree belong to a concrete,
yet universal biological order




(METHODOLOGY) (negatively winding)

This chapter will neutralise the previous one:
this is reduction after the previous chapter's construction.
The first chapter is slightly teleological, this is removed here.

Apavada Darsana is Negativist
Apavada means literally: “arguments that reduce”.


This world, which is both subtle and gross,
And which has come to be from living consciousness,
If existent, then everything is existent;
If non-existent, then it exists as consciousness.

You cannot abolish your mind, even if the world is unreal.
The duality between existence and non-existence is abolished in consciousness.
We descend backwards into the mind.



Other than the cause, the effect cannot be,
Therefore, all this is non-existent.
Of what is non-existent, how can there be an origin?
And of something unoriginated, how can there be re-absorption?

Here cancellation is used to arrive at the Absolute.
We are sinking into the source: the World is reduced,
the source of the effect is the cause.
For smoke the cause is fire.
The carved statue of a lion is the effect
and the ontological basis or cause is the stone.





The stone statue of a lion = cancellation of cause and effect.
Satkaranavada, a definition of Vedanta, means to delve into the cause; 
do not get lost in the many.



To that which origin and dissolution is not,
That is none other than the ultimate Absolute.
That there is origin and re-absorption,
By Maya`s confusion in the Self is supposed.

If cause and effect cancel , i.e. have the same status –
then you have the Absolute.

There is an interdependence between cause and effect.
How could the effect have being, and the cause non-being?
This is a “phenomenological epoché” ; bracketing –
any notion must be enclosed in brackets: turn the brackets.
The secret of dialectics is that one side of the bracket is open,
the other closed.



Because of non-difference from cause,
The effect, how could it have being?
How could there be, for the same reason,
For the cause also, any non-being?



Being an effect, and thus non-existent,
An existent cause there is; the world is thus not indeed.
On the other hand, it is the Absolute alone that is existent,
That dull minds mistake as non-existing.


 If one alone has reality,
Another in it how could there be?
If existence is posited in existence, tautology,
And if non-existence is so asserted, contradiction comes.

Avoid contradiction and tautology and you get the Absolute.



Dividing all parts one by one,
Everything then is seen there
As mind stuff alone, and as no other,
As thus banishing Maya, relativity, far away.

Quantitativeness is abolished in the mind by division ad infinitum
- it becomes qualitative.



Thus, it is pure mind-stuff alone that shines,
There is nothing, therefore, beyond pure mind-stuff at all.
What does not shine is not real either,
And what is not real does not shine indeed.

“Mind-stuff” implies “Neutral Monism”, cf. B.Russell.
“Pure”: he is describing here a “thinking substance”.



High Value, bliss, alone exists and shines
Therefore nothing else at all,
Thus, everything is of the stuff of the High Value,
And besides this High Value, nothing else exists.


The Absolute in Vedanta is described as Sat-cit-ananda
( Existence - subsistence - bliss).





This chapter centres around the mind.
A philosophy that puts the mind at the centre as a phenomenon is called phenomenology.

The first chapter dealt with construction and the creator is seen from ten perspectives: biological, cosmological, theological, psychological, etc.: cause and effect.

The second chapter is a reversal, there is a negative perspective,
by reduction, we arrive at an irreducible minimum:  sat, chit, ananda. (Existence-subsistence -bliss)

In the third chapter now the negative approach is continued and we have a further reduction from the ontological source of the universe, and from “sat - chit – ananda” to arrive at a negative source: Maya.




A first degree descent is made, and unreality is dealt with here.
Is the world unreal? Many philosophers say yes.
There is a principle of falsehood, Avidya, on the negative side.
In this Darsana we have a first-degree negativity - Asatya; when we press it one degree further we will get Maya - more intense and more general.

We are dealing here with what Western thought calls Eidetic Presentiments.
See Buber, Jaspers, Sartre etc. on the falsehood of experience.

Kant writes of the Noumenal, or Absolute, and the Phenomenal, or the domain of cosmology.
This is a new Darsana, corresponding to Husserl.

Falsehood, or false presentiment, is here defined by Narayana Guru.
You think you see something, but there is no basis or foundation for it
- this is an eidetic phenomenon.

Existence belongs to the phenomenological order - thus it is only appearance.
All appearance is negative.

The negative method, which Vedanta uses, means that negating falsehood arrives at existence.
Spinoza : “Omnis determinatio negatio” - all determination is a negation.







Sat-chit-ananda in Chapter Two is at the neutral O point, from there downwards there is:

a first degree of negation in Asatya Darsana (chapter 3)

a second degree of negation in Maya Darsana (chapter 4)

a third degree of negation in Bhana Darsana (chapter 5)

Asatya is unreality.
Mayavada thinks the world is unreal.
Vedanta is Mayavada.

In Ramanuja, there is no Mayavada.
Asatya Darsana is an invention of Narayana Guru - the world is false, not as an optical illusion but as an eidetic presentiment.
Asatya Darsana takes a phenomenological approach, as in Hume and Kant.

The snake and rope analogy, where a rope is seen as a snake through fear, or the Rorschach test are examples of Eidetic presentiments.
Existence in this Darsana is phenomenological - an appearance.
For further study of Phenomenology, see Husserl, Jaspers, Heidegger, Sartre.

Phenomenology starts from the mind and views the rest as phenomena.
There is a delicate inversion in the first verse:
The numerator : in the expansive sky, the blue is seen.

Invert that sky - turn it upside down and put it inside yourself:
in the expansive Self this universe is seen.

The blue and the universe are both seen to be qualitative,
with a one-to-one correspondence between them.

A child has a presentiment of life in its doll.
Is the mirror-image real, or the object real?
Neither is real: Asatyam.
When the mind (negative) functions, you get the will (positive).

By examining falsehood you arrive at the Absolute or Brahman:
the mirror (horizontal) and the doll falsehood (vertical),
when seen together reveal a circle in the centre,
which is the Absolute, phenomenologically understood.

Extract the negative root, your brain will burst into Indra's magic,
as if through a tube.

Darkness is the cause of the blue, of the world, of Indra's magic, etc.
Then you get Absolute Falsehood.



There is a one-to-one correspondence between these counterparts.
We cannot see the mind.
The quantitative sky has qualitative blueness.



All this world is of mind-stuff,
The mind, however, is not anywhere.
Therefore, like the blue and so on in the sky,
The world is seen in the Self.

The world originates in the mind, but there is no mind to be seen.
The world is seen in the Self.
In the negative side of ourselves there is something corresponding to the blue in the sky.

There is an example and a definition in each verse.
Blue is a phenomenological effect. It is false.
The blue of the sky is the type of effect we are concerned with in this chapter.
The Self is the reality, the mind is false;
it is compared to the blue in the sky.
The mind is seen in the Self - it is false.
Asatya is the blue.

In the subjective Self we have a presentiment of the world.
As we see the qualitative blue in the quantitative sky,
so there is a colour solid, which is qualitative
- the world seen in a nuclear form,

The world is seen in the Self, which is quantitative, like an ocean.
Inside the Self is a phenomenon corresponding to the blue of the sky: the colour is illusory.
The mind inside the self is equally illusory.



By nescience, which is no other than the mind,
All this world is a presentiment of the will.
This nescience by knowledge gets reabsorped,
Then the whole world becomes a mere configuration.

Mind and Nescience mean the same thing.
The mind ON THE NEGATIVE SIDE is the cause of errors,
of eidetic presentiments.
It projects the world we see on the positive side.





Make the mind more negative and it becomes nescience.
When it goes to the positive side we get a presentiment of the will which gives us our view of the world.
The mind on the negative side becomes the will on the positive side.

If nescience is abolished, then the will is a mere configuration:
i.e. it is not so real and frightening,
a milder form of reality, like a drawing.

This is when we push the mind back up to the O Point
at the centre of the structure.

The mind matches it with its own variety of presentiment.
Mind and nescience are the same thing and are negative.
The world is a presentiment of the will.



The mind is nescience.
The mind operates to create a presentiment of the will on the positive side.
This by knowledge gets reabsorbed, then the whole world is a mere configuration.






Here, what a coward finds through darkness
To be like a looming ghost,
The same is seen to be by the wise
Like a dream-world of a waking state.

The coward sees a ghost and begins to scream: this is caused by ignorance.
The more knowledge there is on the denominator side, the less reality there is on the numerator.
The source is the mind, the effect is what you see on the numerator.
Cancel them out.






This visible world results from a willing presentiment.
Where willing is present alone
Is this visible world seen, not anywhere else,
As a snake, too, when alone a rope is found.

This is the method of agreement and difference:
there are five electric switches, and you want to find the right one:
put them all on, put them all off: the result is certitude.

The world and the will are necessarily related.
The relationship could be expressed as:
"no will, no world; no world no will ":
(cf. “ no mind - no matter - no matter - never mind”: Eddington.)
thus, it is a necessary, not a contingent, relationship.



Between the will and the mind,
There is no difference at all,
That which is mind and called nescience and darkness,
Like the magic of Indra, is a marvel.

The will is positive; mind, or nescience, or darkness is negative.
Magic, like that of Indra (King of the Gods) is on the positive side;
the mind is on the negative side as the cause.
They are interchangeable terms.