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