The Darsana Mala

Visions of the REAL by Narayana Guru

Translated from Sanskrit by Nataraja Guru, 1949

This English Rendering by Don Berry 1979

  1. Metaphors of Creation
  2. Logic of Causality
  3. The Illusion of the un-Real
  4. Vision of Maya
  5. Categories of Consciousness
  6. The Nature of Action
  7. On Awareness
  8. On Devotion
  9. On Yoga
  10. On Nirvana

Chapter One: Adhyaropa Darsana / Metaphors of Creation

  1. At its origin this world

    existed as nothingness, dreamlike.

    Thereafter the Absolute Being created

    everything existent by willing.

  2. At its origin this world

    existed as latent function.

    Thereafter the Absolute Being created everything

    through his own power of MAYA,

    like a magician creating an illusion.

  3. At its origin this world

    was latent in the Absolute Being

    as a sprout is latent in a seed.

    Thereafter it manifested itself of its own power.

  4. This power is to be known as two kinds,

    brightness and heaviness. As in the case of light and dark,

    they are polar opposites,and there is no co-existence.

  5. At its origin this world

    was like a picture in the mind.

    Thereafter the Absolute Being realized it

    in all its variety, like an artist.

  6. At its origin this world existed as PRAKRITI, the matrix of possibility.

    Thereafter the Absolute Being worked out its powers like a Yogi.

  7. When knowledge of the Absolute Self is veiled, AVIDYA (ignorance)

    arises. Then the name-and-form world looms ghostlike.

  8. This world is emptiness, like some ghostly city.

    Thus did the Absolute Being create

    this whole universe -- a marvel!

  9. If this world evolved in a series of stages

    from the sun, then it is not at all from the Supreme Self.

    But everything was manifested at a single stroke,

    of its own inner vitality, as though

    the universe were waking from sleep.

  10. That from which all this world

    is manifested like a fig tree from a seed,

    That is Brahma, That is Siva, That is Vishnu.

    That is the Transcendent.

    Indeed, everything is That alone.

Chapter Two: Apavada Darsana / Logic of Causality

  1. This world, material, non-material and spiritual,

    has all come to be in and from living intelligence.

    When existent, everything is Real as Being (SAT).

    When non-existent, everything remains Real as Intelligence (CIT).

  2. An effect cannot have existence independent of its cause.

    Therefore, how can there be an origination of non-Being?

    And how can there be re-absorption

    of something un-originated?

  3. That which is not subject to origin and re-absorption

    is the transcendent Absolute alone.

    The idea of origin and re-absorption as present in the Self

    is the veiling effect of MAYA.

  4. As the effect is non-different from its cause,

    how can Being arise? And in the same way,

    how can there be non-Being for the cause itself?

  5. Because it is an effect, this world

    does not have primary reality.

    The Absolute alone, as cause, is Real.

    Unclear minds mistake it as un-Real.

  6. The One Alone is the Real.

    Where can another exist?

    If we say "in existence," it is a tautology.

    If we say "in non-existence," it is a contradiction.

  7. Having carefully analyzed the component parts of existence,

    one sees that the whole world is not other

    than the Intelligence of the Absolute.

    It is as if MAYA had been banished.

  8. Pure Intelligence alone shines.

    There is nothing whatever beyond Pure Intelligence.

    That which does not shine is un-Real,

    and that which is un-Real does not shine.

  9. ANANDA indeed is the Real, and nothing else.

    The whole world is of the form of ANANDA.

    Apart from ANANDA, nothing else exists.

  10. Indeed, everything is SAT-CIT-ANANDA.

    (Being, Intelligence, Value.)

    There is not a trace of plurality in this.

    He who sees this as if pluralistic,

    goes from death to death.

Chapter Three: Asatya Darsana / The Illusion of the un-Real

  1. This world is all mind-maya.

    But the mind is not in any specific place.

    The world is seen in the Self

    as the blue is seen in the sky.

  2. This apparent world is an image, created in the mind

    by AVIDYA, the veiling ignorance.

    When this is re-absorbed by VIDYA, the clear knowledge,

    it is as though the whole world were a mere configuration.

  3. To a coward, the ghost looming in the darkness seems real.

    To the wise man, the wakeful state is seen

    as such a dream-world.

  4. This world is seen as willed images.

    It is seen only when willing is present,

    as when a rope is mistaken for a snake.

  5. There is no difference whatever

    between the willed images and the mind.

    That AVIDYA-darkness state (which is the mind),

    is a marvel like Indra's magic.

  6. To the wise man, this world shines in the Self like a mirage.

    To an infant, by confusion, even a reflection

    may seem real.

  7. As milk remains milk even when churned,

    The Absolute Self does not change into some other form.

    Therefore, the whole world exists only as an image in the Self,

    as if created by Indra's magic. (Indriyas = the senses.)

  8. MAYA herself is the fundamental cause of the apparent world.

    Everything here is only the maya-maker

    creating with magical, un-Real effects.

  9. To the mature mind, this universe

    seems like a sky-forest mirage in the Self.

    But a child sees even a puppet-form as real.

  10. One alone is Real, not a second.

    What is un-Real seems indeed to be Real.

    But the Siva-lingam is stone only,

    not a second made by the mason.

Chapter Four: Maya Darsana / Vision of Maya

  1. What is not Absolute, that is MAYA.

    She is the negative principle of opposites, as with the pairs

    knowledge-ignorance, beyond-within, inertia-prime potency.

    Thus She, of herself, arises as the many forms of Nature.

  2. Before the origin of things, there was

    the clay itself, the Absolute ground of Being.

    Whatever is not known as the Absolute-in-itself, is MAYA,

    the principle of non-Absolute possibility.

  3. "The non-Self is un-Real, the Self is Real."

    That is knowledge of the Real, as in recognizing

    the reality of the rope through the snake appearance.

  4. "The Self is un-Real, the non-Self is Real."

    That is AVIDYA dominating awareness,

    as in mistaking the rope for a snake.

  5. That which creates the sensory system, the mind,

    specific intelligence and the five vital processes

    far transcends even these non-material

    limbs of the Self-intelligence.

  6. The Self-intelligence adopts these limbs as its own

    and, by its own MAYA, imagines itself

    as in pleasure or pain.

    But none of this has primary Reality.

  7. In the world of senses and sense-objects,

    what emanates forth from the Self

    is the willing-imaging self,

    the basis of the material world.

  8. Lack of knowledge of mother-of-pearl

    is the basis for an illusion of silver in the shell.

    That principle which, in the Self, is the basis

    for the apparent world, is called TAMAS.

  9. Because of its marvelous aspect

    of containing all this universe like a tree in a seed,

    (or by virtue of its importance)

    the prime potent power is called PRADHANA.

  10. Because the marvelous diversity of nature (PRAKRITI)

    is created by the three modalities (tamas, rajas, and sattva),

    She is known as PRAKRITI-TRIGUNA.


Chapter Five: Bhana Darsana / Categories of Consciousness

  1. Equally present within and without,

    in constant bee-like agitation,

    object-consciousness is of two kinds,

    the generic and the specific.

  2. The basis of object-consciousness is four-fold,

    consisting of: The material, the non-material,

    the causal, and the fourth kind.

    These names are also applicable

    to the appropriate states of consciousness.

  3. "I am the body. This is the pot."

    What arises in awareness based on material objects

    is known as STHULA, or concrete.

  4. Here, the consciousness of "body" and "pot" is the specific.

    The consciousness of "I" and "This" is the generic.

  5. What arises in awareness based on

    the senses, mind, intellect, sense-objects

    and the five vital processes,

    is known as SUKSMA, or subtle,

    because of dependence on non-material objects.

  6. "I am ignorant." This consciousness is

    called KARANA, or causal (pertaining to itself.)

    "I am" is the generic, "ignorant" is the specific.

  7. "I am the Absolute." This is praised as TURIYA,

    or consciousness of the fourth kind.

    "I am" is the generic, "Absolute" the specific attribute.

  8. Where there is this awareness,

    there is an object-of-consciousness.

    Where there is no such awareness,

    there is no object-of-consciousness.

    Thus, by agreement and difference, certitude arises.

  9. As the eye cannot see itself, the Self cannot perceive itself.

    The Self is not an object-of-consciousness.

    What the Self perceives is an object-of-consciousness.

  10. Whatever is an object-of-consciousness is conditional.

    Whatever is not conditional

    is not an object-of-consciousness.

    What is conditional is un-Real.

    But what is utterly unconditional, that is the Real.


Chapter Six: Karma Darsana / The Nature of Action

  1. It is the Self alone which acts.

    Although it is by nature self-luminous and detached,

    the Self through its power of MAYA

    assumes many varied forms,

    like the creative dreamer in sleep.

  2. "I think, I speak, I grasp, I hear."

    All such forms of action are done by the Supreme Self,

    acting through the agency of the individuated self

    with its intelligence, its organs of perception,

    and its organs of action.

  3. Before action, the Self alone exists.

    There is not a trace of any "other."

    Therefore, all action is accomplished by the Self alone,

    through its own power of MAYA.

  4. The Self has, inherent in its nature,

    a certain power that is difficult to define.

    By this power, the appearance of action

    is projected in the actionless Self.

  5. The Self is always completely unattached.

    It is through lack of awareness that action

    is done as though attached.

    Where the Seer is aware, "It is not I who am acting,"

    he remains unattached, even in action.

  6. It is the One Self alone which burns as fire,

    blows as the wind, supports as the earth,

    and flows as the river.

  7. It is the One Self alone, itself remaining actionless,

    which moves upward as Prana and downward as Apana.

    It is the One Self alone which

    beats, murmurs and pulsates in the nerves.

  8. The six changing aspects of this world

    -- existence, birth, growth, transformation,

    deterioriation, and extinction --

    all proceed from the unchanging

    Self alone, and not another.

  9. In spite of actions always being self-accomplished

    by mental and sensory functions,

    the wise one knows,

    "I am the unattached one, the rock-steady."

  10. Because it is an object of experience,

    even the personality-"I" is an illusory projection,

    like the illusion of silver seen in mother-of-pearl.

    Today and tomorrow, firmly established

    above all else, One alone is.

Chapter Seven: Jnana Darsana / On Awareness

  1. Awareness, though essentially one,

    is known as conditioned or unconditioned.

    That awareness which is free

    of the ego-sense of "I am," etc.,

    is the unconditioned.

  2. That awareness which arises

    as "I"- consciousness inside,

    and "this"-ness outside

    (accompanied by the corresponding

    mental modulations,)

    is known as the conditioned.

  3. That awareness by which one experiences,

    as pure witness, the non-Self

    (such as the ego "I"-consciousness, etc.,)

    is true Self-awareness.

    The witness alone is the immortal one.

  4. That awareness which is identified

    with effects belonging to the non-Self

    (such as the ego-"I" consciousness, etc.,)

    is non-Self-awareness.

  5. When things are known as they are,

    (as in perceiving the truth of the rope

    beneath the snake appearance,)

    that awareness is meaningful.

    What is otherwise is meaningless.

  6. When, by mere presence alone,

    everything is illuminated by itself,

    that is characterized as "awareness-by-direct-perception,"

    or immediate knowledge.

    It is also called "inner" knowledge.

  7. That form of awareness which arises

    by performing mental action on the possibilities

    of co-dependent phenomena,

    and thus inferring their common source,

    is known as inductive knowledge.

  8. On going near and recognizing

    according to the pattern : "This animal conforms

    to the description I have heard of a cow,"

    such is called awareness-by-inference,

    (or analogical knowledge.)

  9. Awareness characterized as "I-Mine"

    is called personalized knowledge.

    Awareness characterized as "This-That"

    is called sensory knowledge.

  10. That awareness which is verbally expressed

    as AUM TAT SAT (Aum, That is the Real)

    and experienced as the union of the Absolute and the Self,

    empty of functions like willing --

    that is known as the ultimate knowledge.

Chapter Eight: Bhakti Darsana / On Devotion

  1. Bhakti is meditation on the Self,

    because the Self is the source of all Value (ananda).

    A knower-of-the-Self meditates

    by the Self upon the Self, forever.

  2. The Absolute is meditated

    because the Absolute is the source of all Value.

    Constant meditation on the Absolute

    is thus known as Bhakti.

  3. All meditate the highest Value.

    No one meditates suffering.

    That meditation on the highest Value

    is taught as Bhakti.

  4. The Self alone meditates the Absolute.

    The knower-of-the-Self

    meditates the Self alone, and no other.

    Meditation of the Self is thus called Bhakti.

  5. Value, the Self, the Absolute, are said

    to be the names of the One.

    He who has sure awareness of this

    is called a Bhakta.

  6. "I am Value. I am the Absolute. I am the Self."

    He whose vital imagination

    always takes such forms

    is known as a Bhakta.

  7. The wife does not adore only the husband,

    nor the husband the wife.

    It is the very form of highest Value they adore,

    shining within every sense object.

  8. Thus, one-who-knows sees not a trace

    of anything other than

    the bliss of the Self anywhere.

    His is truly the highest Bhakti.

  9. Where there is sympathy

    toward the Father of the World, toward one's own Guru,

    toward Father and Mother, toward the Fathers of Wisdom,

    toward those who walk the same path ...........

  10. Toward those who put down evil,

    toward those who do good to all -- that also is Bhakti.

    But that which pertains to the Supreme Self alone

    is the ultimate Bhakti.

Chapter Nine: Yoga Darsana / On Yoga

  1. Yoga is that form of mental restraint

    which unites the personal mental faculties

    with the Self-as-Intelligence.

  2. As long as potentiating tendencies (vasanas) exist,

    the heart should be held in that state (samadhi)

    where the distinction between

    the Seer, Sight, and the Seen is extinguished.

    To the knower of Yoga, this is Yoga.

  3. When all this world of name-and-form

    is known as not other than the Absolute alone,

    the mental faculties are always absorbed in the Absolute.

    That also is recognized as Yoga.

  4. When the modulation of the mind

    flows unbrokenly, like a stream of oil,

    it incessantly finds joy in the Self.

    That also is remembered by Yogis as Yoga.

  5. When the mind is distracted by this and that attraction,

    it should always be brought back to oneness in the Self.

    Let it be united in this Yoga.

  6. The sources of all disasters for man are:

    his willed conceptual formations, the objects of his willed desire,

    and the subtle potentiating tendencies of his past,

    which condition his willing. These are to be uprooted

    and restrained in the Self.

  7. Fundamental Reality does not reside

    in the seen object as such, but in the Seer.

    The Seen is the form of the Seer.

    He who unites these is the superior knower of Yoga.

  8. When the mind-bee, guided to the Flower of Union

    by the soft winds of Yoga, drinks the honey-sweet

    nectar of Self-knowledge,

    it flutters no more.

  9. Meditation with gaze fixed betweeen the eyebrows,

    and the tongue tip touching beyond the uvula,

    is the Khechari Mudra,

    which has the capacity of dispelling

    fatigue, sleep, and the other distractions to Yoga.

  10. In this world Yoga is of two kinds:

    the Yoga of Wisdom, and the Yoga of Action.

    All further elaboration of Yoga is included in these.

Chapter Ten: Nirvana Darsana / On Nirvana

  1. The state of Nirvana is of two kinds,

    the pure and the impure.

    That which is free of subtle

    potentiating tendencies (vasanas) is the pure.

    That which is qualified by such latent tendencies is the impure.

  2. The pure Nirvana is also of two kinds,

    the ultra-pure and the pure.

    The impure state is further categorized as

    the pure-impure, and the impure-impure.

  3. The ultra-pure state is again subject to three grades:

    the elect, the more elect, and the most elect.

    The pure exists in the (simple) knower of the Absolute.

  4. The pure-impure state

    (though qualified by the subtle tendencies)

    is free of rajas and tamas.

    The impure-impure is subject to rajas and tamas.

    The first is the state of one

    whose goal is ultimate liberation.

    The second is the state of those

    who seek the various psychic powers.

  5. A knower of the Absolute, firmly established in the Absolute,

    having burnt up everything in the fire of wisdom,

    aiming at the good of the world,

    performs actions according to what is considered right.

  6. The elect knower of the Absolute is one

    who is firmly established in the Absolute

    and who renounces all willful action.

    He wanders in the world, continuing

    the course of bodily life.

  7. The more elect is one who knows

    when prompted by others, but by himself does not know.

    He always enjoys absorption in the Absolute.

  8. The most elect is one who

    by himself knows not,

    and even when prompted by others knows not.

    He is empty of all mental modulations,

    and is the Absolute alone.

  9. There is certainly nothing of this world

    to be accepted or rejected.

    As for the Self, it is self-luminous.

    With this understood, one should withdraw.

    Thereafter the agitations of the mind

    do not repeat themselves.

  10. The Absolute alone, One-without-a-second, is the Real.

    There is nothing other.

    In this there is no doubt.

    Understanding this, the well-instructed one

    withdraws from all duality.

    He does not return again.



The Darsana Mala, or Garland of Visions, was one of the last major works of Narayana Guru, dictated about 1916. His disciple, Swami Vidyananda, transcribed the dictation and made a short commentary on each verse. The commentary was read to, and corrected by, Narayana himself, though he characterized it as being "for children."

The original dictation was in Sanskrit, but the work was published only in the Malayalam language of Kerala State, S. India, Narayana's home. In 1976 an English translation was included in AN ANTHOLOGY OF THE POEMS OF NARAYANA GURU, published by the Narayana Gurukula in Kerala.

Narayana Guru's successor was Nataraja Guru. At Narayana's instigation, Nataraja received a Western education at the Sorbonne as well as his training in the ancient wisdom-school represented by Narayana himself. in 1948-49 Nataraja Guru undertook the translation of the Darsana Mala into English, and it was this translation included in the ANTHOLOGY. Nataraja Guru also made the Darsana Mala the philosophical frame-work for his own monumental work, the three- volume INTEGRATED SCIENCE OF THE ABSOLUTE, which he completed in 1968. At this writing one volume has been published in Kerala, and the other two are in preparation.

Shortly after Nataraja Guru's death in 1973, four notebooks were discovered in his quarters at the Ooty Gurukula in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamilnadu. Nos. II & III were his working notes from 1948-49, and contained all the trial translations and corrections of the Darsana Mala, except for the first seven stanzas of Chapter VI, the Karma Darsana. These notebooks were edited and put into typescript by Mark and Judy Albert. They contain anywhere from two to fifteen variations on each stanza.

Sources used in preparing these English prose renderings were: Vol. I, INTEGRATED SCIENCE OF THE ABSOLUTE, containing word-notes, translation, and the Vidyananda Commentary on Chapters I-III. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE DARSANA MALA, (manuscript) by Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati, successor to Nataraja Guru and current Guru of the Narayana Gurukula, for translation, word-notes and commentary on Chapters IV & V. For Chapters VI & VII, word-notes and translations in Nataraja's hand, written on the back of academic papers in 1948-49. A typescript of the Vidyananda Commentary with word-notes for Chapters VIII-X. For the complete work, the Nataraja Notebooks, v. II & III as noted above.

For the most part these source materials were obtained for me through the kindness of the American sadhu/ scholar Johnny Stallings, long time student and companion to both Nataraja Guru and Guru Nitya.

For many years I have been indebted to Guru Nitya for his unfailing friendship and generosity in making available to me his own works, as well as those of his predecessors in the parampara. My deepest gratitude to him.

These renderings were made by Don Berry in the Fall of 1979 for the meditation of his son, Duncan.