Seeing the Invisible

Myth Theory 19 Comments

Published in Sunday Midday on June 19 2011


The most fundamental Hindu ritual is the ‘darshan’ – gazing upon the image of the deity. You look at the deity and in most temples, the deity, with large silver eyes, gazes back at you.

The Rishis were perhaps the first to do darshan, which is why they were called Rishis, the ones who gazed. Rishis are seers. What did they see? Like everyone they possessed drishti, the ability to see the visible and tangible, the saguna. But they also possessed divya-drishti, the ability to see the invisible and the intangible, the nirguna. They could see what no one else could see. They could join the dots, create patterns, observe rhythms and this led to insight, hearing the inner voice that makes no sound but still can be heard. This was shurti, hearing of the soundless speech. This was Veda, wisdom, later transmitted through mantras or hymns and yantras or symbols.

All of us do darshan. But we are limited by drishti. We do not develop divya-drishti. Our gaze is limited by our prejudice. The media’s gaze is influenced by the desire to be populist. The politician’s gaze is shaped by the desire for power and votes. Civil society’s gaze is limited by its assumption that wealth and power is obtained through exploitation. What we hear then is smriti, that which is remembered, that which is shaped by a reference point from our memory banks.

When we see a doctor who is skilled in his trade and cures many people, we assume he is ‘God’ – a wonderful caring human being. When we later discover that he is a womanizer, we are angry with him, not with our assumptions.

When we see a cricketer who is magnificent at his game, we assume he is a honest man with integrity and use him in public service announcements that condemn corruption. Then we discover how he uses his popularity and brand equity to get tax benefits and change the real estate rules to build his fancy apartment. We get disappointed with him, not with our imagination about him.

Most recently a popular yoga teacher was equated with a saint until he spoke of hurling stones against the establishment and displayed anything but mystical equanimity. Suddenly our impression of him has changed, and we do not like what we see. We do not question why we saw what we saw.

Impressions are based on the visible. But beyond the visible is the invisible. When the invisible becomes visible, we are often shocked. We are shocked because we assume what we see is infinite, when in fact the visible is always finite. When we meet an individual we have access only to that which is saguna about him or her. We judge people based on the saguna – what we see and what they show. We do not factor in the nirguna – what we don’t see and what they don’t show. Even today we have in our minds ‘good’ people and ‘bad’ people. Judgements based on the saguna; are these judgements true? Are we setting ourselves up for future disappointments? This over reliance on saguna is why our darshan does not reveal the Veda to us. We hear the prejudiced voice of smriti not the insightful voice of shruti.




    excellent interpretation of human foibles while estimating others. labelling others AS GOOD OR BAD by what we see cant be relied upon as what we could not see or wont like to see may be different as “ALL THAT GLITTERS NEED NOT BE GOLD.”

  • It really inspires me to rethink on our thinking process. When we just think, I believe seeing doctors’ service and discovering his habits; seeing cricketers’ performance and discovering his taking advantage of it etc., don’t we think that all these are again sagunas.. We can react openly only on the things which are visible but not on invisible. If we try to see the invisible may that be called as exploration of truth. Thanks for giving such a good article.

  • Really an inspiring article on the paradigm and paradigm shift. it is in today’s world we try to be understood rather than to understand. In my opinion there no ‘Good’ no ‘Bad’ the situation or the background in which the person is judged that makes him ‘good’ or ‘bad’. we become judgmental and conclude things very fast.

    • hari krishna gupta

      perfectly correct
      it is always a situation which make the person to think like that and his mental position on that day


      Hari Krishna gupta

      • Ashwin Rao

        Not always does the situations play a pivotal role for one’s actions. There are people (many educated) who create much misery and distress knowingly. And knowingly doing the wrong is a Sin! And to overcome this guilt, these people visit temples and donate huge sums. Is it wrong to be judgmental of such kinds?

  • Amaii Vijeth

    Dear Devdutt,

    Beautiful. ‘Illusion’ very well put.

    How does one, then, see ‘reality’ or the insightful voice of ‘shruti’ …that which shows the real picture…what is?

    If the Rishis could ‘see’ in those times, have we, modern humans, really progressed or regressed?

    • Deep

      according to the scriptures, we are in Kali yug,where virtues have reduced to 25 % of what they were during sat yug….

      so maybe too much of introspection and meditation like rishis..may help us to gain divya drishti !!!

      • Darshan

        Dear Deep, Agreeing with you, but do we have the capability or the correct guidance avaliable in this Kaliyug?

      • Amaii Vijeth

        Hey thanx ….strangely dear Deep (lamp=light) and dear Darshan (blessing=see) …so in totality, blessing of light = divya drishti) !!!* {explained later :-)}

        Agree with Deep and yes Darshan i feel, if we truly seek the answers, we will be guided.

        In fact, Deep, your reply connected me with a missing link… I was wondering with all the progress humans are making thru science …. mobile phone (with millions of gadgets and apps), internet, tech advancements, comfortable living,… have we really advanced or complicated our lives, lost touch with our natural selves!!!

        Like the invention of light was a technological and scientific breakthrough which allowed us to stretch our day …and today …work even through the night!!! ..spoiling the natural rhythm of life (our physical body also requires sufficient rest)

        We humans have totally become outwards, operating from the mind (which is a program and conditioned through the senses) rather than operating from our soul, listening to its voice and be guided.

        So, Deep, from your point i think man will (or in some other dimension already has!), thru technology, reach the ultimate knowledge of creating life which can make man arrogant or humble and that point, perhaps, will be the turning or return point from Kaliyug to Satyug …a return to the source :-) as man realises that he and the Infinite Potential (or God) are not separate but just a part of the Infinite Potential ….and the very journey that man (or the creator itself!!) set for, ends!

        *{I realised everything is ‘light and sound’ …one sees through ‘light’ and physical manifestion happens through ‘sound’
        And divya dristi is actually seeing the ‘real’ through the Ajna chakra or the third eye which sets aside the illusion that one perceives through the physical eye and the other 4 senses!}

        While meditation makes one aware of the noise in the mind and relaxes it, seeing through the ajna chakra gives direction to where our soul wants to go and get that experience. It is the link between the entire cosmos and our soul. It can access any information from anywhere in the cosmos and give it to the soul. Our mind can receive it in its pure form only if its empty and without conditioning!!
        The vision also helps to see what all has got stored in the mind due to the conditioning and which has become noise. Thus giving a possibility to clean our hard disk from all noise. And in due course of time make it empty. Thus making space available in the mind for real insights to be temporarily filled up with. This is when the mind begins to fully cooperate with the soul in its journey.

        Every human has this capability. But looong years (perhaps many lifetimes) of living from our mind has left us with almost zero connection with our real vision.
        Letting go of all conditioning and seeing through the real eye is the way forward.

        Thanx again… dear Deep and Darshan…

  • hari krishna gupta

    Good article
    I have a Question to Mr Devdutt patnaik ?

    what are the ways to judge a person and have their impression

    why we all judge a person by good or bad

    Hari Krishna gupta

    • Mohan Ramchandani

      Only way is dont judge any one.
      Everyone is a difirent individual.

  • Darshan

    Dear Devduttji, Really nice article, what i feel is we need to shutup and start listening.
    Listening is difficult, really difficult… in order to listen we need to be quite, shutting the mouth is easy, what is hard is shutting our thoughts. seeing the invisible is a very long way to travel. there is much to learn, I woudl like to thank you for your nice insights.

  • Kireeti

    Not upto the standards set by the author. Or may be I am not able to percieve the invisible/intangible message of the article. Also the examples are not just.

    • Ashwin Rao

      I agree! Every Doctor is expected to be good and next to GOD. And hence, we believe in them. I see, nothing judgmental about it. If they go corrupt, its sad.

    • i agree! the yog guru might have done nautanki just like kalidas used to do it for common people n natyashastra for bigger n beneficial purpose for our country-after all we r influenced by communism.and we may be seeing shaguna n not nirguna of bringing sukh shanti sammrudhi in our country.

  • rajesh gawade

    Dear Sir,

    Small question.
    We all know it is not possible to see Nirguna in normal darshan we have in our daily life.
    Then if Darshan is non functioning phenomenon leads to nothing but mere reaching to outer surface of GOD then what is use of Darsdhan.

    According to BHAKTI way of knowing god, we can get to Nirgun form of GOD through only Darshan. SANT TUKARAM got aware of Nirgun form of VITTHAL through Darshan only not through Vedas,Tapa and other things.

    My question is:-

    Does Darshan only can lead to Nirgun realization without Vedas,tap and other things for normal human beings like me?

    Please reply

  • optyagi

    Dear Dev, It is magnificent analysis of seen or shown and not seen or not shown. Certainly we see only what we are shown not what we want to see.

  • nikki

    Hello devdutt ji ,

    This is really an inspiring and interesting article.It actually rejuvenates the thinking process.

    Let’s take up a scenario of DRISHTI: NormalLY a human being concludes that a person is good based on the certain situation.
    Scenario of DIVYA DRISHTI : Whehther the person is bad rather different in a another situation in which we have not yet dealt with him/her and probably that can change our point of view about that person when we will come to know gradually and eventually through DRISHTI.

    So what is the basis of the classification of good or bad when at some point of time each and every one of us is good or bad ?? Human ought to be that.

    OK.One thing can be it.There can be few traits in the person which may be uniform in all his/her deeds or about the way of doing the deeds .So the notification of those traits are known as DIVYA DRISHTI???
    Because if a person has done a single good deed.That simply means he has done it anyways.And what are the basis of comparing a bad deed to a good deed.GOOD is good and Bad is bad.Sometimes, Good is bad and BAD is good.
    And sometimes, One bad anyhow surpass many good deeds and sometimes many good deeds not able to surpass one bad ???
    HOW ??




    Mr. Devdutt/ Hi
    It was a great pleasure to read ur article. But at the same time, even ur article is a reflection of ur saguna darshan which u have imbibed through ur friends, teachers, for ur personal gains etc etc.

    basically it is half truth. through Divya Drashti u can visualise anything, see anything and experience the whole universe. That is why our revered Saints were called “SEERS” They, through their divine eye could find out the sound with which Earth revolves. U know what is that? It is sound of “OM” Through that they could invent so many things and that is why whole world used to come to India to have the “KNOWLEDGE OF EVERY THING”