Darsan
Seeing the Divine Image in India
third edition
by Diana Eck
Columbia University Press, 1998
115 pages
ISBN 0-231-11265-3

Using the notions of seeing, being seen, and understanding correctly what we are seeing are the core ideas that Diana Eck uses to move us into a deeper understanding of Hinduism. Nothing is more central to Indian religious life and philosophy than seeing and being seen by God, and nothing has been more problematic for Westerners than the vast, colorful array of images and icons that confronted them when they came to India. The use of sight as a central theme for introducing teachers and students to the complexities of Hinduism is a brilliant one.

Dr. Eck organizes her material around four basic concepts and chapters. She begins with "Seeing the Sacred," which moves readers through an understanding of the concept of darsan, the visible in India, a discussion of image and seeing, the image of God, and the polytheistic imagination. Here she is able to tackle adroitly the notion of polytheism which has also been so problematic for westerners to understand correctly when encountering Hinduism.

The second chapter is devoted to "The Nature of Hindu Images": what are these images and how are they used? Dr. Eck begins by looking at aniconic and iconic images within Hinduism, and then moves on to a discussion of the ritual use of images. She finishes the chapter with a discussion on the creation and consecration of images and the relationship between festivals and images.

The third chapter picks up where the last chapter left off by focusing on the relationship between and use of images in temples and on pilgrimage. She finishes the book with a section on Hinduism in America, and walking the reader through the construction and consecration of the Sri Lakshmi Temple in Ashland, Massachusetts. Well written and supported by an extensive glossary and bibliography, I would recommend this book to teachers and for students in a wide variety of courses dealing with Hinduism or India.

review copyright 1999 Tom Collins and RSiSS

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