Book: The Religious Body Imagined
Chapter: 9. Seeing, Imagined, and Lived: Creating Darshan in Transnational Gaudiya Vaishnavism
Scholarly literature on South Asian religions defines darshan as a ubiquitous practice across Hindu traditions. Scholars often define the practice as “seeing and being seen” by a deity most often in the context of consecrated temple images. My project takes this definition as a starting point rather than the end point and explores what “seeing” means within the context of a specific theology and for individual devotees in transnational Gaudiya Vaishnavism. The tradition provides detailed guides to the form of the tradition, what devotional bodies are, what sensory perception should be, the practices one should undertake, how to perform them, and what to expect out of them. However, the textual imaginary of seeing is only one dimension to darshan. The ways that these imagined structures for bodily senses are put into practice and into bodies changes what seeing means in this tradition and complicates our assumptions about everyday religious practices.