Definition - What does Darshan mean?
Darshan is derived from the Sanskrit, darsana, meaning "sight," "vision" or "appearance." In Hinduism, darshan is the act of beholding a deity, divine person, sacred object or natural spectacle, especially in a physical image form. Darshan also refers to the six Hindu philosophical systems: Samkhya, Yoga, Nvaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa and Vedanta.
Darshan is one of three terms in classical Indian language that can be roughly translated to what today's English speakers understand as "religion." Even the non-Hindu philosophies of Buddhism and Jainism are considered darshans.
The darshan of yoga is thousands of years old. The system and teachings of yoga darshan were codified and organized by Patanjali into the Yoga Sutras. Patanjali was not the creator of the science of yoga, nor was he the first yoga teacher. However, he was the first that systematized and collected this darshan into one writing.
Yogapedia explains Darshan
For a member of a Hindu faith, darshan is a form of ceremonial worship. Unlike the process of praying, chanting mantras or performing sacred rituals, one performing darshan is expected to do nothing more than look at the image of a god, sacred person or divine being. That act of looking is enough to bring spiritual fulfillment.
Darshan can happen in front of a home altar with a picture of the deity, in a temple or other sacred place, or in a vision during meditation. It is believed that the sight is reciprocal between the devotee and the deity, which deepens the experience of darshan even more.
Yoga darshan, or yoga-darsana, is largely based on samkhya-darsana with samkhya meaning “that which explains the whole." The key difference is that yoga assumes the existence of God, who is the model for the one seeking spiritual release. Yoga darshan is concerned primarily with the acquisition and perpetuation of two states of mind: the state of the one-pointed mind (ekagrata) and the state of inhibited mental functions (niruddha).