Wednesday, 28 March 2012

TAPASYA: THE SECRET FIRE


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The above picture is of Lord Dattatreya, one of the most hidden of Hindu deities, especially to the West. He is an avadhut that is still said to be alive today, always practicing austerity. He is truly the Lord of Yogis. The four dogs you see are representations of the four Vedas. He was created out of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

Blessed and beloved soul!

If your wanderings around the internet have brought you to see what you can find about that magic word Tapas and Tapasya, you have a rare fortune. but beware! Reading about austerity is one thing. But tapas, tapasya, is the one key spiritual topic that can truly only be put into practice.

Do you want to wade upstream from the normal currents of life? Are you yearning for something deeper and more meaningful about existence, or indeed wondering what's missing in your spiritual life? Perhaps you already realise, on a deep level, that at some point in your life it is time to:

a) Gather all the separate strands of your spiritual experience together.
b) Go boldly forth and become what some Buddhist traditions call "a stream enterer".

Spiritual practice should not be some cosy hobby you pick up and drop at your convenience, or do once a week at a gathering of like-minded souls. Nor is it you do once a year on a retreat. Otherwise, it just becomes something like another set of clothes for you to wear and discard. And what would be the value in that?

Tapas (the word loosely translates as fire from austerity) is the practice of restraint of the mind, the body, and the senses. It is most definitely not business as usual.  It is the deliberate setting alight of your soul.

But for many involved in yogic practice, it has become something confined to the history books or the story of an ashram/monastery - woven into the myths of the Hindu faith as something the great Rishis of long ago did for an impossible number of years which has no possible relevance to modern life. Or else it is the kind of freak show that has sadhus binding their genitals, sitting on beds of nails etc etc... wearing ash, waving tridents and shouting at people.

How wrong this is! And yet how complex the whole subject matter. As Lord Buddha famously found, if you wind the guitar string too tight, it snaps, and too loose, it won't produce a true note. He practiced intense austerity before enlightenment, only to find the Middle Way. In this day and age, is it truly possible for any follower of the Yogic path to practice tapas, or is it all a waste of time?

Well... I reckon it is. Try the exalted example of my guru Shri Shri Shri Shivabalayogi who practised the most intense tapasya for 12 long years, from a very early age. Or Swami Sivananda and his disciples. Or Shri Maa, Or Baba Muktananda. Or Neem Karoli Baba... the list goes on. The famous disciples of Sri Ramakrishna all caught fire from tapasya. It's doable if you are a householder. One of Shivabalayogi's most exalted devotees was a very senior Indian army officer who found time,  day day out, to meditate intensely between duties. It's doable, just takes a lot of committment.

Restraint means that you are making a decision to catch fire inwardly. It is part self-denial, part something far more pro-active. Austerity is perfectly possible living in the world, but only as long as circumstances permit - and common sense allows. You can hold down a job, a relationship, a family, and still be a tapsvin, one who practices tapas. But the fire is real enough, and you can sometimes almost hear yourself popping and crackling away. What gets burnt up are what are known as samskaras or tendencies often from former lives, skeins, strands, gobbets, chunks of subconscious impulses, memories, aversions, attachments.

Why do it? Because you might feel at some point in your life a call, a pull, the sound of Lord Krishna's flute beckoning you away from daily life. If you have a desire for tapas, it can be down to past-life tendencies, samskaras, making themselves felt in your awareness in a good way: you feel the urge to do it in a way that is hard to explain to anyone else.

Once upon a time i had a brief vision lying down after meditation - a mental picture that sprang from nowehere. But in this vision I was sitting on a grassy hill, overlooking a beautiful summers evening chant by thousands of devotees (don't know what was being chanted) when my Master Shivabalayogi appeared, with a trident and just wearing a loin cloth. He gesticulated to me in silence. I followed him and left that serene scene. He led me to what looked like a huge chimney stack stretching darkly up intothe night sky, with this pulsatinng blue light at the the top. Then, with another prod of his trident and no words said, he motioned me to start climbing up the tower, iron rung by iron rung. That is for me a neat picture of tapasya. You get up, you leave where you are, where it is comfortable...and you do something which seems so difficult at first.

What kind of tapas can you do in the world without harming yourself and others?
Here's a quick simple list of possible approaches which won't turn you into a mad person...


Beginners Tapasya
1) MEDITATE without fail for 1 hour every day.
2) Practice SILENCE for an hour.
3) No TV at all...forego the mobile phone
4) Forgo ONE MEAL.
5) Do a prescribed number of JAPA Malas.
6) PUJAs, PUJAs, PUJAs.
7) Tackle SWADHYA and stick to a long long text.
8) WAKE UP AT THE DAWN
9) BRAHMACHARYA: Celibacy for a prescribed period
10) Begin with a resolve - a SANKALPA

More advanced Tapasya
1) SPEND A WEEKEND in seclusion, no going outside
2) SPEND A WHOLE DAY chanting and meditating
3) FAST
4) Try 16 rounds of JAPA a day
5) Chant the CHANDI PATH for 108 days straight or commit to recitation of some text.
6) Meditate for 3 hours at a time

Tapasya as a way of life
Restraint of the senses is the clue to a noble life. But the ultimate focus is restraint of the mind. When the mind is fully gathered in, and only then, will the light of the Self dawn.

These are the two main reasons for tapasya, and unfortunately if you live in the world, that same world will be calling your senses and your mind with urges that are extremely hard to resist, especially if you are surrounded by the noise and bustle of family life.

What to do, how to keep the spark alive? Tapasya as a way life does involve doing disciplined tasks which may not be pleasant at first. The path will not be sweet when you start off. It will be tough. Furthermore, if you get it wrong, and go too tough too quickly, your mind body and senses will rebel... you'll experience an inner palace revolution.

So the key thing is start small, in tiny step by step increments. Then build. Be flexible, daring, joyful and patient. Limit your tapasya project to one small period, a weekend, a half day... repeat the sankalpa given below.

Beware excessive Pranayama
Perhaps the one real warning is over Pranayama: Be very very careful about doing this more than 10 minutes at a stretch. A day spent in pranayama will ultimately has serious consequences, so don't mess around with it.

There are cautions, of course. Something in you will kick up a huge huge fuss when you decide on a period of tapasya, will struggle like an eel in a bucket. Your Ego will think of a 1000 reasons why not to do it. psets, dramas, might suddenly appear before you. You may even get flu or a cold or some other light sickness that gives you an opt-out clause. Ignore it! Be courageous.

If you decide on tapasya, you will be on your own. There will be no applause from the sidelines. You will not get a special club card with benefits. You will against the flow of the entire world-river.

But, equally, something WILL dawn in you, some brilliant light WILL be unveiled. Miracles, marvels, wonders await for the tapasvin. True joy dances in your heart. You will stand tall and proud, and have the inner strength of a 1000 people. Your light will be seen in heaven. All auspiciousness will start to gather round you. Above all, you will be coming home... and it has been a long lonely journey so far, hasn't it?

Go boldly forth! Light those matches...

Tapasya according to the Bhagavad Gita

You can find the most wonderful discourse on tapasya in Chapter 17 of the Bhagavad Gita, and these are instructions to remember. We start at verses 14-19, and there follows the sequence.

We learn that tapasya is threefold, of the body, speech and mind:

 Tapasya of the body
  1. Worship of the Gods, the Gurus, the teachers and the wise.
  2. Purity (Saucham)
  3. Uprightness/straight forwardness (arjavam)
  4. Continence (Brahmacharya)
  5. Non-violence (Ahimsa)
Tapasya of speech
  1. Causing no excitement (anudvegakaram)
  2. Truthfulness (satyam)
  3. Pleasant and beneficial (priya hitam)
  4. Study of the Vedas/sacred recitation (Svadhyaya abhyasanam)
Tapasya of the mind
  1. Serenity of mind (manah prasadah)
  2. Good heartedness(saumyatvam)
  3. Silence (maunam)
  4. Self-control (atma vinigrahah)
  5. Purity of nature (bhava samshuddih)
Practising this threefold tapasya with faith (shraddha) and desiring no fruit from the practice, this is sattvic tapasya. Then tapasya practised with the object of gaining respect, honour, reverence and ostentation, that's Rajasic tapasya and "unstable and transitory". Tapasya practised out of foolish notions, with self-torture or for the purpose of destroying another, that is tamasic tapasya.

So check out your own intentions using these merciful words and instructions...



Suggested Tapasya Sankalpa
Here's a resolve, a sankalpa that you could repeat if you serious about pursuing tapasaya:

Come rain or shine
Whatever my mood
Whatever the circumstance
I will pursue serious sadhana
To unite with
the Divine in me!
Hari Om Tat Sat



30 comments:

  1. Read . can you be little specific about how long it will take for siddhi i mean at least some sign of that supreme exellence.. ?

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  2. You have to throw away a desire to attain anything like siddhis... thats not the goal. But practice tapasya as best as you can, with humility. What then comes is a matter of destiny and gods will. No step is wasted, no effort lost... Be brave but simple hearted, without prior plans or ambitions, and thats when miracles begin to happen.

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    1. i respectfully want some suggestion to you that siddhis is also make by the god for some sloution and it also bnifit for human so it wrong or right if you some time so please give the suggestion on me email id that is sundeepkashyap143@gmail.com please i need to know that soon

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  3. Dear BD, although i agree with many of ur comments...i believe that there can be drawn a distinction between tapasya and bhakti...a general line between the Sun & the Moon...knowledge & devotion...u've a wonderul way with words...keep blogging

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    1. He kept me sane when the Great Insanity came into my life...

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  4. Hi harry, I think if you have 100% devotion for the Omnipresent god then true knowledge or the effects of tap will also follow . I mean if you do bhakti, it is also control of senses in another way. These all paths lead to same Lord Krishna

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  5. This is what yam or Lord of death told Nachiketa a young sage about true soul(Brahman) of this entire universe

    The sound Om! is the syllable of the supreme Brahman
    The Self, whose symbol is Om is the same as the omnipresent Brahman. Smaller than the smallest and larger than the largest, the Self is formless and all-pervading.
    The goal of the wise is to know this Self.
    The Self is like a rider; the horses are the senses, which he guides through the maze of desires.
    After death, it is the Self that remains; the Self is immortal.
    Mere reading of the scriptures or intellectual learning cannot realize Self.
    One must discriminate the self from the body, which is the seat of desire.
    Inability to realize Brahman results in one being enmeshed in the cycle of rebirths. Understanding the Self leads to moksha

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    1. There are so many ways to try and describe the experience of the formless, the silence, the Fullness, and it's all just a finger pointing to the moon. The experience itself is what teaches you. Everything becomes clear, everything is restored to what it really is. This mysterious inner silence is silent and unmoving, and yet it moves, constantly bubbling up ideas, personality, projections, the world itself in total silence and the experience is intensely blissful and unforgettable. Such is the wonder of our incarnations that, nevertheless, it is veiled from us until the veils begin to fall..

      Reading of scriptures, intellectual cannot realise the sElf... this may or may not be true. This is the kind of "wise answer read elsewhere and uttered by others" that gives a sort of impression that ONLY "X" or ONLY "Y" will work to realise the Self. But test this out. Find words that are based on your experience, just that, on what you yourself discover, what rings true, deeply true.

      Very easy to pronounce wise words on this, that or the other, but when the experience comes to you... its utterly different from what you might conceptualise about it. It is reality. And to get there, assuming we do (instead of thinking we might just want to visit) takes the most extraordinary impetus to create the right conditions for "spontaneous" awakening. The creation of this impetus is Tapasya.

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    2. And perhaps another proviso, answering "Anonymous" re bhakti. The conclusion of the Vaishnavas, especially the Hare Krishna boys and girls is that in this Kali Yuga, ONLY bhakti can work, it's just too difficult otherwise, hence japa of the Hare Krishna mahamantra is what they believe is the one sole effective remedy and object of tapasya.

      That's one view of it, but there are many other, many fantastic saints and sages who have lived in Kali Yuga and inspired us all. One man I admire enormously is Swami Sivananda of the Divine Life mission, who started as a medical doctor in Malaya, then gradually, gradually refined his spiritual practice and turned from the world using meditation primarily. He became a great saint, a great founder of a great school of Yogic thought. He did it. We may not be so great a soul, but why not give such methods a try? What a blessed soul you are to give it a go...

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  6. Dear Brahmachari Sri Tapasyanandaji,

    I stumbled across your blog while searching for some information regarding Swami Sivananda and and the Navarna mantra.

    What an inspirational site this is. I live in the UK too, and have been a follower of Swami Sivananda of the Divine Life Society, Rishikesh for a few years.

    Although I have a regular life (work as a doctor and am starting the life of a householder), I am keen to live as spiritual a life as I can- and do as much tapasya as possible.

    I am coming towards the completion of a mantra practice (a purascharana) - this is my first step in tapasya. It has been a slow practice done over nearly two years due to working fulltime.

    Your list of simple dos and don't for a beginner tapasvi is very useful. As my purascharana progressed in the past two years, I found that if I flouted Mother Nature's rules (going to bed late, skipping meals- partly as a result of my work schedule, but also as a result of indisipline), I develop a pounding migraine without fail. This never used to be the case. I realise the importance now of discipline in eating, sleeping- the bare basics of yoga practice.

    Thank you for the blog and the inspirational articles. As a beginner taspasvi in her 30s, I hope I can keep going with tapas throughout my life, the way you have and are still doing.

    Om Dum Durgayai Namaha
    Om Namo Narayanaya

    Vishnupriya

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    1. Namaste Vishnupriya... Doctoring, housholdering AND tapasya thats a great resolve, not easy to achieve. But congratulations on your mantra sankalpa and remember the key to tapasya is abhasya, repeated practice, but this you have to be flexible about... Flexibility, inventiveness, good humour, and what a great example in the life of our favourite doctor turned saint... Sivananda. Good luck with everything and keep in touch!

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  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  8. Your approach was very good although it is too short it is clear

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  9. Your approach was very good although it is too short it is clear

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    1. Short may be the words. A book could be written about tapasya for the modern age....

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  10. Aum shanti...Guruji...!!! ( to the one who wrote this blog )

    I understand or i am understanding everything but i cant understand AHIMSA. I mean i am not a violent person nor do i practice violence everyday, but at present EVIL seems to be spreading rapidly through out this world.
    When Evil reaches my doorstep and it threatens my loved ones and other innocents what should i do? Practice AHIMSA?

    Please advice..!!!

    Aum Shanti Guruji..!!!

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  11. Understanding everything, eh... Hmmm. Well that is quite an achievement. Practice of ahimsa in all times and places, whats so complicated to not understand that? Your mind sees enemies everywhere... But if you really practice ahimsa all harm is neutralised against you. Until your heart is clean of fear, blame, revenge and anger, how is this at all possible? So, clean the heart, bit by bit, and then the whole of you, not just some small part of the ego, will actually come to understand reality.

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  12. Swamiji can u tell me a proper way to fast(advanced tapasya)? I have been fasting twice a week from dawn to dusk, I am scared of messing up my health kindly guide me?

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    1. The Bhagavad Gita has some good advice... Yoga is not for he who eats too much or too little. Dont torture yourself, and if you live in a warm country just dont go without water, whatever you do.

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  13. Aum Shanti Guruji..!!!

    I am not going to explain the meaning of the word "Understanding" i meant to you because it might sound a little arrogant.
    If the peaceful surroundings and the people who nurtured me weret there i wouldn't have reached a life where i will be seeking the Truth. I cannot take them for granted. So my question was what would i do when they are threatened ( they are me too), should i resort to Ahimsa?
    Would it be possible for you to give me an answer in a YES or a NO?

    Thank you

    Aum Shanti Guruji.!!!

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    1. You have your own inner wisdom so you can sort this out yourself. Reflect on what happens when Arjuna turns to Krishna and asks for advice. Read the bhagavd Gita and you will find your answer.

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  14. Aum Shanti Guruji..!!!

    I just wanted to thank you because i have been on the path to seek the truth for a few decades now. I have observed and tried to discover and "understand" different practices and traditions, life and nature. It was from your site i came across the literal meaning of Tapsya. It has given me a whole new "understanding" and i cant wait for all those other things out there and in here to be "understood".

    Thank you

    Aum shanti Guruji..!!!

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    1. Understanding is not just a mental click of "aha". When something deeply true is experienced or explained or felt, then you intuitively know it with an inner perception. Probably the most profound but simple truths about life are contained in the simple truths expressed in the tenets of Buddhism. The first of this.. Life is suffering, inherently unsatisfactory. But there is way to escape this... spiritual practice. Bad events still arise. This is a world after all that crucified Jesus, assassinated Gandhi, murdered Kennedy and has seem millions killed in pointless wars. It is never going to be an easy place. Sadhana does not involve living a sort of fairy tale delusion that the world doesn't have teeth and cannot bite. It can and it will, however many prayers you recite or however good your life is. So, be careful.. above all stay humble. We are nothing, we know nothing, we came from nothing, we go to nothing. Yet we exist. A miracle!

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    2. Baba T I have read some of your answers I felt deeply satisfied . I am looking for a spiritual guru . Will you guide me pls ? I have many questions

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    3. The blog is full of guidance. Many questions are not necessary, its just the mind at play and minds tend to look for sensation and excitement. Sadhana is ultimately about simplicity based on three ultimate questions... Can we know God? What steps to take? What is the destination? So, cut to the basics. God can be your teacher, God your inner guide, and your own common sense will help you stick to a basic simple sadhana practice. At this stage, keep good company in your thoughts

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  15. Hi there ! I have read part of the article and some of the blogs and I must say it is very informative and interesting as I am on my path to tapasya just wanted to understand what exactly it is and how to go about it , I have been practising it for years without realising that I was actually doing tapasya ! Even with a job. I live alone and sometimes I feel the urge to do tapasya as if some divine power is calling me and I feel drawn towards it ! So strong is the urge and I have been looking for the answers but I didnt know where , whom to ask ? I came across this blog and I feel I could connect and benefit from the advice and knowledge shared on this website. Can anyone guide me pls ? I have many questions to ask ? Looking forward to hearing from someone .

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  16. You are reading guidance... And asking for guidance, like someone drinking wayer and asking for a glass of water. The blog is full of advice.

    Then... You say you have read "part of the article and some of the blogs" . Why not try read all of the article. Until your concentration develops, you will take this pattern forward in life, learning "some" and "part" of all that your actual life will teach you and missing the truth that everything you need is around you right here and right now, that the world is absolutely full of Divine presence every second of every day. Dont make a grand drama out of seeking... Start where you are, one strp at a time. The blog contains very useful advice on these steps.

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  17. To the Sat-Guru,

    Please accept my koti koti pranam to your lotus feet! I was searching on sadhna and I found your blog today. What a wonderful treat to read your blog.

    Let me give a brief about myself. I am a 41 year old divorced man from India. Since my childhood I had a spiritual bent and I was privileged to attend satsang and learn from siddha. I was advised to be a devotee of Lord hanuman. I have been trying to complete the mantra sadhna anushthan since last ten odd years, but only a few times I have been able to complete it. For some or the other reason my anushthan never gets completed. I had been told by those saints to keep doing what you have been told and your guru will appear.

    Last few months have been really hard, as I have lost my job. When I landed a job i was rejected on medical grounds. High sugar, cholesterol and impaired lever function were the reasons and now the world as I knew has turned turtle. All this made me really take a critical look at the life I was leading and I feel a strong urge to find my purpose. I have started meditating regularly since last one month or so. I wake up at 3.30-4 am and sit in meditating observing the breath.

    I think to renounce everything and then doubts strike that with the health issues I have how will I be able to go ahead? So then I turn back to job search and think of building a corpus to sustain me for the rest of the life.

    Will you kindly guide me on a few things? What to do so that my sadhna anushthan is completed? What is the purpose of my life and what to do to keep my sadhna going?

    Namo Narayana!
    Sad Guru Namah!
    HK

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  18. All the guidance you need is in the blog. Only laziness and lack of effort prevents you from reading the advice given. Your anusthan never gets completed because of lack of determination. Be honest and clear about yourself and your habits. Your purpose in life is to serve others not yourself. But will you actually take this advice on board?

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