Bodhinatha elaborates on the four-fold concept of austerity, which Gurudeva defined as sadhana, penance, tapas and sacrifice. So, why bother performing austerities? It increases our speed on the spiritual path. We resolve karma at a faster rate, and it takes us less lifetimes to realize the Self and attain moksha. Penance is atoning for misdeeds. Our subconscious tells us when there is something to be resolved through penance, for it throws that thing up in front of our awareness over and over again. Sacrifice is giving up to a greater power a possession to manifest a greater good. Tapas literally means "to heat." Tapas is purification through the burning up of impurities. And it all ends in a beautiful way. Tapas in a monastery acts as a magnifying glass on the inside of the person allowing for deeper meditation and forming of deeper psychic ties with the Deities in the temple. [Today's audio is Part 3 of the above talk.]
We have some nice quotes from the Saivite Shastras also that we can refer to. "Tapas played an important part in the early Saivite monastery of the Sat Siva Yuga that was freely given from time to time by the Guru himself, seemingly for no particular reason. Therefore, each monastic kept his work in the service of Siva totally up to date, so that at any point in time within three suns he could make transition of worldly responsibilities and enter Mahatapas. Three suns were always given as a transition period into Maha tapas, which would last an indefinite length of time." Three suns means three days.
There is a related verse. "A good Saivite monastery was always in readiness for time of departure. No monastics were behind in any of their duties or responsibilities for more than three days. If they were, it was considered worldliness, tapas was given to correct the situation."
If you notice, this is a can't-seem-to-win situation. If you are current three days, then you are ready to receive Mahatapas. But if you are not current three days, then you are ready to be put on tapas also. It doesn't seem you can avoid it.
It is a very interesting principle in monastic life, being three days current and it is different than family life. In other words, in family life you settle down to a certain occupation, a certain job, certain routine. That is what you do and it keeps going and going. You expect to do it next week, you expect to do it the week after and your whole life is built around the fact that you are doing it and you are expecting to continue doing the same thing.
Monastic life is not like that. You need to be flexible, you need to be movable. It is part of the discipline, you cannot settle down. You cannot identify so much with one task that you cannot see yourself in another task. The idea is that, within three days you could be replaced and go do something else. It is part of the monastic discipline which means, of course, at least one other person needs to know everything you do. Otherwise, you are not replaceable. So what you do needs to be well documented and other people need to be trained in it. Then, we are living in this state of three days current in terms of people having knowledge of what we do.
The other aspect, of course, is we have to be organized enough and current enough that in three days we can actually transfer what we are doing. We can't be weeks and weeks behind in our tasks. Otherwise, within three days we couldn't do it.
It has a second element as well, which is not being behind in our duties. Going on in the Saivite Shastras, "Yogis preparing themselves for sannyasa are always on tapas during this time. They were tried and tested by the Guru through the senior minority of each monastery. The Guru worked especially with the yogis for the growth of his order. We see the yellow mathavasis unleashing worldliness of themselves or from accumulated kammaba absorbed from others. We see them turned inward. These are the model monastics."
That is bringing up a very interesting point that as a monk working with other people, the karma that is there can be someone else's that you have taken on, either fully or partially. Particularly, you go out on a teaching mission, traveling for long periods of time, things like that. You are working with lots of different people. You can come back with a sense of being some what burdened. Why are you burdened? Not because of your karma but because you took on fully or partially the karma of others. So, consequently tapas can be used to burn up that karma as well.
Commenting on tapas in a general way, the monastery itself is such a protected environment versus living elsewhere, that it allows for much greater clarity in terms of one's inner life. Living elsewhere, there are lots of people around and lots of situations around, going out in the world everyday. Consequently, there is less clarity as to where you stop and someone else begins. It is all kind-of mixed together. So the monastery helps you separate yourself from others, work with yourself and
adjust yourself with more clarity.
Tapas is taking that a step further. It is like a monastery within a monastery, because you are on stricter disciplines. If someone is on tapas, they don't watch television, they don't read magazines, they drop off contact with the world. When a yogi goes on tapas, he goes on a two-year retreat from family and friends, which maybe the longest time they have ever been away from family and friends. Usually it is. So it creates greater distance between them and their family than they experience before in their life as well. Spend more time in mediation, more time on vigils, all of which is like a monastery within a monastery in that, it is a stricter discipline than the normal monastery is upholding. But, it is not a permanent discipline. It is just for a period of time that results in even greater clarity as to what is inside you, who you are.
In the first instance, the monastery is like holding up a mirror in front of you so you can see yourself fairly clearly. This is like holding up a microscopic mirror, something that can magnify. Everything looks bigger than it really is. But you can see things that are so small that you might not see them otherwise.
Tapas magnifies yourself to yourself in a new way so you can adjust yourself. Tapas is also a time for intense meditation and a good time to deepen one's psychic ties to the Deities, because you kind-of have greater continuity on a day to day basis than you have otherwise, less distractions. So, it is a wonderful opportunity in that sense to deepen one's inner life.