Niyama 10: Tapas

Tapas is to practice austerity, serious disciplines, penance and sacrifice which increases the speed at which we are moving forward on the spiritual path. Daily sadhanas and penance to atone for misdeeds are obligatory. Austerities, assigned and overseen by a guru, give a great sense of release from the past, a profounder understanding of the path and deepening of one's worship and meditation. Meditation on Ishana and Tatpurusha: veiling and revealing grace. All along we are Siva and finally that dawns on us.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone.

This morning we're filling in a missing talk.We gave talks on all the yamas and niyamas except niyama number ten. Somehow we missed it. Niyama number ten is good for cold mornings; it's about tapas. Tapas means to burn, so heat.

Interesting this morning we were putting some wood into the homa and it wouldn't burn. Then we put in four pieces that were cut and they didn't burn. Isn't that interesting? Some wood is willing to burn and other wood is not willing to burn. Of course that relates to dryness I imagine. How much moisture it has in it, possibly something else. But it shows the principle that for tapas, austerity, someone has to be ready; that's the point. Otherwise the process doesn't work. In other words, if you're sitting in a cave for a year, if you're not ready for that kind of tapas,the process doesn't work. So, it has to come at the right time in someone's life. That's what the fire was telling me this morning.

Today's lesson on good conduct is on the tenth niyama of tapas which is to practice austerity, serious disciplines, penance and sacrifice. Be ardent in worship, meditation and pilgrimage. Atone for misdeeds through penance (prayashchitta), such as 108 prostrations or fasting. Perform self-denial, giving up cherished possessions, money or time. Fulfill severe austerities at special times, under a satguru's guidance, to ignite the inner fires of self-transformation.

All of the niyamas focus on expressing the refined soul qualities within each of us. In the case of tapas, the divine quality we are expressing is becoming a more spiritual person through the purification and intensification of austerity.

The Tirukural in its chapter on austerity describes the purifying aspect of austerity in verse 267.

"As the intense fire of the furnace refines gold to brilliance, so does the burning suffering of austerity purify the soul to resplendence."

Anyone who's done our tapas of walking up San Marga, prostrating as you go, I'm sure can affirm that sense that: "The burning suffering of austerity purifies the soul to resplendence." Somehow afterwards we feel pure. Something has been gotten rid of, some impurity is gone and therefore we feel a little bit brighter on the inside.

In addition to its purifying aspect, tapas also increases the speed at which we are moving forward on the spiritual path.

There is no rush, of course, but if you can move forward in ten lives instead of twenty why not go for it, right? Might as well.

Tapas causes our soul body to mature more quickly as providing fertilizer to a plant causes it to grow more quickly. Moving forward at a faster spiritual pace also means we are resolving our karmas more quickly.

To resolve our karmas more quickly we need good emotional self control. Otherwise, the faster speed will upset us. So, we don't want to move more quickly than our emotional control will allow. Cause we don't want to be upset. Want to be challenged by life but not upset by it. There's a difference. Challenge means we start to become upset but then we pull ourselves back together right away. So what's the point of getting upset? I'll have a lousy day if I allow myself to get upset. Why not have a good day; pull myself back together.

The basic practices of austerity are the daily sadhanas done in the home. This is obligatory and includes puja, scriptural reading and chanting of holy mantras. Other sadhanas include visiting a temple once a week, attending major festivals, pilgrimaging to a far-off sacred place once a year and fulfilling samskaras for all members of the family.

To atone for misdeeds, penance is obligatory. We must quickly mitigate future effects of the causes we have set into motion.

It's a very interesting principle that Gurudeva explains in The Trilogy. If we commit a misdeed we can just sit around rest of this life, maybe next life before the karma comes back to us. And there it comes in full force. Can take a while. Or, we can perform some penance right away and reduce the impact of it. Why get hit by a major problem when we can just face a minor problem in the future. So, doing penance is taking on some of the karma right now and reducing what we face in the future. If we did it intently enough we'd eliminate what we were going to face in the future. So we're punishing our self, in a sense, for our own misdeed instead of life having to do it. So I'll read that again; that's important.

To atone for misdeeds, penance is obligatory. We must quickly mitigate future effects of the causes we have set into action.

One of the reasons we have to do it quickly is we'll forget about it if we don't. Keep going, we'll forget. Life would just carry us along and we'll never do it. So we do it quickly means we're sure to do it as well.

This is done through such acts as performing 108 prostrations before the Deity in the temple, walking prostrations around the temple or up a sacred path, and carrying kavadi or simply skipping a meal.

Yogaswami was once asked why he scolded his devotees so intensely. His reply: "Isn't a fire necessary to burn rubbish?" So, of course, the fire was his words in that case and the rubbish was the impurity in the mind of the devotee. He was scolding. Those scoldings can be blessings if they're accepted in the right spirit. It's purifying! It's a form of tapas.

Sacrifice is part of tapas. Of course, doesn't mean in our tradition getting out the chickens and the ax. Means, means doing without something.

Sacrifice is the act of giving up to a greater power a cherished possession be it money, time, intelligence or a physical object to manifest a greater good. Sacrifice is similar to charity but has the aspect of doing without, some form of self-denial.

So charity doesn't necessarily involve self-denial. We have enough abundance; we give and it doesn't impact how we're living. The idea of sacrifice is it's impacting some aspect of our life. Example is fasting for a day, giving the money saved to a Hindu institution. Going on a budget vacation instead of an expensive one and taking the difference and giving it away to a Hindu institution. It's a very good practice for teenagers to be involved in to some degree because our culture today is one of... It doesn't have that kind of discipline. We're used to just indulging ourselves. And the idea of doing without and giving what we would have consumed ourselves to someone else is a very healthy activity now and then, not too often. But, now and then it's a very wonderful practice.

Austerity is the most intense form of tapas and is usually performed by Sannyasins or those in the Sannyasa Ashrama of life which begins at age 72. Austerities should be assigned and overseen by a guru. The outer practices observed could include living in seclusion in a simple hut or cave, eating simply, not speaking, not reading magazines or newspapers or watching television or accessing the internet.

These outer practices are designed to catalyze a major inner purification reaching back even into past lives.

So it's not just a practice, outwardly. It's supposed to generate something inwardly otherwise it's not being done correctly.

This experience can be quite disturbing and therefore would only be undertaken after many years of practicing sadhana and studying Hindu philosophy.

In other words: Sometimes we're burdened by something we did wrong last week but what if we know about what we did wrong all lifetime or ever since what we did wrong in a past life. You know that can be a bit burdensome. So you don't want to get into that state of mind in case you're capable of getting out of it.

However, the aftermath is worth it as it gives a great sense of release from the past, a profounder understanding of the path and a significant deepening of one's worship and meditation.

Gurudeva describes the inner process of austerity as: "A powerful bath of fire and bright rays of showering light that washes the soul clean of the dross of its many past lives, and of the current life, which have held it in bondage of ignorance, which have held it in the bondage of ignorance, misgiving, unforgivingness and the self-perpetuating ignorance of the truths of the Sanatana Dharma."

That's very nice. "The self-perpetuating ignorance." Doesn't take anyone else to perpetuate it. We can do it all by ourselves.

Was having an interesting meditation on Ishana and Tatpurusha. Ishana of course is the revealing grace. Tatpurusha, veiling grace. If Ishana was in full force you wouldn't do anything because you'd be everything and everybody. So you have to have some influence of the veiling grace in order to get up in the morning and do something. But, the idea of receiving the revealing grace. What does the revealing grace do? It gives us a sense of who we think we are. Hard to explain. I'll have to try, won't I? Otherwise I lost everyone.

The more revealing grace you have,the further up the scale of the dharma do you function. So you keep getting more and more revealing grace; you keep going up the scale of dharma. Different ways of fitting into life, different professions, different activities, so forth. It determines who you think you are. But, of course, it's not who you are. But, it's a very interesting phenomena because you're always Siva. But it gives you a new, who you think you are, as you move up. So the more Ishana that comes in, you keep changing who you think you are.

And then finally, you get enough Ishana coming in you start thinking part of the time that you are Siva. Not all of the time. But part of the time you start thinking: I must be Siva. And it feels that way. Of course from Siva's point of view He's always you but from your point of view you're not always Siva. Very interesting phenomena.

Well that's, it's an interesting way of looking at the influence of Ishana. More Ishana, each time we get significantly more Ishana influencing us, revealing grace, we change the concept of who we think we are. And we start functioning a little differently in life. More refined way.

But all along we're Siva. And finally that dawns on us.

Have a wonderful day.

Aum Namah Sivaya