Tapas – Austerity

Tapas – Austerity

by Chandra Om

Sri Hanuman

Tapas is the individual process of intense, self imposed purification. Tapas is a burning desire for spiritual development—an intense faith that cultivates endurance, willpower and fortitude.

One of the literal translations of tapas is heat or fire. There is no greater purifier than fire. Fire removes the impurities and allows the golden radiance of what is true to remain, unclouded and unmasked.

A Yogi stands supreme under all conditions and must be amenable to following disciplines. Self denial is a large part of tapas, and cultivates the strong determination required for success. The life of a Yogi is similar to that of a soldier in the sense of the discipline involved and the cooperative effort to serve the greater good of the whole rather than individual, personal gratification.

There are external tapas that purify the body, burning away toxins and disease, and internal tapas that purify the mind, burning away Samskaras, or mental impressions from the past. Tapas vary from student to student, with the practices prescribed by the Guru dependent on the individual impressions present within the Sadhaka.

The Yogi must avoid the extremes of excessive comfort and severe austerity. It is clearly stated in the Bhagavad Gita, “Yoga is not for him who eats too much nor for him who eats too little. It is not for him who sleeps too much nor for him who sleeps too little. For him who is temperate in his food and recreation, temperate in his exertion at work, temperate in his sleep and waking, yoga puts an end to all sorrows.”

Truth is the greatest tapas. Tapas serves to liberate the Yogi from identification with the body and mind to the invisible power of God and cultivates patience and equanimity in all conditions.