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14 July 2015, 05:01 AM

My question is about one of the five niyamas listed in Patanjali's Yoga-sutra: what is tapa?


Eastern Mind
14 July 2015, 07:10 AM
Vannakkam Orlando. It's penance, in all it's forms and intensities. Fasting, silence vows, walking yatras, and self-imposed discipline that one wouldn't normally do.

Aum Namasivaya

14 July 2015, 09:57 AM
About fasting...I will try to observe a partial fast(not eating cereals and legumes) on ekadashi.

I am not able to follow a complete fast.

Eastern Mind
14 July 2015, 10:50 AM
Vannakkam: Yes, that's a common one, for Vaishnavites. The idea of penance varies widely from sect to sect. Same with fasting. I know a person who did a 41 day water fast. Others figure not eating meat for one meal is fasting. In my own tradition, penance is fairly common, as a means of thanking, or clearing, or most commonly, retribution for perceived misdeeds. Generally the individual gives it to himself, but those under guidance of a qualified Guru, and working hard in yoga, may also be assigned penances.

Aum Namasivaya

14 July 2015, 10:58 AM
Others figure not eating meat for one meal is fasting.

Vaishnavas must totally avoid meat,fish and eggs.

14 July 2015, 02:44 PM

In addition to all the above, tapa also requires practicing giving up ego. When a devotee lives with the guru in the pre-initiation phase, he is at the beck and call of the guru and is required to humble/surrender h(er)imself completely. The outer austerities are fine but ego stands in the way of the changing of the inner being; and for that a complete surrender to the guru for a certain duration is a requirement for initiation. Of course that training stays with the devotee and getting initiation does not mean that (s)he may start to show pride again. So, even though people may aim to serve the servant of the servant of the Supreme; in actual practice they may face many obstacles and fall short of that goal without a concerted effort.


Eastern Mind
14 July 2015, 06:38 PM
Vannakkam: Therefore, most penance is done in solitude. (Although there are some very public ones) Nobody knows. If we go to temple, we have no idea who fasted, who didn't, who walked, who came by bus. On pilgrimage to a sacred site in India, we have no idea how people got there, or what sacrifices were made. Once inside, we are all devotees of God, equal before him.

Aum Namasivaya

15 July 2015, 11:04 AM

Vannakkam: Yes, that's a common one, for Vaishnavites. The idea of penance varies widely from sect to sect. Same with fasting.
If no one minds it, then I wish to tell what I read about Tapashcharya in Jainism. Before telling it, I want to ask whether anyone feels that there is too much similarity between Hinduism & Jainism except some beliefs? Please reflect your opinion about it.

In Jain Dharm, Tapa has been divided into two parts:

1] Bahya tapa (or external penance) - This Tapa can be seen by other person. It is a visible form of penance.
2] Antar tapa (or internal penance) - It happens internally. No one can see it except the one who do it.

The third & highest form of penance is called "Adeeth Tapa." This tapa is for those who have surpassed several stages of spiritual upliftment & are almost to near final liberation. It also happens internally & cannot be seen by others but it happens with Parakram. Gyani Purush like Lord Rama, Lord Krishna & one recent incarnation of God in form of Dadashri of Gujrat had it.

Bahya Tapa is again of 6 types.

i) Vivikta-Shayyasana - sitting and sleeping in a secluded place devoid of animate beings;
ii) Kayaklesha - mortification of the body so long as the mind is not disturbed;
iii) Vritti-Parisamkhyana - taking a mental vow to accept food from a house-holder only if certain conditions are fulfilled without letting anyone know about the vow;
iv) Anashana - fasting, to give up all the four types of food for the sake of meditation.
v) Avamodarya - eating less than one's fill or less than one has appetite for; and,
vi) Rasa-Parityaga - daily renunciation of one or more of six kinds of delicacies namely, ghee (clarified butter), milk, curd, sugar, salt and oil.

Antar tapa is also of 6 types:

i) Svadhyaya - study of scriptures for getting rid of the ambition for name and fame, for 'Fame is the last infirmity of noble minds.
ii) Prayashchit - internal expiation or confession and repentance of sins;
iii) Dhyana - concentration of mind and not to let the mind go astray.
iv) Vaiyavrtyaya - rendering service to other saints, who have been rendered helpless due to sickness or old age.
v) Vyutsarga - giving up attachment to the body; and,
vi) Vinya - reverence or modest behavior - to practice four types of humility in conduct.

The data belongs to a website from which I copied it to word document few years ago. I don't remember the site but clearly, it is not my reflection at all. In my opinions, some of the above terms are not rightly interpreted by the author as Antar tapa happen internally while it seems that iv is less internal & more visible form. But it is also an important tapa.


16 July 2015, 12:57 PM

Austerity, the third niyama, is described in Yoga philosophy as power to stand thirst and hunger, cold and heat, discomforts of place and postures, silent meditation and ritual fasts. It also maintains that the perfect man is he who practices both mental as well as physical austerity.

From http://veda.wikidot.com/ashtanga-yoga


Soul of Light
16 July 2015, 01:31 PM
Namaste all!
I don't have any knowledge of scripture and tapa.. I didn't try to research some before writting but just I am trying to comprehend the meaning by my own..
There are great and knowledgeable answers from all members.. But we have to concentrate more on what happens by tapa and why its necessary than what is tapa..
Tapa means heat (not sure but I think because I learnt some Sanskrit in school)
Heat is created when there is resistance.. So tapa should be one in which we do things which we don't do in day to day life..
Okay.. From members above I get know that it mainly classified in two type- external one and internal one..
Both are beneficial to us, fasting is beneficial for health, silence vows are beneficial to turn mind inwards.. And all other tapas.. You do it for god hence you are conquering your ego which is important as believer ji already mentioned..
I think, inner feelings are more important.. How strong resistance there will be always try that ur ego will not arise, have surrender, faith, devotion, dedication and humbleness.. This is important.. God will pleased more if you help peoples, help the society, enlight them.. God don't feel happy if you don't eat but the dedication, belief you have in fasting is matters for him so try to go in deeper but simple and this basic things.. Never forget what god wants from us..
This are simple things we all know.. I don't know why I write this as its completely off topic but sorry for that..
Pranam :)

19 July 2015, 11:47 PM
Namaste ji

My question is about one of the five niyamas listed in Patanjali's Yoga-sutra: what is tapa?
I am currently studying the Yoga Sutras and several commentaries on Patanjali's work describing Ashtanga Yoga, and wanted to offer my thoughts.
Also, my thanks to you for this question at this timing. Reviewing this has cleared up and settled my mind in some areas. Thank you.

Interesting the form of the word you chose here: "Tāpa" is not a Niyama, the Niyama is "Tapas" or "Tapasaḥ":

ताप - meaning "distress" or "suffering", sometimes "pain" found in sutra II.15:

परिनाम्तापसंस्कारदुःस्वैगु॔णवून्त विरोधाच्
च दुःस्वम एव सव॔ँ विवेकिनः
For one who has discrimination, everything is suffering on account of the suffering produced by consequences (of action), by pain (itself), and by the saṃskāras, as well as on account of the suffering ensuing from the turmoil of the vṛttis due to the guṇas.

This is a key sutra to the second chapter and to Kriya Yoga. All experience, whether good/pleasurable or bad/unpleasurable, is suffering. When we understand this, we seek to end distress or suffering through the practice of Yamas and Niyamas.

तपः - meaning "Austerity" or "Self-discipline", found in II.1

तपःस्वाध्यायेश्वरप्रणिधानानि क्रियायोगः
Kriyā-yoga, the path of action, consists of self-discipline (Tapas), study (svādhyāya), and dedication to the Lord (Īśvara-praṇidhāna).

This is the path for those living in the material world, who are not yet established enough in sattvic mind and Yoga to practice abhyāsa and vairāgya well. Kriya Yoga helps to cultivate sattvic mind.
Because we are attracted and addicted to sense objects, we must cultivate self-discipline, 'Tapas', it is the most important thing to Yoga, there is no Yoga without Tapas. For those who are not in full control of their mind, it is best to use faily gentle auterities to cultivate sattvik mind and avoid causing turmoil or impressions. Limiting actions to ones that produce as much sattva as possible and as little Rajas and Tamas as possible helps the individual gain control of mind, from which one can progress. Things like controlling what you eat and how much, what you listen to, what you read, celebacy, these are good for beginners on the path to reign in the senses. More severe austerities may be taken by those in strog control of the mind.

Together, all three key practices in Kriya Yoga are also the first three Niyamas.

The form of study and dedication to the Lord described here is not the same as in the advanced stages described in the first chapter. This is considered by many to be a match to Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jñāna Yoga, as described in the Gita. Kriya Yoga combines them all.