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Thread: tapas

  1. #1
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    tapas

    hariḥ oṁ
    ~~~~~~

    namasté


    tapas - religious austerity , penance , special observance. Tapas comes from 'tapa' meaning consuming by heat. The notion
    of 'buring up' impurities. Regarding special observances, here are a few examples that fall into this catagory:
    • sacred learning with brahman-s ,
    • protection of subjects with kṣatriya-s ,
    • giving alms to Brahmans with vaiśya-s ,
    • service with śūdra-s , and
    • offering herbs , roots and ruits to the ṛṣi-s
    I have read here on HDF and other places that some pursue tapas by bodily mortifcation, extreme fasting, etc.
    I cannot not find any support for this behavior in the śāstra-s. In fact I find ( again and again) just the opposite suggesting this behavior
    is not in accordance with the śāstra-s.

    If this behavior is 'man-made' I also have less confidence this it is appropriate. Why so?
    Mahābhārata suggests Others ( he who) pins their faith to the conclusions arrived at by men without really knowing anyting about the truths of dutiues ( dharma) declared by the śāstra-s find themselves at last ( or in the end) confounded on beliefs ( or faith ) who ends or results are not known.
    What does the mahābhārata call out as tapas?
    • absence from injury (ahiṁsā )
    • truthfulness in speech
    • benevolence
    • compassion
    We find the same of equal merit of yama and niyama found in the yoga-sutras of patañjali-muni¹ . We also can find discussion of equal merit
    called out in the bhāgavad gītā yet that too is still the mahābhārata.

    Can anyone call out any āgama, śāstra or śloka-s that suggest this behavior ( emaciation) is appropriate for one's sādhana, well-being
    or growth?

    praām



    references

    patañjali-muni, more can be found here : http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/showthread.php?t=2970 , http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/showthread.php?t=2953 ,
    Last edited by yajvan; 06 June 2010 at 07:23 PM.
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva

    _

  2. #2
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    Re: tapas

    Vannakkam yajvan: I also have been unable to find any scriptural reference dso now you have me interested.

    There is this:

    Origins of Kavadi

    The kavadi itself is steeped in mythology. At Mount Kailas, Lord Shiva entrusted the dwarf saint sage Agastya with two hillocks, with instructions to carry and install them in South India. But the sage left them in a forest and later asked his disciple, Idumban to get them. Idumban found the two hillocks, but could not initially lift them, until he obtained divine help. Near Palani in South India where to this day there is a famous shrine of Murugan Idumban put the hillocks down to rest awhile. When he attempted to continue with his journey, he found that the hillocks were immovable.

    Idumban sought the help of a scantily dressed youth, but the youth claimed the hillocks belonged to him. In the ensuing scuffle, Idumban was defeated. Idumban then realised that the youth was Lord Murugan. Idumban pleaded to be pardoned and asked that anyone who comes to the hills to worship Murugan with an object similar to the two hillocks suspended by a rod, may be granted his hearts desire. Idumbans wish was granted. And so the kavadi came to play its role in Hindu festivals.


    But it doesn't give scriptural reference. Certainly the practice is very much associated with Murugan. But just because we can't find scriptural reference doesn't mean scriptural reference doesn't exist as it may have gotten lost. I understand the British were very much astinished and disgusted with kavadi as they were with the Sun dance in North America (and nudity in Oceania, etc, etc.)

    It also does not mean that the custom isn't valid. People line up in places to do some sort of penance. I have done some myself, but not extreme kavadi. I think there is a valid mindset within the devotee who does it in a sincere way. It is associated all with 'clearing the way' , fulfilling a vow for a an answered prayer, and gratitude. Nowadays some places it has been distorted to machoism, which is really too bad.

    The simplest kavadi is to carry a milk pot. Last year at our temple festival we ran out of pots, and the temple collection is over 200.

    But there are lots of acceptable 'tough' things to do such as long walking pilgrimages to Amarnath for instance. Many of our greatest sages walked up and down India.

    In the meantime, I will ask my Tamil friends if they can point to any Tamil scriptures.

    Aum namasivaya

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    Re: tapas

    Namaste Yajvan,

    Tapasya is more easily translated as penance. Thus, as you have indicated, tapas can be performed in several ways.

    Sri Aurobindo, in The Secret of the Veda, describes that yajna, loosely translated as "sacrifice" is multi-dimensional. For far too long, commentators such as Jaimini or Sayana have only focused on the external aspects of yajna (ie the rituals). Thus, Sri Aurobindo's exegesis of the Veda, especially the Rig Veda, is of unparalleled importance.

    This inner yajna, or spiritual sacrifice/learning is the goal/result of tapas. There are innumerable examples of tapas performed by various people during the hoary history of Bharat. Asuras like HiranyakaSipU engaged in tapas for selfish reasons as did rAvanA. Why, Indra himself engages in tapas to ward off pApA; an example being the beheading of puRUravas while he (purUravas) was in tapas himself! ViSwAmitrA engages in immense tapas to gain puNyA to become a bRhmarSi.

    Tapas is the path to take to transcend the seven (7) lokAs. This is paralleled by the Tantric interpretation of Kundalini Shakti and CakrAs.

    An article written by "Veda Books" states that careful study of the Aiterya Brahmana reveals that the "Yupa (sacrificial altar) is the yajamana (purohit) himself!"

    Now whether this yajna/tapas means body mortification and emaciation, it is not clear (to me). Yet, those who have undertaken such penance (tapas) are indeed on the path towards self-realization. Perhaps the mortification of the body feeds the other koSAs (subtle bodies) as bhuva and suvah separate from bhur (the physical realm).

    Namaskar.

    Quote Originally Posted by yajvan View Post
    Can anyone call out any āgama, śāstra or śloka-s that suggest this behavior ( emaciation) is appropriate for one's sādhana, well-being
    or growth?

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    Re: tapas

    hariḥ oṁ
    ~~~~~~

    namast TTA (et.al)

    Quote Originally Posted by TatTvamAsi View Post
    Namaste Yajvan,
    This inner yajna, or spiritual sacrifice/learning is the goal/result of tapas. Namaskar.
    Yes, this I agree 100% and is at the root of the ved... all life is a sacrifice/yaja. It is for us to understand this and practice it.

    Now that said, I am not a fan of the word penance being = to tapas. Why so? Penance came into use ~ in the 12 to 1300's. It definition infers the following:
    • a punishment undergone in token of penitence for sin.
    • a penitential discipline imposed by church authority.
    Here I find these definitions in congruent with tapas. While some may think tapas may be a form of ' self punishment' it is not. Some call this punishment pīḍayā and is defined as pain , suffering , annoyance , harm , injury , violation , damage. I see no benefit here.

    It is all about the purification process. Yet I still have not answered my own question. Punishment leads to stress which pushes one further from the Divine. No one need be punished to approach the Supreme. No one need not be imposed upon in a negitive manner - the path to the Supreme is done by one's own initiative and focus.

    Yet I will yield to the notion of tapas = austerity. I see this as strict economy. I have had the opportunity to practice this and find it worthy of merit. It is a fair and firm approach to ones sādhana.

    Tapas in jyotish is the the 9th lunar mansion (dharma) . Here too I yield to this definition of tapas residing within the field of dharma.

    So, for me I am at home with tapas = tapa and find it very difficult to entertain the notion of punishment ( to one's self) when the śāstra's advise me to avoid this ( Bhāgavad gītā chapter 17).For me this (self-abuse) is not the way to the Divine.

    praṇām
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva

    _

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    Re: tapas

    Yajvan: I think this thread exemplifies another thread on "Are the Hindu sects really that different?"

    In my opinion, there is clearly room for the view of doing penance versus not. In Murugan worship, it is almost the focus, certainly on festival days. And yet, it is not seen as punishment either. The view is quite different from church view, in part because it is self-imposed. At one time I was skeptical. Not any more for personal reasons.

    A whole different take is that it is practise in self-discipline, which none of us would stand against.

    Aum Namasivaya

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    Re: tapas

    hariḥ oṁ
    ~~~~~~

    namast EM

    Quote Originally Posted by Eastern Mind View Post
    Yajvan: I think this thread exemplifies another thread on "Are the Hindu sects really that different?"

    In my opinion, there is clearly room for the view of doing penance versus not. In Murugan worship, it is almost the focus, certainly on festival days. And yet, it is not seen as punishment either. The view is quite different from church view, in part because it is self-imposed. At one time I was skeptical. Not any more for personal reasons.

    A whole different take is that it is practise in self-discipline, which none of us would stand against. Aum Namasivaya
    Thank you for your post - let me test my understanding. In your view penance = tapas = pīḍayā = 'self punishment' . This self punishment brings one some form of pain , annoyance , harm , injury , violation .
    Am I correct here? I want to insure I comprehend your POV.

    Now if this is correct you mention the following:
    In Murugan worship, it is almost the focus, certainly on festival days.

    My interest here is NOT to find fault but to better understand. Who decides the penance ? Is success of the practice based upon pain? And as you have mentioned you were looking into any of the śāstra-s that offer this instruction/direction.
    If it is self-selected how does one know it is the right penance/tapas for the right time or right person? If 'success' is defined by a painful experience, then there is a full litany of approaches no? ( hitting oneself, poking, stabbing, clubbing, crawling , rubbing on high friction surfaces, etc.).

    I respect one's choice yet for me my ability to comprehend and appreciate this approach is lacking.


    praṇām
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva

    _

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    Re: tapas

    Vannakkam Yajvan:

    Some samskaras such as ear piercing and head shaving could be mistaken for penance.

    I can only speak for myself on this. I have no scriptural reference, or intellectual basis for it. It is all onm another level, intuitive. In that way, it makes no sense to others. Most people think I'm nuts anyway so its no big deal.

    I'll share one penance. Last year I decided to roll around the temple for my birthday. I had an intuitive feeling that uit would benefit my soul, mostly in clearing or helping clarify a decision of what to do with my life in winter. I had no great expectations, or nothing really in mind.

    So I went early before the morning puja so that it wouldn't draw any attention from others. My wife took a beach mat, and placed it in front of me as I rolled. (You roll slowly facing the temple sanctum and make one complete circuit.) With each roll, I chanted the Murugan Maha mantra Aum Saravanabhava.

    After I finished which took about 20 minutes to half an hour, we went inside as we had sponsored an abhishekham to coincide with it. All I can really say is I felt good. My mind seemed really clear, and the shakti of the temple was somewhat overwhelming.

    Then later, I quit a 'dull winter job' and took up my passion of writing again. It was an obvious decision, yet I hadn't been thinking about it at all. I credit Lord Muruga for assisting in my mental clarity in all of this. so I have absolutely no proof. Perhaps I would have been even clearer had I not done this small penance. There is only my own belief, nothing else.

    I hope this helps in some small way.

    Aum Namasivaya

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    Re: tapas

    hariḥ oṁ
    ~~~~~~

    namast EM


    Quote Originally Posted by Eastern Mind View Post
    I'll share one penance. Last year I decided to roll around the temple for my birthday. I had an intuitive feeling that uit would benefit my soul, mostly in clearing or helping clarify a decision of what to do with my life in winter. I had no great expectations, or nothing really in mind.

    So I went early before the morning puja so that it wouldn't draw any attention from others. My wife took a beach mat, and placed it in front of me as I rolled. (You roll slowly facing the temple sanctum and make one complete circuit.) With each roll, I chanted the Murugan Maha mantra Aum Saravanabhava.
    Aum Namasivaya
    Thank you for sharing your experience. I am happy that your approach yielded results. Yet do you see this as pīḍayā = 'self punishment' that brings one some form of pain , annoyance , harm , injury ? It seems no injury had come to you with your practice of parikrama ( to travese around).

    I must insure you that I am saying this with proper respect for your practice, I do not have the slightest hint of malice in my words. I see no punishment inflicted - this is where the śāstra-s are commenting. Their concern is with the notion of inflicted pain on one's own self e.g. flogging one's self, beating, even excessive fasting.

    praṇām
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva

    _

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    Re: tapas

    Quote Originally Posted by yajvan View Post
    hariḥ oṁ
    ~~~~~~

    namast EM

    Yet do you see this as pīḍayā = 'self punishment' that brings one some form of pain , annoyance , harm , injury ? It seems no injury had come to you with your practice of parikrama ( to travese around).
    Vannakkam Yajvani:

    Yes there was some pain involved. Mostly just stiffness, and vertigo when I stood up. There are other penances like 108 prostrations where your muscles are sore for a few days. But my tendonitis in my arm was always far worse when actively coaching volleyball.

    I personally have to feel that it is some degree of hard work. Another one I will do is walk to the temple mid winter or other times. Its about 5 miles.

    I think a bit of pain is expected, but not to the extreme that you are alluding to. Its also very personal. Some people naturally have high pain tolerance.

    You've heard of the saying, "No pain, no gain,"?

    I have been told both ways by people who do extreme kavadi. Some have told me they feel no pain, and this is common. However, another person told me it hurt a lot, but she felt it was because of a lack or preparation and no support group on her part. She was a Mauritian friend who took kavadi in London instead of back home.

    At Val Morin in Quebec, there is a large kavadi festival in the summer.

    I understand your intent is just for understanding, BTW. Some people would be quite brutally critical of some of these customs, but that wouldn't be you. There is also a certain degree of 'what you're used to' involved.

    Aum Namasivaya

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    Re: tapas

    in vrindavan one gets to see many sadhus performing tough austerities . giri govardhana , the mountain that sri krishna lifted up is worshipped as an expansion of the lord himself . so thousands of sadhus , pilgrims and lay devotees circumbulate it everyday . the distance to be covered is 21 kms . there are many sadhus who are doing 108 dandavati parikrama . this means that he will perform 108 complete prostrations at one single spot before shifting to the next . this next spot is just a step ahead of his last spot -- the place where his outstreched hands touched the ground while prostration . this way he will do a parikrama of the entire hillock . it takes upto 5 years !!!

    i know another vaishnavite sadhu from vrindavan who undertakes strict austerities at certain months . like in the summer he undertakes a vow of silence and abstains from food . in the morning he does the abhishek of his shalagram shila with a mug of milk , which he later drinks as prasad . that is all . he doesnt take any more food for the rest of the day !!

    in bengal and orissa we have the charak festivities dedicated to shiva . it happens in the month of chaitra the last month of bengali calendar before vaisakh steps in with a new year . for the whole month willing devotees voluntarily undertake "sannyasa" . they abstain from indulging in sexual activities , dishonesty etc , doesnt use commodities of physical comfort like oiling the hair etc and sustain themselves by begging alms . then after the expiry of that month they perform penances in honour of shiva . like jumping on thorn bushes , open blades etc
    finally on the last day two such devotees are hung to revolving posts and swung around to symbolise the kala-chakra . and they were hung by peircing through the skin of the back and allowing a piece of wood as an extra support to hold on . presently this last ritual have subsided .

    probably it is the result of mix of non aryan rituals in mainstream hinduism . as hinduism developed and expanded local customs and traditions were slowly incorporated into hindu fold .
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