Saturday, 10 August 2013

Tapas or austerity


Practical  steps  to spirituality- section  6 part 22  

Tapas  or  austerity  

                               In  the  puranas , a  person  is  described as  standing  on one leg with his hands held aloft and  practicing  severe  penances  . The  real  meaning  of  tapas  or  austerity  is  single pointedness  of  the  mind and  senses. . Tapas  is  an  internal  way  of  living  ,maintaining  the  right  relationship with  the world  of  objects  and  beings . It  is  a  means  to  conserve  our  energy  rather  than  wasting our  energy  in  unproductive ways.  Getting  up in the  early  morning,  doing  puja  and  meditation  or  limiting  the  time  one  wastes  in  reading  the  newspaper  or  seeing  TV  programs  or  fasting  occasionally  or  observing  silence  - all  this  can  be  called  tapas . The  energy  that  is  conserved  as  a  result  of  these  austerities  is  used  for  creative  purposes  or  for  achieving  a higher goal.  Where  tapas  is  concerned  one   should  observe  the  'golden mean ' , which  is  a  life  of  moderation  wherein  one  does not  deny  oneself  completely  nor  does  one  indulge  . . Initially  tapas  is  undertaken  to  give  up  the  negative  tendencies  of  the  mind  like  anger,  hatred  lust  greed  and  so  on   and  purify  the  mind  of  its  impurities   but  later on  to  absorb  the  mind in the  contemplation  of  the  Lord. 

                        Prince  Siddarth left  his  palace  , his  wife  and  son   to  become  an ascetic in the  forest. In  his  over  enthusiasm  to  realise  the Truth  , he  started off  observing  severe  penances  , he  hardly ate  or  slept. . Soon  he  went  into  a  semi -conscious  state   and  in that  state  he  overheard  a  conversation  between  a  student  and a  teacher ,who were passing by  . The  student  asked  the teacher as  to how  to tune  his  vina  (   stringed  musical  instrument  ) and  the teacher  replied  neither  too  tight (  as it will  break  )  nor  too  light  (  for it will  create  no  music  )  . This  conversation  gave  a  new  insight  to  the  famished  siddartha  . Needless  to  say  he broke  his  fast  and  then sat  under  the  bodhi tree  and  meditated  with  a fresh  resolve  and  new  energy  . He  realised  the  Truth and  became  Buddha  ,The  Enlightened   .Then  he gave  the world  the  'golden  mean ' to  be  followed  in all  aspects  of  life  

                     Lord  Krishna  reiterates  the  same  idea  in  the six chapter  (verses  16 and  17 ) of  the  Bhagavad  Gita  . "  yoga  is  not  for  those who  eat  or  sleep too  much  or  too  little   . Practicing  yoga  will  vanquish  the  troubles  of  one  who  performs  his  duties  diligently  and  who  is  disciplined  and  balanced  in his  eating  ,sleeping  and  waking. " 

to be  continued....

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