Swami Sivananda on the power of Tapas
Motto: “Through Tapas, the mind, speech and indriyas (organs of action) are purified.” Swami Sivananda
Tapas is the Sanskrit name of the spiritual effort
and is part of Nyama, which is the second branch of Yoga, according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.
The 8 branches of Yoga are:
- Yama (the five “abstentions”)
- Nyama (the five “respects”)
- Asana (body postures)
- Pranayama (control of Prana or the “Life Force”)
- Pratyahara (temperance of the sense organs)
- Dharana (concentration)
- Dyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (Ecstasy).
In Sanskrit Tapas literally means “fire” or “to burn” and represents the inner motivation of each yogi;
It is the discipline and determination that ignites us and propels us towards our goals and dreams.
Another meaning of the word tapas in Sanskrit is that of “cleansing”..
So by practicing tapas we clean and purify ourselves inside, through the heat generated by its inner fire, just like the process of purification of gold.
Below is a short excerpt from Swami Sivananda’s writings about this wonderful instrument of each yogi – the tapas.
“What purifies the impure mind is tapas. What regenerates the lower animal nature and generates the divine nature (in man) is tapas.
What cleanses the mind and destroys lust, anger, greed, is tapas.
What destroys tamas (lethargy) and rajas (impurities) and grows sattva (purity) is tapas.
What stabilizes the mind and fixes it in the eternal one is tapas.
What stops the tendencies towards exteriority, destroys vasana (habits), selfishness, raga (sympathies), dvesa (dislikes), and generates detachment, discrimination and meditation is tapas.
Tapas is Niyam’s third aspect (discipline or observance of spiritual rules) in Raja Yoga.
It is one of the three elements of the Kriya Yoga.
Tapas means austerity or a practice of penance. The tapas man is shining like a blazing fire.
Tapasmeans the retention of the senses and meditation. Tapas also leads to mind control.
Sitting in one leg, raising a hand, for a long time, is also tapas, but this tapas is tamasic and belongs to the ignorant man.
Pancagni is the tapas in which one sits in the middle of four fires lit under the hot rays of the sun, the sun being the fifth fire. Vairagis (ascetics) practice this tapas very often. Desire intensifies the senses, it can only be controlled if the senses are appeased.
Selfishness annihilates tapas (the pride of asuterity).
The unintelligent Tapasvin (ascetic) is always irritable, impulsive and proud. Practice tapas smartly!
The mental tapas is stronger than the physical tapas.
The one who endures the heat and cold makes physical tapas.
He increases his strength of resistance, but is unable to bear the insult. He will be easily disturbed by a harsh or ugly word.
He can take revenge with the same coin and has no control over the mind. He only disciplined his physical body.
To keep a balanced mind in all living conditions, to bear insult, damage and persecutions, to always be serene, contented and quiet, to be cheerful in unfavorable conditions, to have the strength to face danger, to have the presence of spirit and tolerance, all these are forms of mental tapas.”