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Tapas: the means to the highest goal

Tapah swadayay ishwar pranidhanani kriya yogah
– Yoga sutras, Sadhana Pada, Sutra 1

In pic: Kamal Maliramani. Pic by: Jaya Tulasi

Kriya Yoga is the means suggested by Patanjali for a person who has just started the Yoga journey, to seek the truth. Among the three steps suggested here Tapas is the first one where our work begins.

Tapas means “to cook”. What are we cooking here? Let’s find out 🙂

In this digital age, even a small shift in climate throws us out of gear, seasonal fever or infection has become the norm of the day. A power cut makes us uncomfortable. We can’t fathom the idea of sleep without a mattress. Missing out on a meal invites Migraine. The resistance for heat in summer and cold in winter is being compromised by use of convenience machines. Conveniences and comforts are making us dependent. Even a little discomfort takes away your mental or physical balance. It keeps you away from the mandatory focus to progress on the path of Yoga, then how does one expect to progress?

Tapas on the physical level prepares our body to be strong and resistant to climate and environment changes. A cold water bath in the morning before we begin our day is a ritual if followed through all seasons be it summer, rainy or winter can be seen as a form of tapas. This simple ritual can build immense resistance to seasonal changes.

So one day you are excited and thrilled when your work gets appreciated or rewarded, the very next day you are depressed because you were denied some opportunity or you were not identified to be fit enough for some task. This living in extremes which is driven by disappointment, anger, greed, pride, jealousy and other mixed emotions or thoughts can never ever allow one to be peaceful, forget  meditation. The constant turmoil that we develop by trying to survive competition, be it at work or home, friend or relative, colleague or neighbour keeps us away from the being fulfilled or happy.

 Tapas on the mental or emotional level helps us in staying steady and makes our resolve on the search for truth stronger. We realize the purpose of this life and we keep working with zest and vigor towards our goal of Samadhi (the last among the eight stages on the path of Raja Yoga).    

With Tapas one can get the mind and senses in control, currently its the opposite and we mindlessly dance to their tunes. Irony being that we aren’t even aware about it. The chase to be happy is always met with disappointment and sadness.

The most critical ingredient of Tapas is a Resolve. To identify one aspect of your life that you wish to cultivate and then work around the essentials that are needed to be repeated on an everyday basis until the goal is achieved. The idea now is to stick to it… no matter what!!! Unlike the new year resolution, the resolve here is to prepare you for the higher goal of moving inward and to help discover your own Self. It could begin with something as simple as meditation for just 2 mins at a fixed time, a cold water shower everyday at a specified time through every season. Slowly as you get successful with smaller simpler tasks the mind will get stronger and convinced with the results it will only move you up the ladder. Now you can embark on fasting for a day or a three or a week, stay with Mouna (silence) for may be a week or more. The same mind that kept you away from your resolve with now be a friend taking you along. It has now experienced or tasted the bliss of being steady or focused. Haven’t we seen this with marathon runners, or for that matter in any sport? The achievements are a result of sustained effort for a long long time.

Tapas should not be taken up to achieve powers or goals, there should be no deal with it, no expectation, no timeline and most important no ownership. One does Tapas knowing fully well that it will lead you to higher spheres of consciousness. It will take you to yourself. The results will come, our task is to keep the efforts going and give it all that we have. The moment there is a deal or ownership it will start feeding the ego. The inflated ego will keeps one away from oneself. The same tapas that has the ability to take you higher can also become the reason for your fall. The missing devotion or surrender can lead you to misery, pain and leave you shattered.

Tapas brings stability of the body, mind and emotions. It increases mind power to stay with one subject for a long time with devotion. It empowers us with the ability of one pointedness or Ekagrata. This becomes the right preparation to walk on the path of Yoga. Beware that your current fickle mind will not lead you anywhere but misery. It is the over worked body, mind and emotions that brings all suffering and diseases. Tapas is the first step that can lead you to bliss.  

Slow cooking brings out the best flavors in your dish and Tapas is “to cook”, so go slow and remain steady.

Happy cooking 🙂              

Namaste
Kamal Maliramani

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