Tapasya is often translated as "austerities", and a Tapasvi is often called an ascetic when translated into English... These translations may seem accurate based on Appearances, or from a view of witnessing something and projecting one's own ideas of the world or culture onto what is seen. However, this does not indicate the reality of what is occurring as "Tapasya" - which is not a form of "penance" to atone for or purify "sins", nor is Tapas a form of Self-Denial. True Tapasya is none other than a Super Refined Art of Self-Control and Surrender. If this statement appears to be a contradiction then read further to discover the Inclusive Nature of Totality and wholeness, which as in the Reality of Infinity brings all aspects and attributes in One Unity as Yoga. With the pragmatic understanding that Infinity (the Self) is so Vast, Infinite, and limitless - that everything the Universe is, it also is not...
This concept of Tapasya is very often misunderstood - however, this article will actually make it very easy for you to understand.
In simplicity Tapasya is learning to "sit still" in identity with the True Self (within even the inner). In this stillness one watches the arising phenomena within the internal and external world without hooking into these "events". Normally these arising events in the inner and outer experience would "hook" us causing us to engage in them and follow these through activities.
Don't worry this explanation is going to get even more familiar. For example, you find yourself craving a particular item, and this item is not just any version of the particular item, but it is very specific. Thus this item requires a good deal of energy in order to acquire it and satisfy this desire. You then spend hours in all the necessary activities and processes for acquiring fulfilment of this desire. One can see that to a certain degree this desire almost seems to produce energy, or it causes energy resources to be accessed.
In Tapasya instead of hooking into and identifying with whatever the particular stimulus may be, you remain still and detached from it. This energy that would then be spent running all over, or in all the necessary actions to fulfil this desire is now saved, or stored, and is building to greater potential levels because it is not being "spent". Meanwhile the mind and its tendencies are becoming controlled, because instead of just hooking into and identifying with the various whims and drives there is a space of Conscious choice.
For example we just love chocolate, and other forms of sweet. Let's say we have been in the habit of eating chocolate 37 times per day, and one day decide we would like to stop eating chocolate cold turkey. The next day we are missing chocolate 37 times during the day, and it's an excruciating sensation looking at it in the candy drawer. We hold out though, and throw away all the candy. The next day the craving for chocolate is even greater, and there is none in the house, so we feel enough energy and agitation built up for chocolate that we are ready to drive an hour to town to get it. However we still resist... After three weeks of not eating any chocolate, it is barely missed, this urge in the mind has been controlled, the energy that would be used is stored and building to greater potential.
The previous is a simple example, but this is the way that tapasya works. Tapas is heat, it is a friction generated by Maha Maya, or the spinning attraction of Siva (Consciousness) and Sakti (Perceptions/Experience) the essence underlying all appearances. This tapas is sometimes experienced as suffering, as in a burning feeling of desire, want, or lack. But the same force of Tapas built up through years of disciplined Lifestyle, and focused through the power of a Sharply controlled mind becomes the manifestation of Magic, and Miracles.
In this way though it may appear from the view of one who is used to following the whims that arise within mind/body as if they are his or hers - that Tapasya is a form of penance, self-denial, or asceticism - in reality it is a deeper commitment to the Self, and a form of deeply nurturing and feeding one's Self Knowledge (in connection and identification with the infinite).
"He who has seen his true Self, which is innate, unborn, and incomprehensible, does not, if anything desired happens to him, become tainted. Being free from taint, he never performs any action. The man of self-restraint or the ascetic, therefore, is never bound." Avadhuta Gita Ch. II V.30
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