After looking into worship, Krishna is looking into what is called `tapas’.  Tapas  is often taken as austerity, a different form of worship. It could be understood as stepping out of one’s comfort zone or doing something that is conducive to one’s growth. Tapas  has a wide range of meanings,  and `austerity’ or `worship’ are two words that come closest to it. Krishna divides it further into physical, verbal, and mental.

What is physical austerity? Krishna says,

`Devadvijaguruprajnapujanam  saucam arjavam

Brahmacaryam ahimsa ca sariram tapa ucyate (Verse 14)

Devadvijaguruprajnapujanam  means worship of god, a sense of surrender to Ishwara, a sense of surrender to your teacher. `Pujanam’ doesn’t mean `literally worshipping one’s teacher’ but helping the teacher out in his work, etc., or helping scholars even if they are not your teachers or helping wise people. That is one part of physical austerity of worship. `Saucham’ also comes under physical austerity, it means cleanliness inside and outside. `Outside’ here refers to body and environment, and `inside’ to freeing one’s mind of guilt, pain, etc. `Arjavam’ means `straightforwardness in behaviour’,  `brahmachari’ means a life of discipline, where you don’t give in to excesses or total self-denial, and `ahimsa’ means not hurting another person physically, verbally or emotionally as far as possible. All this comes under `physical tapas/austerity’.

The next one, Krishna says, is verbal tapas. I think this should be the basis of all communication. In fact, I have come across a term `non-violent communication’, meaning one should use words that will not hurt people. At the same time, one should speak the truth as one knows it, satyam. You will speak the truth only if you know if it’s helpful. If you know someone is an idiot, there is no need to tell him he’s an idiot unless it’s going to help him grow. Therefore, it should not only be `satyam’, it should also be `hitam’ i.e. helpful, good for the person. And if an unpleasant truth has to be told, then say it nicely–`priyam’, a manner in which the person can accept, a manner in which the person doesn’t need to resist too much. It should be said in a non-accusatory manner, in a non-judgemental  manner. Say it assertively, but say it nicely. All this, Krishna says, is `tapas in the form of words’, verbal tapas. Krishna also adds `swadhyaya’ and `abhyasa’. Both mean study (of the scriptures, etc.), but as the two words are used together ,`swadhyay’ could be in the form of chanting also. The Vedas are chanted, Vishnusahasranama is chanted, and all this comes under verbal tapas, tapas at the level of speech.[pullquote]If an unpleasant truth has to be told, then say it nicely–`priyam’, a manner in which the person can accept, a manner in which the person doesn’t need to resist too much. It should be said in a non-accusatory manner, in a non-judgemental  manner. Say it assertively, but say it nicely.[/pullquote]

After this, Krishna looks at tapas or austerity at the level of the mind. He uses the word, `manaprasadaha’, i.e.`maintaining a cheerful mindset’. In all conditions, one’s mind is to remain cheerful and not agitated. Also, one could include here `friendliness of the mind’ i.e. `soumyata’, good –heartedness. He also adds `mounam’,, which means `keeping quiet’. Normally, this should come under `verbal tapas’, but here `mounam’ means to stop your chattering mind. It starts by being aware of what you will say and what you think. When you’re very awareful, you find that the quality of thoughts change. In the beginning, a lot of what we say to ourselves is often very critical, self-judgemental, very damning, critical of others, and we should try to replace this with positive thoughts and, eventually, try to stop the chatter altogether. Once this is accomplished, the mind will think when it has to think, the mind will keep quiet when it has nothing to do. Being able to do that involves some meditation, etc., and all of this comes under `mental tapas’.

`Atma-vinigraha’ means self-mastery. When a self-mastered mind thinks and feels, it is not a victim of moods. The owner of a self-mastered mind tells his mind what to do and think, and not the other way round. One is not helpless with respect to one’s mind. To reach this state, a lot of emotional work has to be done, a lot of psychological work as to be done. All this comes at the level of tapas of the mind. Another quality Krishna adds is `bhava sam-shuddhi’, purity of intention. Not only does one’s intention have to be strong, it has to be non-hurtful, to be non-exploitative in our intentions towards other people, etc. Therefore, one has to ensure that the intention that is backing up one’s speech and action is clean, it is in harmony with universal ethics. It’s not easy. There are times when one feels like wringing someone’s neck, and that’s only human, but one works to make one’s intentions pure. All this would be tapas at the level of the mind.

Now, with respect to each of them, it can be done either in a Sattvic  or a Rajasic or Tamasic manner. What is Sattvic tapas then? It is tapas with a clear-cut commitment and karma-yoga buddhi—ishwara-arpanam and prasada-buddhi. If tapas is done with this attitude, it is Sattvic whether it is physical, mental, or verbal.

What is Rajasic tapas? Anything which is done for name and fame, which is done to earn the praise of others. If your intention is to invite recognition of the immense control of the mind, or the tapas is a false front one is putting on, that is Rajasic tapas. The result of this kind of tapas will be in accordance with the intention.

Tapas done `moodha grahaye na’,  out of some foolish notions, perhaps to mimic or imitate someone or to trouble one’s body and mind (e.g. fasting for a long stretch of time) is Tamasic tapas. In this case, there is no purpose or commitment, or there may be an intention to hurt someone else and, expectedly, there’s nothing gained out of this.

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