Tapas (Indian religions) | Wikipedia audio article


Tapas is a Sanskrit word that means “to heat”. It also connotes certain spiritual practices
in Indian religions. In Jainism, it refers to asceticism (austerities,
body mortification); in Buddhism to spiritual practices including meditation and self-discipline;
and in the different traditions within Hinduism it refers to a spectrum of practices ranging
from asceticism, inner cleansing to self-discipline. The Tapas practice often involves solitude,
and is a part of monastic practices that are believed to be a means to moksha (liberation,
salvation).In the Vedas literature of Hinduism, fusion words based on tapas are widely used
to expound several spiritual concepts that develop through heat or inner energy, such
as meditation, any process to reach special observations and insights, the spiritual ecstasy
of a yogin or Tāpasa (a vṛddhi derivative meaning “a practitioner of austerities, an
ascetic”), even warmth of sexual intimacy. In certain contexts, the term means penance,
pious activity, as well as severe meditation.==Etymology and meaning==
Tapas is based on the root Tap (तप्) meaning “to heat, to give out warmth, to shine,
to burn”. The term evolves to also mean “to suffer,
to mortify the body, undergo penance” in order to “burn away past karma” and liberate oneself. The term Tapas means “warmth, heat, fire”.The
meaning of the word evolves in ancient Indian literature. The earliest discussions of tapas, and compound
words from the root tap (Sanskrit: तप) relate to the heat necessary for biological
birth. Its conceptual origin is traced to the natural
wait, motherly warmth and physical “brooding” provided by birds such as a hen upon her eggs
– a process that is essential to hatching and birth; the Vedic scholars used mother
nature’s example to explain and extend this concept to hatching of knowledge and spiritual
rebirth.Some of the earliest reference of tapas, and compound words from the root tap
(तप) is found in many ancient Hindu scriptures, including the Ŗg Veda (10.154.5), Satapatha
Brahmana (5.3 – 5.17), and Atharva Veda (4.34.1, 6.61.1, 11.1.26). In these texts, tapas is described as the
process that led to the spiritual birth of ṛṣis – sages of spiritual insights. The Atharva Veda suggests all the gods were
tapas-born (tapojās), and all earthly life was created from the sun’s tapas (tapasah
sambabhũvur). In the Jāiminiya-Upanisad Brāhmaņa, life
perpetuates itself and creates progeny by tapas, a process that starts with sexual heat.Sanskrit
tapasyā (neuter gender), literally “produced by heat”, refers to a personal endeavor of
discipline, undertaken to achieve a goal. One who undertakes tapas is a Tapasvin. The fire deity of Hinduism, Agni, is central
to many Hindu rituals such as yajna and homa. Agni is considered an agent of heat, of sexual
energy, of incubation; Agni is considered a great tapasvin.The word tapasvi refers to
a male ascetic or meditator, while tapasvinī to a female.==Buddhism==
Before he reached his enlightenment, the Buddha tried asceticism (self-mortification) of the
type found in other Śramaṇa religions (Jainism), and this is referred to as Tapas (Tibetan:
dka’ thub, Chinese: kuxing, Japanese: kugyo, Korean: kohaeng). Post-enlightenment, the Buddhist doctrines
of the Middle Way and Noble Eightfold Path did not include ascetic practices.The Buddha,
in multiple Buddhist texts, such as Majjhima Nikaya and Devadaha Sutta, attributes the
ascetic self-mortification style Tapas practices to Jainism (Niganthas), wherein such practices
annihilate past Karmas and stop new Karmas from being created, ones that lead to the
cycle of rebirths in Saṃsāra. These ancient Buddhist texts are significant
in their claims of the existence of Jain Brahmins and ascetics, along with their karma doctrine
and reasons for their Tapas practices in ancient times: The Blessed One [Buddha] said,
“There are, o monks, some ascetics and Brahmins who speak thus and are of such opinion: ‘Whatever
a particular person experiences, whether pleasant or painful, or neither pleasant nor painful,
all this has its cause in what was previously done. For this reason, the elimination of previous
deeds through penance [Tapas] and the non-performaning of new deeds [kamma] is tantamount to non-inflow
in the future. From the non flow in the future, there is
destruction of deeds. From the destruction of deeds, there is destruction
of pain. From the destruction of pain, there is destruction
of feeling; from the destruction of feeling, all pain will become erased. Thus say, o monks, those free of bonds [Jainas]. “O Niganthas, you… These ascetic Tapas practices is also confirmed
by Jainism texts such as Uttarajjhyayana. The Buddhist scholar Dharmakirti strongly
criticizes the Jaina practice of Tapas as a means of liberation, while many Jainism
scholars have in turn strongly criticized Dharmakirti opinion and analysis, explaining
why their approach to ascetic Tapas is appropriate.According to Hajime Nakamura and other scholars, some
scriptures of early Buddhism suggest that ascetic Tapas was a part of Buddhist practice
in its early days, wherein body-mortification was an option for the Buddhist monk in his
spiritual practice.In the Theravada tradition of Thailand, a monastic practice emerged in
the 12th-century who did Tapas as ascetic wandering and forest or crematory dwelling
monks, with austere practices, and these came to be known as Thudong. These ascetic Buddhist monks are also found
in Myanmar, and as in Thailand, they are known to pursue their own version of Buddhism, resisting
the hierarchical institutionalized sangha structure of monasteries in Buddhism. Textual evidence suggests that asceticTapas
practices were a part of the Buddhist tradition in Sri Lanka by the 3rd century BCE, and this
tradition continued through the medieval era in parallel to sangha style monastic tradition.In
the Mahayana tradition, asceticism with esoteric and mystical meanings became an accepted practice,
such as in the Tendai and Shingon schools of Japanese Buddhism. These Japanese practices included penance,
austerities, ablutions under a waterfall, and rituals to purify oneself. Japanese records from the 12th century record
stories of monks undertaking severe asceticism, while records suggest that 19th century Nichiren
Buddhist monks woke up at midnight or 2:00 AM daily, and performed ascetic water purification
rituals as a part of Tapas. Other practices include the extreme ascetic
practices of eating only pine needles, resins, seeds and ultimately self-mummification, while
alive, or Sokushinbutsu (miira) in Japan.Elsewhere, in mainstream Buddhism, over time the meaning
of the word Tapas evolved, wherein ascetic penance was forsaken, and Tapas meant meditative
and spiritual practices.The word Tapas appears extensively in Buddhist literature where,
states Richard Gombrich, it does not mean “asceticism or mortification”. The term Tapas means “meditation” or “reasoned
moral self discipline” or both in Buddhism. According to Bailey and Mabbett, these Buddhist
ideas are similar to those found in the Brahmanical (Vedic) tradition, wherein there is a great
deal of overlap in the concepts of Tapas, Yoga, meditation and gnosis (knowledge), yet
the term Tapas is rooted in the inner “mystic heat” themes of the Indian religions.==Hinduism=====History===
The earliest mention of Tapas is in the Vedic texts. The concept of Tapas as symbolism for spiritual
rebirth begins in the Vedas. Atharva Veda verse 11.5.3 compares the process
of spiritual rebirth of a student in care of his or her teacher, with the gestation
process during the biological birth of a baby in a mother’s womb.Tapas is also found in
the Upanishads. The Chāndogya Upaniṣad, for example, suggests
that those who engage in ritualistic offerings to gods and priests will fail in their spiritual
practice while those who engage in tapas and self-examination will succeed. The Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad states that
realization of self requires a search for truth and Tapas (meditation). Meditation and achievement of lucid knowledge
is declared essential to self-realization in ancient scriptures. Texts by Adi Sankara suggests Tapas is important,
but not sufficient for spiritual practice. Later Hindu scholars introduce a discussion
of ‘false ascetic’, as one who go through the mechanics of tapas, without meditating
on the nature of Brahman. Tapas is an element of spiritual path, state
Indian texts. The concept is extensively mentioned in the
Vedas, and the Upanishads. According to Walter Kaelber, and others, in
certain translations of ancient Sanskrit documents Tapas is interpreted as austerities and asceticism;
however, this is frequently inadequate because it fails to reflect the context implied, which
is of sexual heat or warmth that incubates the birth of life. The idea of linking austerity, exertion, fatigue
and self-renunciation to the ancient idea of heat, brooding and inner devotion, comes
from the observed labor every mother puts in caring for its embryo and delivering her
baby, regardless of the life form; The concept and reference to ‘egg hatching’ is replaced
in Sanskrit texts written in later centuries, with simply ‘brooding’ or ‘incubation’.In
ancient literature of Hinduism dedicated to love, desire, lust, seduction and sex, the
root of the word Tapas is commonly used. For example, in Atharva Veda, a mantra recommended
for a woman who wishes to win or compel a man’s love is, ‘Love’s consuming longing,
this passion this yearning, which the gods have poured, into the waters of life, I kindle
for thee (tam te tapāmi), by the law of Varuna.’ Desire (kāma) is homologized with the concept
of Tapas, to explain the feelings and inner energy that leads to sexual intercourse. Agnicayana, Satapatha Brahmana and other ancient
texts similarly use the root of the word Tapas to symbolize emotions, biological stages and
a mother’s effort from conception to the birth of a baby.Both meanings of Tapas are found
in various Hindu texts. In some ancient texts, Tapas has the sense
of ascetic mortification in a sense similar to other Indian religions, while in the Bhagavad
Gita and the Yoga school of Hinduism, the term means self-training and virtuous living
in a sense similar to Buddhism. In the Puranas and the texts of the goddess
tradition of Hinduism, the term is equivalent to a devotion with intense self-discipline,
believed to yield special inner powers. In contemporary usage, any practice that includes
hardship and requires perseverance – such as fasting during Vrata – is called Tapas.===Yoga and brahmacharya===
Patañjali, in his Yoga Sūtra, lists Tāpas as one of the Niyamas (virtuous practices),
and describes it in several sections such as 2.32, 2.43 and 4.1. The term includes self-discipline, meditation,
simple and austere living or any means of inner self-purification. Tapas in the Patanjali text and other Hindu
texts on Yoga, states Benjamin Smith, is that which is “a means for perfection of the body
and the organs through the lessening of impurities” and a foundation for a yogi’s pursuit of perfection.Tapas
in the Hindu traditions is part of a stage of life, called brahmacharya. The Vedic literature suggests diksa (incubation
of a student in a field of knowledge) requires tapas, and tapas is enabled by the state of
brahmacharya. This state sometimes includes tapas such as
vrata (fasting, sacrifice of food), sram (philanthropic social work, sacrifice of income), silence
(sacrifice of speech), and asceticism (bare minimum living, sacrifice of comfort). Oldenberg notes that Brahmana scripture suggests
that the Brahmachari should carry tapas to the very tip of his existence, which includes
not cutting his hair, nail and beard. Thus, during this process of spiritual rebirth
and diksa, the tapas observed by a Brahmachari may include silence, fasting, seclusion, chastity,
as well other activities. The goal of tapas is to help focus the Brahmachari
on meditation, observation of reality, reflection and spiritual rebirth. Brahmacharya and tapasya are interrelated,
with the student life expected to simple and austere, dedicated to the learning.==Jainism==Tapas is a central concept in Jainism. It refers to the spiritual practice of body
mortification, penance and austerities, in order to burn away past karma and stop producing
new karma, thereby reaching siddha (liberating oneself). Ascetic Tapas among Jaina monks, both internal
and external, is believed to be essential for spiritual growth and kevalya (moksha,
liberation). The details of the Tapas practices vary between
the different traditions within Jainism.The Jain text Sarvarthasiddhi, a commentary by
Pujyapada, claims that the Hindu Samkhya school emphasizes “knowledge only, no practices”,
while the Vaisheshikas emphasize “practices only, no knowledge” as part of Tapas and the
means of reaching moksha. Another Jain text Tattvartha Sutra, by Umaswati,
in chapter 9, asserts that Tapas includes several kinds of meditation.The Tapas in Jainism
include internal practices and external austerities. External Tapas include fasting, tolerating
hardships inflicted by other people or animals, tolerating all discomfort from weather by
nakedness or near nakedness and the lack of any possessions, lack of shelter, walking
and wandering alone without fearing anything and without hurting anyone. The internal Tapas include words and inner
thoughts (intent) that resonate with the external Tapas (action). The list of internal and external austerities
in Jainism vary with the text and tradition, with Tattvartha Sutra, Uttaradhyayana Sutra
and Bhagavati Sutra stating: Bahya Tapas (external austerities): fasting,
abstinences, restraint in begging alms, renunciation of delicacies, self-mortification, retreat
from the world. Abhyantara Tapas (internal austerities): penance,
respect to elders, service to others, study, meditation, abandonment of the body in one’s
thoughts.In Jainism, Tapas implies a control on desires, and is a form a self purification. Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara undertook ascetic
Tapas for twelve years, after which he attained Kevala Jnana (liberating supreme knowledge).==Ajivikas==
Ajivikas was another ancient Indian religion which survived through about 13th-century
CE, but became extinct thereafter, in which Tapas was a central concept as a means of
salvation. According to Arthur Basham, the Ajivikas believed
in the most rigorous ascetic practices in public. They believed in not harming anything and
not being a cause of hurt to any living creature or substance, so they ate refuse, waste products,
went deep into forests, mountains or isolated caves to live their austere life.One of the
Buddhist canonical texts, Nanguttha Jataka, claims that the Ajivikas perform severe ascetic
practices as part of their Tapas, including sleeping on a bed of thorns and other forms
of self-mortification. The Jainism text Sthananga Sutra claims that
the Ajivikas performed severe penances and self-mortification as part of their Tapas
practice. A mention of the ascetic practices of Ajivikas
is found in Chinese and Japanese Buddhist literature, where they are spelled as Ashibikas.Ajivikas
were a Śramaṇa religion, just like Buddhism and Jainism, and these competed with each
other. Most of the Ajivika texts have not survived. The Tapas practices of Ajivikas, as well as
other information about them is primarily from the Buddhist and Jain texts; scholars
question whether the description of Ajivikas has been fairly and completely summarized
in these, or are these polemic misrepresentations.==Modern practice==
Modern mendicants pursue Tapas – meditation and study of religion in ashrams across India.==See also==
Asceticism Soma
Hinduism, Buddhism Nirvana, Brahmacharya, Moksha
Satyagraha, Gandhism Ataptatanu==Notes====References====Sources==
Basham, Arthur Llewellyn (1951). History and Doctrines of the Ajivikas, a Vanished
Indian Religion. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-81-208-1204-8. Jain, Shanti Lal (1998), ABC of Jainism, Bhopal
(M.P.): Jnanodaya Vidyapeeth, ISBN 81-7628-0003==External links==
Tapas, Birth, and Spiritual Rebirth in the Veda Walter O. Kaelber, History of Religions,
1976, The University of Chicago Press Tapas and Purification in Early Hinduism,
Walter O. Kaelber, Numen, 1979, BRILL Tapas in Rigveda, Anthony Murdock, 1983, McMaster
University Yoga, Meditation on Om, Tapas and Turiya in
the Principal Upanishads, Ira Israel and Barbara Holdrege, 1999, UCSB

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