[Advaita-l] on the meaning of 'tapas'

Amuthan aparyap at gmail.com
Sun Apr 15 02:31:32 CDT 2007

namo nArAyaNAya!

dear list members,

  i'm writing this mail with reference to a discussion which took
place about two years ago in this list regarding the nature of tapas.
the question was raised by SrI jayanArAyaNan as follows:

--- S Jayanarayanan <sjayana at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Is the word "tapas" ever defined (as in a formal
> definition) in
> any of the scriptures (gItA or elsewhere), or is the
> meaning
> taken for granted?

  the discussions which followed came to the conclusion that tapas can
mean different things to different adhikAri-s and that it is
characterized, in general, by dvandva-sahishNutva (bearing all
dualities). this includes, in particular, vrata-s like kRcchra,
cAndrAyaNa etc. this was further supplemented by appropriate
references from bhagavan vyAsa's yoga sUtra bhAshya and it's vivaraNa.
i recently came across some references in Sa~Nkara's works which shed
more light on what tapas is and thought it would be a good idea to
post it.

  here is bhagavatpAda's bhAshya on the muNDaka Sruti 'satyena labhyaH
tapasA hi-esha AtmA' (3.1.5) where he clearly states what the defining
characteristics of tapas are:

'... ki~nca tapasA hi-indriya-mana-ekAgratayA. "manasaH-ca-indriyANAM
ca hi-aikAgryaM paramaM tapaH" iti smaraNAt. tat-hi-anukUlam
AtmadarSana-abhimukhIbhAvAt-paramaM sAdhanaM tapaH

'... (the Atman is known) by tapas, by making the mind and senses
one-pointed. it is known from the smRti-s that "the greatest tapas is
making the mind and the senses one-pointed" (M.Bh.SA. 250.4). that
(form of tapas characterized by cittaikAgrya) is indeed, by its
nature, condusive to Atma darSana and not other (forms of tapas) like

  moreover in the upadeSa sAhasrI, AcArya specifies that only those
forms of niyama-s which do not oppose AtmavidyA are to be followed
('j~nAna-aviruddhaiSca niyamaiH'). the niyama-s are recommended as a
means to j~nAna-grahaNa and hence are to be considered as a form of

  from the above, it is clear that tapas is of two varieties - that
which is condusive to Atmaj~nAna (i.e. j~nAna-aviruddha) and that
which isn't. it is that form of tapas characterized by the control of
the mind and the senses and which is condusive to Atma sAkshAtkAra,
i.e. SravaNa and manana (culminating in nididhyAsana), that is
accepted by AcArya as being the best form of tapas.

  the bhAshya 'na-itarat-cAndrAyaNAdi' cannot be interpreted as being
a nishedha of cAndrayaNAdi vrata-s since those are recommended by the
SAstra-s. rather, it is more reasonable to conclude that cAndrAyaNAdi
vrata-s are not a _direct_ means to Atma darSana and they help only in
an indirect way by making the mind fit for vicAra. what this also
means is that if the mind has the necessary fitness for vicAra, then
secondary forms of tapas like cAndrAyaNa are not necessary. but this
raises the question: what, then, are the j~nAna-viruddha forms of

vAsudevaH sarvaM,

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list