Friday 31 May 2024


 – P. Parameswaran JI (Yuva Bharati, 50th Year Special Commemorative Volume, Oct 2012)

Tapas is a Sanskrit word which cannot be literally translated into any non-Indian language. Language embodies culture. It uses words as vehicles for its communication. This is true of all great classical languages. Sanskrit, the world's oldest classical language, is rich in words like Dharma, Tapas etc. They are pregnant with concepts and values which are unique in themselves and hence untranslatable in their full sense. In India, it is a household word with which every Indian is conversant and experiences no difficulty in grasping its full significance.


There are various definitions of the word Tapas in our ancient literature. For example, the great sage Yajnavalkya has defined Tapas in the Yajnavalkya Smriti. Swami Ranganathananda explains: मनस च इन्द्रियाणां च हैकाग्ग्रम् परमं तपः The concentration of the energies of the sense and the mind is called supreme Tapas. Anyone can quote it in any university in the world. Everybody will look up to it. It is a wonderful definition. All achievements come to us through that concentration. The sensory energies are scattered about. When we concentrate them, we achieve success. Mind's energies are scattered. We concentrate them, and then we achieve success in making money, in getting knowledge, in obtaining a degree, in doing great work for society, in achieving political elevation. All this comes from Tapas, by intelligent hardwork. तज्जयः सर्व धर्मेभ्यः That is the supreme Dharma among all the Dharmas by which we concentrate the energies given to us in the body, the mind and the senses, and direct that energy to the problems in front of us. स धर्मः परा उच्यते That dharma is known to be Supreme. That is called tapas. (Page 360, Universal Message of the Bhagavad Gita, Vol-1).

In the Bhagavad Gita, there are copious references to the importance of Tapas in our day today life. Srimad Bhagavad Gita describes Tapas as one of the three duties which must not be given up under any circumstances, Yajna and Dana being the other two.


यज्ञदानतपः कर्म न त्याज्यं कार्यमेव तत् । यज्ञो दानं तपश्चैव पावनानि मनीषिणाम् (B.G.18-5)


The work of Yajna, Dana and Tapas should not be relinquished, but it should indeed be performed; (For) these are purifying agents according to wise.


Swami Vivekananda has to say this about the kind of Tapas which is relevant and necessary during the present situation through which we are passing. Swami Vivekananda was a revolutionary Sanyasin. He interpreted the traditional concepts in a very modern way, as a more suitable response for the contemporary challenges. He said the traditional form of Tapas of the Hatha Yogis like standing on one leg will not yield fruits in this Yuga. "The Tapas and the other hard Yogas that were practised in other Yugas do not work now" (Vedantism Volume 3). In conversations with his young disciple Sarat Chandra Chakravarty, he discusses this in detail. Dispelling all doubts, he states categorically that working for the good of the society is the best form of Tapas in today's context. "True, power comes of austerities; but again, working for the sake of others itself constitutes Tapasya (practice of austerity). The karma-yogins regard work itself as part of Tapasya. As on the one hand, the practice of Tapasya intensifies altruistic feelings in the devotee and actuates him to unselfish work, so also the pursuit of work for the sake of others carries the worker to the last fruition of Tapasya, namely the purification of the heart, and leads him thus to the realisation of the supreme Atman (Self)."


Tapas literally means heat. Sister Nivedita has equated heat with energy. Tapas, though of different kinds, all generate energy which is the source of activities whether creative or destructive. In the long history of our country we find Tapas has been practiced by the people both for creative and destructive objectives.


It is also shown that those who do Tapas for the sake of destructive power will ultimately end up by destroying themselves where as those who perform Tapas for the sake of one's own self- development as well as that of the world brings about good to the world.


According to our ancient tradition, the entire creation is the outcome of Tapas. It is stated in the Puranas, Brahma of the divine trinity is endowed with the mission of creation while Vishnu sustains it and Siva destroys. How Brahma created the entire universe by the power of Tapas is described in our ancient Vedas. Swami Ranganathananda beautifully explains this in his commentary on Bhagavad Gita. "When the time for creation comes, a lotus comes out of His (Vishnu's) navel. On the lotus appears Brahma. That is the story in the Srimad Bhagavatam. And Brahma wonders, what am I to do? He looks around, and finds nothing there. He goes through the lotus stalk into Vishnu Himself. Then he understands. Yes, I must have some work to do, the Lord is omniscient. Then he comes out and hears a sound, "tapa tapa". Do tapas, do tapas. Not physical tapas but jnanamayam tapah', knowledge tapas. Through that tapas he understood the entire world of knowledge-every law, every theory, everything connected with the universe to come. He knew it all. So he is called 'Vedamaya' or 'Vedamurti, the embodiment of Veda. Veda means knowledge inclusive of the science of physical nature and the science of human possibilities which is the science of spirituality. Thorough knowledge is called Veda. When Brahma heard this word "tapa, tapa", he got this profound message and he engaged himself in tapas. What kind of tapas? Intense concentration to understand what is this work in front of me. After those tapas, the universe comes out".


There is another beautiful story which shows the importance and the power of Tapas in achieving things which are normally unachievable. The story of Bhageeratha who successfully brought down the mighty river Ganga from the heaven to this earth for the sake of liberating the souls of his ancestors as they were under a curse. First, he performs Tapas for years together to propitiate Ganga and make her agree to pour down to earth. But there was none other than Siva who could bear the impact of the tremendous downpour. So Bhageeratha had again to perform Tapas to propitiate Siva and make him agree to bear the impact. Bhageeratha's Tapas is unique in the history of world. Had he not undertaken these hardest Tapas, the land of Bharat would have remained a dreary desert like Sahara. The entire prosperity of India is due to the Bhageeratha's Tapas.


Tapas can achieve anything and without Tapas, nothing can be achieved. "Great things can be achieved by great sacrifices only". These are words of Swami Vivekananda. They are the product of his life-long Tapas, the constant struggle this warrior Monk had to wage with internal and external world. The - amount of physical agony he suffered due to different ailments and the mental agony of humiliation and hurt at the hands of not only the alien but many times from his own countrymen for whom his heart bled is unimaginable. Enduring all these, he continued his work of awakening the dormant spirit of Mother Bharat by constant travel throughout the length and breadth of Bharat, arousing her young sons with his clarion call. Tapas is the basis of all his achievements. The great historians like Jadunath Sarkar and R. C. Majumdar concur that Swami Vivekananda was the prime mover of the cultural and spiritual renaissance of Bharat in the last decade of 19th century which evolved into a total national renaissance in the first half of the 20th century. Jadunath Sarkar says, "Ninetyone years ago a boy was born who has turned the lives of millions of us in India into a new channel, and thousands in the West to find their own souls amidst the doubts and distractions of this mechanical civilization.


When we calmly reflect on our social scene, we feel bound to admit that the moral revolution not merely preached but actually accomplished by his life and example, is the dominating force of Hindu Society in the 20th century."


Another Great Historian R. C. Majumdar writes, "He (Vivekananda) was a product of the nineteenth century Renaissance in Bengal, in its initial stage, but it was his genius and personality that molded it into the shape it finally assumed. .....The Ideal he placed before the country was an all-round development by imbibing both the spirituality of ancient India and the material culture of the West. Such a synthesis was not only necessary for India but its scope, according to Swamiji, extended to the West also. As a matter of fact, Swamiji regarded this synthesis as essential for the whole humanity. It would appear that Swami Vivekananda has lain before us the final phase of the Renaissance Movement that is still leading us forward and India will derive the fullest benefit from it if she follows the path laid down by him."


"It is unfortunate, if not tragic, that after our political independence we have forgotten the word tapas in every department of life, except in making one's own money by every crooked means possible. That is all what we have understood now. That tapas of the past must come back. Our education will become wonderful when tapas enters into it. Our politics will become wonderful when tapas enters into it. Today, one becomes a political leader if he or she shouts about and goes round throwing stones. There is no difficulty at all. And so, the Gita provides a comprehensive and profound philosophy of life and work. It can be appreciated only by those who have entered that phase of tapas where some training of the sensory and mental energies has been undertaken. Then if he or she looks up to the Gita, he or she will get some blessing, some message from this great book. So the verse says, ना आतपस्काद वाच्यम्।ए don't communicate this truth to one who has not done any tapas." (Page no.360, Universal Message of the Bhagavad Gita, Vol-1)


The workers of Vivekananda Kendra know very well how the rock memorial, and, following it, Vivekananda Kendra itself, came into existence only because of the great Tapas performed by modern Bhageeratha like Mananeeya Eknathji Ranade. The rock itself was sanctified by the Tapas of Swami Vivekananda where, sitting in meditation, he gained knowledge about his life mission. It can be compared to the Tapas of Brahma before creation of the world and later on the Tapas of Buddha under the Bodhi tree where he attained enlightenment. Tapas is in the very blood of Hindus. In other countries, there may be stray examples of men of Tapas who have achieved great things, but the history of India is replete with the names of men of Tapas who have sustained the great legacy of our culture right from prehistoric times. The name of Sankaracharya comes before our mind's eye. Like Swami Vivekananda, within a very short span of time, Sri Sankara made such a historic contribution to Bharat and the world for which we should be grateful. It is on account of such great personalities that Bharat has been known as Punya Bhoomi as well as Tapo Bhoomi. It was the great dream of Swami Vivekananda to restore the uniqueness of Bharat once again so that she will be able to show the way to the rest of the world. He has entrusted to us a great responsibility to achieve what he envisaged. The 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda is the most auspicious occasion for all of us to accomplish this great mission. We in Vivekananda Kendra are the descendants of this tradition of Tapas, concentrating all the energies for the work of selfless service. 

Swamiji extolled, "Let New India arise in your place. Let her arise out of the peasants' cottage, grasping the plough; out of the huts of the fisherman, the cobbler, and the sweeper. Let her spring from the grocer's shop, from beside the oven of the fritter-seller. Let her emanate from the factory, from marts, and from markets.


Let her emerge from groves and forests, from hills and mountains." This is a call for a new creation out of the old. Every creation demands tapas. What Bharat needs today is intense Tapas by its sons and daughters. We have a great occasion before us Swami Vivekananda's 150th birth anniversary. Let us come together and do national Tapas to make his dream a reality. Let us all become Bhagirathas and put ourselves to work.


Gita has prescribed Tapas at three levels, Physical, Oral, and mental. They are as follows: In the earlier chapter Tapas at three levels physical (Sharir), oral (Vangmay) and mental (Manas) are explained.


देवद्विजगुरूप्राज्ञपूजनं शौचमार्जवम् । ब्रह्मचर्यमहिंसा च शारीरं तप उच्यते ।। (Gita 17-14).
Worship of Gods, the twice born, the Gurus, and the wise; purity, straightforwardness, observance of Brahmacharya and non-violence are called Tapas of the Body.


अनुद्वेगकरं वाक्यं सत्यं प्रियहितं च यत्। स्वाध्यायाभ्यसनं चैव वाङ्मयं तप उच्यते ।। Gita 17- 15).
Speech which causes no vexation, and which is true, also agreeable and beneficial and regular study of scriptures are called the Tapas of speech.


मनःप्रसाद सौम्यत्वं मौनमात्मविनिग्रहः । भावसंशुद्धिरित्येतत्तपो मानसमुच्यते ।। (Gita 17-16)
Serenity of mind, kindliness, silence, self-control, honest of motive this is called the Mental Tapas.


There is another very important aspect to the Tapas, the Kendra workers are expected to perform. Individual Tapas is comparatively easy because it concerns only one particular person. Each one of our workers in his or her own way is already doing it. But collective Tapas is much more difficult and beset with innumerable obstacles. We all experience how difficult it is for a team to function harmoniously. But, with persistent effort, we have managed to function as a team within the organization.


But the 150th birth anniversary celebrations demand immense capacity of adjustments and accommodation on the part of Kendra workers to work with a number of institution and organisations who have the same common objectives, but whose training and habits might differ in various degrees. That will be a collective Tapas to bring about the glorious future which we all have set before our eyes and which is what Swami Vivekananda expects each one of us. 

कथा : विवेकानन्द केन्द्र { Katha : Vivekananda Kendra }
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मुक्तसंग्ङोऽनहंवादी धृत्युत्साहसमन्वित:।
सिद्ध‌‌यसिद्धयोर्निर्विकार: कर्ता सात्त्विक उच्यते ॥१८.२६॥

Freed from attachment, non-egoistic, endowed with courage and enthusiasm and unperturbed by success or failure, the worker is known as a pure (Sattvika) one. Four outstanding and essential qualities of a worker. - Bhagwad Gita : XVIII-26

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