Tuesday Mar 26, 2019 NYC
Learnings from Satsangha and the Study in Practice Program:
The Teaching of Tapas
To hear the words of Truth is a great gift. Yet, no matter how beautiful the words of Truth are when we hear them, no matter how they may reach through and touch our hearts, if we only hear them we cannot truly understand. Understanding comes through experience and experience comes through actual practice. In order to put the words of Truth into actual practice, we must first study them, think about them in relation to our own life and apply them.
Here we would like to introduce the efforts of one practitioner from New York who has come to understand exactly that, and is striving to put the teaching into action. In the following writing, Karuna shares her learnings from a recent Satsangha (published in Pranavadipa, Vol. 52) and her first time attending the NY Study in Practice Program. Her example is truly practical and easy for anyone to relate to and thereby learn from and apply for themselves.
The Teaching of Tapas
In Shri Mahayogi’s first Satsangha in New York this year, there were a few prevalent themes. One that stood out for me was tapas, which came from the opening question “How does one create tapas?” It was very useful to hear Shri Mahayogi’s definition of tapas: “Tapas is born out of the pain of the mind.” Then, the Master explained that when the mind is in conflict with the teachings of Truth, the mind experiences pain, “then tapas arises.” Shri Mahayogi very simply and directly described tapas as akin to having a power, “the power to burn away the impurity within the mind.” It did not take long for me to feel that I was being pushed face to face with the resistance of my own mind to go through tapas. And that ironically, this avoidance of the discomfort of tapas has been a cause of suffering in and of itself! It took a bit of calming the mind down before I could confront the Truth of this teaching and begin to see how it affects me.
After hearing this teaching in Satsangha and calming down a little, internalizing it required me to sort through ideas and to look into the processes that my mind tends to go through on a daily basis. First, I realized that I have to accept that my mind is in a state of suffering most of the time because it is involved in constant acrobatics to try to avoid the discomfort of tapas. Secondly, I realized that my mind has a choice to make at every moment: to follow the teachings of the Truth (the gradual training of the mind toward selflessness), or to follow the way of karma (the way that pleases the mind and body temporarily, in other words, sensory or intellectual satisfaction). This is what Shri Mahayogi has called the “fork in the road.” In this decisive instant, which happens at multiple moments of the day, is when tapas (heat) has the potential to arise.
Reflecting on my process, if I choose to follow karma (the way of the senses and the ego-based intellect), I usually experience some temporary relief from the discomfort or anxiety caused by a particular want, desire or longing of some sort. It can be as simple as wanting a dessert or a snack, an intellectually or emotionally stimulating conversation, reading intriguing information, doing random web searches, buying something, harboring emotions, developing life plans…regardless of the situation and the particular agitation that I may be trying to appease or deal with, it seems that I have to come to terms with the understanding that any distraction, excitement, enjoyment, satisfaction, or fulfillment that arises from the way of karma does not actually fulfill or end the wants of my mind. I asked myself why that is so, and suspected that it may be because fulfilling a desire actually gives rise to more desires, and therefore the idea of permanently satisfying a desire must be a paradox or a non-Truth to begin with. I sense that my mind is aware of this paradox, and suffers too from realizing the futility of its endless aspirations.
If, on the other hand, I choose to follow the way of the Truth, I have to be willing to put my mind through another type of struggle; I have to put my effort to convince the mind that there is no real need or possibility to fulfill a particular want. And, this “convincing” or “proving the mind wrong” can only happen, as Shri Mahayogi and senior practitioners express, through the intentional and tireless practice of discrimination, which does take effort and perseverance, but is the very practice that generates the necessary heat of tapas. And, I also came to realize that in order to go through this, the firmness of my understanding of the teachings of Truth and my faith in Shri Mahayogi as my inner guide and light toward Satori, must firmly support discrimination and tapas. This aspect was confirmed and reinforced in the NY sangha Study in Practice group, a program that aims at guiding us to transform ourselves by putting the teaching of Yoga into concrete action. I had finally become ready to join the program and had just begun attending for the first time a week after Shri Mahayogi returned to Japan. Coincidentally, in that first meeting, the topic was Kriya Yoga, presented through a visual chart that read: Vital Daily Practice: Minimize the pain-bearing obstacles to prepare the mind to attain the Truth. On the chart, tapas was described and illustrated as one of three components of this “vital daily practice.” It also put into words this powerful statement in the first person about the relationship to tapas: “I accept and welcome this opportunity because it purifies me and helps me overcome the obstacles to reach my goal.” On that day, I understood that all the contents of Kriya Yoga are necessary and are the most practical support for the mind through the process of purification.
Since then, I have reflected, “I experience heat when the mind is in pain. And, the mind can be in pain because it is craving to fulfill a desire based on a non-Truth, or, on the contrary, because it is being pushed to accept the Truth. Both scenarios can generate pain and heat, but one of them gradually results in what Shri Mahayogi described in Sastsangha as ‘becoming free from the various relative dualistic constraints.’ This is what I experience as the painful contradictions that follow the wild horse of emotions, opinions and thoughts: a state of ignorance.” The intense push that came from the teaching about tapas during Satsangha, followed by the clarity of visual breakdown that was provided in the study group, led me to realize that I have no alternative but to admit that running away from tapas only delays the purification of my mind and keeps me “bound” by the whims and shifts of an untamed force.
The most valuable learning which I received from the Satsangha was that I have an absolute need for tapas. It also opened me up to finally recognize the precious and life-changing choice that is in front of me every instant. It is certain that if I am practicing under Shri Mahayogi and if I want to experience any significant progress toward Yoga, I have to conjure up the strength, or at least take a chance to face my mind’s ignorance, endure the heat of practice and put my faith in Yoga, not “as if” my life depended on it, but because experiencing the real purpose of my life completely depends on it. Right away, I would like to change my attitude from resisting tapas to being grateful for this heat that can “burn” ignorance away, and begin by trying it every day with a little more courage and conviction until it becomes an integral part of my daily practice.
Karuna, March 2019