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Jain View Of Life: 3.09 Tapa

Published: 19.12.2011
Updated: 19.12.2011


An austerity means spiritual activity that controls the senses and the mind. It heats up the karmic body, resulting in its melting away. Impurity in metal gold is heated at a constant temperature, impurity burns away, leaving pure 24 carat gold. Similarly, practice of austerity, burns away the particles covering the soul. As gold is purified by fire, similarly, penance and meditation purify the soul. Austerity is like the sun. The presence of the sun removes darkness and illuminates the world. Similarly, the practice of Tapa consumes impurities, toxins and morbid matter, thus creating internal heat.

Jain philosophy views Tapa as 'Nirjara.' 'Nirjara' means the eradication of previously acquired karmas. This is similar to cleansing the inside of the house after closing the doors, to prevent more dust from coming in. Tapa is usually taken as fasting. Fasting or abstaining from food in whole or part is regarded as Tapa in all religions. Upavasa (fasting) connotes a vow to abstain from food and drink in the whole day or some days for a fixed period of time and devote the time to religious activities, such as telling beads, observing silence and cultivating inner peace.

Jain scriptures have laid down 12 types of Tapa including six internal and six external (fasting is one of them). Tapa is a process of training the body and mind to endure pain and pleasure, hunger and thirst, heat and cold etc.

External Penance:
    1. Anashan - Fasting. Renounce food for a day, or more.
    2. Unodari - Eating less than needed. Eat a few morsels less than what you require.
    3. Vrittisnakshep - Contracting Desires. Make a resolution to live with the minimum of necessities regarding food, material objects etc.
    4. Rasparityag - Relinquishing tastes. Relinquish tastes like butter, milk, curd, sweets, oil and fried foods. Renounce all, one or more according to the extent of your desire for penance.
    5. Kayaaklesh - Bearing physical pain with equanimity. In other words, renounce attachment of the body, and develop a capacity of physical tolerance through asana.
    6. Pratisanlinta - Control of senses and mind.

Internal Penance:
  1. Prayashchit - Repentance. Repent for the rectification of the transgression in the religious discipline.
  2. Vinay - Courtesy. Courtesy is sevenfold. Reverence for knowledge, faith, conduct, courtesy of thought, speech and physical movement and proper etiquette or respected behaviours for spiritually advanced souls, teachers, elders and the virtuous.
  3. Vaiyaavrttya - Render Service. Render service to the pontiff, the preceptor, elderly, the sick, a novice etc.
  4. Swadhyaya - Self-study or spiritual study. Impart training, inquiry, repetition of learned texts Contemplation and preaching the disciple, all these religious activities belong to swadhyay.
  5. Dhyana - Meditation. Focus the mind on a particular object.
  6. Kayotsarga - Abandonment of the body. Practice detachment of the body and awareness of the soul.

External Tapa is conducive to internal one's. Austerity is a source of vital energy. Through practice of austerities, all physical, mental and emotional defilement is dispelled, and a person achieves purity of the soul. Naturopath, Mahatma Gandhi, believed in the efficacy of fasting as a cure of a number of diseases, for keeping for mental and emotional fitness and spiritual upliftment. Lord Mahavira performed a great penance, some to them lasting for months during a twelve and a half year period. Lord "Mahavira ate frugally during this period of spiritual practice. Thus he dissociated karmas and purified the soul developing remarkable feats of endurance.

Now a days, fasting has earned the status of a therapy. Fasting is not merely physical therapy. It is also associated with mental and emotional therapy. Mahatma Gandhi regarded Tapa as subduing sensual enjoyment and passions.

A disciple asked, "What does the soul achieve from austerity?" The Lord Mahavira replied, "Through penance, the soul eradicates previously acquired karmas and achieves purification. With the help of external and internal Tapa, a person elevates himself individually, morally as well as mentally".


Jain View Of Life

Publisher: Adarsh Sahitya Sangh Edition: 1st Edition 2000

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anashan
  2. Asana
  3. Body
  4. Contemplation
  5. Dhyana
  6. Discipline
  7. Equanimity
  8. Fasting
  9. Gandhi
  10. Jain Philosophy
  11. Karmas
  12. Karmic Body
  13. Kayaaklesh
  14. Kayotsarga
  15. Mahatma
  16. Mahatma Gandhi
  17. Mahavira
  18. Meditation
  19. Pratisanlinta
  20. Prayashchit
  21. Rasparityag
  22. Soul
  23. Swadhyay
  24. Swadhyaya
  25. Tapa
  26. Tolerance
  27. Unodari
  28. Upavasa
  29. Vinay
  30. Vrittisnakshep
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