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Question 1: What is ‘Tapasya‘ (austerity)? Why is ‘Tapasya‘ necessary?
Acharya Prashant (AP): In the cold areas of the country, it becomes important, especially in winters, to let the sunlight in. Quilts etc. are kept out in the open so that they receive the Sun treatment. The Sun must beat down on them.
The ‘taap'(heat) of the Sun removes a lot of impurities.
That is ‘tapas’.
Feel the heat. Feel the heat.
Questioner: Still I don’t get it.
AP: You know where the heat is, you know where the Sun is. Face it! There are many ailments for which you require heat treatment, or you require UV rays emitters. What do you do? You just bring yourself to the heat-emitter, and stand in front of it, naked. You allow the heat to bake you, roast you, cleanse you.
There was a man, who once had few microbes, you know little germs, bacteria, on his skin. The doctor told him that sunlight kills these germs, or at least makes them run away. The germs overheard the doctor’s advice.
So, when the man was gleefully returning to his house, preparing to try the heat treatment, the ‘tapas’, the germs said, “You know what, the heat would do bad things to us. But the heat would do bad things to you as well.”
“Remember that you have not been exposed to sunlight since long. And we live in a tender part of your body, which is usually not exposed to harshness, to harsh Sun. If you will subject us to heat, you will be subjecting yourself as well to the heat, because you and we are very closely associated, attached now.”
“And not only the two of us are very closely attached now, it is some very weak part of you, it is very tender part of you that is attached to us. You could even say that it is your weakness which is attached to us. So, do not try what the doctor just advised. We will suffer, but you too will suffer.” So declared the germs.
What did the man reply?
The man said, “I will merely suffer, but I will survive. And if I can survive that suffering, I would emerge healthier. But you would not survive that suffering. I am a man. I have something in me that can survive the Sun, because it is related to the Sun. I will suffer a lot. But, I will suffer brighter and stronger. The suffering will help me. But as far as you are concerned, you will not come out alive out of that suffering.”
“The same heat, the same Sun, that is life-giving to me, is life-threatening to you. So I am prepared to go through the suffering. In order to avoid the suffering, I cannot give you an extended life. It is true that you will suffer and I too will suffer, but that suffering is a blessing to me. That same suffering, is your end.”
This is ‘tapas’.
In killing your germs, you too suffer. In killing your germs, you too suffer. But you willingly take that suffering, because you know that, that which kills the germs, makes you stronger.
So the suffering has utility.
It is very difficult to defeat someone who is prepared to give up everything for victory.
This is ‘tapas’.
You defeat someone not because he is weak; you defeat someone, when he wants to protect his weaknesses.
It is not your weaknesses that defeat you.
It is your fondness towards your weaknesses, it is your protective attitude towards your weaknesses that defeats you.
If you are prepared to give up everything, if you are prepared to give up all your tender spots, your weaknesses, you would be very difficult to be defeated.
The final fulfillment, the final victory, that we had been talking of, would then be yours.
It is therefore, no crime to find yourself weak. Biology and society leave no stone un-turned to keep you weak. Therefore, it is never surprising if you look at yourself, and discover a hundred weaknesses. It is normal.
It is normal to be weak.
But it is not alright, not acceptable, to be protective towards your weaknesses.
Finding them is alright; protecting them is not.
Questioner: Acharya Ji, you have made it very easy.
AP: If at the very first step you declare it difficult, then there is no second step. Remember, what the germs said? “It’s going to be very difficult for you.” Do not buy into what the germs speak.
Question 2: Acharya Ji, can you give clarity in ‘concentration’? How to concentrate?
AP: To concentrate, is to allow something worldly to occupy you fully. (Repeating) To concentrate, is to allow something worldly, to occupy you fully.
Does concentration have a role in spiritual process? Yes, and No. Concentration can have a very beneficial role, and a very deleterious role as well.
There is stuff in the world that can take you beyond the world. If you concentrate on that, then you move into ‘dhyaan’ (meditation).
Concentration has something worldly as your goal.
Meditation, or ‘dhyaan’, is to have ‘the Beyond’ as your goal.
Now, ‘the Beyond’ as the goal, is beyond the capacity of the mind.
Therefore, the mind has to necessarily start with concentration.
But, we said that concentration is both – a boon and a curse. Concentration is a boon, if you have discretion, if you really know what to concentrate on. If you really fall in love with the right object, to concentrate on that is – ‘Ishq-e-majazi’. Then concentration will lead you to meditation.
Therefore, in Patanjali’s path, concentration is one of the steps. But if you concentrate on something stupid, it will take you deep into itself, and far away from meditation. Therefore, concentration is a double-edged sword.
Come to the right object, and concentrate fully. Along with concentration, discretion is needed. Discretion is needed, so that you concentrate on the right object.
Concentration, plus discretion – a good recipe for meditation.
Concentration, without discretion – devastation.
Question 3: Acharya Ji, does Vipasanna help?
AP: It totally depends on the person.
You have to hold the hand of something, or somebody, that is evidently taking you to the Beyond. And, you have to hold the hand tightly. This ‘tightness’ of the hold, is called – ‘concentration’.
But before you hold someone’s hand tightly, do determine who he is.
Watch the session video: What is Tapasya? What is concentration? || Acharya Prashant (2019) The transcription has been edited for clarity.
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