Tapasya is often interpreted as penance. And, in this context that I shall be talking about here, these penances are spiritual practices, or, the techniques of mental, emotional, physical growth that we use to develop, release & grow, our own Highest aspects.
The purpose of this penance is to raise, or increase, the inner energy. This energy is somewhat like a fire, it is hot, & it burns away impurities within us.
These impurities can be to do with the physical body: in this case, burning away some of the tendencies to be prone to certain ailments. These ailments & illnesses are to do with the current genetic DNA, past life severe illnesses such as the Black Death epidemic, famines, wars, tortures, past life genetic DNA, & past life repetitive illnesses & traumas that affect a particular part, or aspect, of the body.
And, importantly, tapasya often manifests as physical “illness” as in fevers, sweating, dizziness. As though one actually does have a serious illness.
The impurities are also to do with mental &/or emotional tendencies, both of which are also stored in the body memory. The basis of these tendencies can be present life, however, much of it will be to do with past life trauma. Trauma blocks energy, whether we are aware of having experienced that trauma, or not.
So, tapasya affects us with purification of our body, the contents of our mind, & our emotions. Tapasya cannot be psycho analysed, nor analysed into “getting better”, & affirmations & visualisations are too trite to work on tapasya. Tapasya affects us on a far deeper level than we can imagine, & when we are experiencing it, we just need to “ride the tempest”. Because it does pass.
With each bout of the tapasya heat “illness”, one’s mind becomes clearer & clearer, the emotions become steadier & steadier, the body becomes stronger & stronger on a mental/emotional resilience level, & all of these are then less affected by present day trauma.
Of course, as very human beings, we are, by our very nature, by our very incarnations, prone to react to trauma. This is an important part of the human experience & need not be denied. For, these very painful experiences are trauma aspects of life that we are predestined to experience, & these experiences bring us wisdom, understanding, & caring. Qualities which are part of our Higher Being.
It would be naïve to assume that “being” spiritual; “being” nice, caring; “doing” yoga or whatever path that you are following, that any of these will magically transport one into a majestic Higher Being. No, spirituality, & life itself, do not work that way. We learn & develop through experience.
And, it would also be a mistake to think that yoga is the only way to achieve tapasya cleansing. There have always been ancient hidden paths, such as the deeper hidden knowledge still practised by monks in China, & by the Maori Tohungas in Aotearoa (New Zealand).
In any spiritual system, our deeper aspects, they are stirred up, & with this stirring, a lot of karma, physical, mental & emotional, it just leaves us. It is beyond intellectual or psycho analysis.
Over 40 years ago, I met & (briefly) learnt off Dr Swami Gitananda. He said that it was healthy to burn our impurities through “illness” (tapasya), & that yoga aspirants should not think badly of this happening. I know that in many yoga circles that it is considered “bad” to experience tapasya, & that to do so, means that you are not physically healthy, & in other yoga circles it is considered that one has “problems” (mentally & emotionally), if someone gets sick with tapasya heat. Both of these attitudes & beliefs are spiritually ignorant.
Part of the tapasya experience is not only the burning of deep impressions within our whole psyche, but also the moving of a more intense energy than what we are used to. This energy, it can swirl, the chakras can spin powerfully, both at a more intense level, the heat & sweating continues until the energy has stabilised.
This stabilising is an important part of the process. It leads to the energy being “established”, becoming permanent, until, of course, it increases again with the next experience of tapasya.
And, tapasya often keeps going at a smaller level, in meditation, when the inner heat arises. I always get students “to be aware of the effects of the practices” at an experienced level, at the end of meditation, before opening the eyes, as it helps the energy from that experience to be stabilised. And after Yoga Nidra, I do the same, to establish the expansion of consciousness that occurred in deep relaxation.
This will help with the ongoing, & necessary, process of tapasya, in a subtle & very easy way. And, although we will still have times when the tapasya fires rage, we can manage these dramatic happenings by having a small sadhana (spiritual practice) that keeps our inner fires burning at consistently growing levels, & we gradually adjust to the smaller rises of energy & the corresponding expansion of consciousness.
Because this expansion of energy is also an important part of tapasya. The levels of energy & levels of consciousness, they grow, side by side, & part of the experience of the heat, the dizziness, is also us adjusting to the more expanded, far grander, level of consciousness that accompanies it.
Tapasya is different from getting colds or viruses. These relate to other aspects of life.