Tuesday, September 11, 2012




Mahanarayan Upanishad includes the following Mantra on Austerity (Tapasa) the repetition of which ensures the attainment of qualities  of Austerity enumerated in the mantra. It is also an eulogy of the categories asserted as Tapas;

Ritam tapah satyam tapah srutam tapah saantam tapah damastapah samastapah daanam tappah yajnam tapah bhur bhuvah suvah brahmaitadupaasvai-tattapah ||

Right is Austerity. Truth is Austerity. Understanding of scriptures is Austerity. Subduing one’s senses is Austerity. Restraint of the body through such means like fast is Austerity. Cultivation of a peaceful disposition is Austerity. Giving gifts without selfish motives is Austerity.  Worship is Austerity. The Supreme Brahman has manifested Himself as Bhuh, Bhuvah and Suvah. Meditate upon Him. This is austerity par excellence. Of these Brihadaranyaka Upanishad has chosen Dama (Restaint) and Dana   (Charity) as important adding Daya (kindness) to the list. Elsewhere  in another Mantra it also glorifies Dana as Austerity.

All the eight items separately emphasized here  as Tapas (Austerity) practically include  all that is required for  a complete moral and spiritual discipline.  To these may be added Daya  (kindness). The term Tapas is derived from the root “tap” literally meaning to give Heat and Light. Tapas is often praised in the scriptures as the highest and best means for securing what is hard of attainment in this world and in the next. All physical, mental, moral and intellectual perfection are traced tis one source, namely Tapas, mainly consisting of self-restraint and whole-hearted devotion to a single purpose. Tapas implies an activity of mind or  body which demands keen concentration of thought or an effort requiring unusual and continuous physical strain and heat.  

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is one of the important among principal Upanishads. It is most significant on account of its size and contents. There are a number of prose passages in this Upanishad. Some important verses are also quoted in the middle. It is the concluding portion of the Satpata Brahmana of the Sukla Yajurveda and is a very lengthy treatise. This Upanishad contains one of the Mahavakyas “Aham Brahmasmi”—I am Brahman, which is the motto of Sringeri Sarada Math, a monastic center established by Jagadguru Sankaracharya and has the prayer finally chanted at the end of all religious ceremonies:
Asato maa sad gamaya
Tamaso maa jyotir gamaya
Mrityor maa amritam gamaya
“Lead me from evil to the good; darkness to light; and from death to immortality”
It incorporates in itself the central teachings of all principle Upanishads. The fifth chapter details a number of forms of meditation on Brahman.

It also includes an important message “da, da, da” to all in whatever state of mind they may be—Satvic (state of serenity); rajasic (state of activity); and taamasic (state of inertia). It emphasizes that every one should practice three C’s—Control of self (damam); Charity (daanam); and Compassion (dayaa).

In mantra 5-2-1, the Devas, first among the three groups of students approach Prajaapati:
“The three classes of Prajaapati’s sons lived as students with their father Prajaapati. They were devas (gods), men and asuras (demons). After completion of studies the gods said, please instruct us. He told them the syllable ‘da’ and asked ‘Have you understood?’ They said “yes”. Prajaapati said, yes, you have understood”.

The gods were the first to approach Brahma saying, “Please O Lord, give your instruction!” Brahma merely said “da” and asked, “Do you understand?” “Yes, said the gods—we gods are given to all forms of celestial pleasures. Da stands for dama which means self-control. We must control the mind and the senses and develop detachment in order to attain Self realization”. Brahma was very pleased with their reply and said, “very well, you have understood rightly”. In the state of serenity or satvic tendency, one must be vigilant and control one’s outgoing tendencies through the practice of enquiry, japa and meditation. Devas here represent those who are predominantly Satvik in nature.

In the next mantra, 5-2-2 ‘men’ group of students approach Prajaapati:
“Then the men said to Him, ‘please instruct us!” He told them the same syllable, “Da” and asked, “Have you understood?” They said, “We have understood. You tell us to give”. Prajaapati said, “You have understood”.

Then ‘men’ approached and requested, “O Lord, now please instruct us!” Brahma again replied, “Da” and asked if they had understood the implication of the term. “Yes” replied men. The second “Da” means “Daana” or charity. We men have the tendency towards indulgence, greed and attachment. We must learn to share what we have with others in order to purify our hearts and thereby attain self-realization”. “Rightly so” said Brahma. In the state of Activity or rajasic nature in us, we must share what we have with others and involve ourselves in the selfless service of humanity.

In the following mantra 5-2-3, Asuras approach Prajaapati;
“Then Asuras said to Him, “Please instruct us”. He told them the same syllable “da” and asked them, “Have you understood?” They said “We have. You tell us to have compassion by the repetition of the letter ‘da’ for the third time.” Prajaapati said: “Yes, you have understood”. In the state of inertia or Taamasic nature one must adopt compassion and non-violence and stay away from “gross” activities.

Therefore the simple mystic utterance of Brahma in the form of “da” was interpreted by gods (men predominantly Saatvic in nature) to mean “damana” or control of the senses and the mind; by men (predominantly of Rajasic nature) to mean “daana” or charity and by demons ( men with predominantly Taamasic in nature) to mean “dayaa”, mercy or compassion. Devas do not possess enough control over their senses; humans are possessive and, the asuras (demons) are cruel by nature as Puranas project. Hence the  difference.

The same instruction or advice yields different meanings in different states of evolution. When inertia overpowers the mind, one is a demon. When activity is predominated, one is a man. When purity, serenity and harmony prevail, one is divine. Truth is one, but is expressed and interpreted differently in different stages of one’s progress. Therefore, thoughtful person should never bring about conflict and dissension in the name of the religion and in the interpretation of scriptures. The wise seek to know Brahman through the study of the Vedas, sacrifices, charity and austerity.

This lecture has been prepared form the following sources by extraction, abridging and editing:

1. Dr N.S.Anantha Rangacharya, Selections from Upanishads, Bangalore, India.
2. Swami Jyotirmayananda, Kumbhabhishekam Souvenir, Hindu Temple of Atlanta, Ga., U.S.A.
3. T.K. Mukundan, A Concept of Hinduism, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India, 1992
4. Dr. Ananta Rangacharya, Principal Upanishads  (MNU), Bengaluru, India.


Main Accessories for Knowing   the Unknown Through  Sadahana (Spiritual  Exercise)

Please see below the message of Swami Chidananda on an insight from Kenopanishad. Kenopanishad   suggests the nature of Reality and the preconditions for experiencing it. This Upanishad suggests the nature of Truth and set the seeker to pursue it. It depends on the seeker alone whether he realizes the Absolute Trurth or not. It does not come with any magic formula.   Austerity (tapas), Self-restraint (dama)and Performance of religious acts (Karma- Nitya and Naimittika) are the foundation.

Preparing for Self-knowledge -   (Dama)

All of us wish to end sorrow; sorrow comes to an end in Self-knowledge only. How come we find Self-knowledge out of our reach?

We can gain the liberating wisdom, the Upanishads assure. There is of course certain preparation for this leap to freedom.

tapah, damah, karma iti pratistha - says Kena (4.8)
तपः दमः कर्म इति प्रतिष्ठा - केन (साम वेद), mantra 4.8

Austerity, self-restraint and performance of religious action are the foundation.

Let us take damah here first.

(Extract from Swami Dayanandji's commentary below, adapted slightly.)

"DAMA is being together, not allowing oneself to be dissipated in unproductive pursuits. We may engage in pursuits that are meaningful. When meaningless activities are gone from our life, there is DAMA."

~ end of quote ~

We have energy; we spend our energy on work or enjoyment that is necessary. When we do not spend energy on work or enjoyment that is not necessary, there is dama!


In our eagerness to be completely free from sorrow, we do Vedanta-shravana (listening). If we find that it is not working for us, then the reason is that our mind (antahkarana) is not ready! So the Rishi of Kena Upanishad advises us to make our mind ready by a set of practices:

tapah, damah, karma
(mantra 4.8)

self-discipline, restraint of senses and performance of duty

TAPAH - Any religious discipline is tapah (tapas). We set for ourselves certain regimens and then go by them; living up to the self-discipline that we thoughtfully design for ourselves helps us achieve the preparedness for Self-knowledge.
Such self-discipline (well-chosen and properly implemented) paves the way to Self-knowledge.

Om namah parama-rishibhyah   

Preparing for Self-knowledge - 3 (karma)

How can we prepare for the leap to Self-knowledge, which is presently out of our reach?

tapah, damah, karma iti pratistha - says Kena (4.8)
तपः दमः कर्म इति प्रतिष्ठा - केन (साम वेद), mantra 4.8

Austerity, self-restraint and performance of religious action are the foundation.

Let us take karma now.


(Extract once more from Swami Dayananda ji's commentary - read below.)

"Karma is one's daily prayer. It includes nitya-karmas, karmas to be performed daily, or regularly at certain intervals, and naimittika karmas - karmas that are to be performed on occasions. Being in the family, one has certain responsibilities - daily and occasional. One does all of them properly, living a prayerful life. What is important in karma is one's relating to Ishvara. One's daily prayer is not just a routine; it is something alive. One lives one's life of prayer; special prayers help one accomplish this prayerful life.

~ end of quote ~

The seed that falls on a rock does not strike roots. The same seed that falls on fertile soil has a different story.

Get down to tapah, dama and karma; then your mind is "ready"! The Upanishads' revelations on who you truly are will transform you!

In this connection I would like to draw your attention to my discourse on the subject Da, Da, da from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad  which deals with the subject of Restraint(Dama)  besides  Charity and Compassion (Daya). I have now added this information on Dama  from gurus of present days as an Appendix. The full mantra and its meaning are as follows:
Tasyai tapoe damah karmeti pratishthaa |
Sarvaangaani  satyamaayatanam || 4-8 ||

The means of attainment of the secret knowledge of Brahman are as follows: Austerities, conquest over the senses, and Vedic rites (like Agnihotra) are causes of its  firmness. Vedas along with their accessories and truth are causes for the origination of Brahma Vidya.  [Disciplines curbing the body, quietude of the form of control of senses, nityakarmas (daily duties like Agnihotra and the others are  causes  of firmness of the knowledge of Brahman]

In the Somayajna victims are immolated. Similarly anger and other passions are to be slayed by the Sanyasi (recluse who has renounced the world) in the mystic sacrifice. Without the consecrated Fire no sacrifice is possible. For the Sanyasi that fire is Tapas in the form of sense-control and calmness. Some scriptures read Dharma in the place of Dama or Restraint or Calmness. Whether the word be Dharma or Dama it represents here the immolator (Sayanabhashya of MNU by  Swami Vimalananda).  

MNU  says:

“Dama iti niyatam brahmachaarinas- tasmaad-dame ramante “--Perfect ascetics declare that withdrawal of the senses (dama) from the attraction of forbidden objects is the means of liberation. Therefore they delight in it. It also says: “Dharma iti dharmena sarvamidm parigriheetam” –Some consider that scriptural duty is the means of Liberation. It is therefore Dharma and Dama are both considered at the same wave length. When Dharma is  followed Dama becomes inclusive.

Swami Chinmayananda in his picturesque style  and flowery language   has   given his insight and  elaborate explanation   on Tapas (austerity), Dama (Restraint)  and  Karma on this last mantra of Kenopanishad.  

A seeker of Brahman, unless he has the courage to refuse himself the courting of his mind, cannot  progress  in the spiritual path. Religion is not meant for a feminine character that has not got the courage and the spirit of freedom to stand away from the mad wooing of the toy king, the mind, in the inner world of his dreams. He alone can stride forward to schedule, on the noble path of Truth, who has capacity to say a strong “No” to the childish demands of the mind, ever to run about and play in the scorching heat of temptations, amid the sandy dirt-heap of its sensuous objects!  Hence  the insistence by the Sruti for practicing austerity. Sruti goes to the extent of giving austerity (Tapas)  the status of being the very foundation for the temple of Truth.

If austerity means a physical  denial of the animal-appetites and delusory hopes getting thereby some passing joy, Dama (Restraint)  means controlling the desire-lava. Both being but forms of self-control,   Austerity is physical while Restraint is psychological. In short, without  a certain amount of Self-control, Self-perfection is impossible: it is  as futile  as the blind man yearning to have at least his only son!

When the physical and psychological aspects  in an aspirant is thus personally  purified, ennobled and divinized, the Sruti demands of his selfless dedicated work.   All of you may wonder ‘what exactly is then the meaning of the Sruti Vakya, that ‘Karma’ is one of the corner-stones of the Absolute Truth?’

In Brahma Vidya (knowledge of Brahman), Karma means the sacrificial rites or the total spiritual Saadhanaas. Worship, prayer, satsanga, japa, adhyayana and such other daily practices of devotee all come within the term Karma. And, here the Sruti advises all the sincere pursuers  of  Truth that  they should not indulge in worship and prayer with a view to gaining ban immediate relief from sorrow or  a future treasure of wealth.
This last manta in Kenopanishad prescribes the technique by which the philosophic contents of the Upanishad may be practiced as a Way of Life.