Tapas - intentional self-discipline
Svadhaya - self-study, self-inquiry
Isvaraprandihana - Surrender to God
In my humble opinion, the above 3 practices are essential for serious yoga practitioners. I'd like to explore these ideas with you. Please share your thoughts by commenting. I'd like to hear what you have to say.
Let's start with Tapas:
Tapas means to burn. It refers to the disciplines and austerities used to create heat required for transformation. Here's the thing, ttransformation on the surface level is really pretty easy. All that's required is some new clothes, new name and new circle of friends and WaLa! You are transformed. (Rent the movie Kumare....and you'll understand what I mean). I see a lot of this sort of transformation. Yes, it is technically transformation and I've been told that it serves the person in some way. Perhaps for some, "fake it till you make it" works. Does fake bliss feel the same as real bliss? I doubt it.
A while back I did some research on women in yoga. What I found was that a lot of popular, modern "yoginis" actually had a hard time with discipline. They found the disciplines their teachers gave them to do too hard, so they changed the disciplines, left their teachers and started their own yoga style that suited them better. Is it discipline if you change it to make it easier for yourself? I came face to face with this challenge this week. I am in the middle of a 40 day moon salutation sadhana. My intentional self-discipline is to do 11 rounds of Chandra Namaskar each day followed by 108 mantras to the moon. I'm doing great the first week or 10 days but then my knee started bothering me. I could very easily use that as an excuse not to practice. I did toy with the idea, telling myself that "I'm honoring my body" by not doing it. Would it still be tapas if I use the excuse of a little discomfort to derail my intention? I doubt it.
Think about how people use the ancient yogic principles to justify their bad behavior. For example, when using the concept of practicing acceptance to justify avoiding the difficult task of changing something that needs to change. Using the idea of surrender and karma to avoid taking responsibility for our own circumstances in life. The truth is that what we need to surrender are the excuses we tell ourselves about why we have the difficulties we have in our lives. Then there would be a chance for real transformation.
The truth of the matter is that when you begin the practice of Svadhaya you will, without a doubt, uncover issues that you will be required to address. That is, if you're interested in transformation on a deeper level.
You will find out things about yourself that you may not like to admit. One of my biggest revelations and challenges has been attachment. My attachment to people and my attachment to my own beliefs and opinions. I could call my attachment to people and my beliefs loyalty and devotion. But is attachment the same as loyalty and devotion? I doubt it.
Do what you do in service to God. Offering all your tapas to the greater good of all. Here's where it all comes together.... at least for me. I ask myself, and you, what is your motivation for doing what you do?
Why are you doing the disciplines? What transformation are you seeking? These questions can be answered through self-inquiry(svadhaya). The serious yoga practitioner is willing to ask herself/himself the hard questions and will answer honestly.
Am I doing the disciplines because I'm seeking the approval and recognition of my teachers and peers or for God?
Is the transformation that I seek superficial, simply to fit in with the popular crowd or am I ready for the hard, dirty work of releasing the fantasy world we have created in our own mind to discover who we really are?
What transformation are YOU seeking and are you willing to do the work required to achieve it? Are you ready to surrender yourself to the will of the Divine?