According to the alchemical principles of the body, the body’s energy is utilised whenever the mind engages with the material world around. To replenish tree, we need food, water and breath constantly. As the body is used to generate more energy, it ages and eventually dies. However, when the mind withdraws from material reality, it does not depend on nature anymore. It does not need to be fed. It generates heat autonomously without fuel. This is “tapa“, spiritual fire that does not need fuel, unlike “agni” that is material fire which needs fuel.

Tapa cleanses the mind, purges all memories and prejudices so that it experiences sat-chitta-ananda. It makes the body radiant, youthful and prevents it from aging. “Tapasya” is the process of lightining this fire. Lakulesh and his followers were “Tapasvins”, fire-churning ascetics.

Tapasvins holds Prakriti in disdain, because everything in nature is mortal. They seek immortality. In nature, everything is limited by space and time and restricted by form. The Tapasvin wants to break free from limitations, expand into infinity, achieve what is called Siddha, the ability to acquired whatever he desires, not be fettered by gravity. And so the Tapasvin seeks to fly in the air and walk on water, expand and contract his size, change his shape. He seeks independence from nature . Withdrawing from nature is the first step in this process.

Detached from nature, a Tapasvin feels no pain, hears no sound, sees no image, tastes no flavour and smells no odour. In art, Tapasvins are shown as seated in cross-legged positions with creepers around their feet, termite hills over their bodies and serpents slithering around their necks. These men are intellectually, emotionally and physically liberated from all material things.

Inspired by Dr.Devdutt Pattanaik – A Decoding of Hindu Mythology; 7 Secret of Shiva & other sources.

Photo:  Zuzana Zwiebel – Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India – Tapasvin


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