Tapasya, Karma and Titiksha

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

What is the place of tapas and titiksha in the modern world? We have a cutting machine in the ashram, its name is Tapasya, and when I purchased a bigger one it was called Titiksha. If there is no cutting machine the books will not be beautiful. You have to cut your personality to the right size and that can be done through tapasya. As an individual, your karma should be expelled, otherwise you have to undergo your destiny. You have to fulfil the commitments of destiny, there is no other way. If you practise titiksha, endurance and patience, and tapasya, austerity, you will exhaust a lot of karmas.


Often you may think about how to get rid of something, or if it is compulsory to face it, or if it is inevitable, written in your destiny to undergo it. You have to undergo the consequences of both the good and bad. That is the first law of karma. Through the practice of tapasya you can master it, and a lot of your bad karmas can be expelled. Tapasya is undergoing the process of suffering spontaneously and willingly. If you do not undergo this process of suffering willingly, then nature will compel you to undergo it.

If you are constipated, you are going to either have diarrhoea, piles or some other disease. If you willingly do the practice of shankhaprakshalana it is going to be an arduous job for an hour or two, but it is going to relieve you of all the consequences of the karma of constipation. Otherwise you have to suffer for months or years, instead of one and a half hours of suffering. According to the theory of reincarnation, tapasya is the reduced period of man’s suffering which is due to his karma.


If you say there is no reincarnation, still there is karma in you in the sukshma, the subtle form, which you have inherited from your parents. In science this is called the molecular inheritance, the DNA molecules. If my father or grandfather had a disease, I am going to inherit it. Karma does not only mean what you created in your previous life. Karma is the totality of acquisition: inheritance from previous lives, previous generations, and the environment.

This karma influences not only the course of your destiny, it controls each and every movement, each and every wink, sneeze and pain in the body. It is so difficult to make everybody believe this truth. Each and every thought that comes into your mind has been coming into your mind for the past twenty, thirty, forty or fifty years. How has it been coming? Where has it been coming from? Where does the electricity come from? From my switchboard? No. From the substation in Munger? No. Who propels the mind and controls the body? Who causes and relieves pain? You suffer and live like this is because you are forced by karma, and this karma is very difficult.

Great thinkers are confused about what is karma and what is akarma. The movement and the behaviour of karma is absolutely beyond man’s comprehension. In order to relieve the pressure of karma in our lives, two methods have been suggested in the path of sadhana or sadhana marga. One is the moderate way for everybody called tapasya, and the other is titiksha.


Titiksha is to be able to bear heat and cold and live in a balanced state of mind whether you are praised, insulted or kicked or when you are elevated to a high position. Balance your mind in sukha and dukha, in gain and loss, in victory and defeat. Then you must start fighting. You should be prepared to fight on the battlefield of life, once you have balanced your mind in different pairs of opposites. This is called titiksha – to resist and tolerate, when the mind is thrown into the extremes of life. If you go to the Middle East it is so hot. If you go to arctic countries, it is so cold. When your body is exposed to an extreme climate and when your mind is exposed to extreme situations, you should be able to balance it somehow. That is called titiksha.

Tapasya means to purify each and every part of the body through a particular process. How do you purify gold? You put it in the fire. That is called tapas. How do you purify yourself, your karma? By exposing yourself to certain situations. If a person criticizes you, keep him with you, do not throw him out. He is cleaning your soul without water or soap. Every day he is cleaning you. Gautama Buddha, the enlightened one, had a nephew Devadatta, who was a rascal. He lived in the same sangha as Buddha and his disciples, and talked against Buddha all the time. Those who believed in Buddha used to criticize him, but Buddha kept him in the sangha all the time. Devadatta even conspired to kill Buddha when he was at the height of his eminence and kings bowed before him. This is called tapas.

In the Bhagavad Gita there are different forms of tapasya, physical, mental and emotional austerities. For example, ‘Do not utter those words that create agitation in other people’s minds’ is an austerity which pertains to speech. Different types of tapasya are intended to purify your habits, nature and entire personality, so that your soul is purified to the extent that you become free from the pressures of karma.

27 March 1980, Ganga Darshan