Tapas and Saucha – what do you think?

One of the searches that lead here yesterday asked, “What is the relation between Tapas and Saucha?” Now that person’s on a journey.

Tapas is usually translated as practice, fire, heat. Saucha as cleanliness and purity. Both are Sanskrit and are Niyamas, one of the Eight Limbs of the Yogic Path (Ashta – eight, Anga – limb). Stiles translates Niyama as “precept for personal discipline”. So the first relation is that they both contribute to one’s own practice, or discipline.

But Tapas can be translated as just that, discipline. I prefer to think of it as fierceness. Fire, the most concrete image associated with Tapas and which we cultivate in our vigorous practices, can be both focused and wild. We cultivate fire to have a force, and then we must discipline ourselves as both the fuel and flame.

Saucha, or purity, used to leave me cold. The opposite of Tapas. The images of purity with which I was nurtured were so pale and wan as to be destructive of creativity and spirit. They involved following rules delineated by others who didn’t have to live your life and which might not even apply to yours and for which the reasons were buried long ago.

But through fierceness – wild at first, seasoning into something I could direct – I have come to value simplicity, integrity and transparency. And I have realized that this is purity and requires some pretty strenuous living at times. The energy to remain aware even as you are doing the things you’ve come to know subvert your dearest desires is the energy that will be freed when you have exhausted the drive to do those things. It seems circular because it is. You have to be fierce to cultivate a place to stand among the whirling tides of your many levels of desire, knowledge, intuition, capacity, a place where you are aware of being something else besides all those things, but which values and attends to those things, which draws meaning and sustenence, and sometimes consequence from those things. That kind of fierceness, the kind that leads to singularity of spirit and integrity, that kind of fierceness is a purity all its own.

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One thought on “Tapas and Saucha – what do you think?

  1. In metals fire is what brings purity in that all else is burned away. In oil, distilation, which results from heat addition(fire), causes pure elements to be vaporized off at constant temperature to be collected if one is able to focus and hold the temerature for a long time. On our walk today, the humid pure water collected in air as the sun (fire) rose in the sky. The circle is abundant around us.

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