Jainas are famous for their austerities. Every year
during the holy-days of ´┐ŻParyusana' the monks and nuns as well as the
house-holders perform very hard and strict austerities of various types.
Many persons go in fast for months. Some take the vow of alternate fasts
throughout a year. Even children and teenagers perform fasts, ranging from
a day to a week, and in some cases, which are rare nowadays, some persons
end their life by voluntarily renouncing every thing including food and
water and going into deep spiritual contemplation called ´┐ŻSanthara' or ´┐ŻSamllekhana'.
Lord Mahavira himself carried out severest austerities of various types
for long twelve years and earned the title of Mahavira meaning, a great
warrior. His long period of severe austerities also earned him the title
of a ´┐ŻDirga Tapasvi' (one who has carried out hard austerities). At the
successful end of an austerity which is undertaken, some Jainas are found
to celebrate it with pomp. They give publicity to the austerities
undertaken during Paryusana holy-days and publicly honour the persons
undertaking these austerities. When the Jainas give so much importance to
these austerities, it is necessary to treat this subject in proper
We have already noted that the performance of penances
is the process of Nirjara when accumulated karmas are shed away by
conscious efforts. One thing which is very important to note, and which is
not properly understood by lay persons, is that neither Lord Mahavira nor
any of the seers who followed him and interpreted his doctrines, has taken
the doctrine of Tapascarya as a bare physical exercise and a matter of
demonstration and publicity to the exercise world. It is therefore a gross
insult of Jainism to give publicity and celebrate the occasions of such
The fundamental principle behind the idea of penances
and austerities is the ´┐ŻBhava', the emotional awareness, to renounce.
Unless such a ´┐ŻBhava' is there all penances and austerities are mere
physical exercise having no more value than the crude exhibition of bodily
power to withstand the pangs of hunger or thirst. Even though the inner
aspect of penances is duly emphasized in Jainism, yet the importance of
external penances is also not underrated. External austerity involves
physical endurance and renunciation of something perceptible, whereas the
internal austerity involves control of mind.
The penances are classified under two heads : external
and internal. To put more emphasis on Bhava, the Tirthankaras have
repeatedly said that Abhyantara Tapa is better than Bahya. The external
austerity being something physical can be pursued even by a man who is not
possessed of right attitude.
Abhyantara means the thing which emanates from within.
Bahya means ´┐Żoutward'. Acarya Hemacandra says in his ´┐ŻYoga-sastra' - "Nirjara-karane
bahyat srestham Abhyantaram tapah", meaning, "for the purpose of Nirjara
Abhyantara Tapa is better than Bahya. The great Acarya said this because
one should first improve the inner tendencies of mind and practice those
austerities which grow from within one's self. Outward manifestations,
unaccompanied by mental and emotional growth, amount to mere hypocrisy and
Abhyantara Tapa - the width and ambit of the
meanings of Abhyantara and Bahya Tapa would be clear from their categories
which are described as under:
There are six categories of Abhayantara Tapa, namely, (i)
Prayascitta - Atonement for the breach of a vow resulting from
carelessness or negligence, (ii) Vinaya - Respect for the virtues such as
Jnana, Darsana and Caritra, (iii) Vaiyavrtya - Rendering of personal and
impersonal service to those who deserve, (iv) Svadhyaya - Study to acquire
true knowledge (v) Vyutsarga - Discarding ego and the sense of possession
and (vi) Dhyana - Meditation to increase the power of concentration by
making the mind, steady.
The above six categories of Abhyantara Tapa are
cultivated by the mind which is inclined to learn, and to practice, the
mind which has respect for the virtues and the mind which is ego-free.
This condition of mind comes from the inner development only. The widest
ramification of the meaning attributed to the austerities contemplated by
Jainism becomes evident from the fact that even study of literature to get
real knowledge and rendering of personal and material service to the
deserving are treated as ´┐ŻTapa'.
Bahya Tapa -Categories of Bahya Tapa also show
its wide meaning. They are six, namely :
(i) ´┐ŻAnasana or Upavasa', i.e., fasting. ´┐ŻAsana'
means taking food. Prefix ´┐ŻAn' suggests a negative. The word ´┐ŻUpavasa' has
a means a wider meaning than a mere fasting. The prefix ´┐ŻUpa' means near
and ´┐ŻVasa' means residence. Nearness suggested by the prefix ´┐ŻUpa' is
nearness to the self. So the wider meaning of the word ´┐ŻUpavasa' is to
remain near to your own self, to be within your own self. Not only food
but all objects which are foreign to the self are to be discarded when one
is performing ´┐ŻUpavasa'.
(ii) Unodari, i.e., Eating less than one's fill.
Here perfix ´┐ŻUpa' is suggestive of a ´┐Żwant'. The word ´┐ŻUdara' means
stomach. ´┐ŻUnodara' means a stomach which is not full. Normally the full
quantity of food for ascetic is thirty-two morsels in the case of a monk
and twenty-eight in the case of a nun. Any reduction in this quantity
constitutes Unodari tapa. So even the one who remains a little hungry is
supposed to perform an austerity.
(iii) Vrtti-sanksepa or Vrtti-parisankhyana -
This type of penances is perceived for the limitations of our desire for
enjoyment of different objects. Technically it means to limit the quantity
of food and drink. A monk takes the vow that he will remain satisfied with
the quantity of food or drink which he receives once or twice and will not
try to get more. Psychologically there is no end to human desires. The
ancient Greeks had a saying : "When Gods want to punish us, they grant us
our desires." Lord Buddha, however, put it more pointedly, "We punish
ourselves, just as we reward ourselves, by fruits of our desires." The
more we desire the more we try to collect. Even if we can do comfortably
well by having four suits we dump our wardrobe with twenty and, the same
is true about all our possessions and enjoyment of different types. This
surely results in waste which, apart from being harmful to our morals, is
harmful to the society also. Hence putting some sort of limitation to our
desire for food and drink is necessary even if we can financially afford
to do so.
(iv) Rasa-parityaga, - i.e., Restrictions on
taste for drinks and food. Rasa-parityaga is connected with food. The Monk
should renounce one or more of the six objects of taste, viz., milk, curd,
ghee, oil, sugar and salt and also one or more of the following types of
tastes : acrid, bitter, astringent, sour and sweet. The purpose of this
tapa is emasculation of the senses subduing sleep and unobstructed
pursuance of study.
(v) Vivikta-sayyasana - Samlinata - Staying at a
place of solitude which would be congenial to mediation. It should not be
frequented by women, eunuch, she-animals and depraved house-holders. It
helps in celibacy, self-study and meditation.
(vi) Kaya-klesa - Training the body to tolerate
with patience and equanimity, difficult and hard situations in life. In
fact it means inflicting some pain on the body by adopting certain
postures or by exposing it to the vagaries of weather just like remaining
in hot sun in summer season.
To practice properly all the categories of Abhyantara
and Bahya Tapa essentially requires an attitude of mind. The rigorous and
hard practices of tormenting the body and physical senses is not so
necessary. Even the easier practice of not filling the stomach fully at
the time of eating is a category of Bahya Tapa, if it is done to
discipline the mental cravings. Lord Mahavira himself practiced such hard
penances as a modern man would think it impossible to practice. Even so,
he did not approve of the hard practiced by Tamali Tapas and Purana Tapas.
It was not because he thought that he was only person Tapas. It was not
because he thought that he was only person entitled to undergo such hard
penances. The reason for his disapproval was that he firmly believed that
no penance, however hard, has any value unless it is accompanied by the
evolution from within. Practice of hard penances amounting to the crushing
the body and physical senses was prevalent in the days of Mahavira. Even
Lord Buddha started his spiritual journey by resorting to hard penances
which reduced his body to a mere skeleton. Buddha, however, left them
finding that they were not conducive to peace of mind. Buddha probably did
not know the trick which his senior contemporary Mahavira did. It was
Mahavira who brought real life to hard penances by insisting on the inner
development. He looked at the penances as merely instruments to enable one
to introspect on the self. One should get so much engrossed in the self
that he forgets all that is non-self including the body and its wants. It
was for this reason that hard penances came naturally to Mahavira. His
physical frame never decayed as a result of his penances. It is said that
his physical prowess and personality were outstanding throughout his life.
This could be possible because he was living only in the spirit, and could
train his body to yield to his spirit. Every breath of his existence was
in rhythm with the whole universe and undergoing hard penances he had a
blind faith that if his physical existence was needed in the universe it
would be sustained inspite of these penances.
As Pt. Sukhalalji puts it: "Bhagavana (Mahavira) was
known as a ´┐ŻDirgha' not only because of his ´┐ŻBahya Tapa' but also because
he utilised his penances to develop his inner spiritual evolution."
Thus without Abhyantara Tapa, Bahya Tapa has no value
and the Bahya Tapa is valuable only in so far as it is helpful in
developing the spiritual evolution of the inner self.