THE CORRELATION BETWEEN KARMA AND TAPASYA
It is widely believed that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life, where one could continue to remain a Hindu even without really practicing it. But when you run through the religious texts it doesn’t say so, that simplistically. In fact, it won’t be a misnomer to say Hinduism is all about good and bad Karma—and ‘Karma’ alone is the essence of Hinduism. While Karma emanates from your mindset, tapasya (prolonged, intense and rigorous form of meditation) is the versatile vehicle of karma that takes you to your goal, and in case of any misdeeds it also acts as the penance, to pull you through tough times. Hence, one could say a ‘Tapasya’ in many ways is only a planned and focused karma.
If you go through the Hindu texts dispassionately you would find, there were no free lunches, not even for Gods. Everyone had to fight for each specific issue where opponents could not be taken for granted just because someone commanded a superior position, breed, hierarchy or a better brand. And, competitor intelligence then, was a prevalent strategy vital for survival. While one could continue in life, being an average and inactive person. But for a Herculean milestone and phenomenal achievements one had to go in for long and arduous tapasyas where even avatars and Gods were not spared from the drill.
When Pandavas were exiled from their kingdom, Lord God Krishna advised Arjun to obtain Divyastras (divine weapons of various Gods) as that would have helped Pandavas in the future, while combating the Kauravas. But Divyastras were not available off the shelf, even when Arjun was a very close sakha (friend) of Lord God Krishna. And, for Divyastras, the only way out was to perform rigorous tapasya to please respective Gods to bless him with their weapon, which Arjun did successfully. Specific Devatas (God) had specific powers but, no, one, Devata had all the powers vested in her or him. Devatas on many occasions were even found weaker than asuras and danavs since power and might were never a constant factor, as mentioned in the famous and historic episode of Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean). So Devatas often had to perform long tapasyas to win over asuras. And asuras too were not behind in this, as they often performed mind boggling tapasyas to obtain vardans (blessings) which they used for destructive purposes.
Ravan the king of Lanka had done a lifetime of tapasya and was well entrenched, as a tall pundit but his tapasya was not followed by good karma and so all his knowledge went for a waste. So in Hinduism, can not one say both karma and tapasya work in tandem? Good karma with intense tapasya will yield good results, while good karma with intense tapasya followed by bad karma will only dilute the effects of tapasya. And as long as the arch of good karma continues time shall be kind to you.
Let me also tell you another story. That will give you a flavour of how even Gods had to go in for intense tapasyas for specific events. As, no one had unlimited powers, and how at times they had to be interdependent on each other to attain self goals by keeping aside their personal egos. And that is why it is said, it is extremely difficult to shoo the ego in us. Every person has his ups and downs in life where karma gives us the flexibility of adjusting to these ups and downs through the prowess of tapasya.
Once when Lord Brahma (the creator of universe) was narrating a story to Rishi Narad he said,
Dear Narad! Once when Prajapati Daksh left for Mandirachal Parwat (mountain). I too decided to perform a difficult vrat (a religious practice to carry out certain obligations with a view to achieve divine blessings for fulfillment of certain desires) and started praying to Devi Jagbamba. Wherein, I repeatedly told her in my prayers what I wanted. When Jagdamba was pleased with my vrat she gave me darshan (divine audience). I bowed in respect and said ‘pranam Devi,’ she asked. ‘Tell me Brahman! Why have you been praying so passionately, and tell me soon.’
On hearing this, I folded my hands and politely said—‘Mother! A God named Rudra who happens to be an avatar (incarnation) of God Sadashiv has insulted me. So, I desire you take the form of Sati (Shiva’s first wife) and destroy his arrogance. Kindly take birth as Prajapati Daksh’s daughter to attract God Sadashiv towards you. Bhagwati! Barring you, there is no one else in this universe with the power to attract him erotically. And in anticipation that you’ll accede to our request, and so very excited to receive you as his daughter, Prajapati Daksh is already underway his intense tapasya in Mandirachal Parwat.
On my saying so Bhagwati was shocked and surprised beyond words and she even looked worried. When she said—‘what is this, that you are saying Brahma ji? You want me to attract Lord God Sadashiv, and for this malicious job you’re seeking my help. Therefore, in reality whatever you’re doing is only Lord God Sadashiv’s criticism. This is a big mistake. Everyone knows I cannot do anything against God Sadashiv. Tell me, what will I gain by attracting the nirvikalp (that does not have an alternative) God Sadashiv, as I am only like his menial maid. And for the salvation of his devotees only he has taken the avatar of Rudra. Lord God Sadashiv is the undisputed emperor of all the three Lokas. He is also yours, as well as Lord Vishnu’s swami. Even in yoga, he is ahead of both of you. I am indeed astounded to hear this foolish thought coming from you, where Lord Brahma wants to captivate Lord God Sadashiv who happens to be the king of Maya (the supernatural power wielded by Gods and demons) and I am truly dumbfounded at this.’ And after saying this Devi Jagdamba went back to meditation, when she received a message from Lord God Sadashiv that without my blessings nothing happens. With my consent only Sri Brahma and Prajapati Daksh are in intense vrat and meditation. So give them the vardan and take birth in Prajapati Daksh’s family and I’ll accept you. Important: Even Lord God Sadashiv had to seek interpersonal help in a polite manner by requesting Devi Jagdamba.
After receiving instructions from Lord God Sadashiv, Devi Bhagwati said, ‘Brahma ji—‘its fine. I will try my best, so that Lord God Shiva falls for me, and marries me as his second wife. As such there is no one in the world who can break Lord God Shiva’s concentration and attract him sensually, and even I don’t have this power and capacity. Nevertheless, I will endeavour to attract him after obtaining an avatar to fulfil your desire.’ And after this she disappeared.
Meanwhile Prajapati Daksh was into deep and rigorous tapasya in Mandirchal Parvat. He kept meditating for three thousand years. In summers he used to meditate in the middle of fire and in severe winters he used to immerse himself in cold water, and in between tapasyas he also obtained proficiency in pranayam. At last when Bhagwati was happy with his tapasya she gave him darshan.
Bhagwati Shiva knew everything and so she said to Prajapati Daksh—I’m extremely happy with your tapasya and therefore you can ask for a vardan (blessings). Daksh with folded hands said—Devi! If you are happy with me then you please take birth in my family as my daughter, since Lord God Sadashiv has taken a new avatar in the name of Rudra as Brahma’s son, and there is no one to match him and therefore you need to take an avatar to marry him. Because, in this entire universe there is no other person who can do this. Brahma ji for this very important work has sent me here to Mandirachal Parvat for a long-long tapasya. Now with your attractive maya (illusions) try and attract Lord God Sadashiv and oblige the world. Jagdamba said—‘Tathastu–it will happen in this manner only. From your wife’s womb I shall take birth as your daughter, and to endear Lord God Sadashiv I will do intense tapasya.’ And after saying all this Bhagwati Shiva disappeared as she had a long to-do-list to be completed.
Karma is the opportunity to do important things in life while tapasya the intense preperation and that alone differentiates between the Devata and the man.
Posted by Kamlesh Tripathi
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