Tap – Austerities

The meaning of Tap is to undergo physical or mental hardship or to perform any practice that removes egotism. It is called Riyazat in Persian. To live in jungles and subsist on roots and fruits, sitting in fire, exposing oneself to five fires (to sit with fire on all sides, and to bear the heat of the sun from above as the fifth fire), to lie on nails fixed in the ground, to remain standing with one hand raised, to sit in water and to undergo other physical and mental sufferings are called Tap (austerities). The purpose of performing these austerities is that the mind may become pure, and that lust, anger, attachment, greed and egotism may be removed so that realization of the Lord may be attained. Many persons leave their homes owing to domestic troubles and in order to escape responsibilities. They leave their homes and go to other places and put on ochre coloured clothes; but lust, anger, attachment, greed and egotism accompany them.

One donneth ochre robes and warmeth oneself by the side of smouldering fire, and stung by worries, one abandoneth the household, and forsaking one's land, one wandereth from place to place. But, Lord, keepeth one within the five demons wherever one goeth.

Prabhati M5, 1348

In the religion of the Saints, no importance is attached to austerities that cause pain to the body, since by exposing the body to water and fire the inner fire is not extinguished, nor by keeping the hand raised is egotism removed.

The inner fire is not extinguished without a Master, however much one may expose oneself to outer fire.

Maru M1, 1013-1

By practising ascetism or exposing oneself to the heat of the sun, the ego is not removed.

Sri Rag M3, 33

By practising Hath Yoga the body becomes weak. The mind is not calmed by fasts and austerities.

Ramkali M1, 905-4

Sheikh Farid says:

I would heat the body like an oven or feed the fire with my bones, and walk on my head when my feet become tired, if I could but meet my Beloved.

It is not necessary to heat the body like an oven or to burn one's bones. The head and feet have done you no wrong. The Lord is inside you. Turn inwards.

Do not heat the body like an oven or burn your bones like fuel. The head and feet have done no wrong. See the Lord within.

Salok M1, other than Wars 1411

If one's goal can be achieved without causing suffering to the body, then why undergo such suffering?

Kabir Sahib says, "Put on the mantle of knowledge and contemplation. Make the body the firewood and ignite it with the fire generated at the eye centre. Bear the love of the Lord in the heart and know all the four yugas (ages) in trance. That supreme yoga which created body and life is Ram Naam (Lord's name). It is only when the Lord is kind that one attains the true ideal".

He who follows the path taught by the Master wears the coat of knowledge stitched with the needle of meditation and the thread of Shabd. He uses compassion as a rake and the body as firewood. And ignites the fire of the eye centre.

He bears love for Him in his heart and contemplates in trance on all the four yugas (ages). All yoga is included in the Name of the Lord to whom belong this body and life. Oh Kabir! when he has compassion, he leads him to the true ideal.

Kabir, Asa, 477-9

Gurus describe the real austerities through which the cycle of birth and death is ended and the soul reaches the door of the Master. The greatest of the austerities is the Master's service, through which the Lord dwells in the heart. In this way one reaches the door of the Master.

The Master's service is the best of all austerities. The Lord dwells in the heart of the man who performs such service and removes all his sufferings. He sees the Lord as the door of the truth.

Asa M3, 423

The Gurus say that the true ascetic is he who has obtained the company of the Saints.

He is the true ascetic who has the company of the Saints and is dyed in the hue of the Master.

Basant M5, 1180

He who withdraws his mind and senses from the pleasures of the senses and puts them in the service of the Master is a real ascetic. But if he is false of mind, always tells lies, runs after illusion (Maya), calls himself an ascetic but acts dishonestly, performs pilgrimages to all the sacred places, but has not controlled the mind and the senses, he will make no spiritual progress and will not gain salvation.

The false-hearted man earns falsehood. He runs after Maya and calls himself an ascetic. Steeped in ignorance he visits all the sacred places. How can such an ascetic gain salvation?

Ramkali War M3, 948

Of course, if with a sincere heart, with clean intentions, and through the kindness of the Master, such a one perseveres in the truth he will then give up his wanderings outside and will get inner bliss and salvation. These austerities alone should be practised because they alone lead to salvation.

With the Grace of the Master attain truth; oh Nanak, such an ascetic attains salvation.

Ramkali War M3, 648-16

I have given up searching outside, for the Master showed me the Lord inside. I realised the wonderful form of the Lord, and my mind no longer wanders.

Maru M5, 1002-3