“Tapas means ability to endure opposites (dvandvas) like heat and cold or joy and sorrow” -

Swami Parmeshwaranand

Endurance and Tolerating

During meditation, we are called on to endure the play of opposites in our body and subjective experience. If for example, I sit to meditate after a long day, there are many experiences that are hard to take: the ache of fatigue, the heated rush of thoughts, the sense of all the things undone. I also have to endure the tension of opposites of speed - my thoughts may be speedy, but I have a craving to slow down. I have desires that I did not get to live during the day, and have chronic desires (I need a vacation!) that I have to feel and abide with and wait for.

What regular people have to tolerate, in the course of an ordinary day, is very intense. Everyday life is intense. When we invite ourselves in to meditation we feel this intensity with great acuity.The more we care, the more intimate we are, the more bonded we are with family, friends, and lovers, the more intense the sensations, emotions, desires, and energies we have to tolerate. This is why yogis talk about the body as being made of vibrating energy, pranashakti, that is always streaming and flowing.

This is called tapas, which literally means heat, and metaphorically means the ability and willingness to tolerate all the fires of life and their opposites. Even exposing ourselves to cold can be a form of tapas, if we do it in such a way as to invoke the body’s heat.

After glancing through the definitions of tapas (heat) and dvamdva (opposites) look at the list of what a meditator has to endure:

In meditation, to the extent we are relaxed, all these experiences will arise spontaneously, in their own sweet time, nine ver-ending and never-repeated combinations and permutations.

On the Path of Intimacy, tapas shows up as pain-pleasure and pleasure-pain and everything inbetween.

Tapas can be approached as numbing yourself to the opposites. A much more interesting path is to feel everything, and then a continuum between the opposites opens up.

Tapas as Heat

 warmth , heat (pañca tapāsi , the 5 fires to which a devotee exposes himself in the hot season , viz. 4 fires lighted in the four quarters and the sun burning from above Mn. vi , 23 R. BhP. iv BrahmaP. cf. Ragh. xiii , 41RV. AV. VS. S3a1n3khS3r.

RV. vii , 82 , 7

e.g. " sacred learning " with Brahmans , " protection of subjects " withkatriyas , " giving alms to Brahmans " with vaiśyas , " service " with śūdras , and " feeding upon herbs and roots " with ṛṣiMn. xi , 236RV. ix , 113 , 2

 (personified , 83 , 2 f. 101 , 1, " father of manyu " RAnukr. AV. &c

m. L. N. of a month intervening between winter and spring VS. TS. i S3Br. iv Sus3r.Pa1n2. 4-4 , 128 Va1rtt. 2 Pat. S3is3. vi , 63

L. Sch.

°po-loka Veda7ntas. 120

dharmaVarBr2. i , 19 ; ix , 1 and 4

 of a kalpa period Va1yuP. i , 21 , 27.
(H2) n.
[L=82701]pain , suffering 
[L=82702]religious austerity , bodily mortification , penance , severe meditation , special observance (
[L=82705]the hot season 
[L=82707]the 9th lunar mansion (

Tapas as the Ability to Endure Opposites

tapas endure opposites

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Opposites in Sanskrit

dvadvá[p= 503,2][L=98105]
 (the repeated nom. of dva) pair , couple , male and female TS. Br. MBh. Ka1v.&c (°ám ind. , °dve ind. , or °dvena ind. by two , face to face , secretly)

e.g. heat and cold , joy and sorrow &c Up. Mn. MBh. R. &c

esp. between two persons , a duel) MBh. R. Hit.

 (scil. samāsa ; rarely n.) a copulative compound (or any compound in which the members if uncompounded would be in the same case and connected by the conjunction , " and " cf. devatā- , nakatra-) , Pa1n2. 2-2 , 29 ; 4 , 2
 N. of sev. ekā*haKa1tyS3r.
 the sign of the zodiac Gemini Gol.
 (in music) a kind of measure
 a species of disease , a complication of two disorders , a compound affection of two humours L.
(H1) n.
[L=98106]a pair of opposites (
[L=98107]strife , quarrel , contest , fight (
[L=98108]stronghold , fortress 
(H1B) m.
(H1B) m.
(H1B) m.
(H1B) m.
(H1B) m.
 ( MBh. ) ability to support opposites (as happiness and misery&c )
(H3) n.
dvadvā* tita [L=98131]
 gone beyond or freed from opposites (» above ) W.
(H3) mfn.
dvayā* tiga [p=503,3] [L=98145]
 one who has overcome the two (bad qualities i.e. passion and ignorance) or the opposites (» under dvadvaL.
dvayā* tiga[L=98146]
 a saint , a holy or virtuous man W.
(H3) mfn.
(H3B) m.
ví--kalpa 1[p= 950,1] [L=192887]
 (for 2. » under vi- √kp) an intermediate kalpa , the interval between two kalpas. (q.v.BhP.
vi-kalpa [p=954,1] [L=193870]
» under vi- √kp.
vi-kalpa 2 [p=955,2] [L=194108]
 (for 1. » [p= 950,1]) alternation , alternative , option S3rS. Mn. VarBr2S. &c(°pena ind. " optionally ")

Ka1tyS3r. MBh. &c


Nya1yas. BhP.

MBh. Ka1v. &c


Yogas. Gi1t.



 kalpa-sthāna Car.

BhP. (Sch.)

rhet.) antithesis of opposites Prata1p.

ve*ti vikalpa Pa1n2. 1-1 , 44 Sch.)


 N. of a people MBh. (C. vikalya)
vi-kalpa 2[L=194123]
 different BhP.
(H3) m.
(H1) &c 
(H2) m.
[L=194109]variation , combination , variety , diversity , manifoldness 
[L=194110]contrivance , art 
[L=194111]difference of perception , distinction 
[L=194112]indecision , irresolution , doubt , hesitation 
[L=194113]admission , statement 
[L=194114]false notion , fancy , imagination 
[L=194116]mental occupation , thinking 
[L=194118]a god 
[L=194120](in gram.) admission of an option or alternative , the allowing a rule to be observed or not at pleasure (
[L=194121]a collateral form 
(H2B) mfn.
sukhá--du° khā* di [p=1221,1] [L=245676]
 (pl.) pleasure and pain and the other (opposites ; »dvadvaMn. i , 26
(H4) mfn.