(For the chakra oriented, tapas is associated with the 6th chakra also known as tapOlOka. To do tapas we must move off from janalOka (5th chakra).
RSis do tapas, it is the stage after adhyayana or study which is what we are doing. Where brAhmaNAs study the vEdAs and other texts, the RSIs did tapas and gave us the vEda mantrAs.
tapasvIs such as RSIs and Sabari, a Siddha, Sramani and Tapodhana, practice what is frequently translated into English as austerities.
Austere means severe in manner or appearance; uncompromising; strict;forbidding: an austere teacher, rigorously self-disciplined and severely moral; ascetic;abstinent: the austere quality of life in the convent, grave; sober; solemn; serious: an austere manner, without excess, luxury, or ease; simple; limited; severe: an austere life, severely simple; without ornament: austere writing. (Source)
kundAji leads an austere life. As did ramaNa maharshi. I do not practice austerity, at least at their level, what with my coffee and chocolate and so on.
Austerity alone is not tapas. Penance is a wring translation – it means something else in english than tapas.
tapas requires you to adopt a single Asana or posture and continually meditate on a form of divinity of your choice and this is the important bit – “without break for 24 hours or more (according to SHIVABALAYOGI)”
|What is tapas?“If you close your eyes and concentrate between the eyes, you will get a wonderful bliss. Slowly you will lose yourself in that bliss and you get in the state of samadhi. If you remain in samadhi for twenty-three hours a day, or for days, months or years at a time, that is called tapas.”“After continuous meditation, samadhi comes, then God realization [sakshatkara]. This is tapas. If you are in samadhi it is called tapas. If you are conscious of your body then it is called dhyana, meditation. That is the difference.”There are so many meditation techniques. I want to know which is the best.
“What is your aim? What do you want to achieve with sadhana?”
“For Self realization you have to do tapas.”
When does meditation become tapas? Is that just more meditation?
“If the duration of meditation increases to about twelve hours then it becomes tapas. You will get into a state of samadhi. Tapas begins when you get into the state of samadhi. One has to do a minimum of twelve hours a day. Swamiji would then bless the person. Swamiji would give darshan. From time to time he will appear and give instructions how to continue tapas. So if you do your tapas well, as directed by the guru, you can have the vision of God very soon.”
Can I get enlightened, say through the blessings of a yogi, without having done tapas?
“When you become enlightened you will do tapas. There is a difference between enlightenment and Self realization. What Swamiji has achieved is Self realization. A yogi is a Self realized person. He is not just an enlightened person. When a person gets enlightened that person starts doing tapas to realize the Self.”
“If you sit in tapas you will get into samadhi. When this samadhi stays for an extended period, something like twenty-four hours a day, then God will come down to awaken you. That will be God realization. When God appears to you in front of your eyes, that is the mastery [siddhi] that is the indication that you have finished your tapas successfully. You should not fail in that. Some people fail in the final stages.”