12 Mar Does Tapas Have The Power To Remove Bad Karmas?
Does tapas have the power to remove bad karmas?
Your question, as it stands, must be answered with a definite “No.” Tapas, in itself, has no power to remove or to add, but the ascetic (tapasvin) has all the powers. Tapas is a discipline under which the dormant powers in the tapasvin become manifest. These act and react, with or against the vasanas and samskaras already available in the mind, ultimately effecting the removal of bad karmas.
Thus giving the credit of felling the tree to the axe and not to the cutter, we may say, “Tapas removes bad karmas.” Here again, it is not bad karmas, as such, that are removed, but the reactions of bad karmas done in the past births. Even in this statement, we must qualify the assertion with a clause “to a large extent.” The entire bundle of past karmas, called the sancita karma, is burned off only at the dawn of knowledge of the Self (Poorna Jnana).
Tapas removes, to a large extent, the reactions in the present produced by the bad actions of the past. The fruits of actions are very scientifically explained in our philosophy. In brief, it can be put like this: Every action produces two kinds of reactions – vasana, a tendency to repeat the action once performed, and samskara, an impression of the actions done, left in the mental stuff of the doer. Vasanas increase and harden impressions; samskaras breed and strengthen vasanas. A victim of unending desires, the samsarin suffers. Desires goad the indriyas to run wild into the meshes of the sense objects and their gilded joys. A change in the texture of thoughts helps to control the volume of desires in the individual; the slowdown in the eruption of desires tends to pacify the stormy indriyas. Tapas is the attempt made by one to cleanse onself of all one’s desires, beginning with control of one’s own indriyas.
When the indriyas are thus controlled, the old vasanas are correspondingly checked, for vasanas find play and expression only in the interaction of the senses with their corresponding objects (indriyas-vyavahara). With old vasanas, old vicious samskaras, too, get atrophied. The positive part of tapas, cultivated through study, reflection, and meditation, replaces the old vasanas and samskaras with new ones of a divine texture.
Thus tapas purifies the inner instrument. Old sensual and low tendencies of the mind (vasanas) are eradicated. Naturally, the reactions of old karmas are checked, because they can work out their ‘fruits’ only through a play of the ‘tendencies’ they had produced.
– adapted from the Mananam book ‘Keeping The Rhythm’, article written by Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda