The Way of Penance – The Hindu
We often talk about penance but how to understand its scope? Who really does penance? The term “tapas” refers to penance or asceticism, which is identified in the qualities of the heart such as sincerity, ahimsa, endurance, selfless service, etc., rather than in certain outward marks and lifestyles. In fact, Tiruvalluvar says that ‘thavam’, the Tamizh word for ‘tapas’ or penance, manifests itself in every individual’s desire to consciously practice these qualities and principles in daily life, Sri Nallur Sa Saravanan pointed out in a speech .
All beings are bound to reach God, whether they are aware of it or not. Each birth brings many opportunities to each individual trying to learn this quest. The time-tested rule, “learn and practice what is learned”, which helps to become mature and capable in any field or vocation is also relevant for those who wish to follow this path to achieve the ultimate goal. There is the possibility of improving one’s nature and spirit through penance. There is no time limit for this process.
Tiruvalluvar gives pride of place to endurance or tolerance which he says is reflected in the nature of people in two ways, the ability to accept whatever is one’s lot and also to refrain from harming other beings. More important is his observation that when one has the desire to do penance, one automatically directs one’s actions towards some worthwhile goal. The result is most beneficial as it makes him avoid all those acts that are irrelevant to him in life. The life of Ramalinga Adigalar is an example of how leading a life of penance can endow one with higher and subtler realizations. This saint, who lived among us, inspired many in the ways of satya and dharma by the way he lived his life rather than just speaking of these values.