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In spiritual practices of Hinduism or Adhyatma ,We often hear these three words -: 1) Sadhana 2) Tapasya 3) Yoga.

My questions are -:

1) Are these terms similar or related to each other?

2) What are the actual meaning and significance of these terms in relation with our General as well as Spiritual life (Adhyatmik life).

  • In your question's context, just comparing closer meaning of these 3 terms: Sadhana is every effort in the spiritual direction, made by a sadhaka (sincere spiritual seeker) to reach moksha. Tapas means everything that burn the ego (tapas means to burn), so usually is translated as austerity, which means to do something against your own wishes, against your mind tendencies (just to tame the mind). Yoga is every effort using some specific technic (not only elaborated technics as pranayama, or complex mudras) but also more simple technic like karma yoga, offering every action to God). – Indra Feb 10 '18 at 15:02
  • So, a sadhaka make his sadhana (spiritual effort) doing some kind of yoga (spiritual practice), with tapasya (dominating his mind) actitud. – Indra Feb 10 '18 at 15:02
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Sharing an excerpt from my article on Sadhana:

Sadhna, in general may refer to any effort/action (Karma) that is put to achieve a specific goal. But in many Hindu philosophical literatures, it specifically refers to any effort put to achieve a spiritual goal. Literally the word “Sadhana” is derived from root word “sadh” (to accomplish) and refers to any means or instrument to accomplish a desired objective. Swami Chidananda of Divine Life society defines sadhana as “the active effort to obtain that which is possible of being obtained through effort”.

It is interesting to note that, even though sadhana includes rituals and practices like mantra jap, havan, puja etc, it is usually assumed to be confined only to them. But it is not so. Sadhna may refer to any spiritual effort put by an individual. It may be a person deciding to speak only truth, to lead a non-corrupt life or to remain celibate throughout his life, all these are sadhna only. The key is, the effort must be put with sincerity and must be practiced relentlessly. Further, any activity practiced in harmony with surrounding nature and the entire cosmos constitute a spiritual sadhana.

Every sadhna is an action i.e. Karma, hence many argue that no amount of sadhna/karma can deliver enlightment as it can be attained only by the grace of God and hence by surrendering to him. But this grace of God is not randomly given; instead it dawns on only those who are Adhikaari (competent) to receive it. The absolute dedication and surrendering towards God does not come spontaneously to everyone. Sadhana helps an individual to develop this surrender and dedication and achieve the Adhikaara.

The goal of any spiritual sadhana is to increase concentration and make the mind still. It helps to make an individual detached and become Stitahprajna (stable/equilibrium). But this detachment is neither disinterest towards objects of outer world nor apathy towards people; instead it is pure selfless love for the whole cosmos without any discrimination or selfish attachment. What actually Sadhana does is to burn away the burden of past karmas that are blocking one’s journey towards the source. Hence, the ultimate end result of any spiritual Sadhana is Jnana (Enlightment) and complete merger with the Cosmos/God.

Read full article here- http://nithinsridhar.blogspot.in/2010/11/understanding-hinduism-sadhana.html

Regarding Yoga, here is another excerpt from one of my article-

Yoga literally means “Union” or “Conjunction”. Patanjali Yoga Sutra (1.2-3) defines Yoga as a state wherein the patterns (vrittis) of the mind has been removed or stilled, so that the “seer” (i.e. Atman, the Witness) abides in his real nature”. Hence, yoga is a state of Samadhi, wherein the Self or Atman has been isolated from the limitations of Non-Self entities like body and mind so that the Atman alone shines. This state is achieved by stilling the mind by causing all the various thought-modifications of the mind to cease. Just as various thoughts and dreams are products of modifications of “manas/mind”. Similarly, from purely subjective perspective the objective universe one perceives is also due to the modifications of one’s mind. The Atman is the witness and the body and the mind are the objects. Hence, when the mind is stilled and the modifications of mind are brought into a stop, the objects merge into the subject and the Atman which is the subject alone remains. This state of Samadhi is called as “Yoga” or “Union” because there is a Union of duality of object and subject giving rise to the non-dual abidance in Atman.

Read the full article on Yoga here- http://nithinsridhar.blogspot.in/2015/04/secularization-or-destruction-of-yoga.html

Tapas, in simple terms refers to Austerity, Self-control, spiritual practice and may at times be used as synonymous to Sadhana or Yoga as well. Here is another excerpt, from an article about how Menstruation is a period of Tapas:

But, first, let us examine the Hindu notion of Tapas. Hindu tradition recognizes that some kind of Tapas is necessary to attain any goal-sacred or secular- in life. In the simplest terms, Tapas refers to austerity or hardship. Without facing hardships, without overcoming obstacles, no work is accomplished. Recognizing this, the Hindu scriptures have charted out how one can use this Tapas to attain material welfare and spiritual emancipation.

At a deeper level, Tapas is defined as restrainment of the body, mind, and the senses. And all austere practices and self-restrictions have been laid out with an aim to achieve this restrainment. The stress on sense-restrainment has been placed owing to the fact that only through such a restrainment of the physical actions and the mental thoughts, would a person be able to attain detachment and dispassion and free oneself from the internal impurities like lust, anger, etc.

Thus, the scriptures declare that through Tapas, one destroys ones impurities (of the body and mind) [Yoga Sutras of Patanjanli 2.43] and attains self-purification. The importance of austerity in the Hindu tradition could be gauged by the fact that, just like Shaucha, Tapas is also listed among the Niyamas of Yoga [Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali 2.32]; among the basic Samanya Dharma; and is considered vital for practicing Vedanta [Vivekachoodamani (Verse 22-23)].

Various Hindu rituals and practices have been designed with the purpose to act as austerity to help one attain detachment and self-purification. Beginning with Samskaras like Garbadhana (ceremony marking the intention to give birth to a child) and Vivaha (marriage), the daily ritual performances like that of Sandhyopasana, and various kinds of vratas (vows of austerity, usually fasting) and pujas along with their different rules and regulations that are performed periodically, are all aimed to act as Tapas or ‘Austere practices’ that would help individuals to purify themselves and become free from Adharmic (unrighteous) actions that they may have committed through their body, mind, and speech- intentionally or unintentionally.

In other words, tapas not only aims to help an individual to become free from some of the Adharmas committed in the past, but also helps him/her to become detached and gain control over his/her senses and thus helps in preventing him/her from committing more Adharma in future. Hence, Austerity and self-purification play a very vital role in aiding an individual in his journey towards the ultimate Moksha.

Here is the link to full article- http://indiafacts.org/hindu-view-of-menstruation-ii-menstruation-as-austerity-and-self-purification/

  • I have added information on Yoga and Tapas as well. regards. – Nithin Sridhar Aug 1 '16 at 8:33
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    Namaste, Though your blog is useful but we recommend/emphasize on citing authoritative/reliable sources in answers. Visit related meta postes: 1, 2, 3. So, try to cite scriptural sources (or quotes of Swami Vivekananda etc.) in the answer. Also note that citing/linking your blog in many of your post can be considered an overt self-promotion. Thanks. – Paṇḍyā Mar 26 '17 at 5:52

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