When it comes to meditation, Hinduism gets divided in many different concepts and practices. While there is a Patanjali's Yoga Aphorism of Yama, Niyama, Asana, etc. leading up to Dhyana and Samadhi, there are also various teachings in advaita vendanta that leads to a totally different kind of meditation.

And what constitutes the meaning of the word tapas as given in the scriptures, do all forms of meditations (dhyana) come under tapas and eligible for punya?

What about the Buddhist vipassana and samatha meditations, do we get punya by performing that also? (after all Buddha was an avatara (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu).

Finally, what advice would you give to a meditation beginner who wants to do it as per Hindu tradition?

  • I don't believe that the buddhist meditation techniques of vipassana and samatha are any different. Probably just the name changes or the object of concentration changes that's it. All the best!!
    – Sai
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 18:04
  • All the vedantic schools adapted the yoga techniques outlines in Patanjali. The advaita only differs in some of the philosophical conclusions, but it does not differ in the meditation methods. Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 11:50

1 Answer 1


What is tapas?

The word tapas means austerity. What constitutes austerity? Any act of self-discipline, ranging from controlling senses to controlling the Mind all of this is tapas.

Sri Swami Sivananda says in Raja Yoga by Sri Swami Sivananda that all kind of spiritual disciplines come under tapas.

Tapas is austerity. Egolessness and selfless service are the greatest forms of Tapas. Humility and desirelessness are the greatest forms of austerity. Practice these through ceaseless, untiring, selfless service. Practice the three kinds of Tapas mentioned in the Gita. Disciplinary practices like fasting, etc., also come under Tapas.

Do all forms of meditation come under tapas and result in punya?

Meditation can mean sitting in an asan, and praying to God, repeating God's name, or it could also mean being absorbed in yourself.

Sri Krishna says in the Gita 6:12

Sitting and concentrating the mind on a single object, controlling the thoughts and the activities of the senses, let the yogi practice meditation for self-purification.

So Sri Krishna says that meditation yields self-purification.

In Patanjali Yoga Aphorisms, Chapter III, verse 2:

The mind tries to think of one object, to hold itself to one particular spot, as the top of the head, the heart, etc., and if the mind succeeds in receiving the sensations only through that part of the body, and through no other part, that would be Dharana, and when the mind succeeds in keeping itself in that state for some time, it is called Dhyana (mediation).

Thus in the advanced stages of Meditation is the state where one goes above punya and papa. That is He is absorbed in Himself, thus neither punya nor papa can touch Him.

Sri Krishna says in Gita 6:20-22

When the mind disciplined by the practice of meditation becomes steady, One becomes content in the Self by beholding Him With (purified) intellect.

One feels infinite bliss that is perceivable only through the intellect, and is beyond the reach of the senses. After realizing Brahman, One is never separated from absolute reality.

After Self-Realization, One does not regard any other gain superior to Self-Realization. Established in Self-Realization, One is not moved even by the greatest calamity.

Basically upon reaching the final stages of meditation, the question of punya and papa will not occur and nothing will be able to affect the One.

What advice would you give to a meditation beginner who wants to do it as per Hindu tradition?

Sri Swami Sivananda in 'Guru-Bhakti Yoga':

A Guru is necessary for every aspirant in the spiritual path.

It is only a Guru who will be able to unveil the mystery and meaning of real life and show the way to God-realisation.

Guru will be able to awaken the hidden divine power in the innermost core of disciple’s heart.

Without the help of Guru one cannot attain the knowledge of the Self.

Meditation on Guru is the pathway to Divinity. It is the royal road to Kingdom of Brahman.

So basically that the highly complicated techniques may or may not lead to self-realization. But following the path of the Guru is the sure way. In other words, all the meditation etc that is done is only to get the grace of God.

So whatever meditation technique is followed, please be sincere and steadfast, then Guru's grace will surely follow. All the best sir!!

  • If you consider Tapasya to be any act of self-discipline, how would interpret the distinction between Yama's sons, as discussed in my question here? hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/3936/36 Vishnu incarnated as four sons of Yama god of death, named Hari, Krishna, Nara, and Narayana. Hindu scripture says that Hari and Krishna were masters of Yoga, while Nara and Narayana were masters of Tapasya. So what's the difference between what Hari and Krishna were doing, and what Nara and Narayana was doing? Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 18:34
  • @KeshavSrinivasan Well firstly why should there be a difference at all in what they were doing? As your question says there is really not much information about what exactly they did other than 'exercise in Yoga'. So how can we tell? Secondly if there was a difference I would only think it is a very small technicality which really would be insignificant as Tapas is general ability of self-discipline such as abstaining from food, abstaining from world, whereas Yoga in that context would have referred to the specific hatha yogic practices like Pranayama, etc. really that's just speculation :)!!
    – Sai
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 18:56
  • 1
    "Well firstly why should there be a difference at all in what they were doing?" Well, numerous sources say Hari and Krishna were engaged in Yoga and Nara and Narayana were engaged in Tapasya, so if they were all doing the same thing I'm not sure why different words would keep being used. But yeah, it could be as you said, a technical difference in the procedure followed. Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 19:02
  • Tapasya is DOING austerities. Yoga is the union of the subject and object. You do tapasya to attain yoga. When people say they do yoga, it is a vernacular meaning to the word yoga. When in scriptures, it can mean either meditation states or tapasya. In modern vernacular contexts, it often refers only to hatha yoga. Hatha yoga leads to long life, but does not lead to realization, nor does it lead to any advanced meditative states. Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 11:59
  • @sai good answer. Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 11:59

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