Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Fire of Change - Tapas

Today’s lessons have a common theme of change running through them. 

In Genesis 21 Abraham is asked to send away his first-born son and to trust the process that would eventually lead to two great nations.  Although distressed, a fire burns in Abraham to do the right thing, to trust the process, and put forward the spiritual effort necessary to bring forth change.

In Matthew 10 Jesus is preparing his disciples for the life they will have should they continue to answer his call.  The picture is not pretty.  He tells them to go forward fearlessly and with self-discipline to heal and tell truths that could end in their death.  But that God loves them beyond all.  This preparation for change ignites a fire in their hearts. This unexpected way in which Jesus lights a fire under the disciples is like the Niyama (observance) of Tapas.

According to Deborah Adele “Tapas literally means “heat” and can be translated as catharsis, austerities, self-discipline, spiritual effort, change, tolerance, or transformation. Tapas has the sense of “cooking” ourselves in the fire of discipline to transform ourselves into something else. It is our determined effort to become someone of character and strength. Much like cooking and egg denatures the egg, changing it into a different structure, Tapas eventually changes our nature, turning us into a cauldron that can withstand any of life’s challenges. Tapas is the day to day choice to burn non-supportive habits of the body and mind, choosing to forsake momentary pleasures for future rewards.” *

Often change in our lives happens after an awakening.  Some might even go so far as to say a fire was lit under them to change. This fire is tapas. Keeping it going requires self-discipline, this too is tapas.  None of this is easy.  But having the self-discipline, putting in the spiritual effort, finding that thing that makes you feel a fire in your heart, acting on it, keeping it up, transforming. Again, and again, and again. This is the real work of tapas.  This is the real work of the disciples, even to the end.

We can learn from their example.  Taking care of our selves physically and mentally. Finding our own fire or calling. Having the discipline to do or change. And keeping that fire, or tapas, lit in our hearts.

Genesis 21:8-21

The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was

weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing

with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son

of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to

Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the

boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is

through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make

a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, and

took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the

child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went

and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not

let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and

wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and

said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy

where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation

of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with

water, and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the

bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of



Matthew 10:24-39

Jesus said to the twelve disciples, “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master;

it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called

the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret

that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear

whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the

soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a

penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of

your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my

Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in


“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a


For I have come to set a man against his father,

and a daughter against her mother,

and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or

daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow

me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my

sake will find it.”

*The Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele (c) 2009

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