or "Tapasya"

An ancient form of thematic magic, or meta-magic, is practicing austerities to generate extra "merit" or extra prana. (It's merit if you use austerities to forward your spiritual evolution. It's prana if you use it to store up power toward doing magic tricks.) Unlike most forms of thematic magic, this one is readily combined with other themes.

Austerities are the kind of things you might expect:

If you are prana-aware, practicing austerities is very simple. You make a solemn promise to practice the austerities you mean to do and start doing them. You start accumulating prana at an accelerated rate, proportionate to the difficulty of the austerities you're doing. There is no upper limit to the amount you can collect, unlike the characteristic upper limit of ordinary people at ordinary times. Various legendary yogis have collected phenomenal amounts of prana this way.

You can increase the speed of prana accumulation by combining your austerities with the theme of some other thematic magic you practice. For example, a fire mage might do fire-walking, or get uncomfortably hot or uncomfortably cold. A hawk mage might sleep in the mews on the bare floors, or let the hawks perch on his arm without gloves, or work at the hawks and their food and shelter all day and all night for a time.

People in a hurry have been known to simply bleed. People in a hurry for a LOT of prana have been known to chop off fingers or hands. There's an obvious limit to that sort of thing...

If you break your vows, you lose the prana, all of it, immediately. If you break the vows inadvertently ("Auugh! This is a ham sandwich! I vowed no meat!"), you start losing prana quickly but not instantly. You can plug the leak by leaving off whatever breaks the vow, or if that is impossible, by performing a suitable penance ("Quick, I must vomit.").

You can keep your super-charge of prana as long as you keep the terms of the vows. If you end your austerities "legally," within the terms of the vows, you lose one third of the prana as soon as you do something un-austere that violates the vows. For instance, if you have successfully completed an austerity exercise that included not eating meat, you would lose a third of the prana as soon as you ate a ham sandwich (or did anything else violating the recent vows). You do not lose all the prana, as you would if you deliberately ate the ham sandwich during the term of the vows. So someone just finishing an austerity exercise often wants to transfer the prana to some kind of battery, then fall asleep, eat, get warm, or whatever.

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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2010