Question: Is Tapas required for Self Realization?
Yes, Tapas is required. It is like if you want cooked vegetables then you need to cook them - there is no other way. Usually the mind is constantly attracted to this world. To turn it back to its true self you need meditation, and from this you then go into Tapas. Just like you need different baking times for biscuits or bread, and so on. In the same way you might find that if you meditate for one hour then you can be peaceful in this world, but for Self Realization you will need more. So start with 45 minutes.
If I showed you a whole mountain and asked you to climb it, it would be too daunting for a person. So instead we say, 'Take one step', then after that, 'Take another step' and so on. You can't do the whole thing in one single step. It is just like a soldier, he will become a Lieutenant, then a General and then Chief-of-Staff.
Tapas means that mind needs to get cleansed, by any means. Like some people take on the bhakti marga, just to give a few clues how through bhakti marga it can happen. Great souls like Mira Bai, Sur Das, they all went through bhakti marga only. They had their deity in their mind. Like Mira Bai became conscious of only Krishna. For her Mira Bai never existed as a separate entity, only Krishna existed everywhere. When a mind can reach that highest stage that is called tapas. Tapas means you put in to the fire your imagined individual self that was illusion. Then that one entity you can call it Krishna, you can call it simply Divine, you can call Self, you can call it something, and you can call it nothing. That it is. Then that can happen. That's what you need to take care. So that is what is called tapas.