What is Asceticism

Asceticism is a noun derived from the Greek term askesis , which means practice, training, or exercise. The askesis discipline was used among the ancient Greeks as a technique for acquiring bodily form.

Asceticism is the philosophy adopted by those who want to obtain spiritual and moral excellence and harmony , being a philosophical doctrine that defends the abstention of physical and psychological pleasures .

Ascetics, the name given to practitioners of asceticism, argue that the physical body is the main source of humanity’s worst sins, not serving those dedicated to the spiritual life. For them, the ideal is to deny all carnal desires and despise the world as a source of the evils that afflict human beings. Among the adepts of asceticism, it is common to practice physical penances, including even self-flagellation, extremely strict directives and constant fasting.

Asceticism has always been closely associated with monks, practitioners of yoga or those who are dedicated to some special cult, but it is also a form of spiritual quest for any individual who wishes to consider spirit more than matter.

For ascetics, asceticism is the only path that can lead to real wisdom, considering that self-control is the greatest virtue against all human temptations, and control must be sought mainly over carnal impulses that must be denied and forgotten.

Throughout history there has always been an association between asceticism and spirituality, although ascetics have not always dedicated themselves to the religious life. Among the Spartans in ancient Greece, for example, warriors needed to be exposed to physical suffering, often beyond their own strength, to acquire preparation for combat. According to them, it was physical and psychological suffering that made the warriors more resistant.

religious asceticism

The most widespread model of asceticism, which became classic, is the one existing in Christian doctrines, at the beginning of Christianity, and which has spread over the centuries, being also a model in Eastern religions, as in some aspects of Buddhism.

For religious ascetics, life must be lived with austerity, exempting oneself from worldly pleasures in order to achieve complete spiritual mastery. The pleasures enjoyed by ordinary humans would not be natural and should be seen as sinful acts and therefore abolished from everyday life.

Famous ascetics are found throughout history, such as Lao-Zi, Gautama Buddha, Mahavir Swami and, more recently, Mahatma Gandhy, in eastern countries, and Antonio de Lisboa (or Padua), Francis of Assisi and David Augustine Baker, among the westerners. For ascetics, it is necessary to leave family, possessions and material goods and live a mendicant life, demonstrating to everyone that they have great spirituality and that they are illuminated by divine light.

secular asceticism

Secular asceticism refers to religious societies, named after Max Weber, the father of Sociology. According to him, Calvinism, Pietism, Methodism and other sects of the Baptist movement are religious associations that claim secular asceticism as a way of life.

Weber, in his studies on the spirit of capitalism, tries to explain the concept that involves worldly asceticism , a current that ministered concepts that religious people needed to have another type of behavior, dedicating themselves to professional life without caring about the pleasures. and without using riches for the comfort that money can provide.

Weber also proposed other definitions for asceticism: intramundane  and extramundane asceticism, which consist of the acceptance of rational religiosity, using secular practices and experiencing the idea that the things of God are the opposite of the things of the world, although they are parallel.

Asceticism and hedonism

Asceticism and hedonism have opposite concepts. Hedonism is a philosophy that says that the pursuit of pleasure is the sole purpose of life , as opposed to that preaches the denial of carnal and worldly pleasures.

What is Asceticism

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