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Asceticism (; from the el, ἄσκησις ''áskesis'', "exercise, training") is a lifestyle characterized by
abstinence Abstinence is a self-enforced restraint from indulging in bodily activities that are widely experienced as giving pleasure. Most frequently, the term refers to sexual abstinence, but it can also mean abstinence from alcohol File:Alcohol gen ...
from
sensual Sense relates to any of the systems and corresponding organs involved in sensation, i.e. the physical process Physical changes are changes affecting the form of a chemical substance A chemical substance is a form of matter In classical ph ...
pleasure Pleasure refers to experience that feels good, that involves the enjoyment of something. It contrasts with pain or suffering, which are forms of feeling bad. It is closely related to value, desire and action: humans and other conscious animals f ...
s, often for the purpose of pursuing spiritual goals. Ascetics may withdraw from the world for their practices or continue to be part of their society, but typically adopt a frugal lifestyle, characterised by the renunciation of material possessions and physical pleasures, and also spend time fasting while concentrating on the practice of religion or reflection upon spiritual matters. Various individuals have also attempted an ascetic lifestyle to free themselves from addictions, some of them particular to modern life, such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs, entertainment, sex, food, etc. Asceticism has been historically observed in many
religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beliefs, worldviews, religious text, texts, shrine, sanctified places, prophecy, prophecies, ethics in religion, ...
traditions, including
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the Major religious groups#Largest religions, world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and ...
,
Jainism Jainism (), traditionally known as ''Jain Dharma'', is an ancient Indian religion Indian religions, sometimes also termed Dharmic religions or Indic religions, are the religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent; namely Hinduis ...

Jainism
,
Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion and ''dharma'', or way of life. It is the Major religious groups, world's third-largest religion, with over 1.2 billion followers, or 15–16% of the global population, known as Hindus. The word ''Hindu'' is ...

Hinduism
,
Islam Islam (;There are ten pronunciations of ''Islam'' in English, differing in whether the first or second syllable has the stress, whether the ''s'' is or , and whether the ''a'' is pronounced , or (when the stress is on the first syllable) ( ...
,
Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the Major religious groups, world's la ...
,
Judaism Judaism is an Abrahamic The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic religions, are a group of Semitic-originated religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of de ...
and
Pythagoreanism Pythagoreanism originated in the 6th century BC, based on the teachings and beliefs held by Pythagoras and his followers, the Pythagoreans. Pythagoras established the first Pythagorean community in Crotone, Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), off ...
and contemporary practices continue amongst some religious followers. The practitioners of this philosophy abandon sensual pleasures and lead an abstinent lifestyle, in the pursuit of
redemption Redemption may refer to: Religion * Redemption (theology), an element of salvation to express deliverance from sin * Redemptive suffering, a Roman Catholic belief that suffering can partially remit punishment for sins if offered to Jesus * Pidyo ...
,
salvation Salvation (from Latin: ''salvatio'', from ''salva'', 'safe, saved') is the state of being saved or protected from harm or a dire situation. In religion and theology, ''salvation'' generally refers to the deliverance of the soul from sin and its co ...

salvation
or
spirituality The meaning of spirituality has developed and expanded over time, and various connotations can be found alongside each other. Traditionally, spirituality referred to a religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of design ...

spirituality
. Many ascetics believe the action of purifying the body helps to purify the soul, and thus obtain a greater connection with the Divine or find inner peace. This may take the form of rituals, the renunciation of pleasure, or self-mortification. However, ascetics maintain that self-imposed constraints bring them greater freedom in various areas of their lives, such as increased clarity of thought and the ability to resist potentially destructive temptations. Asceticism is seen in the ancient theologies as a journey towards spiritual transformation, where the simple is sufficient, the bliss is within, the frugal is plenty. Inversely, several ancient religious traditions, such as
Zoroastrianism Zoroastrianism or Mazdayasna is an Iranian religion and one of the world's oldest continuously-practiced organized faiths, based on the teachings of the Iranian-speaking prophet Zoroaster Zoroaster (, ; el, Ζωροάστρης, ''Zōro ...
,
Ancient Egyptian religion Ancient Egyptian religion was a complex system of polytheistic Polytheism is the worship of or belief in multiple deities A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the law ...
, and the
Dionysian Mysteries in '' Bacchus'' by Caravaggio, alt=Painting of Dionysus with garland, food and wine The Dionysian Mysteries were a ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed in a sequestered place and ...
, as well as more modern Left Hand traditions, openly reject ascetic practices and either focus on various types of
hedonism Hedonism refers to a family of theories, all of which have in common that ''pleasure Pleasure refers to experience that feels good, that involves the enjoyment of something. It contrasts with pain or suffering, which are forms of feeling bad. ...
or on the importance of family life, both rejecting celibacy.


Etymology and meaning

The adjective "ascetic" derives from the ancient Greek term
askēsis
', which means "training" or "exercise". The original usage did not refer to
self-denial Self-denial (related but different from self-abnegation or self-sacrifice) is an act of letting go of the self The self is an individual person as the object of its own reflective consciousness , an English Paracelsian physician Consciousness, ...
, but to the physical training required for athletic events. Its usage later extended to rigorous practices used in many major religious traditions, in varying degrees, to attain redemption and higher spirituality. Dom Cuthbert Butler classified asceticism into natural and unnatural forms: * "Natural asceticism" involves a
lifestyle Lifestyle often refers to: * Lifestyle (sociology), the way a person lives * ''Otium'', ancient Roman concept of a lifestyle * Style of life (german: Lebensstil), dealing with the dynamics of personality Lifestyle may also refer to: Business and ...
which reduces material aspects of life to the utmost simplicity and to a minimum. This may include minimal, simple clothing, sleeping on a floor or in caves, and eating a simple, minimal amount of food. Natural asceticism, state Wimbush and Valantasis, does not include maiming the body or harsher austerities that make the body suffer. * "Unnatural asceticism", in contrast, covers practices that go further, and involves body mortification, punishing one's own flesh, and habitual self-infliction of pain, such as by sleeping on a bed of nails.


Religions

Self-discipline Discipline is action or inaction that is regulated to be in accordance (or to achieve accord) with a particular system of governance Governance comprises all of the processes of governing – whether undertaken by the government of a stat ...
and abstinence in some form and degree are parts of religious practice within many religious and spiritual traditions. Ascetic lifestyle is associated particularly with
monk A monk (, from el, μοναχός, ''monachos'', "single, solitary" via Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area ...

monk
s,
nun A nun is a member of a religious community of women, typically living under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience The three evangelical counsels or counsels of perfection in Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Mo ...

nun
s,
fakirs A fakir, faqeer or faqir (; ar, فقیر (noun of faqr)), derived from ''faqr'' ( ar, فقر, "poverty") is an Islamic term traditionally used for a Sufi Muslim whose contingency and utter dependence upon God is manifest in everything they do ...

fakirs
in Abrahamic religions, and
bhikkhu A ''bhikkhu'' (Pali: भिक्खु, Sanskrit: भिक्षु, ''bhikṣu'') is an ordained male monastic ("monk") in Buddhism. Male and female monastics ("nun", ''bhikkhunī'', Sanskrit ''bhikṣuṇī'') are members of the Sangha, Buddh ...
s, munis,
sannyasi (788-820), founder of Advaita Vedanta, with disciples, by Raja Ravi Varma (1904) ''Sannyasa'' (Sanskrit: संन्यास; IAST: ) is life of renunciation and the fourth stage within the Hindu system of four life stages known as ''ashrama ...
s,
yogi A yogi is a practitioner of yoga Yoga (; sa, योग; ) is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. Yoga is one of the six orthodox philosophical schools of Hind ...
s in Indian religions.


Abrahamic religions


Christianity

Christian authors of
Late Antiquity Late antiquity is a periodization Periodization is the process or study of categorizing the past into discrete, quantified named blocks of time.Adam Rabinowitz. It’s about time: historical periodization and Linked Ancient World Data'. Insti ...
such as
Origen Origen of Alexandria, ''Ōrigénēs''; Coptic language, Coptic: Ϩⲱⲣⲓⲕⲉⲛ Origen's Greek name ''Ōrigénēs'' () probably means "child of Horus" (from , "Horus", and , "born"). ( 184 – 253), also known as Origen Adamantius, was an ...

Origen
,
St. Jerome Jerome (; la, Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus; grc-gre, Εὐσέβιος Σωφρόνιος Ἱερώνυμος; c. 342–347 – 30 September 420), also known as Jerome of Stridon, was a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belo ...

St. Jerome
,
Ignatius of Antioch Ignatius of Antioch (; Greek: Ἰγνάτιος Ἀντιοχείας, ''Ignátios Antiokheías''; died c. 108/140 AD), also known as Ignatius Theophorus (, ''Ignátios ho Theophóros'', lit. "the God-bearing"), was an early Christian writer ...

Ignatius of Antioch
,
John Chrysostom John Chrysostom (; gr, Ἰωάννης ὁ Χρυσόστομος; 14 September 407), was an important Early Church Father who served as archbishop of Constantinople. He is known for his homilies, preaching and public speaking, his denunciat ...
and , interpreted meanings of the Biblical texts within a highly asceticized religious environment. Scriptural examples of asceticism could be found in the lives of
John the Baptist John the Baptist ''Yohanān HaMatbil''; la, Ioannes Baptista; grc-gre, Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστής, ''Iōánnēs ho baptistḗs'' or , ''Iōánnēs ho baptízōn'', or , ''Iōánnēs ho pródromos'';Wetterau, Bruce. ''World history'' ...

John the Baptist
,
Jesus Christ Jesus, likely from he, יֵשׁוּעַ, translit=Yēšūaʿ, label=Hebrew/Aramaic ( AD 30 / 33), also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Christ, is the central figure of Christianity, the Major religious groups, world's largest r ...

Jesus Christ
himself, the
twelve apostles upright=1.35, Jesus and his Twelve Apostles, Chi-Rho symbol ☧, Catacombs of Domitilla">Chi_Rho.html" ;"title="fresco with the Chi Rho">Chi-Rho symbol ☧, Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome In Christian theology and ecclesiology, apostles, parti ...

twelve apostles
and the
Apostle Paul Paul the Apostle,; el, Παῦλος, translit=Paulos; cop, ⲡⲁⲩⲗⲟⲥ; he, פאולוס השליח; – AD commonly known as Saint Paul and also known by his Hebrew name Saul of Tarsus,; ar, بولس الطرسوسي; el, ...
. The
Dead Sea Scrolls The Dead Sea Scrolls (also the Qumran Caves Scrolls) are ancient Jewish and Hebrew religious manuscripts that were found in the Qumran Caves in the Judaean Desert, near Ein Feshkha on the northern shore of the Dead Sea in the West Bank, and t ...
revealed ascetic practices of the ancient Jewish sect of
Essenes The Essenes (; Modern Hebrew Modern Hebrew ( he, עברית חדשה, ''ʿivrít ḥadašá ', , ''Literal translation, lit.'' "Modern Hebrew" or "New Hebrew"), also known as Israeli Hebrew or Israeli, and generally referred to by speakers ...
who took vows of abstinence to prepare for a holy war. An emphasis on an ascetic religious life was evident in both early Christian writings (see
Philokalia The ''Philokalia'' ( grc, φιλοκαλία "love of the beautiful, the good", from '' philia'' "love" and ''kallos'' "beauty") is "a collection of texts written between the 4th and 15th centuries by spiritual masters" of the Eastern Orthodox ...
) and practices (see
Hesychasm Hesychasm () is a mystical tradition of contemplative prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the List of Christian denominations by number of members, second-large ...
). Other Christian practitioners of asceticism include individuals such as St. Paul the Hermit, St.
Simeon Stylites Simeon Stylites or Symeon the Stylite ( syc, ܫܡܥܘܢ ܕܐܣܛܘܢܐ ', Koine Greek ', ar, سمعان العمودي ') (c. 390? – 2 September 459) was a Syrian asceticism, ascetic saint who achieved notability for living 37 years ...
, St. David of Wales, St.
John of Damascus John of Damascus (or John Damascene, gr, Ἰωάννης ὁ Δαμασκηνός, Ioánnēs ho Damaskēnós, ; la, Ioannes Damascenus) was a Christian monk, priest A priest is a religious leader authorized to perform the Sacred rite, ...

John of Damascus
and St.
Francis of Assisi Francis of Assisi (born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone; it, Francesco d'Assisi; la, Franciscus Assisiensis; 1181 or 1182 – 3 October 1226), venerated as Saint Francis of Assisi, also known in his ministry as Francesco, was an Italian C ...

Francis of Assisi
. According to , much of early Christian asceticism has been traced to Judaism, but not to traditions within Greek asceticism. Some of the ascetic thoughts in Christianity nevertheless, Finn states, have roots in Greek moral thought. Virtuous living is not possible when an individual is craving bodily pleasures with desire and passion. Morality is not seen in the ancient theology as a balancing act between right and wrong, but a form of spiritual transformation, where the simple is sufficient, the bliss is within, the frugal is plenty. The deserts of the
Middle East The Middle East ( ar, الشرق الأوسط, ISO 233 The international standard are technical standards developed by international organizations (intergovernmental organizations), such as Codex Alimentarius in food, the World Health Organi ...

Middle East
were at one time inhabited by thousands of male and female Christian ascetics,
hermit A hermit, or eremite ( adjectival form: eremitic or hermitic), is a person who lives in seclusion. Hermits are a part of several sections of various religions and this concept has garnered significant attention and importance. Description In Ch ...

hermit
s and
anchorite "The Anchorite" (1881), by Teodor Axentowicz. An anchorite or anchoret (female: anchoress) is someone who, for religious reasons, withdraws from secular society so as to be able to lead an intensely prayer Prayer is an invocation or act ...
s, including St.
Anthony the Great Anthony or Anthony the Great ( grc-gre, Ἀντώνιος ''Antṓnios''; ar, القديس أنطونيوس الكبير; la, Antonius; ; c. 12 January 251 – 17 January 356), was a Christian monk from Egypt, revered since his death as a s ...
(aka St. Anthony of the Desert), St.
Mary of Egypt Mary of Egypt ( cop, Ϯⲁⲅⲓⲁ Ⲙⲁⲣⲓⲁ Ⲛⲣⲉⲙⲛ̀ⲭⲏⲙⲓ; c. 344 – c. 421) is a highly venerated Desert Mothers, Desert Mother in the Orthodox Church, Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Coptic Churches, as ...

Mary of Egypt
, and St.
Simeon Stylites Simeon Stylites or Symeon the Stylite ( syc, ܫܡܥܘܢ ܕܐܣܛܘܢܐ ', Koine Greek ', ar, سمعان العمودي ') (c. 390? – 2 September 459) was a Syrian asceticism, ascetic saint who achieved notability for living 37 years ...
, collectively known as the
Desert Fathers Image:StAnthony.jpg, Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Coptic icon of Anthony the Great The Desert Fathers were early Christian hermits, ascetics, and monks who lived mainly in the Scetes desert of Egypt beginning around the Christianity in the ...
and
Desert Mothers Desert Mothers is a neologism, coined in feminist theology in analogy to Desert Fathers, for the ''ammas'' or female Christian ascetics living in the desert of Egypt Egypt ( ; ar, مِصر ), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a ...
. In 963 AD, an association of monasteries called ''Lavra'' was formed on
Mount Athos Mount Athos (; el, Άθως, ) is a mountain and peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland from which it extends. The ...

Mount Athos
, in
Eastern Orthodox The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the List of Christian denominations by number of members, second-largest Christian church, with approximately 220 million baptised members. It operates as a Communion ( ...
tradition. This became the most important center of orthodox Christian ascetic groups in the centuries that followed. In the modern era, Mount Athos and Meteora have remained a significant center.
Sexual abstinence Sexual abstinence or sexual restraint is the practice of refraining from some or all aspects of sexual activity for medical, psychological, legal, social, financial, philosophical, moral, or religious reasons. Asexuality is distinct from sexual ...
such as those of the
Encratites The Encratites ("self-controlled") were an ascetic 2nd-century sect of Christians who forbade marriage and counselled abstinence from meat. Eusebius says that Tatian was the author of this heresy. It has been supposed that it was these Gnostic ...
sect of Christians was only one aspect of ascetic renunciation, and both natural and unnatural asceticism have been part of Christian asceticism. The natural ascetic practices have included
simple living Simple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one's lifestyle. These may include, for example, reducing one's Personal property, possessions, generally referred to as minimalism, or increasing Self-sustainabili ...
, begging,
fasting Fasting is the willful refrainment from eating and sometimes drinking (see Water fasting and Juice fasting). From a purely physiology, physiological context, "fasting" may refer to the metabolism, metabolic status of a person who has not eaten ov ...
and ethical practices such as
humility Humility is the quality of being humble. Dictionary definitions accentuate humility as a low self-regard and sense of unworthiness. In a religious context humility can mean a recognition of self in relation to a deity (i.e. God) or deities, and s ...
,
compassion Compassion motivates people to go out of their way to help the physical, mental, or emotional pains of another and themselves. Compassion is often regarded as having sensitivity, which is an emotional aspect to suffering. Though, when based on cer ...
,
meditation Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and ...
,
patience ''Patience'', Hans_Sebald_Beham.html"_;"title="engraving_by_Hans_Sebald_Beham">engraving_by_Hans_Sebald_Beham,_1540 Patience_(or_wikt:forbearance#English.html" "title="Hans_Sebald_Beham,_1540.html" ;"title="Hans_Sebald_Beham.html" ;"title="engr ...
and
prayer Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship through deliberate communication. In the narrow sense, the term refers to an act of supplication or intercession directed towards a deity or a deified anc ...
. Evidence of extreme unnatural asceticism in Christianity appear in 2nd-century texts and thereafter, in both Eastern Orthodox Christian and Western Christian traditions, such as the practice of chaining the body to rocks, eating only grass, praying seated on a pillar in the elements for decades such as by the monk
Simeon Stylites Simeon Stylites or Symeon the Stylite ( syc, ܫܡܥܘܢ ܕܐܣܛܘܢܐ ', Koine Greek ', ar, سمعان العمودي ') (c. 390? – 2 September 459) was a Syrian asceticism, ascetic saint who achieved notability for living 37 years ...
, solitary confinement inside a cell, abandoning personal hygiene and adopting lifestyle of a beast, self-inflicted pain and voluntary suffering. Such ascetic practices were linked to the Christian concepts of
sin In a religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beliefs, worldviews, religious text, texts, shrine, sanctified places, prophecy, prophecies, ...
and
redemption Redemption may refer to: Religion * Redemption (theology), an element of salvation to express deliverance from sin * Redemptive suffering, a Roman Catholic belief that suffering can partially remit punishment for sins if offered to Jesus * Pidyo ...
.


=Evagrius Ponticus: monastic teaching

=
Evagrius Ponticus upright=0.7, Evagrius Ponticus (left), John of Sinai, and an unknown saint. 17th-century icon. Evagrius Ponticus ( el, , "Evagrius of Pontus"; Georgian: ევაგრე ქართველი), also called Evagrius the Solitary (345–399 ...
, also called Evagrius the Solitary (345–399 AD) was a highly educated monastic teacher who produced a large theological body of work, mainly ascetic, including the ''Gnostikos'' ( grc, γνωστικός, ''gnōstikos'', "learned", from γνῶσις, ''gnōsis'', "knowledge"), also known as ''The Gnostic: To the One Made Worthy of Gnosis''. The ''Gnostikos'' is the second volume of a trilogy containing the ''Praktikos'', intended for young monks to achieve ''
apatheia Apatheia ( el, ἀπάθεια; from ''a-'' "without" and ''pathos'' "suffering" or "passion"), in Stoicism, refers to a state of mind in which one is not disturbed by the passions (philosophy), passions. It is best translated by the word equanimity ...
'', i. e. "a state of calm which is the prerequisite for love and knowledge", in order to purify their intellect and make it impassible, to reveal the truth hidden in every being. The third book, ''Kephalaia Gnostika'', was meant for meditation by advanced monks. Those writings made him one of the most recognized ascetic teachers and scriptural interpreters of his time, which include
Clement of Alexandria Titus Flavius Clemens, also known as Clement of Alexandria ( grc, Κλήμης ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς; – ), was a Christian theology, Christian theologian and philosopher who taught at the Catechetical School of Alexandria. Among his pupi ...
and
Origen Origen of Alexandria, ''Ōrigénēs''; Coptic language, Coptic: Ϩⲱⲣⲓⲕⲉⲛ Origen's Greek name ''Ōrigénēs'' () probably means "child of Horus" (from , "Horus", and , "born"). ( 184 – 253), also known as Origen Adamantius, was an ...

Origen
. The ascetic literature of early Christianity was influenced by pre-Christian Greek philosophical traditions, especially
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the ...

Plato
and
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit ...

Aristotle
, looking for the perfect spiritual way of life. According to Clement of Alexandria, philosophy and Scriptures can be seen as "double expressions of one pattern of knowledge". According to Evagrius, "body and the soul are there to help the intellect and not to hinder it".


Islam

The Arabic word for asceticism is zuhd ( Zuhd in Islam). The
Islamic prophet Prophets in Islam ( ar, الأنبياء في الإسلام, translit=al-ʾAnbiyāʾ fī al-ʾIslām) are individuals in Islam who are believed to spread God in Islam, God's message on Earth and to serve as models of ideal human behaviour. Som ...
Muhammad Muhammad ibn AbdullahHe is referred to by many appellations, including Messenger of Allah, The Prophet Muhammad, Allah's Apostle, Last Prophet of Islam, and others; there are also many variant spellings of Muhammad, such as Mohamet, Mohammed, ...

Muhammad
and his followers practiced asceticism. However, contemporary mainstream Islam has not had a tradition of asceticism, but its Sufi groups – have cherished an ascetic tradition for many centuries. Islamic literary sources and
historians This is a list of historians only for those with a biographical entry in Wikipedia. Major chroniclers and annalists are included. Names are listed by the person's historical periodHuman history is commonly divided into three main Era, eras — Anci ...
report that during the early Muslim conquests of the Middle East and North Africa (7th–10th centuries CE), some of the Muslim warriors guarding the frontier settlements were also ascetics; numerous historical accounts also report of some Christian monks that apostatized from Christianity,
converted to Islam Religious conversion is the adoption of a set of beliefs identified with one particular religious denomination A religious denomination is a subgroup within a religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated re ...
and joined the ''
jihad Jihad (; ar, جهاد ' ) is an Arabic word which literally means ''striving'' or ''struggling'', especially with a praiseworthy aim. In an Islamic context, it can refer to almost any effort to make personal and social life conform with God' ...
'', as well as of many Muslim warriors that repudiated Islam,
converted to Christianity Christianization ( or Christianisation) is the conversion of individuals to Christianity or the conversion of entire groups at once. Various strategies and techniques were employed in Christianization campaigns from Late Antiquity and througho ...
and became Christian monks.
Monasticism Monasticism (from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods ...
is forbidden in
Islam Islam (;There are ten pronunciations of ''Islam'' in English, differing in whether the first or second syllable has the stress, whether the ''s'' is or , and whether the ''a'' is pronounced , or (when the stress is on the first syllable) ( ...
.


=Sufism

= Scholars in the field of Islamic studies have argued that asceticism (''zuhd'') served as a precursor to the later doctrinal formations of Sufis that began to emerge in the 10th century through the works of individuals such as
al-Junayd Junayd of Baghdad (; 830–910) was a Persian people, Persian mystic and one of the most famous of the early wali, Islamic saints. He is a central figure in the spiritual lineage of many tariqa, Sufi orders. Junayd taught in Baghdad throughout h ...
, al-Qushayrī, al-Sarrāj, al-Hujwīrī, and others. Sufism grew as a mystical, somewhat hidden tradition in the mainstream
Sunni Sunni Islam () is by far the largest branch of Islam Islam (;There are ten pronunciations of ''Islam'' in English, differing in whether the first or second syllable has the stress, whether the ''s'' is or , and whether the ''a'' is pr ...
and
Shia Shia Islam or Shi'ism is the second largest branch Image:Tree Leaves.JPG, The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany as a ramus) is a woody structural member connected to but not par ...
Islam, state Eric Hanson and
Karen Armstrong Karen Armstrong (born 14 November 1944) is a British author and commentator of Irish Catholic Irish most commonly refers to: * Someone or something of, from, or related to: ** Ireland Ireland (; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster- ...

Karen Armstrong
, likely in reaction to "the growing worldliness of
Umayyad The Umayyad Caliphate (661–750 CE; , ; ar, ٱلْخِلَافَة ٱلْأُمَوِيَّة, al-Khilāfah al-ʾUmawīyah) was the second of the four major caliphates established after the death of Muhammad. The caliphate was ruled by the U ...
and
Abassid The Abbasid Caliphate ( or ar, اَلْخِلَافَةُ ٱلْعَبَّاسِيَّةُ, ') was the third caliphate A caliphate ( ar, خِلَافَة, ) is an Islamic state under the leadership of an Islam Islam (;There ar ...
societies". Acceptance of asceticism emerged in Sufism slowly because it was contrary to the ''
sunnah In Islam Islam (;There are ten pronunciations of ''Islam'' in English, differing in whether the first or second syllable has the stress, whether the ''s'' is or , and whether the ''a'' is pronounced , or (when the stress is on the first ...
'', states Nile Green, and early Sufis condemned "ascetic practices as unnecessary public displays of what amounted to false piety". The ascetic Sufis were hunted and persecuted both by Sunni and Shia rulers, in various centuries. Sufism was adopted and then grew particularly in the frontier areas of
Islamic states An Islamic state is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislatu ...

Islamic states
, where the asceticism of its ''fakirs'' (or dervishes) appealed to a population used to the monastic traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism or Christianity. Ascetic practices of Sufi fakirs have included
celibacy Celibacy (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Rom ...
,
fasting Fasting is the willful refrainment from eating and sometimes drinking (see Water fasting and Juice fasting). From a purely physiology, physiological context, "fasting" may refer to the metabolism, metabolic status of a person who has not eaten ov ...
and
self-mortification Mortification of the flesh is an act by which an individual or group seeks to mortify, or put to death, their Christian views on sin, sinful nature, as a part of the process of sanctification. Mortificaton of the flesh is undertaken in order to re ...
. Sufi ascetics also participated in mobilizing Muslim warriors for
holy wars A religious war or holy war ( la, bellum sacrum) is a war War is an intense armed conflict between states, government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polit ...
, helping travelers, dispensing blessings through their perceived magical powers, and in helping settle disputes. Ritual ascetic practices, such as
self-flagellation Self-flagellation is the disciplinary and devotional practice of flogging oneself with whips or other instruments that inflict pain. In Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based ...
('' Tatbir''), have been practiced by Shia Muslims annually at the
Mourning of Muharram The Mourning of Muharram (also known as Azadari, Remembrance of Muharram or Muharram Observances) is a set of commemoration rituals observed primarily by Shia and Sufism, and marked by all Muslims, The commemoration falls in Muharram, the first ...

Mourning of Muharram
.


Judaism

Asceticism has not been a dominant theme within Judaism, but minor to significant ascetic traditions have been a part of Jewish spirituality. The history of
Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation originating from the Israelites Israelite origins and kingdom: "The first act in the long drama of Jewish history is t ...

Jewish
asceticism is traceable to 1st millennium BCE era with the references of the
Nazirite In the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Hebrew scriptures, including the Torah, the Nevi'im, and the Ketuvim. These texts are almost exclusively in Bibl ...
(or Nazorean, Nazarene, Naziruta, Nazir), whose rules of practice are found in
Book of Numbers The Book of Numbers (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately ...
6:1–21. The ascetic practices included not cutting the hair, abstaining from eating meat or grapes, abstention from wine, or fasting and hermit style living conditions for a period of time. Literary evidence suggests that this tradition continued for a long time, well into the common era, and both Jewish men and women could follow the ascetic path, with examples such as the ascetic practices for fourteen years by Queen
Helena of Adiabene Helena of Adiabene ( he, הלני מלכת חדייב) (d. ca. 50–56 CE) was a queen of Adiabene (modern-day Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan) and Edessa (modern-day Urfa, Turkey) as the sister-wife of Monobaz I, and later the chief wife of Abgar V, King ...
, and by Miriam of Tadmor. After the Jews returned from the
Babylonia Babylonia () was an Ancient history, ancient Akkadian language, Akkadian-speaking state (polity), state and cultural area based in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq and Syria). A small Amorites, Amorite-ruled state emerged in 1894 ...
n exile and the Mosaic institution was done away with, a different form of asceticism arose when
Antiochus IV Antiochus IV Epiphanes (; grc, Ἀντίοχος ὁ Ἐπιφανής, ''Antíochos ho Epiphanḗs'', "God Manifest"; c. 215 BC – November/December 164 BC) was a Hellenistic king of the King of the Romans (variant used in the early m ...
Epiphanes threatened the Jewish religion in 167 BC. The Hasidaean-Essene tradition of the second Temple period is described as one of the movements within historic Jewish asceticism between 2nd century BCE and 1st century CE. Ascetic Jewish sects existed in ancient and medieval era times, most notably the
Essenes The Essenes (; Modern Hebrew Modern Hebrew ( he, עברית חדשה, ''ʿivrít ḥadašá ', , ''Literal translation, lit.'' "Modern Hebrew" or "New Hebrew"), also known as Israeli Hebrew or Israeli, and generally referred to by speakers ...
and
Ebionites Ebionites ( grc-gre, Ἐβιωναῖοι, ''Ebionaioi'', derived from Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is rega ...
. According to Allan Nadler, two most significant examples of medieval Jewish asceticism have been Havoth ha-Levavoth and Hasidei Ashkenaz. Pious self-deprivation was a part of the dualism and mysticism in these ascetic groups. This voluntary separation from the world was called ''Perishuth'', and the Jewish society widely accepted this tradition in late medieval era. Extreme forms of ascetic practices have been opposed or controversial in the Hassidic movement. The
Ashkenazi Hasidim The Hasidim of Ashkenaz ( he, חסידי אשכנז, trans. ''Khasidei Ashkenaz''; "German Pietists") were a Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are members of an ethnoreligious group ...
( he, חסידי אשכנז, ''Chassidei Ashkenaz'') were a
Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation originating from the Israelites Israelite origins and kingdom: "The first act in the long drama of Jewish history is t ...
mystical, ascetic movement in the German
Rhineland The Rhineland (german: Rheinland; french: Rhénanie; nl, Rijnland; ksh, Rhingland; Latinised name: ''Rhenania'') is the name used for a loosely defined area of Western Germany The old states of Germany (german: die alten Länder) are the t ...

Rhineland
whose practices are documented in the texts of the 12th and 13th centuries. Peter Meister states that this Jewish asceticism emerged in the 10th century, grew much wider with prevalence in southern Europe and the Middle East through the Jewish pietistic movement. According to Shimon Shokek, these ascetic practices were the result of an influence of medieval Christianity on Ashkenazi Hasidism. The Jewish faithful of this Hasidic tradition practiced the punishment of body, self-torture by starvation, sitting in the open in freezing snow, or in the sun with fleas in summer, all with the goal of purifying the soul and turning one's attention away from the body unto the soul. Another significant school of Jewish asceticism appeared in the 16th-century led from
Safed Safed ( Sephardic Hebrew & Modern Hebrew Modern Hebrew, also known as Israeli Hebrew ( he, עברית חדשה, ''ʿivrít ḥadašá ', , ''Literal translation, lit.'' "Modern Hebrew" or "New Hebrew"), generally referred to by speakers simply ...

Safed
. These mystics engaged in radical material abstentions and self-mortification with the belief that this helps them transcend the created material world, reach and exist in the mystical spiritual world. A studied example of this group was
Hayyim ben Joseph Vital Hayyim ben Joseph Vital ( he, רבי חיים בן יוסף ויטאל; Safed, October 23, 1542 (Julian calendar) and October 11, 1542 (Gregorian Calendar) – Damascus, 23 April 1620) was a rabbi in Safed and the foremost disciple of Isaac Lur ...
, and their rules of ascetic lifestyle (''Hanhagoth'') are documented.


Bahá'í Faith

According to Shoghi Effendi, in
Baháʼí Faith The Baháʼí Faith (; fa , بهائی ') is a relatively new religion teaching the Baháʼí Faith and the unity of religion, essential worth of all religions and Baháʼí Faith and the unity of humanity, the unity of all people. Establish ...
, the maintenance of a high standard of moral conduct is not to be associated or confused with any form of asceticism, or of excessive and bigoted puritanism. The standard inculcated by Bahá’u’lláh seeks, under no circumstances, to deny anyone the legitimate right and privilege to derive the fullest advantage and benefit from the manifold joys, beauties, and pleasures with which the world has been so plentifully enriched by an All-Loving Creator.


Indian religions

Asceticism is found in both non-theistic and theistic traditions within Indian religions. The origins of the practice are ancient and a heritage shared by major Indian religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. These probably developed from a syncretism of
Vedic FIle:Atharva-Veda samhita page 471 illustration.png, upright=1.2, The Vedas are ancient Sanskrit texts of Hinduism. Above: A page from the ''Atharvaveda''. The Vedas (; Sanskrit: ', "knowledge") are a large body of religious texts originatin ...

Vedic
and Sramanic influences. Asceticism in Indian religions includes a spectrum of diverse practices, ranging from the mild self-discipline, self-imposed poverty and simple living typical of
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the Major religious groups#Largest religions, world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and ...
and
Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion and ''dharma'', or way of life. It is the Major religious groups, world's third-largest religion, with over 1.2 billion followers, or 15–16% of the global population, known as Hindus. The word ''Hindu'' is ...

Hinduism
, to more severe austerities and self-mortification practices of monks in
Jainism Jainism (), traditionally known as ''Jain Dharma'', is an ancient Indian religion Indian religions, sometimes also termed Dharmic religions or Indic religions, are the religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent; namely Hinduis ...

Jainism
and now extinct Ajivikas in the pursuit of salvation. Some ascetics live as loner hermits relying on whatever food they can find in the forests, then sleep and meditate in caves; others travel from one holy site to another while sustaining their body by begging for food; yet others live in monasteries as monks or nuns. Some ascetics live like priests and preachers, other ascetics are armed and militant, to resist any persecution – a phenomenon that emerged after the arrival of Islam in India.David N. Lorenzen (1978)
Warrior Ascetics in Indian History
Journal of the American Oriental Society, 98(1): 61-75
William Pinch (2012), Warrior Ascetics and Indian Empires, Cambridge University Press, Self-torture is relatively uncommon practice but one that attracts public attention. In Indian traditions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, self-mortification is typically criticized. However, Indian mythologies also describe numerous ascetic gods or demons who pursued harsh austerities for decades or centuries that helped each gain special powers.


Buddhism

The historical
Siddhartha Gautama The Buddha (also known as Siddhattha Gotama or Siddhārtha Gautama or Buddha Shakyamuni) was a philosopher, mendicant, meditator, spiritual teacher, and religious leader who lived in ancient India (c. 5th to 4th century BCE). He is revered ...
adopted an extreme ascetic life in search of enlightenment. However, before enlightenment he rejected extreme asceticism in favour of a more moderated version. According to Hajime Nakamura and other scholars, some early Buddhist texts suggest that asceticism was a part of Buddhist practice in its early days. Further, in practice, records from about the start of the common era through the 19th century CE suggest that asceticism has been a part of Buddhism, both in Theravada and Mahayana traditions.


Theravada

Textual evidence suggests that ascetic practices were a part of the Buddhist tradition in
Sri Lanka Sri Lanka (, ; si, ශ්‍රී ලංකාව, Śrī Laṅkā, translit-std=ISO (); ta, இலங்கை, Ilaṅkai, translit-std=ISO ()), formerly known as Ceylon, and officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is ...

Sri Lanka
by the 3rd century BCE, and this tradition continued through the medieval era in parallel to ''sangha'' style monastic tradition. In the Theravada tradition of
Thailand Thailand ( th, ประเทศไทย), historically known as Siam, () officially the Kingdom of Thailand, is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is the United Nations geoscheme for Asia#South-eastern A ...

Thailand
, medieval texts report of ascetic monks who wander and dwell in the forest or crematory alone, do austere practices, and these came to be known as ''Thudong''. Ascetic Buddhist monks have been and continue to be found in
Myanmar Myanmar, ); UK pronunciations: US pronunciations incl. . Note: Wikipedia's IPA conventions require indicating /r/ even in British English although only some British English speakers pronounce r at the end of syllables. As John C. Wells, John ...

Myanmar
, and as in Thailand, they are known to pursue their own version of Buddhism, resisting the hierarchical institutionalized ''sangha'' structure of monasteries in Buddhism.


Mahayana

In the Mahayana tradition, asceticism with esoteric and mystical meanings became an accepted practice, such as in the Tendai and Shingon schools of Japanese Buddhism. These Japanese practices included penance, austerities, ablutions under a waterfall, and rituals to purify oneself. Japanese records from the 12th century record stories of monks undertaking severe asceticism, while records suggest that 19th century
Nichiren Buddhist Image:Sugawara Mitsushige Lotus Sutra, 01.jpg, An illustrated image of the Lotus Sūtra, which is highly revered in Nichiren Buddhism. From the Kamakura period, circa 1257. Ink, color, and gold leaf on paper. Nichiren Buddhism ( ja, 日蓮仏 ...
monks woke up at midnight or 2:00 AM daily, and performed ascetic water purification rituals under cold waterfalls. Other practices include the extreme ascetic practices of eating only pine needles, resins, seeds and ultimately self-mummification, while alive, or ''
Sokushinbutsu are a kind of Buddhist mummy. The term refers to the practice of Buddhist Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and pra ...
'' (''miira'') in Japan. In Chinese Buddhism, self-mummification ascetic practices were less common but recorded in the ''Ch'an'' (Zen Buddhism) tradition there. More ancient Chinese Buddhist asceticism, somewhat similar to ''Sokushinbutsu'' are also known, such as the public self-immolation (self cremation, as shaoshen 燒身 or zifen 自焚) practice, aimed at abandoning the body. The earliest documented ascetic Buddhist monk biography is of Fayu (法羽) in 396 CE, followed by more than fifty documented cases in the centuries that followed including that of monk Daodu (道度).Yün-hua Jan (1965)
Buddhist Self-Immolation in Medieval China
History of Religions, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Winter, 1965), pages 243-268
This was considered as evidence of a renunciant
bodhisattva In Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the Major religious groups#Largest religions, world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of tradition ...
, and may have been inspired by the Jataka tales wherein the Buddha in his earlier lives immolates himself to assist other living beings, or by the Bhaiṣajyaguruvaiḍūryaprabhārāja-related teachings in the ''
Lotus Sutra The Lotus Sūtra () is one of the most influential and venerated Buddhist Mahayana sutras, sourcing the basis on which the Tiantai, Tendai, Cheontae, and Nichiren Nichiren (日 蓮; born as , Dharma name: ''Rencho'', 16 February 1222 – ...
''. Historical records suggest that the self-immolation practices were observed by nuns in Chinese Buddhism as well. The Chinese Buddhist asceticism practices, states James Benn, were not an adaptation or import of Indian ascetic practices, but an invention of Chinese Buddhists, based on their unique interpretations of ''Saddharmapuṇḍarīka'' or ''Lotus Sūtra''.James A Benn (2012), Multiple Meanings of Buddhist Self-Immolation in China – A Historical Perspective, ''Revue des Études Tibétaines'', no. 25, pages 203–212, Quote: "Of all the forms of self-immolation, auto-cremation in particular seems to have been primarily created by medieval Chinese Buddhists. Rather than being a continuation or adaptation of an Indian practice (although there were Indians who burned themselves), as far as we can tell, auto-cremation was constructed on Chinese soil and drew on range of influences such as a particular interpretation of an Indian Buddhist scripture (the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka or Lotus Sūtra) along with indigenous traditions, such as burning the body to bring rain, that long pre-dated the arrival of Buddhism in China." It may be an adoption of more ancient pre-Buddhist Chinese practices, or from
Taoism Taoism (), or Daoism (), is a philosophical and spiritual tradition of China, Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the ''Tao'' (, Taoism#Spelling and pronunciation, or ''Dao''). In Taoism, the ''Tao'' is the source, pattern a ...
. It is unclear if self-immolation was limited primarily to Chinese asceticism tradition, and strong evidence of it being a part of a large scale, comprehensive ascetic program among Chinese Buddhists is lacking.James A Benn (2012), Multiple Meanings of Buddhist Self-Immolation in China – A Historical Perspective, ''Revue des Études Tibétaines'', no. 25, page 211


Hinduism

Renunciation from the worldly life, and a pursuit of spiritual life either as a part of monastic community or as a loner, has been a historic tradition of Hinduism since ancient times. The renunciation tradition is called
Sannyasa (788-820), founder of Advaita Vedanta, with disciples, by Raja Ravi Varma (1904) ''Sannyasa'' (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia ...
, and this is not the same as asceticism – which typically connotes severe self-denial and self-mortification. ''Sannyasa'' often involved a simple life, one with minimal or no material possessions, study, meditation and ethical living. Those who undertook this lifestyle were called ''Sannyasi'', ''
Sadhu ''Sadhu'' (IAST: ' (male), ''sādhvī'' or ''sādhvīne'' (female)), also spelled ''saadhu'', is a religious ascetic, mendicant or any holy person in Hinduism and Jainism who has renounced the worldly life. They are sometimes alternatively re ...

Sadhu
'', ''Yati'', ''Bhiksu'', ''Pravrajita/Pravrajitā'', and Parivrajaka in Hindu texts.Patrick Olivelle (1981), "Contributions to the Semantic History of Saṃnyāsa," ''Journal of the American Oriental Society'', Vol. 101, No. 3, pages 265–274 The term with a meaning closer to asceticism in Hindu texts is
Tapas A tapa () is an appetizer or snack in Spanish cuisine. Tapas may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese Cheese is a dairy product, derived from milk and produced in wide ranges of flavors, Mouthfeel, textures and forms by coagulati ...
, but it too spans a spectrum of meanings ranging from inner heat, to self-mortification and penance with austerities, to meditation and self-discipline.Kaelber, W. O. (1976)
"Tapas", Birth, and Spiritual Rebirth in the Veda
''History of Religions'', 15(4), 343-386
Asceticism-like practices are hinted in the
Vedas upright=1.2, The Vedas are ancient Sanskrit texts of Hinduism. Above: A page from the '' Atharvaveda''. The Vedas (; Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical la ...

Vedas
, but these hymns have been variously interpreted as referring to early
Yogi A yogi is a practitioner of yoga Yoga (; sa, योग; ) is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. Yoga is one of the six orthodox philosophical schools of Hind ...
s and loner renouncers. One such mention is in the Kesin hymn of the
Rigveda ) manuscript in Devanagari, early 19th century. After a scribal benediction ('), the first line has the first pada, RV 1.1.1a ('). The Vedic accent, pitch-accent is marked by underscores and vertical overscores in red. The ''Rigveda'' or ''Ri ...
, where
Keśin The Keśin were long-haired ascetic wanderers with mystical powers described in the Keśin Hymn (RV 10, 136) of the ''Rigveda ) manuscript in Devanagari, early 19th century. After a scribal benediction ('), the first line has the first pada, R ...
s ("long-haired" ascetics) and Munis ("silent ones") are described. These Kesins of the Vedic era, are described as follows by Karel Werner: The Vedic and Upanishadic texts of Hinduism, states Mariasusai Dhavamony, do not discuss self-inflicted pain, but do discuss self-restraint and self-control. The monastic tradition of Hinduism is evidenced in 1st millennium BCE, particularly in its
Advaita Vedanta ''Advaita Vedānta'' (; sa, अद्वैत वेदान्त, IAST: ', literally, "Nondualism#Hinduism, non-duality") is a Sādhanā, school of Hindu philosophy, and is a classic system of spiritual realization in Indian tradition. T ...
tradition. This is evidenced by the oldest Sannyasa Upanishads, because all of them have a strong Advaita Vedanta outlook. Most of the Sannyasa Upanishads present a Yoga and nondualism (
Advaita ''Advaita Vedānta'' (; sa, अद्वैत वेदान्त, IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation of Brahmic family, Indic scripts ...
) Vedanta philosophy. The 12th-century
Shatyayaniya Upanishad The ''Shatyayaniya Upanishad'' ( sa, शाट्यायनीय उपनिषत्, IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation of Brahmic family, ...
is a significant exception, which presents qualified dualistic and
Vaishnavism Vaishnavism (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languag ...

Vaishnavism
(
Vishishtadvaita Vishishtadvaita (IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation of Brahmic family, Indic scripts as employed by Sanskrit and related Indic languages. I ...
Vedanta) philosophy. These texts mention a simple, ethical lifestyle but do not mention self-torture or body mortification. For example, Similarly, the Nirvana Upanishad asserts that the Hindu ascetic should hold, according to
Patrick Olivelle Patrick Olivelle is an Indologist. A philologist Philology is the study of language in oral and written historical sources; it is the intersection of textual criticism, literary criticism, history, and linguistics (with especially strong ties ...
, that "the sky is his belief, his knowledge is of the absolute, union is his initiation, compassion alone is his pastime, bliss is his garland, the cave of solitude is his fellowship", and so on, as he proceeds in his effort to gain self-knowledge (or soul-knowledge) and its identity with the Hindu metaphysical concept of
Brahman In Hinduism, ''Brahman'' ( sa, ब्रह्म) connotes the highest universal principle, the ultimate reality ''Ultimate reality'' is "something that is the supreme, final, and fundamental power in all reality". Buddhism In Theravada ...
. Other behavioral characteristics of the ''Sannyasi'' include:
ahimsa Ahimsa (also spelled ''Ahinsa'') (Sanskrit: अहिंसा IAST: ', Pali, Pāli: ') ("nonviolence") is an ancient Indian principle of nonviolence which applies to all living beings. It is a key virtue in Hindu Dharma, Hinduism, Jainism an ...
(non-violence),
akrodha Akrodha (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. It ar ...
(not become angry even if you are abused by others), disarmament (no weapons), chastity, bachelorhood (no marriage), avyati (non-desirous), amati (poverty), self-restraint, truthfulness, sarvabhutahita (kindness to all creatures),
asteya ''Achourya'' (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. ...
(non-stealing),
aparigraha Non-possession (aparigraha ( sa, अपरिग्रह)) is a philosophy that holds that no one or anything possesses anything. In Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion and ''dharma'', or way of life. It is the Major religious group ...
(non-acceptance of gifts, non-possessiveness) and
shauchaShaucha (Sanskrit: शौच, also spelled Saucha, Śauca) literally means purity, cleanliness and clearness. It refers to purity of mind, speech and body. Saucha is one of the Niyamas of Yoga. It is discussed in many ancient Indian texts such as the ...
(purity of body speech and mind).Mariasusai Dhavamony (2002), ''Hindu-Christian Dialogue: Theological Soundings and Perspectives'', , page 96–97, 111–114 The 11th century text, ''Yatidharmasamuccaya'' is a Vaishnavism text that summarizes ascetic practices in Vaishnavism tradition of Hinduism. In Hindu traditions, as with other Indian religions, both men and women have historically participated in a diverse spectrum of ascetic practices.


Jainism

Asceticism in one of its most intense forms can be found in one of the oldest religions,
Jainism Jainism (), traditionally known as ''Jain Dharma'', is an ancient Indian religion Indian religions, sometimes also termed Dharmic religions or Indic religions, are the religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent; namely Hinduis ...

Jainism
. Ascetic life may include nakedness symbolizing non-possession of even clothes, fasting, body mortification, penance and other austerities, in order to burn away past karma and stop producing new karma, both of which are believed in Jainism to be essential for reaching ''siddha'' and ''moksha'' (liberation from rebirths, salvation). In Jainism, the ultimate goal of life is to achieve the liberation of soul from endless cycle of rebirths (
moksha ''Moksha'' (; sa, मोक्ष, '; Tamil language, Tamil: ''vīdupēru''), also called ''vimoksha'', ''vimukti'' and ''mukti'', is a term in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism for various forms of emancipation, enlightenment, liberat ...

moksha
from ), which requires ethical living and asceticism. Most of the austerities and ascetic practices can be traced back to Vardhaman
Mahavira Mahavira (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. ...

Mahavira
, the twenty-fourth "fordmaker" or
Tirthankara In Jainism Jainism (), traditionally known as ''Jain Dharma'', is an ancient Indian religion and the method of acquiring perfect knowledge of self and universe and perfect joy through Extrasensory perception, extrasensory means as em ...
who practiced 12 years of asceticism before reaching enlightenment. Jain texts such as ''Tattvartha Sutra'' and ''Uttaradhyayana Sutra'' discuss ascetic austerities to great lengths and formulations. Six outer and six inner practices are most common, and oft repeated in later Jain texts. According to John Cort, outer austerities include complete fasting, eating limited amounts, eating restricted items, abstaining from tasty foods, mortifying the flesh and guarding the flesh (avoiding anything that is a source of temptation). Inner austerities include expiation, confession, respecting and assisting mendicants, studying, meditation and ignoring bodily wants in order to abandon the body. The Jain text of Kalpasutra describes Mahavira's asceticism in detail, whose life is a source of guidance on most of the ascetic practices in Jainism: Both Mahavira and his ancient Jaina followers are described in Jainism texts as practicing body mortification and being abused by animals as well as people, but never retaliating and never initiating harm or injury (
ahimsa Ahimsa (also spelled ''Ahinsa'') (Sanskrit: अहिंसा IAST: ', Pali, Pāli: ') ("nonviolence") is an ancient Indian principle of nonviolence which applies to all living beings. It is a key virtue in Hindu Dharma, Hinduism, Jainism an ...
) to any other being. With such ascetic practices, he burnt off his past
Karma Karma (; sa, कर्म}, ; pi, kamma, italic=yes) means action, work, or deed. The term also refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect, often descriptively called the principle of karma, wherein intent and actions of an indi ...

Karma
, gained spiritual knowledge, and became a Jina. These austere practices are part of the monastic path in Jainism. The practice of body mortification is called ''kaya klesha'' in Jainism, and is found in verse 9.19 of the ''
Tattvartha Sutra ''Tattvārthasūtra'', meaning "On the Nature ''artha''.html"_;"title="Artha.html"_;"title="nowiki/>Artha">''artha''">Artha.html"_;"title="nowiki/>Artha">''artha''of_Reality_ ''artha''.html"_;"title="Artha.html"__...
''_by_Umaswati.html" ;"title="attva.html" ;"title="Artha">''artha''.html" ;"title="Artha.html" ...
'' by Umaswati">attva.html" ;"title="Artha">''artha''.html" ;"title="Artha.html" ...
'' by Umaswati
, the most authoritative oldest surviving Jaina philosophical text.


Monastic practice

In Jain monastic practice, the monks and nuns take ascetic vows, after renouncing all relations and possessions. The vows include a complete commitment to nonviolence (''Ahimsa in Jainism, Ahimsa''). They travel from city to city, often crossing forests and deserts, and always barefoot. Jain ascetics do not stay in a single place for more than two months to prevent attachment to any place. However, during the four months of monsoon (rainy season) known as ''chaturmaas'', they stay at a single place to avoid killing life forms that thrive during the rains. Jain monks and nuns practice complete celibacy. They do not touch or share a sitting platform with a person of the opposite sex. Jain ascetics follow a strict
vegetarian Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat Meat is animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the Kingdom (biology), biological kingdom Animalia. With few exc ...
diet without root vegetables. Prof. Pushpendra K. Jain explains:
Clearly enough, to procure such vegetables and fruits, one must pull out the plant from the root, thus destroying the entire plant, and with it all the other micro organisms around the root. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be plucked only when ripe and ready to fall off, or ideally after they have fallen off the plant. In case they are plucked from the plants, only as much as required should be procured and consumed without waste.
The monks of Shvetambara sub-tradition within Jainism do not cook food, but solicit
alms Alms (, ) or almsgiving involves giving to others as an act of virtue Virtue ( la, virtus) is a morality, moral excellence. A virtue is a trait or quality that is deemed to be morally good and thus is Value (ethics), valued as a foundation of p ...
from householders.
Digambara ''Digambara'' (; "sky-clad") is one of the two major schools of Jainism, the other being '' Śvētāmbara'' (white-clad). The Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classi ...
monks have only a single meal a day. Neither group will beg for food, but a Jain ascetic may accept a meal from a householder, provided that the latter is pure of mind and body, and offers the food of his own volition and in the prescribed manner. During such an encounter, the monk remains standing and eats only a measured amount.
Fasting Fasting is the willful refrainment from eating and sometimes drinking (see Water fasting and Juice fasting). From a purely physiology, physiological context, "fasting" may refer to the metabolism, metabolic status of a person who has not eaten ov ...
(i.e., abstinence from food and sometimes water) is a routine feature of Jain asceticism. Fasts last for a day or longer, up to a month. Some monks avoid (or limit) medicine and/or hospitalization out of disregard for the physical body. Shvetambara monks and nuns wear only unstitched white robes (an upper and lower garment), and own one bowl they use for eating and collecting alms. Male
Digambara ''Digambara'' (; "sky-clad") is one of the two major schools of Jainism, the other being '' Śvētāmbara'' (white-clad). The Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classi ...
sect monks do not wear any clothes, carry nothing with them except a soft broom made of shed peacock feathers (''pinchi'') to gently remove any insect or living creature in their way or bowl, and they eat with their hands. They sleep on the floor without blankets, and sit on wooden platforms. Other austerities include meditation in seated or standing posture near river banks in the cold wind, or meditation atop hills and mountains, especially at noon when the sun is at its fiercest. Such austerities are undertaken according to the physical and mental limits of the individual ascetic. When death is imminent from an advanced age or terminal disease, many Jain ascetics take a final vow of Santhara or
Sallekhana ''Sallekhana'' ( IAST: ), also known as ''samlehna'', ''santhara'', ''samadhi-marana'' or ''sanyasana-marana'', is a supplementary vow to the ethical code of conduct of Jainism Jainism (), traditionally known as ''Jain Dharma'', is an a ...
, a fast to peaceful and detached death, by first reducing intake of and then ultimately abandoning all medicines, food, and water. Scholars state that this ascetic practice is not a suicide, but a form of natural death, done without passion or turmoil or suddenness, and because it is done without active violence to the body.


Sikh Religion

While
Sikhism Sikhism () or Sikhi ( pa, ਸਿੱਖੀ ', , from pa, ਸਿੱਖ, lit=disciple', 'seeker', or 'learner, translit=Sikh, label=none)''Sikhism'' (indigenously known as ''Sikhī'') originated from the word ''Sikh'', which comes from the Sanskri ...
treats
lust Lust is a psychological force producing intense desire for an object, or circumstance while already having a significant other or amount of the desired object. Lust can take any form such as the lust for sexuality (see libido Libido (; collo ...
as a vice, it has at the same time unmistakengly pointed out that man must share the moral responsibility by leading the life of a householder. What is important is to be God-centred. According to Sikhism, ascetics are certainly not on the right path. When
Guru Nanak Gurū Nānak (Punjabi language, Punjabi pronunciation: , ; born as Nānak on 15 April 1469 – 22 September 1539), also referred to as ('father Nānak'), was the founder of Sikhism and is the first of the ten Sikh gurus, Sikh Gurus. His birth ...

Guru Nanak
visited Gorakhmata, he discussed the true meaning of asceticism with some yogis.


Other religions


Inca religion

In Inca religion of medieval South America, asceticism was practiced. The high priests of the Inca people lived an ascetic life, which included fasting, chastity and eating simple food. The
Jesuit , image = Ihs-logo.svg , caption = ChristogramOfficial seal of the Jesuits , abbreviation = SJ , nickname = Jesuit , formation = , founders = Ignatius of LoyolaFrancis Xavi ...
records report Christian missionaries encountering ascetic Inca hermits in the Andean mountains.


Taoism

Historical evidence suggest that the monastic tradition in Taoism practiced asceticism, and the most common ascetic practices included fasting, complete sexual abstinence, self-imposed poverty, sleep deprivation, and secluding oneself in the wilderness. More extreme and unnatural ascetic Taoist practices have included public self-drowning and self-cremation. The goal of these spectrum of practices, like other religions, was to reach the divine and get past the mortal body. According to Stephen Eskildsen, asceticism continues to be a part of modern Taoism.


Zoroastrianism

In
Zoroastrianism Zoroastrianism or Mazdayasna is an Iranian religion and one of the world's oldest continuously-practiced organized faiths, based on the teachings of the Iranian-speaking prophet Zoroaster Zoroaster (, ; el, Ζωροάστρης, ''Zōro ...
, active participation in life through good thoughts, good words and good deeds is necessary to ensure happiness and to keep the chaos at bay. This ''active'' participation is a central element in
Zoroaster Zoroaster (, ; el, Ζωροάστρης, ''Zōroastrēs''), also known as Zarathustra (, ; ae, , ''Zaraθuštra''), Zarathushtra Spitama or Ashu Zarathushtra (Modern fa, زرتشت, ''Zartosht''), was an ancient Iranian prophet (spiritual ...

Zoroaster
's concept of
free will Free will is the capacity of agents to choice, choose between different possible courses of Action (philosophy), action unimpeded. Free will is closely linked to the concepts of moral responsibility, praise, Culpability, guilt, sin, and other jud ...

free will
. In the ''
Avesta The Avesta () ( fa, اوستا) is the primary collection of religious texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language. The Avesta texts fall into several different categories, arranged either by dialect, or by usage. The principal ...
'', the sacred scriptures of Zoroastrianism, fasting and mortification are forbidden.


Sociological and psychological views

Early 20th-century German sociologist
Max Weber Maximilian Karl Emil Weber (; ; 21 April 186414 June 1920) was a German sociologist, historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a pe ...

Max Weber
made a distinction between ''innerweltliche'' and ''ausserweltliche'' asceticism, which means (roughly) "inside the world" and "outside the world", respectively.
Talcott Parsons Talcott Parsons (13 December 1902 – 8 May 1979) was an American sociologist of the classical tradition The Western classical tradition is the reception of classical Greco-Roman antiquity by later cultures, especially the post-classical West, ...

Talcott Parsons
translated these as "worldly" and "otherworldly"—however, some translators use "inner-worldly", and this is more in line with inner world explorations of mysticism, a common purpose of asceticism. "Inner- or Other-worldly" asceticism is practised by people who withdraw from the world to live an ascetic life (this includes monks who live communally in monasteries, as well as hermits who live alone). "Worldly" asceticism refers to people who live ascetic lives but do not withdraw from the world. Weber claimed this distinction originated in the
Protestant Reformation The Reformation (alternatively named the Protestant Reformation or the European Reformation) was a major movement within Western Christianity File:Petersdom von Engelsburg gesehen.jpg, 250px, St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the larges ...
, but later became secularized, so the concept can be applied to both religious and secular ascetics. The 20th-century American psychological theorist
David McClelland David Clarence McClelland (May 20, 1917 – March 27, 1998) was an American psychologist A psychologist is a person who studies normal and abnormal mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by e ...
suggested worldly asceticism is specifically targeting worldly pleasures that "distract" people from their calling and may accept worldly pleasures that are not distracting. As an example, he pointed out
Quakers Quakers, also called Friends, belong to a historically Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Criticism of the Catholic Ch ...

Quakers
have historically objected to bright-coloured clothing, but wealthy Quakers often made their drab clothing out of expensive materials. The color was considered distracting, but the materials were not.
Amish The Amish (; pdc, Amisch; german: link=no, Amische) are a group of traditionalist Christian church fellowships with Swiss German and Alsace, Alsatian Anabaptist origins. They are closely related to Mennonite churches. The Amish are known for ...
groups use similar criteria to make decisions about which modern technologies to use and which to avoid.


Nietzsche's view

In the third essay (" What Do Ascetic Ideals Mean?") from his book '' On the Genealogy of Morals'',
Friedrich Nietzsche Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (; or ; 15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, me ...

Friedrich Nietzsche
discusses what he terms the "ascetic ideal" and its role in the formulation of morality along with the history of the will. In the essay, Nietzsche describes how such a paradoxical action as asceticism might serve the interests of life: through asceticism one can overcome one's desire to perish from pain and despair and attain mastery over oneself. In this way one can express both
ressentiment In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, langu ...
and the will to power. Nietzsche describes the morality of the ascetic priest as characterized by
Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the Major religious groups, world's la ...
as one where, finding oneself in pain or despair and desiring to perish from it, the will to live causes one to place oneself in a state of hibernation and denial of the material world in order to minimize that pain and thus preserve life, a technique which Nietzsche locates at the very origin of secular science as well as of religion. He associated the "ascetic ideal" with Christian decadence.


See also

* :Ascetics, Ascetics (category) * Abstinence * Aesthete, Aesthetism * Altruism * Anatta * Anti-consumerism * Arthur Schopenhauer * Cenobite * Ctistae * Cynicism (philosophy), Cynicism * Decadence (usually opposite) *
Desert Fathers Image:StAnthony.jpg, Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Coptic icon of Anthony the Great The Desert Fathers were early Christian hermits, ascetics, and monks who lived mainly in the Scetes desert of Egypt beginning around the Christianity in the ...
*
Desert Mothers Desert Mothers is a neologism, coined in feminist theology in analogy to Desert Fathers, for the ''ammas'' or female Christian ascetics living in the desert of Egypt Egypt ( ; ar, مِصر ), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a ...
* Egoism * Epicureanism *
Fasting Fasting is the willful refrainment from eating and sometimes drinking (see Water fasting and Juice fasting). From a purely physiology, physiological context, "fasting" may refer to the metabolism, metabolic status of a person who has not eaten ov ...
* Flagellant * Gustave Flaubert * Hedonism (opposite) * Hermit * Hermitage (religious retreat), Hermitage * Lent * Mellified man * Minimalism * Monasticism *
Nazirite In the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Hebrew scriptures, including the Torah, the Nevi'im, and the Ketuvim. These texts are almost exclusively in Bibl ...
* Paradox of hedonism * Ramadan * Rechabites * Sensory deprivation * Simple living * Siddha * Stoicism * Straight edge * Temperance (virtue)


Notes


References


Citations


Sources

* * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* Valantasis, Richard. ''The Making of the Self: Ancient and Modern Asceticism''. James Clarke & Co (2008) .


External links


Asketikos
articles, research, and discourse on asceticism. {{Authority control Asceticism, Simple living Religious terminology