Asceticism Across the Faiths

A place to compare and contrast Dharmic traditions, debates allowed, but be polite.
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Asceticism Across the Faiths

Post by anjali » Fri Sep 28, 2018 5:48 pm ... sm-0010718
Asceticism is a way of life marked by the voluntary abstinence from worldly pleasures. This way of life is most often associated with religion and spirituality, and its practitioners usually aim to achieve certain spiritual goals. Indeed, this lifestyle is observed (to some extent) by the adherents of various major world religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. Nevertheless, there are also examples of asceticism being practiced for non-religious purposes, as seen, for instance, in certain philosophical traditions. ...

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Re: Asceticism Across the Faiths

Post by DNS » Fri Sep 28, 2018 9:53 pm


Asceticism is especially common among the Dharmic religions. Here's something I wrote about in my Buddhism and Jainism article:

The Buddha is of course famous for his Middle Way, breaking away from the ascetics by bathing and taking some food prior to enlightenment. But how much of a break-away from asceticism was it? By today's standards the practice of the Buddha would most certainly be still considered asceticism. As he sat for enlightenment the Buddha remarked:

"Though my skin, my nerves and my bones shall waste away and my life blood go dry, I will not leave this seat until I have attained the highest wisdom, called supreme enlightenment, that leads to everlasting happiness." (Majjhima Nikaya 70)

Such was the Buddha's persistence and determination to attain enlightenment. The Buddha took food for nourishment and strength from Sujata and then according to some traditions or legends sat in meditation for several days before attaining enlightenment. Although not in the Suttas, in the Commentaries there is the report that the Buddha ate this meal and did not eat for 49 days (J.i.68f.; DhA.i.71), which would be considered asceticism at least by today's standards if not by the ascetic standard of ancient India. Even if it was a large meal, this 49 days is still a considerable amount of time to fast between the meal and enlightenment.

Buddhist teachings list 13 ascetic practices conducive for jhanas as well as other teachings praising certain ascetic practices.

"I do not say householder, that all asceticism should be practiced; nor do I say of all asceticism that it should not be practiced" (Anguttara Nikaya 10.94).

"The person who wears a robe made of rags, who is lean, with veins showing all over the body, and who meditates alone in the forest him do I call a holy man" (Dhammapada 395). ... Middle_Way

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Re: Asceticism Across the Faiths

Post by Ursus Maritimus » Wed Oct 03, 2018 8:07 am

Yes, the Buddha promoted Natural Asceticism as the middle way between Unnatural Asceticism and sensual indulgence.
Dom Cuthbert Butler classified asceticism into natural and unnatural forms:[10]

"Natural asceticism" involves a lifestyle 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.[10] Natural asceticism, state Wimbush and Valantasis, does not include maiming the body or harsher austerities that make the body suffer.[10]
"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.[10]
If by renouncing a lesser happiness one may realize a greater happiness, let the wise man renounce the lesser, having regard for the greater. - Dhp 290

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