Meaning of Asceticism

The asceticism is the condition, the doctrine and the result of an ascetic life. Thus is called the existence marked by austerity, the rejection of materialism and the search for spiritual elevation.

Asceticism can be said to be a philosophy linked to religion. The ascetics held that by resisting material pleasures they were able to purify their spirit. In this way they led a sober life, guided by iron ethical guidelines.

Although it can be considered as an independent doctrine, asceticism was incorporated, throughout history, to religions such as Christianity, Buddhism and Islam. The ascetics, in this framework, appealed to this lifestyle to relate to God.

In Christianity, several monks and religious communities began to abandon the cities to lead an ascetic life in the desert or in other remote areas. The goal was to consecrate themselves to prayer, meditation, and penance without the intrusion of worldly matters.

San Antonio Abad, San Simón Estilita and Pablo de Tebas are some of the Christians who opted for asceticism. They are part of the group known as the Desert Fathers as they retired to desert regions of Egypt and Syria.

Asceticism also appears in different ways in Buddhism. At a general level, the Buddhas believe that meditation and detachment allow one to free oneself from suffering and achieve nirvana.

In Islam, asceticism has been linked to Sufism in the search for a pure life and in close proximity to God (Allah).

Lao-Tse is the name of one of the most important Chinese philosophers, although many scholars doubt that it was a real person. Since his biographical data indicates that he lived in the 6th century BC. C., it is not easy to verify that it was not a fictional character. In any case, the wisdom of this individual represents a valuable legacy, and one of the quotes assigned to him is very suitable for talking about asceticism today: “Material goods make us lose our balance and peace of mind.”

We are in an era in which the existence of each human being has lost meaning and value, since the systems have turned us into mere pieces of complex machinery: we are laboratory subjects, part of a series of experiments that are leading us through the path of consumerism without giving us a break to be aware of it.

Modernity is characterized by a tireless routine that always points to the conquest of material goods, which give us ephemeral happiness, which vanishes just in time to go after the next. In this way we remain faithful to the current fashion, so as not to be out of society, no matter what we give in return. Asceticism is often seen as an extreme measure, as part of a reality so distant that it seems fiction; However, it could be the perfect antidote to reunite with ourselves as a species.

One of the consequences of excessive attachment to material goods that we often overlook is the fracture that society suffers from economic differences. Since only a part of the population can access them, the rest become part of another reality, detached from the present day in the eyes of the privileged, but unfailingly subject to it and forced to bear it. The purification of the spirit that asceticism can provide us goes far beyond both realities, and could lead to a revaluation of the individual who breaks down social and economic barriers.


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