||The English used in this article may not be easy for everybody to understand. (February 2012)|
- Ascetic redirects here. You might also be looking for acetic acid. The term should not be confused with aestheticism.
Asceticism (Greek: askēsis) is a word that describes a certain life-style. This life-style is different from others mainly because those who practice it abstain from various sorts of worldly pleasures, especially sexual activity and drinking of alcohol. Often, their aim is to follow religious and spiritual goals. Christianity and the Indian religions (including yoga) teach that salvation and liberation involve a process of mind-body transformation that is done through practicing restraint with respect to actions of body, speech and mind. The founders and earliest practitioners of these religions (e.g. Buddhism, Jainism, the Christian desert fathers) lived extremely austere lifestyles. They rejected sensual pleasures and the accumulation of material wealth. This is to be understood not as an eschewal of the enjoyment of life but a recognition that spiritual and religious goals are impeded by such indulgence. Asceticism is closely related to the Christian concept of chastity and might be said to be the technical implementation of the abstract vows of renunciation. Those who practice ascetic lifestyles do not consider their practices as virtuous but pursue such a life-style in order to satisfy certain technical requirements for mind-body transformation. There is remarkable uniformity among the above religions with respect to the benefits of sexual continence. Religions teach that purifying the soul also involves purification of the body which thereby enables connection with the Divine and the cultivation of inner peace. In the popular imagination asceticism is considered a sort of perversion (self-flagellation by birch twigs as the archetypal stereotype of self-mortification) but the askēsis enjoined by religion functions in order to bring about greater freedom in various areas of one's life, such as freedom from compulsions and temptations bringing about peacefulness of mind with a concomitant increase in clarity and power of thought.