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Ascetisicm (from the Greek: ἄσκησις, áskēsis, "exercise" or "training") is abstinence from sensual pleasures, often for the purpose of pursuing spiritual goals.
- Ἐὰν μὴ εἴπῃ ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ ἄνθρωπος, ὅτι Ἐγὼ μόνος καὶ ὁ Θεὸς ἐσμὲν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, οὐχ ἕξει ἀνάπαυσιν.
- I so detached my heart from the world and cut short my hopes that for thirty years now I have performed each prayer as though it were my last and I were praying the prayer of farewell.
- Rabia Basri, as quoted in Early Islamic Mysticism (New York: Paulist Press: 1996), p. 165
- Where is Christ, the King? In heaven, to be sure. Thither it behooves you, soldier of Christ, to direct your course. Forget all earthly delights. A soldier does not build a house; he does not aspire to possession of lands; he does not concern himself with devious, coin-purveying trade. … The soldier enjoys a sustenance provided by the king; he need not furnish his own, nor vex himself in this regard.
- Basil of Caesarea, “An introduction to the ascetical life,” Saint Basil: Ascetical Works, M. Wagner, trans. (1950), p. 9
- There is good reason to believe that man's creative forces cannot be regenerated or his identity reestablished except by a renewal of religious asceticism. Only such a recall to our spiritual foundations can concentrate our powers and keep our identity from coming to dust. ... It is no good to yearn for a new kind of renaissance after such a spiritual drying-up and dilapidation, after such wanderings in the desert of life, after so deep a sundering of human identity. By an analogy we might say that we are approaching not a renaissance but the dark beginnings of a middle age, and that we have got to pass through a new civilized barbarism, undergo a new discipline, accept a new religious asceticism before we can see the first light of a new and unimaginable renaissance.
- Nikolai Berdyaev, The End of Our Time (1933), p. 33
- Under the dominion of the priests our earth became the ascetic planet; a squalid den careering through space, peopled by discontented and arrogant creatures, who were disgusted with life, abhorred their globe as a vale of tears, and who in their envy and hatred of beauty and joy did themselves as much harm as possible.
- Any kind of material form whatever, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, all material form should be seen as it actually is with proper wisdom thus: “This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.”
- Gautama Buddha, Majjhima Nikaya, B. Nanamoli and B. Bodhi, trans. (1995), Sutta 62, verse 3, p. 527
- The ascetic Gotama … avoids watching dancing, singing, music and shows. He abstains from using garlands, perfumes, cosmetics, ornaments and adornments. … He refrains from running errands, from buying and selling.
- Gautama Buddha, Digha Nikaya, M. Walshe, trans. (1987), Sutta 1, verse 1.10, p. 69.
- Whereas some ascetics and Brahmins remain addicted to such unedifying conversation as about kings, robbers, ministers, armies, dangers, wars, food, drink, clothes, beds, garlands, perfumes, relatives, carriages, villages, towns and cities, countries, women, heroes, street- and well-gossip, talk of the departed, desultory chat, speculations about land and sea, talk about being and non-being, the ascetic Gotama refrains from such conversation.
- Gautama Buddha, Digha Nikaya, M. Walshe, trans. (1987), Sutta 1, verse 1.17, pp. 70-71.
- The seers of old had fully restrained selves, and were austere. Having abandoned the five strands of sensual pleasures, they practiced their own welfare. The brahmans had no cattle, no gold, no wealth. They had study as their wealth and grain. They guarded the holy life as their treasure.
- Freedom from the world is, in principle, not asceticism, but rather a distance from the world for which all participation in things worldly takes place in the attitude of “as if not.” (1 Cor. 7:29-31)
- Rudolf Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology and Other Basic Writings (1984), p. 18.
- What, said Obstinate, and leave our Friends, and our Comforts behind us!
- Yes, said Christian, because that all which you shall forsake is not worthy to be compared with a little of that I am seeking to enjoy.
- Anyone whose needs are small seems threatening to the rich, because he’s always ready to escape their control.
- Nicolas Chamfort, Reflections, D. Parmée, trans. (London: 2003) #169
- I call that mind free, which masters the senses, which protects itself against animal appetites, which contemns pleasure and pain in comparison to its own energy, which penetrates beneath the body and recognises its own reality and greatness, which passes life, not in asking what it shall eat or drink, but in hungering, thirsting, and seeking after righteousness.
- William Ellery Channing, Spiritual Freedom (1830)
- A scholar who loves comfort is not worthy of the name.
- Confucius, Analects, 14.3.
- If you wish to make Pythocles rich, do not give him more money, but diminish his desire.
- Epicurus, Fragment 28.
- I spit upon luxurious pleasures not for their own sake, but because of the inconveniences that follow them
- Epicurus, Fragment 37.
- The man who follows nature and not vain opinions is independent in all things. For in reference to what is enough for nature every possession is riches, but in reference to unlimited desires even the greatest wealth is not riches but poverty.
- Epicurus, Fragment 45.
- Nothing satisfies the man who is not satisfied with a little.
- Epicurus, Fragment 69.
- Self-sufficiency is the greatest of all riches.
- Epicurus, Fragment 70.
- Ascesis is an exercise of self on self; it is a sort of close combat of the individual with himself in which the authority, presence, and gaze of someone else is, if not impossible, at least unnecessary.
- A person of sharp observation and sound judgment rules over objects and keeps objects from ruling him.
- Baltasar Gracián, Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia, § 49 (Christopher Maurer trans.).
- The dunyâ distracts and preoccupies the heart and body, but al-zuhd (asceticism, not giving importance to worldly things) gives rest to the heart and body. Verily, Allâh will ask us about the halâl things we enjoyed, so what about the harâm!
- On this day by God's grace I resolved to give up all beauty until I had His leave for it.
- Gerard Manley Hopkins, Journal entry (6 November 1865), as reported in In Extremity: A Study of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1978) by John Robinson, p. 1
- Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,
Desire not to be rinsed with wine:
The can must be so sweet, the crust
So fresh that come in fasts divine!
- Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Habit of Perfection (1866)
- Certum voto pete finem.
- Set a definite limit to your desire.
- Horace, Latin Quotations (New York: 2005), p. 15.
- Set a definite limit to your desire.
- When one sees the way in which wealth-getting enters as an ideal into the very bone and marrow of our generation, one wonders whether a revival of the belief that poverty is a worthy religious vocation may not be ... the spiritual reform which our time stands most in need of.
- . Have you thought about what life-weariness means? That life-weariness emerges just when everything finite is taken away from a person although he is still allowed to retain life, that then everything around him becomes desolate and empty and repugnant, time becomes so indescribably long, indeed, that to him it is as if he were dead – yes, self-denial calls this dying to the world – and the truth teaches that a person must die to finitude (to its pleasure, its preoccupations, its projects, its diversions), must go through this death to life, must taste (as it is said, to taste death) and realize how empty is that with which busyness fills up life, how trivial is that which is the lust of the eye and the craving of the carnal heart. Alas, the natural man understands the matter exactly the opposite way. He thinks that the eternal is the empty. Certainly there is no drive so strong in a human being as that with which he clings to life – when death comes, we all pray that we may be allowed to live, but self-denial’s dying to the world is just as bitter as death. And in the house of the Lord you get to know the truth that you must die to the world, and if God has found (which, of course, is unavoidable) that you have learned this, then in all eternity no escape will help you. Therefore take care when you go to the house of the Lord.
- Soren Kierkegaard, Christian Discourses 1848, Hong 1997 p. 172-173
- Schopenhauer … makes asceticism interesting—the most dangerous thing possible for a pleasure-seeking age which will be harmed more than ever by distilling pleasure even out of asceticism.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Journals, 1854.
- If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.
- Ascetic ideals reveal so many bridges to independence that a philosopher is bound to rejoice and clap his hands when he hears the story of all those resolute men who one day said No to all servitude and went into some desert.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals § 3.7, W. Kaufmann, trans., Basic Writings of Nietzsche (1992), p. 543.
- The peculiar, withdrawn attitude of the philosopher, world denying, hostile to life, suspicious of the senses, freed from sensuality, which has been maintained down to the most modern times and has become virtually the philosopher’s pose par excellence—is above all a result of the emergency conditions under which philosophy arose and survived at all; for the longest time, philosophy would not have been possible at all on earth without ascetic wraps and cloaks, without an ascetic self-misunderstanding. To put it vividly: the ascetic priest provided until the most modern times the repulsive and gloomy caterpillar form in which alone the philosopher could live and creep about.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals § 3.10.
- The most intelligent men, like the strongest, find their happiness where others would find only disaster: in the labyrinth, in being hard with themselves and with others, in effort; their delight is in self-mastery; in them asceticism becomes second nature, a necessity, an instinct. They regard a difficult task as a privilege; it is to them a recreation to play with burdens that would crush all others.
- Asceticism is the trifling of an enthusiast with his power, a puerile coquetting with his selfishness or his vanity, in the absence of any sufficiently great object to employ the first or overcome the last.
- Florence Nightingale, in a letter (5 September 1857), quoted in The Life of Florence Nightingale (1913) by Edward Tyas Cook, p. 369.
- How was Moses able to withstand Pharaoh when he had nothing but holiness to give him courage (cf. Exod. 5)? ... A solitary prophet once censured a king for his unlawful acts, when the king had his whole army with him. ... These holy men achieved such things because they had resolved to live for the soul alone, turning away from the body and its wants. The fact of needing nothing made them superior to all men. They chose to forsake the body and to free themselves from life in the flesh, rather than to betray the cause of holiness and, because of their bodily needs, to flatter the wealthy.
- The inexperienced in wisdom and virtue, ever occupied with feasting and such, are carried downward, and there, as is fitting, they wander their whole life long, neither ever looking upward to the truth above them nor rising toward it, nor tasting pure and lasting pleasures. Like cattle, always looking downward with their heads bent toward the ground and the banquet tables, they feed, fatten, and fornicate. In order to increase their possessions they kick and butt with horns and hoofs of steel and kill each other, insatiable as they are.
- Plato, Republic, 586a-b
- We must enter deep into ourselves, and, leaving behind the objects of corporeal sight, no longer look back after any of the accustomed spectacles of sense.
- Plotinus, An Essay of the Beautiful
- Ascetic Christianity called the world evil and left it. Humanity is waiting for a revolutionary Christianity which will call the world evil and change it.
- Walter Rauschenbusch, Christianity and the Social Crisis (1907), p. 91
- Brevissima ad divitias per contemptus divitiarum via est.
- The shortest way to wealth lies in the contempt of wealth.
- Seneca the Younger, cited in Latin Quotations (New York: 2005), p. 14.
- The shortest way to wealth lies in the contempt of wealth.
- Natural desires are limited; those which spring from false opinions have nowhere to stop, for falsity has no point of termination.
- Seneca the Younger, Dialogues and Essays, J. Davie, tans., (Oxford: 2007), p. 44.
- Non qui parum habet, sed qui plus cupit, pauper est.
- It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.
- Seneca the Younger, Letter 2, line 6.
- It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.
- Anyone entering our homes should admire us rather than our furnishings.
- Seneca the Younger, Letters, 5 (Robin Campbell trans.).
- To understand the liberating effect of asceticism, consider that losing all your fortune is much less painful than losing only half.
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms (2010) Preludes, p.4.
- None can be an impartial or wise observer of human life but from the vantage ground of what we should call voluntary poverty.
- Have we condemned the world's sentiments? Are we opposed to its maxims? And have we made all our efforts to abolish its laws and overturn its accursed customs?
- Have we despised what the world esteems and esteemed what it despises? Have we fled what it wants and wanted what it flees? Have we loved what it hates and hated what it loves? ...
- Have we fled the company of worldly persons, whom the saints, especially the Ecclesiastics, advise us to avoid like the plague, whom one should see only by necessity, and from whom we should separate ourselves as vigilantly as we can?
- Have we wanted, in order to render our separation from the world as perfect as the sanctity of our state demands, that the world have aversion to us, as we have aversion to the world, following the example the apostle has given us, “The world is crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14).
- Louis Tronson, Examens particuliers sur divers sujets, p. 321
- Mysticism intends a state of "possession," not action, and the individual is not a tool but a "vessel" of the divine. Action in the world must thus appear as endangering the absolutely irrational and other-worldly religious state. Active asceticism operates within the world; rationally active asceticism, in mastering the world, seeks to tame what is creatural and wicked through work in a worldly "vocation" (inner-worldly asceticism). Such asceticism contrasts radically with mysticism, if the latter draws the full conclusion of fleeing from the world (contemplative flight from the world). The contrast is tempered, however, if active asceticism confines itself to keeping down and to overcoming creatural wickedness in the actor's own nature. For then it enhances the concentration on the firmly established God-willed and active redemptory accomplishments to the point of avoiding any action in the orders of the world (asceticist flight from the world). Thereby active asceticism in external bearing comes close to contemplative flight from the world. The contrast between asceticism and mysticism is also tempered if the contemplative mystic does not draw the conclusion that he should flee from the world, but, like the inner-worldly asceticist, remain in the orders of the world (inner-worldly mysticism).
In both cases the contrast can actually disappear in practice and some combination of both forms of the quest for salvation may occur. But the contrast may continue to exist even under the veil of external similarity. For the true mystic the principle continues to hold: the creature must be silent so that God may speak.
- When a main trains a dog to perform tricks he does not beat it for the sake of beating it, but in order to train it, and with this in view he only hits it when it fails to carry out a trick. If he beats it without any method he ends by making it unfit for any training, and that is what the wrong sort of asceticism does.
- Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace (1972), p. 113.
- Should not every man hold self-control to be the foundation of all virtue, and first lay this foundation firmly in his soul? For who without this can learn any good or practise it worthily? Or what man that is the slave of his pleasures is not in an evil plight body and soul alike? From my heart I declare that every free man should pray not to have such a man among his slaves; and every man who is a slave to such pleasures should entreat the gods to give him good masters: thus, and only thus, may he find salvation.
Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)
- Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
- There never did, and there never will exist any thing permanently noble and excellent in the character which is a stranger to the exercise of resolute self-denial.
- Sir Walter Scott, p. 532.
- One never knows a man till he has refused him something, and studied the effect of the refusal; one never knows himself till he has denied himself. The altar of sacrifice is the touchstone of character. The cross compels a choice for or against Christ.
- O. P. Gifford, p. 533.
- Self-denial must reach beyond gross and undoubted sins.
- Alexander Maclaren, p. 533.
- Sacrifice alone, bare and unrelieved, is ghastly, unnatural, and dead; but self-sacrifice, illuminated by love, is warmth and life; it is the death of Christ, the life of Cod, the blessedness and only proper life of man.
- Frederick William Robertson, p. 533.
- Contempt of all outward things, which come in competition with duty, fulfills the ideal of human greatness. This conviction, that readiness to sacrifice life's highest material good and life itself, is essential to the elevation of human nature, is no illusion of ardent youth, nor outburst of blind enthusiasm. It does not yield to growing wisdom. It is confirmed by all experience. It is sanctioned by conscience — that universal and eternal lawgiver whose chief dictate is, that every thing must be yielded up for the right.
- William Ellery Channing, p. 533.
- In heaven, we shall never regret any sacrifice however painful, or labor however protracted, made or performed here for the cause of Christ.
- Mary Lyon, p. 533.
- Nothing is really lost.by a life of sacrifice; every thing is lost by failure to obey God's call.
- Henry Parry Liddon, p. 533.
- They that deny themselves for Christ shall enjoy themselves in Christ.
- John M. Mason, p. 534.
- The sweetest life is to be ever making sacrifices for Christ; the hardest life a man can lead on earth, the most full of misery, is to be always doing his own will and seeking to please himself.
- Take thy self-denials gaily and cheerfully, and let the sunshine of thy gladness fall on dark things and bright alike, like the sunshine of the Almighty.
- James Freeman Clarke, p. 534.
- Whoever will labor to get rid of self, to deny himself, according to the instructions of Christ, strikes at once at the root of every evil, and finds the germ of every good.
- François Fénelon, p. 534.
- That which especially distinguishes a high order of man from a low order of man, that which constitutes human goodness, human nobleness, is surely not the degree of enlightenment with which men pursue their own advantage; but it is self-forgetfulness; it is self-sacrifice; it is the disregard of personal pleasure, personal indulgence, personal advantage, remote or present, because some other line of conduct is more right.
- J. A. Froude, p. 534.
- Which do you think of most, your interest or your duty? Can you sell all for the pearl of great price? Are these the natural breathings of your heart: " Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done? " Is the cause of Christ your concern, the dishonor of Christ your affliction, the cross of Christ your glory? If so,you are not strangers to the spirit of self-denial.
- Gardiner Spring, p. 534.
- Deny thyself, take up thy cross, and follow me. This is war, not peace. It is battle declared against the world, the flesh, and the devil. In me said Christ, "ye have peace,"—not in the world; there is no promise of it there.
- Anna Shipton, p. 535.
- The secret belief that the Lord of conscience loves and accepts each faithful sacrifice is the ultimate and sufficient support of all goodness; dispensing with the chorus of approving voices; replacing all vain self-reliance with a Divine strength; and with the peace of a reconciled nature consoling the inevitable sorrows of a devoted life.
- James Martineau, p. 535.
- The very act of faith by which we receive Christ is an act of the utter renunciation of self, and all its works, as a ground of salvation. It is really a denial of self, and a grounding of its arms in the last citadel into which it can be driven, and is, in its principle, inclusive of every subsequent act of self-denial by which sin is forsaken or overcome.
- Mark Hopkins, p. 535.
- Self-denial is the result of a calm, deliberate, invincible attachment to the highest good, flowing forth in the voluntary renunciation of every thing that is inconsistent with the glory of God or the good of our fellow men.
- Gardiner Spring, p. 535.
- The first lesson in Christ's school is self-denial.
- Matthew Henry, p. 535.
- The Ageless Wisdom Teachings
- Bodhi (awakening), a form of Buddhist spiritual enlightenment
- The Four Noble Truths
- Spiritual awakening