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What Does Asceticism Mean to Me

Updated: Jan 14



For me, asceticism means freedom. Well, not absolute freedom, since we organisms are always dependent on something to keep us alive. I view this value as equivalent to liberty because an ascetic lifestyle is a life of independence from the various seductions and addictions of the world, in which, if not put in doubt and in constant moral conflict, summons enslavery.

Alcohol, drugs, prostitution, hedonism, obsession, megalomania, greediness, slothfulness.

All of these concepts are a prime example for slavery. All of these may seem, to the naked, first world-oriented eye, be a key for freedom.



However I inquire to ask: Is, for instance, taking drugs can be considered an act of freedom? Does the notion of joy is also the notion of liberty? No, because drugs makes you an addict; it makes you crave for more and more in order to sustain this sensation of joy, which many view as a philosophical ideal. This is not a worthy joy. It is a joy which deceives its bearer to make him think he’s free, while the exact opposite is true. Yes, he may chose independently to consume drugs, but independent choices can lead to imperialistic consequences.


We, the modern people, live in a social state of deception; we may believe that the general variety and richness in life, and the aspiration to achieve them, are the key for freedom. Various TV shows, various movies, various foods, various drinks - does variety, or to be more exact - the passion for variety, can be considered as freedom?


No; the more we want, the more things we crave and become passionate about, the more enslaved we become - about the next destination abroad, the next love interest, the next restaurant - this desire for constant change and enrichment becomes itself an addiction, and no addicted entity is a master of its own path.



This is where asceticism comes in place: this concept is all about living from the necessities which provide our existence, and nothing more. Some have different statements about what is the definition of necessity in the human life, but I believe that writing this essay is also a necessary deed. Knowledge is key for survival, and the more knowledge and wisdom we gain, the more chance of survival we may have. Development is also a vital necessity, as all organisms are needed to be developed in order to survive. Therefore self-actualization is a necessary need, because inner prosperity ensures health both in body and in mind, which in turn ensures survival.


Smoking, taking drugs, becoming sex addicts and drunk from authority, power, status and control over others - these are bad for one’s health, because they damage the individual, while making him feel good and joyful. This is a fake joy, a synthetic one, because it is the creation of addiction, and addiction is always a source of useless misery. Even if one may feel joyful after consuming prostitution services, he may bear a sexual disease, and he who craves authority as a source for joy, threatens his own serenity, which is the full presentation of a balanced, harmonious mind.


Therefore, the more monotonous we become, the more we shall liberate ourselves from being dependent on various external sources to provide our satiation and satisfaction - which are in no way necessary for optimal, individual survival . A monk can be happy and healthy simply by eating the same healthy food and drinking the same water everyday; an addicted slave cannot be satisfied from eating in the same restaurant for a certain period; A happy husband can find his entire happiness simply by holding hands with his wife; An addicted slave may lose satisfaction from a love interest in a short period of time, just to seek a better love interest - a loop that may end with his or her own death.


Therefore, the more monotonous we become, the more we shall liberate ourselves from being dependent on various external sources to provide our satiation and satisfaction - which are in no way neccessary for optimal, individual survival . A monk can be happy and healthy simply by eating the same healthy food and drinking the same water everyday; an addicted slave cannot be satisfied from eating in the same restaurant for a certain period; A happy husband can find his entire happiness simply by holding hands with his wife; An addicted slave may lose satisfaction from a love interest in a short period of time, just to seek a better love interest - a loop that may end with his or her own death.


Asceticism is a very unique loop when it comes into practice: it is a loop that does not depend on passion, urge or addiction; it is a healthy, liberty-promoting loop that cures the temptation to trap oneself in all other loops which depend solely on sensation and nothing more. Because asceticism resists desire, it is liberty that resist the tyranny of the external stimuli. It is, to say, a loop that ends all loops.


To finish, here is an anecdote: Gandhi, in one of his imprisonments, wrote in his prison cell: I have never been so free before in my life (I remember I read this somewhere, and I remember this to this day). How ironic that a prisoner can be freer than the rich and desired playboy…