Asceticism is an attitude and a way of life whose object is the moral and spiritual perfection of the human being through the renunciation of pleasures and the practice of an austere life.
In this sense, the ascetic assumes a lifestyle in which he dispenses with comfort and material luxuries, renounces to satisfy the needs of the body and seeks to tame the passions of the spirit. Thus, the ascetic seeks to cultivate only the paths of the spirit. Hence, asceticism is considered a mystical doctrine and has been adopted by multiple religions in the world, such as Christianity, Buddhism or Islam.
As such, practices historically linked to asceticism are celibacy, referring to carnal avoidance, and fasting, which refers to abstinence from food. Likewise, asceticism can mean a withdrawal from the world, to lead a secluded life, in the cultivation of the spirit.
The word, as such, comes from the Greek ἀσκητής (asketés), which means ‘professional’, ‘athlete’. In this sense, it was associated with any form of discipline or practical philosophy. Originally, it referred to Greek warriors and athletes who used this type of discipline to lead a grim, ruled and sacrificed life.
Asceticism in Philosophy
For philosophy, asceticism is a moral doctrine whose purpose is to achieve spiritual and moral perfection from the practice of renouncing pleasures and satisfying the needs of the body. Some systems of thought related to asceticism are stoicism and cynicism, which strived, as well as ascetics, in the domain of desires and passions that disturbed the mood and separated man from virtue.