Asceticism

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Asceticism (from the Greek: ἄσκησις, áskēsis, "exercise" or "training" in the sense of athletic training) describes a lifestyle characterized by the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals.[1] Some forms of Christianity (see especially: Monastic life) and the Indian religions (including yoga) teach that salvation and liberation involve a process of mind-body transformation[clarification needed] affected by exercising restraint with respect to actions of body, speech, and mind.[citation needed] The founders and earliest practitioners of these religions lived extremely austere lifestyles, refraining from sensual pleasures and the accumulation of material wealth.[citation needed] This is to be understood[who?] not as an eschewal of the enjoyment of life but a recognition that spiritual and religious goals are impeded by such indulgence.[citation needed]

Those who practice ascetic lifestyles do not consider their practices virtuous in themselves but pursue such a lifestyle in order to encourage, or "prepare the ground" for, mind-body transformation.

In the popular imagination, asceticism may be considered obsessive or even masochistic in nature. However, 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) and greater peacefulness of mind (with a concomitant increase in clarity and power of thought).

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