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5 years ago  ::  Feb 15, 2009 - 12:36PM #1
SeraphimR
Posts: 9,207
I've tried searching this on Google, and got some contradictory information.

So my question is what role if any does asceticism play in Taoism.

Here is the definition of asceticism from the Wikipedia:

Asceticism (from the Greek: ἄσκησις, áskēsis, "exercise") describes a life-style characterized by abstinence from various sorts of worldly pleasures (especially sexual activity and consumption of alcohol) often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals. Forms of Christianity and the Indian religions (including yoga) promote engagement in a transformational process of refraining from 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 refraining from 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.

In the popular imagination, asceticism is considered a sort of perversion (e.g., self-flagellation by birch twigs as the archetypal stereotype of self-mortification). 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 (such as a concomitant increase in clarity and power of thought).


People with a mission to save the earth want the earth to seem worse than it is so their mission will look more important.


P.J. O'Rourke
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5 years ago  ::  Feb 15, 2009 - 8:09PM #2
eteune
Posts: 7

SeraphimR wrote:

I've tried searching this on Google, and got some contradictory information.

So my question is what role if any does asceticism play in Taoism.

Here is the definition of asceticism from the Wikipedia:


Eat when hungry, drink when thirsty, sleep when really drunk and have lost consciousness.
Well, something like that anyway.
Ascete when being an ascetic will be useful, otherwise just do what is pertinent, what is useful.

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5 years ago  ::  Feb 18, 2009 - 4:22AM #3
Whisperingal
Posts: 25,009
Seraphim--hi. I don't drink--but I don't consider myself an "ascetic" by any means.

I just don't care for the taste of alcohol or how it makes me feel.

IMO that's kind of a biased definition you've found there.

Not criticizing you--but the definition.

IMO there is more of an element of what we call "creature comforts" that the ascetic might do without.

I know people who don't heat their homes in the winter--winter can be pretty cold in the desert. They do that as a money-saving measure--not for asceticism.

I know people who only eat the "plainest" of foods--they do that mostly for saving money and because they don't have very discerning tasts and don't see any point in spending a lot of money on food they won't get a lot of enjoyment from.

so--I don't think that any one thing can be defined as "asceticism"--but that intention must be taken into account.

Does that make sense ?

Sending good thoughts your way.
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5 years ago  ::  Feb 23, 2009 - 12:07AM #4
kilgoretrout2006
Posts: 202
There's a simplicity to Taoism; a sort of getting back to basics; but I don't think that's quite the same thing. I think Taoism, at least as it's practiced in the United States, is more about moderation, about not overdoing things. But within that framework it's more about a celebration of life rather than a denial of it. (And, you know, I'm way into celebrating. :) ) It may be different in China though where it's more of a practical religion.
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5 years ago  ::  Feb 27, 2009 - 2:03PM #5
MengTzu
Posts: 110

Feb 23, 2009 -- 12:07AM, kilgoretrout2006 wrote:

There's a simplicity to Taoism; a sort of getting back to basics; but I don't think that's quite the same thing. I think Taoism, at least as it's practiced in the United States, is more about moderation, about not overdoing things. But within that framework it's more about a celebration of life rather than a denial of it. (And, you know, I'm way into celebrating. :) ) It may be different in China though where it's more of a practical religion.



I wrote a post in response to this before, but seems like the forum makeover has caused some of the new posts to disappear.  I'm just going to re-post my key points rather than re-write the whole thing:


There is essentially no difference between Chinese Daoism and Daoism in the West in regards to the practice of basic Daoist wisdom, such as moderation and "going with the flow."  Some Daoist practices that are common in Chinese Daoism have not become popularized in the West yet, but such practices do not negate the basic wisdom of Daoism.  The monastics and lay practitioners of Chinese Daoism follow the basic Daoist wisdom of moderation as an important part of their lives.


Note that more and more things are brought to the West from Chinese Daoism.  For example, some cultivation techniques (like Neidan) have become more popular in the West nowadays. 


Please note also that just because there are a lot of things in Chinese Daoism that have not been introduced to the West, I do not believe that one is better than the other.  Having and knowing more doesn't necessarily mean one is better or superior.  On the other hand, simplicity is a relative concept, and what is simple is different for each person.  In othe words, what is complex for one may be simple for another, so that a person practicing more things may be just as close to simplicity as a person practicing fewer things.  Each person should practice as many and as few Daoist practices based on his or her choice.

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3 years ago  ::  May 06, 2011 - 8:55PM #6
Eisenhans
Posts: 54

Feb 15, 2009 -- 12:36PM, SeraphimR wrote:

I've tried searching this on Google, and got some contradictory information.  So my question is what role if any does asceticism play in Taoism.  Here is the definition of asceticism from the Wikipedia: 

Asceticism (from the Greek: ἄσκησις, áskēsis, "exercise") describes a life-style characterized by abstinence from various sorts of worldly pleasures (especially sexual activity and consumption of alcohol) often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals. Forms of Christianity and the Indian religions (including yoga) promote engagement in a transformational process of refraining from 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 refraining from 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.  In the popular imagination, asceticism is considered a sort of perversion (e.g., self-flagellation by birch twigs as the archetypal stereotype of self-mortification). 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 (such as a concomitant increase in clarity and power of thought).




The "asceticism" in Taoism is doing hard work in the real world -- and doing it with wisdom and consistency.


It takes thought, effort, and heart to earn a living, learn the ways of life... to get a stable exercise routine, eat well, train hard, not give up... to care for your loved ones, to crush your enemies, exorcise negatives, bring peace to your life, gain useful skills, and so on.


The asceticism of christianity is for the mentally ill only.  Ask any licenced mental health counselor.


Eisenhans

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