Perhaps the first esotericism, asceticism sprung from the practice
of bodily health coming from the instinct for self-preservation, as
well as the practice of extreme temperance resulting from the
cautionary relinquishing of worldly experiences.
An ascetic (the practitioner of asceticism) is often a hermit, yogi,
shaman, or monk who adopts a harsh or abstemious lifestyle as
part of a principled set of beliefs of personal or worldly denial.
Sometimes asceticism springs from real or exaggerated regret
about worldly experiences, as in the case of Siddhartha Gautama
("The Buddha"), or modern Buddhists.
Modern life has provided fewer and fewer opportunities for real
asceticism, at least in the sense of a hermit in the mountains. Life
is more technologically inter-connected than ever before, and this
reduces the status of the ascetic lifestyle.
Some now feel the same profundity about a fruit smoothie as they
once did about an ascetic lifestyle. In the midst of warfare
enforced by governments, it begins to seem arbitrary whether
pleasure is wrong, or just sometimes impractical. However, the
ascetic lifestyle remains a strong representation of what it means
to have moderation and strong principles.
Not only have artificial images of master teachers become
common, but asceticism now involves navigating through many
false representations of the meaning of renunciation.
For most spiritual practitioners, this has meant a movement
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