Digest of terms


the practice of exercising control over bodily needs through fasting and spartan living conditions. Literally, 'ascesis' is found in the discipline and training engaged in by the athlete or ballet dancer. It is often associated with extremes of self-denial, such as poverty and chastity, vows of silence, voluntary isolation, self-punishment ('hair shirt syndrome') or even, at the extreme, a starvation diet. It can be applied more generally to human endeavour, referring to personal zeal and discipline to gain what is seen as good in life, or to facilitate concentration on spiritual dimensions and the elimination of its opposites. The promotion of asceticism in particular worldviews, both religious and secular, may be to purify or to punish. Prescriptions about fasting (from food or sexual activity) during certain days, weeks or months are widely observed; as e.g. in Christian Lent or Muslim Ramadan. Motivation may be internally or externally driven, serving self interest or other-connected.

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