Asceticism is the practice of self-discipline, self-restriction and denial of pleasures and comfort in life. The word “asceticism”ť comes from Greek word “askesis”ť, which means exercise or training. Asceticism has various manifestations, and is practiced both by secular people willing to reach something through transformation of energy, or by religious practitioners. Almost in all religions there are beliefs, traditions or rituals, related to asceticism. In the highest sense, asceticism is to be regarded as the idea of renunciation of physical self and external world for the sake of to reach spiritual elevation.
Among all religions, the importance of asceticism and strictest vows are in such religions as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. This tendency is based on the perception of the reality in these religions ”“ the events of material worlds are regarded as the endless rebirths, and human wishes are regarded as the ones prolonging the samsara.
Renunciation of material and secular welfare, on the opposite, are the way to nirvana, eternal peace. Therefore, ascetic vows and limitations lead the person to a higher spiritual state.
However, the practices of Buddhism are not as ascetic as those of Hinduism, and especially of Jainism. In Buddhism, the accent is made on the elimination of desire and possession, and not on the material welfare itself. In Hinduism, the ascetic limitations have a more strict form of self-denial, like keeping silence, holding arm or leg in the air, etc. Hinduism devotes such actions to a deity or to religious principle.
Jain asceticism is the most intense out of the most religions. The distinctive feature of Jain asceticism is that no harm should be done to a single living being; this attitude conditions many practices such as vegetarianism, barefoot walking, not using means of transport, sweeping insects with special brooms from their way, not traveling in rainy season etc. In general, Jainist vows and code of conducts places many limitations, and it is difficult for the lay Jains, and even for the monks to follow these vows in modern world.