Asceticism and the Human Condition

I was watching The Buddha at the gym the other day, so naturally when I left I was thinking about Siddhartha’s journey to enlightenment.   The phase in particular that was on my mind was his time spent as an ascetic, depriving himself of all worldly  pleasures and experiences in order to achieve spiritual enlightenment.

I think there’s something to be said for this- there definitely appears to be a disconnect between people as spiritual creatures and humans as animals.  This isn’t only the case for humans, though- I think it applies to other creatures too.  All of us are simply souls residing inside our physical bodies- I believe C.S. Lewis said something about that in a far more eloquent way, actually.  Obviously this isn’t a novel idea, but its a dichotomy that any sentient being has to grapple with.  The world can be a dangerous place for a soul seeking enlightenment.

At the same time, it seems naive and a bit irresponsible to just abstain from all things worldly entirely.  Of course, we are defined by our souls more than we are as humans, but is it not relevant that our souls are living in bodies on this place called Earth?  Should we really spend all of our time here trying to escape?  The world is full of suffering, but it’s also full of wonder.  We can learn a lot about our souls from experiencing both.

Of course like all paradoxes that we deal with, a balance must be struck.  I would think it’s helpful to experience one or the other or both walks of life in order to realise that neither is spiritually ideal.  We can’t live like Siddhartha in his early years, lavishly and wastefully.  But we also needn’t constantly deprive ourselves constantly in order to cultivate the higher being residing within all of us.

How do you balance the experience of life with spiritual health?


4 thoughts on “Asceticism and the Human Condition

  1. Hey Fiona,
    Firstly, thank you for sharing this, this has been right now another great addition to my sunday.

    To balance life with spiritual health.. it seems like such a tough question but what about whether life is already balanced to begin with, but rather seeing that the mind only claims that there needs to be a balance struck. The mind is very clever in that it creates in own world. This is why the gurus say that the world is illusion, the world we live in that is illusion is the world that is conjured by the commentator. It feels it has to control and to “understand” it all for things to be done when really the mind has no control over reality. Reality is always as it is, whether its accepted and then in turn taken responsibility of is whether one continues to suffer over it or not, no? See if this is true in what you can see upon looking in an investigating.

    Our stories are just descriptions of what “we” want but if you give up control, what’s left. What’s running the ship, or WHO is running life.

    Namaste Fiona,

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