Many have probably heard about the amazing abilities of some yogis, who sometimes do things that seem strange and even absurd from the outside. Some sleep on nails; others starve themselves for several days or even weeks; the third ones retreat from society for a long time in search for solitude in caves. The truth is, they undergo this uneasy experience for a reason. It happens that, a person wants to change some aspect of their life but cannot solve this problem by usual means. According to the teaching of Yoga, practicing asceticism can help in cases like this.
What is asceticism?
We have the ability to feel joy and use the energy of pleasure for our physical and spiritual development. This is our natural ability inherent in us from birth. The possibility to derive pleasure from food, from the contemplation of nature, from communicating with the loved ones, is a gift offered to us by mother nature herself. However, if we are accustomed to just enjoy everything, then this leads to serious dissonance in our life and excessive slack, laziness and inertness emerge. We waste our resources on unnecessary emotions and cannot concentrate on a task. We do not have enough strength or ability to focus even to properly fulfill our daily activities.
“If nothing else works, try asceticism!” Vadim Openyoga
How not to succumb to laziness?
In order not to succumb to laziness and replenish our strength needed to attain a goal, we can turn to asceticism. Asceticism means abstinence from sensual pleasures. Using this method, we track down the path of pleasure and shut off its source. Thus, diverting our attention from the object of pleasure, we cut off the channel through which our prana – our vitality, force of life – moves, and control its leakage. Now, prana can be directed to achieving the goals we set. As a result of asceticism, a lot of energy and consciousness is released, that is enough for us to easily solve even the most complex logical tasks, withstand strenuous activities, and quickly attain any of our goals. Nothing is left beyond our capacities.
However, asceticism itself does not contain anything that empowers us. We simply learn to rationally use what is already within us. We retain and increase our prana due to sound self-restraint and containment of some inappropriate desires. We achieve results by reducing unwanted communication, adjusting our dietary preferences, and regularly doing physical exercises within our powers.
The power of asceticism
We all have many desires. Sometimes we have such a strong desire, which eclipses all other desires and does not allow us to concentrate on anything else other than the desire itself. Unfulfillment of certain desires can become a serious obstacle on our spiritual path. We want wealth, power, career growth, etc., and this becomes our goal. Yoga teaches us that, even on our spiritual path, we should not neglect certain material desires.
An important feature of asceticism is that it can be used to achieve any kind of goals: both spiritual and material. The potential that we accumulate during the practice of asceticism can be directed to self-exploration, to achieve a cherished dream, or to execute a specific task. The result of asceticism can be expressed in financial growth or recognition of personal authority in the professional field and somewhere else.
The goal of asceticism is to attain our desires after voluntary self-restraining.
Asceticism is an effective tool for self-realization. This is not self-torture or violence against oneself, as it may seem from the outside. Asceticism is voluntarily restraining ourselves with the objective to rapidly attain goals in any area of our life. By means of this method, we can control our desires, emotions and feelings. In the practice of asceticism, just as in the case of pleasures, we should not run to extremes. It should be clearly understood that practicing asceticism for the sake of asceticism itself does not make any sense. This is a serious skew in one’s practice. Extremes are always destructive.
If we miss the inner essence of this method and will completely ignore pleasures, we will not notice how we become vain and evil, arrogant and self-absorbed, irreconcilable with other people who are unlike us. Ultimately, this will lead to cruelty and violence, which is totally incompatible with Yoga. Yoga encourages us to follow two principles in our life: kindness and efficiency. First, to be as kind as possible to others, and only then achieve the preset goals.
It is important to learn to combine asceticism and pleasure, that is, to find the golden mean and harmony in any endeavor. To determine where we need to restrain or force ourselves, and where we can indulge. Only by combining these two methods, we can achieve success in Yoga.
We know now that asceticism is a tool of self-exploration that helps us to achieve our goals. But like any other tool, it should be used when appropriate. No violence, just our own choice. The practice of asceticism will focus in one stream all our scattered attention and energy, and big goals will be achieved easily and quickly.
Practice asceticism adequately and may you succeed in your endeavors!
Authors: Y. Namrata
Photo from IOYU archive/ Author of the picture: Svetlana Mauna
Editors: M. Gayatri, X. Nauli, A.Ravi, E. Rati, O. Belous, E. Lakshmi
Chief editor: Mirra
Project curator: Kerigona
Translators: Nat Satcitananda, T. Sweet, A. Vijaya
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