Friday, February 19, 2010

Forced Asceticism

We had an fascinating discussion last night in my prison World Religions class. I had presented the basic beliefs of Jainism, a religion that believes disciplined asceticism is the way to liberate the jiva (soul). Asceticism is the renunciation of worldly comforts and pleasures.

When I asked for examples of asceticism, I got several of the usual answers: the desert fathers and mothers of Christianity, Buddhist monks, Roman Catholic religious orders, and John the Baptist. Then, one of the students said, "Asceticism is forced on us in here."

I followed up this answer with another question, "How can this forced asceticism be beneficial to you?" There were some insightful suggestions: try to make better use of your time alone; accept deprivation with equanimity even though it isn't really a choice; view asceticism as spiritually beneficial.

With many persons out of work and having to cut back on expenses, forced asceticism is a reality. Perhaps the wisdom of these men above can offer some clues to how to cope with deprivation. Their answers caused me to think more deeply about my worldly comforts and pleasures and what I would do without them.

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