Asceticism and Its Critics: Historical Accounts and Comparative Perspectives

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Oliver Freiberger
Oxford University Press, Oct 19, 2006 - Religion - 268 pages
Scholars of religion have always been fascinated by asceticism. Some have even regarded this radical way of life-- the withdrawal from the world, combined with practices that seriously affect basic bodily needs, up to extreme forms of self-mortification --as the ultimate form of a true religious quest. This view is rooted in hagiographic descriptions of prominent ascetics and in other literary accounts that praise the ascetic life-style. Scholars have often overlooked, however, that in the history of religions ascetic beliefs and practices have also been strongly criticized, by followers of the same religious tradition as well as by outsiders. The respective sources provide sufficient evidence of such critical strands but surprisingly as yet no attempt has been made to analyze this criticism of asceticism systematically. This book is a first attempt of filling this gap. Ten studies present cases from both Asian and European traditions: classical and medieval Hinduism, early and contemporary Buddhism in South and East Asia, European antiquity, early and medieval Christianity, and 19th/20th century Aryan religion. Focusing on the critics of asceticism, their motives, their arguments, and the targets of their critique, these studies provide a broad range of issues for comparison. They suggest that the critique of asceticism is based on a worldview differing from and competing with the ascetic worldview, often in one and the same historical context. The book demonstrates that examining the critics of asceticism helps understand better the complexity of religious traditions and their cultural contexts. The comparative analysis, moreover, shows that the criticism of asceticism reflects a religious worldview as significant and widespread in the history of religions as asceticism itself is.

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Contents

The Ascetic and the Domestic in Brahmanical Religiosity
25
Epicurus Role in Controversies on Asceticism in European
43
Aryan National Religions and the Criticism of Asceticism
61
Hypocrisy
91
The Caiva Devaluation of Pautta and Caina Asceticism
117
Dialogue
131
The Controversy over Self
153
Early Christian Ascetic Practice
179
Patterns
211
Early Buddhism Asceticism and the Politics of the Middle Way
235
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Page 138 - I would rather die and get to Jesus Christ, than reign over the ends of the earth. That is whom I am looking for — the One who died for us. That is whom I want — the One who rose for us. I am going through the pangs of being born. Sympathize with me, my brothers! Do not stand in the way of my coming to life — do not wish death on me. Do not give back to the world one who wants to be God's; do not trick him with material things. Let me get into the clear light and manhood will be mine. Let me...
Page 146 - Nero subdidit reos, et quaesitissimis poenis adfecit, quos per flagitia invisos vulgus Christianos appellabat. Auctor nominis eius Christus Tiberio imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio adfectus erat : repressaque in prasens exitiabilis superstitio rursum erumpebat, non modo per ludaeam, originem eius mali, sed per urbem etiam, quo cuncta undique atrocia aut pudenda confluunt celebranturque.
Page 138 - I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Page 56 - Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988); Deborah Sawyer, Women and Religion in the First Christian Centuries (London: Routledge, 1996).
Page 146 - ... et pereuntibus addita ludibria, ut ferarum tergis contecti laniatu canum interirent aut crucibus adfixi [aut flammandi atque], ubi defecisset dies, in usu[m] nocturni luminis urerentur.
Page 82 - Der Arier ist nicht in seinen geistigen Eigenschaften an sich am größten, sondern im Ausmaße der Bereitwilligkeit, alle Fähigkeiten in den Dienst der Gemeinschaft zu stellen.
Page 146 - Et pereuntibus addita ludibria, ut ferarum tergis contecti, laniatu canum interirent, aut crucibus affixi, aut flammandi, atque ubi defecisset dies, in usum nocturni luminis urerentur. Hortos suos ei spectaculo Nero obtulerat et Circense ludicrum edebat, habitu aurigae permixtus plebi vel curriculo insistens. Unde quanquam adversus sontes et novissima exempla meritos miseratio oriebatur, tanquam non utilitate publica, sed in saevitiam unius absumerentur.
Page 237 - I subsisted on one little offering,s and I subsisted on two little offerings . . . and I subsisted on seven little offerings. I took food only once a day, and once in two days . . . and once in seven days. Then I lived intent on the practice of eating rice at regular fortnightly intervals. I came to be one feeding on* potherbs or feeding on millet or on wild rice or on snippets of skin or on water-plants or on the red powder of rice husks or on the discarded scum of rice on the boil or on the flour...
Page 41 - See Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1967), pp.
Page 18 - Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus«, in: »Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Religionssoziologie«, Bd.

About the author (2006)

Oliver Freiberger is Assistant Professor, Department of Asian Studies at University of Texas at Austin.

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