Pursuing enlightenment, Buddha
first practiced severe asceticism before recommending a non-ascetic middle way
In Christianity, Francis of Assisi
and his followers practiced extreme acts of asceticism.
Asceticism (/; from the Greek: ἄσκησις áskesis, "exercise, training") is a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from sensual pleasures, often for the purpose of pursuing spiritual goals. Ascetics may withdraw from the world for their practices or continue to be part of their society, but typically adopt a frugal lifestyle, characterised by the renunciation of material possessions and physical pleasures, and time spent fasting while concentrating on the practice of religion or reflection upon spiritual matters.
Asceticism has been historically observed in many religious traditions, including Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Judaism. Contemporary mainstream Islam practices asceticism in the form of fasting during Ramadan by abstaining from all sensual pleasures, food & water from sunrise until sunset. The observation of fasting during Ramadan is purely done for God and to increase one's spiritual connection with God; it is compulsory on all Muslims to fast as it is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The Sufism sects tradition has included strict asceticism throughout history. The practitioners of these religions abandoned sensual pleasures and led an abstinent lifestyle, in the pursuit of redemption, salvation or spirituality. Asceticism is seen in the ancient theologies as a journey towards spiritual transformation, where the simple is sufficient, the bliss is within, the frugal is plenty.