Monthly Archives: August 2023

The Ascetic’s Hermitage

Kindly take note that the major content in this blog has been freely paraphrased from the exceptional literary work of Kazi K. Ashraf, The Hermit’s Hut Architecture and Asceticism in India, University of Hawaii Press 2013. It is my belief that the comprehensive conclusion of this blog series necessitates an allusion to the environment in which an ascetic dwells, a crucial element for the advancement of one’s spiritual development and purification. read more

Posted in Asceticism | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Heat of the Matter

As stated in the opening blog of this series Spiritual-Heat, or Tapas, is generated when utilized for spiritual rejuvenation; tapas is always a self-imposed and voluntary type of asceticism, rather than a natural occurring one. These voluntary practices may entail seclusion, silence, and fasting. It is considered to be a personalized form of austerity or asceticism. By engaging in tapas, individuals purify themselves and transition from impurity to purity, ultimately reaching a celestial state. Therefore, tapas encompasses both the practices performed and the outcome of asceticism, such as the heat generated during the practice. Through the practice of asceticism, or tapas, the ascetic experiences spiritual fervor. In Unborn Mind Zen it is a formidable surge of luminosity that solely the devout pursuer dares to embark upon, for it is through such divine benevolence that they relish in the delightful ecstasy discovered within its boundless core of perpetual solicitude. When practitioners engage in meditation and invoke the Tathagata deities, their inner mind and spirit become infused with the potency of bodhi, thereby enabling them to access the Element of Truth (Dharmadhatu). The resulting inner-heat has the potential to transmute one’s being into a crystalline Vajra-Body, which is commonly referred to as the Blue Flame of the Bodhichild within our tradition. This phenomenon takes place within the sacred womb of the Tathagata-garbha. The wise ancients have presented a highly fitting analogy of the aforementioned interconnection: the mother hen is capable of hatching her eggs owing to her constant and attentive inward listening to the chick’s growth. Despite the outward appearance of merely warming the outer-shell, her concentrated focus also engenders an inner-heat, thereby facilitating the circulation of Qi that incubates the embryos. read more

Posted in Asceticism | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment


External forces, especially those arising from demonic sources, pose significant challenges for individuals on the Ascetic journey. These relentless assaults are among the most formidable barriers to be overcome. The Latin translation of “to besiege” was occasionally expressed as obsidere. This linguistic origin can be traced back to the English term “obsession.” Monastic records indicate that during this state, thoughts influenced by demons enclose the mind from external sources. By persistently troubling the mind with these thoughts, the demons attempt to hinder any contemplation of the Godhead. Accounts of this condition are plentiful in early monastic literature, ranging from the Life of St Antony, in which Antony laments that “the demons surrounded me like armed soldiers,” to the ascetical writings of Maximus Confessor in the seventh century, where he instructs that demons “encircle the mind with thoughts.” Or as the Psalmist best recounts it, “They encompassed me about; the encompassed me about like bees.” In accordance with the information shared in our prior blog post, the specific demon known as acedia afflicts and surrounds the mind. read more

Posted in Asceticism | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

St. Antony of Egypt

The most renowned of all western desert solitaries was St. Antony of Egypt (251-356 CE). He was a disciple of St. Paul of Thebes and began to live an ascetic lifestyle at the age of 20 and 15 years later left for complete isolation in a mountain near the Nile called Pispir (now Dayr al-Maymūn). During his retreat, he conducted a legendary battle with the Devil and defeated a series of temptations which are known by Christian theology and iconography. When 305 arrived, Antony departed his retreat to educate and lead a monastic life. After Christian persecution ended through the Edict of Milan (313), he went to a mountain between the Nile and Red Sea where the monastery Dayr Mārī Antonios still stands. He kept receiving visitors there; he also traversed across deserts to Pispir twice. The last time he visited Alexandria was c. 350 when he proclaimed against Arianism heresy which declared that Christ was not of equal essence as God the Father. (Britannica) read more

Posted in Asceticism | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



Asceticism has been discussed in several articles throughout this blog, but I am taking a much broader look at the subject in this series, incorporating aspects of both Eastern and Western thought. The concept of ascesis, derived from the Greek verb άσλέω meaning “train”, is basically one of discipline and training. The related term in the Indo-Aryan language Pāli is tapas (tapa or tapo) which expresses a similar notion but additionally contains imagery of heat and intensity to allude to an intense concentration that is almost like fire. In fact, the complexity of tapas is best seen through its application to ascetic activity. It denotes the hard work required, as well as the magical power and sacredness produced from it. This process allows for the practitioner to be taken beyond a merely human or profane realm. (Tapta Marga Asceticism and Initiation In Vedic India) Without the presence of tapas, spiritual development slows to a crawl. According to the literature, demonic activity can distract from contemplation and leave one feeling cold—icebound in thought. Therefore, in the spiritual psychology practiced in the Egyptian desert, thinking and demons are often considered one and the same. read more

Posted in Asceticism, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment