This assignment asks students to explore the role of asceticism in two ancient civilizations, one Eastern and one Western, and consider its practical and non-religious purposes as well as any distinct changes or similarities between them.

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This assignment asks students to explore the role of asceticism in two ancient civilizations, one Eastern and one Western, and consider its practical and non-religious purposes as well as any distinct changes or similarities between them.

Asceticism may be defined as depriving the body as a sacrifice for the sake of the mind or the spirit. In other words, it could mean abstaining from food (fasting), water, sleep, or even sex and other indulgences in order to find peace or show dedication to your faith. We find examples of asceticism across religions around the world, from fasting to prayer to sacrifice. For your essay this week, read the introductory article on asceticism and the articles on religion to find examples of asceticism (depriving oneself) in at least two regions of the ancient world—one Eastern, one Western—in order to compare their roles in the development of historical civilizations. Consider these two questions: What practical, non-religious purpose do these behaviors serve in their historical communities? Do you see distinct changes around the world, or are they essentially the same practice wherever they are found? You may conduct some additional research to find unique examples to add to your paper.

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