Do ascetic practices create saṃvega? If so, how?

(I am trying to find ways to create samvega - and I understand ascetic practices can help in that).

  • i think you need to wait it out until this comes naturally through some event which makes you reevaluate things, hopefully not very traumatizing – Баян Купи-ка Oct 9 '16 at 19:11

Anyone can arise into samvega, spontaneously. In the West, it is discouraged as a non normative realization which leads to cognitive dissonance. But at any moment, ascetic practice or not, one can stumble into samvega, given fortunate causes and conditions.

In its most simple form, samvega is the thing which causes us to start practicing. To try to find a way out.

This talk may be of help: Samvega and the Flailing Fish

Ajahn Thanissaro defines samvega as “the oppressive sense of shock, dismay, and alienation that come with realizing the futility and meaninglessness of life as it's normally lived...and an anxious sense of urgency in trying to find a way out of the meaningless cycle.”


Ascetic practices do not necessarily let someone acquire Wisdom of Samvega. You can see examples below.

When prince Siddhārtha saw four Nimitas (Old man, Sick man, Dead man and Monk) he was having the best of kinghood, the best of materials that a king can earn and have. He also had a very beautiful wife and life was on the bed of rose petals. But when he saw four Nimitas, he acquired Wisdom of Samvega and did retreat to find the truth about sufferings and escape from sufferings (free from suffering).

There is another example about a Paccekabuddha. He was also a king and he got Samvega- while he was watching one of his maids preparing fragrance (Sandalwood paste); he heard the two gold bracelets on the maid's arm hit each other and made sound. Eventually he became Paccekabuddha-hood after his mind did not attach to anything (from Samvega to Nirvana).

From the two examples above, it is not necessary to be ascetic to obtain Samvega. Even if it is pleasing sense, one can get Samvega if he/she can think all the pleasing sense come into existence finally become depleted, finally come to an end. By this way, many people got "wisdom of Samvega" before.


Samvega is a sense of urgency to practice.

In this light, yes, ascetic practice and all distasteful events lead to samvega for all aspirants of the Way because of the first two factors of enlightenment.

i.e. when someone is mindful and investigates, then it turns into samvega.

Almost all ascetic practices, "good" (fasting) and "bad" (self-abuse), do this.

From my extensive experiences in the healthy spiritual practice of fasting, when fasting for more than a day I definitely more intensely realize more of what is most important in life... though I can push this to the background of my mind still.

This may be due to the mental clarity and energies freed up (that normally go into digestion) or it may be due to the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) system becoming activated. It may be a combination of both.

Self-abuse and pain also lead to samvega as one is triggered to think about death and of course liberation.

This may only be true for Buddhists though or those who have connected the idea of "liberation" with "death."

On the other hand, a person who is ignorant of a way leading out of birth-and-death may just immediately shirk away from the pain, missing the chance to contemplate life-and-death and instead seek out and comfort themselves in hedonistic pleasure instead of the pleasure of self-cultivation.

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