Chastity

Chastity

Posted on November 19, 2013 by Universal Life Church Monastery

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“‘Purity?’ they ask. And they smile. They are the ones who go on to marriage with worn-out bodies and disillusioned souls.” – St. Josemaria Escriva

In this day and age, when someone hears about Chastity they may think of abstinence, modesty, and celibacy. Those who practice these things are guarding themselves from certain aspects of sexuality. They resist the over-sexualization that is happening in American culture and are sometimes looked down on because of it.

Being Chaste does not necessarily mean shying away from sex. Chastity is sexual behavior of a man or woman that is in accordance with the moral standards of their religion and culture. In many religions, acts that are sexual in nature are prohibited outside of marriage.

Christian Chastity

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“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” – Ephesians 5:3

In Christian traditions, Chastity is identical to sexual purity. This means not having any sexual relations before marriage. It also includes loyalty to one’s husband or wife during marriage. When God created humans he declared that we were good and that we should be fruitful and multiply. After the fall, humankind’s sexual desires were distorted and became impure. The Bible is clear on the dangers of an impure heart:

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20

According to the Bible, any voluntary sexual arousal or act outside of a union between husband and wife is sinful.

To an oversexed world this is outrageous. After all, sex feels good and is necessary for the continuation of our species. How can it be bad? People who believe this don’t understand why Chastity is important to keeping a true and virtuous soul. Impurity and lust are sicknesses, and when uncontrolled are precursors to other more serious problems such as unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

Christians struggle with lust just as much as anyone else. Being Chaste is very difficult because it tests our will. As humans, we fail constantly because resisting our urges is like resisting our desire to eat or drink. Christian Chastity means fleeing from temptation and being mindful of the way we speak, think, dress, and the places we go.

Buddhist Chastity

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“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” -Buddha

Buddhism prescribes Chastity through the Noble Eightfold Path. This path is a treatment for life through training, designed to release one from ignorance, impulse, and the desire for sense pleasures. One of the points on this path is that of Right Action.

According to the concept of Right Action, practitioners should train themselves to be morally right in their activities. To achieve this, one must follow the five precepts: do not kill, do not steal, do not lie, do not become intoxicated, and do not be unchaste.

For monks and people who are not married, Chastity is continence. For the married it means restraint in proportion with one’s progress along the Path. If change is needed, the person should reflect on their actions with an eye on what prompted the action in the first place. Change should then proceed in the direction of selflessness and charity.

If a person is unchaste, they are still trapped by tanha, the desire for private fulfillment. This kind of desire seeks fulfillment in the ego and senses, which are temporary and hollow. Tanha is the cause of life’s dislocation, but if a person follows the Path, which includes being Chaste, they can escape the selfish craving which keeps them from achieving true happiness.

By practicing Chastity, one is moving closer to escaping the self-cage. When we escape the desire for sexual satisfaction, we are no longer shaped by that craving and it’s narrow limits of self-interest. When we are free of that craving, our mind becomes more pure, and that purity leads to joy.

Muslim Chastity

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“For men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in God’s praise, for them has God prepared forgiveness and great reward.” – The Qu’ran 33:35

Muslims take special care to abstain from what is forbidden. They do this in part by promoting virtuous behavior, and by distancing themselves from animalistic desires. The Qu’ran is very specific that sexual indecency is sin. Chastity is necessary for preventing human behavior from sinking into despicable desires.

In today’s largely secular society, it seems that people have trouble seeing the significance of Islam’s norms and values surrounding Chastity and modesty. To Islam, the world is predominantly licentious, and we are in danger if we are not diligent in guarding our Chastity.

Unchaste behavior can have disastrous, even devastating consequences. Islam’s teachings about unchaste behavior seek to educate and reform before that behavior leads to disaster.

This does not mean someone will experience a catastrophe that ruins their life as a result of unchaste behavior. Yet this is no excuse to be unchaste. Men and women should practice chastity because Allah commands it, and if they love God they will want to obey His commands. As a person would want to be clean, have nice clothes, and a great smile when they meet their beloved, so should that person enhance their spiritual attraction in order to appropriately approach God. One way to do this is by nurturing Chaste behavior.

Such things are not easy, nor will change happen overnight, but Allah assures his people, “Those who strive in Our path- We will surely guide them in Our ways.” (Qu’ran 29:70).

Connecting the Definitions of Chastity

Christianity and Islam closely relate to one another in their teachings on Chastity, while Buddhism differs slightly. All agree that chastity is vital to working towards a virtuous soul, and ultimately salvation.

From these three religions, we learn the following about Chastity: Sexual misconduct is a sin against the body and God. If we try to resist or fight it by ourselves, we will fail. We need to flee from it towards Christ, who is our strength and hope (Christianity). Chastity is necessary for escaping the selfish desires of the flesh, which blind us from truth and cause us to suffer. If we can escape this cycle, our minds become purified, which leads to happiness (Buddhism). Chastity is abstaining from improper sexual action, which is forbidden, along with other animalistic desires. Key to this is focusing our minds on God, and keeping ourselves busy with healthy and constructive acts, so there is less room for unchaste behavior (Islam).

How Can I Practice Chastity?

In order to practice Chastity, one must focus on improving self-control. This is a test of will and is never easy for anyone. In order to change, one must change the way they think about themselves and about other people. This is accomplished in part by changing our behavior; you cannot just flip a switch and be more chaste. It takes time.

Get in touch with your faith. The most important factor behind change is how much you want that change. If you’re not in it all the way, it will be much harder to accomplish the goal. This is where faith and spirituality play a critical role. If you believe in God, spend time in prayer and meditate upon the Holy texts. Whatever you believe, lean on that and others who share your belief. Let their strength be yours.

Practice Modesty. True modesty extends to our speech, our actions, our thoughts, and the way we dress. Therefore, dress appropriately, be aware of your thoughts as you think them, watch your body language, and be attentive to what you say. Often times in social situations we try to act “cool” and participate in jokes or conversations that are sexual or inappropriate. Resist the urge to be like everyone else, and stand firm to what you say. Modesty sends a message, and others are more likely to be inspired rather than offended by what you say.

Avoid sexual temptation. This involves staying away from situations where you might be enticed into the behavior you’re trying to avoid. If you’re dating, refrain from situations like the back of a car, a bed, or being alone together. These settings set us up for failure; a person trying to lose weight shouldn’t go to the candy store. Just stay away.

Know how to resist sexual pressure. Sometimes at work, or home, or out in the world, we find ourselves in situations where the atmosphere becomes sexually charged. Don’t allow yourself to be caught up, be ready with comebacks to defend yourself. This won’t always be necessary, but it’s important to keep guard.

By practicing, avoiding, and resisting, you will gradually change your thought process, and by doing so will become more Chaste. Temptation is not a force you can defeat by direct combat, just like you cannot slay a tornado by charging right towards it. Since temptation can only exist in the mind and hearts of people, we can defeat it by starving it. In its absence Chastity will grow.

By:
Lewis F.

Humility

Humility

Posted on October 8, 2013 by Universal Life Church Monastery

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“They are forever free who renounce all selfish desires and break away from the ego-cage of ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘mine’ to be united with the Lord. This is the supreme state.”-Bhagavad Gita

Humility, or being humble, is being respectful, submissive, and modest. It is the opposite of pride and arrogance and is considered a virtue by most major religions and philosophical traditions. We are most often humiliated when we lack humility. The challenge is that our nature compels us to want to feel powerful and important. Admitting that we are neither can feel like going against our will to survive.

A person who practices humility becomes teachable and more easily acquires wisdom. They become a better listener and a more valuable friend. He or she is also better able to recognize personal traits or faults, which leads to a willingness to improve.

It’s obvious why humility is an important aspect of most world religions. It opens our hearts and mind to the will of God.

Humility in Hinduism

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“The seeker after truth should be humbler than the dust. The world crushes the dust under its feet, but the seeker after truth should so humble himself that even the dust could crush him.” -Mahatma Ghandi

Central to Hindu belief is the idea that one must let go of the ego in order to be united with the Atman (the true self) and Brahman (God). Selfish desire or the want for fame or power are worldly yearnings that distract us from the ultimate goal.

Hinduism does not denounce the fact that power, position, and possession are ambitions that run deep. Worldly success is necessary for raising a household and taking care of civic duty responsibly. It is not wrong to be successful but ultimately wealth, fame, and power are exclusive. If I own something, it is not yours.

Those who are successful are not automatically lacking humility, but when people make money or social status their chief ambition and pride, things become problematic. As one acquires, he also acquires the want for more. The drive for more and more becomes insatiable. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita:

When you keep thinking about sense objects, attachment comes. Attachment breeds desire, the lust of possession that burns to anger. Anger clouds the judgement; you can no longer learn from past mistakes. Lost is the power to choose between what is wise and what is unwise, and your life is utter waste.

Krishna’s words highlight the struggle with our “self,” as well as the broader message of the Gita. Eknath Easwaran, a spiritual teacher who was mentored by Mohandas Ghandi, wrote that the Gita’s message concerns “the war within, the struggle for self mastery that every human being must wage if he or she is to emerge from life victorious.”

Humility according to Hinduism is not crawling around in the mud cursing oneself, but rather a struggle for shedding the ego cage, and recognizing and feeling oneness with the rest of the world, completely free from bias or any idea of inferiority or superiority.

Humility in Islam

“The true servants of God the Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, reply with (words of) peace.” – the Holy Qu’ran 25:63

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Humility is taken very seriously in Islam. The word “Islam” can be translated as “submission to God.” When Muslims are praying, they typically bow on the ground in a position that acknowledges human lowliness compared to God.

Humility is identical to submission to Allah. The seventh chapter in the Qu’ran reads, “Call on your Lord with humility and in private, for Allah loves not those who transgress beyond bounds.” (7:55) God is immaterial, all-knowing, and all-powerful. Therefore the only way to approach him is in complete humility because without him humans have nothing and are nothing.

Ibn Al-Qayyim, a Sunni Islamic jurist and theologian from the 13th century summarized the Islamic idea of humility in these words:

There are two realities which we must fully grasp in order to be truly characterized with the noblest characteristic of humility. First and foremost is to come to truly know Allah’s perfection, His abundant favors upon us and how we are fully dependent upon Him. Secondly, we have to come to know ourselves, where we come from and our numerous weaknesses and shortcomings.

Humility requires that we know God and be thankful for the fact that everything comes from Him through His grace and mercy. To do this, we should place heavy emphasis on praising and thanking Him constantly. We must also view ourselves as creatures who are comparatively weak and easily destroyed. In other words, humility is identical to recognizing how powerful and omnipotent God is as well as accepting our own weakness.

Humility in Catholicism

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” -Phillipians 2:3

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St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a French Abbot born in the 10th century, defined humility as, “A virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself. Jesus Christ is the ultimate definition of Humility.” Therefore, in order to become humble, we must look to the one who is the perfect example.

The Gospel of John focuses on Jesus’s humility. When Jesus came to Jerusalem, the people “took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord– the King of Israel!” (John 12:13) Even though Jesus was the King of Israel, his kingdom was in Heaven, not on Earth. He came as a humble King not on horse or chariot, but on a donkey.

“They are forever free who renounce all selfish desires and break away from the ego-cage of ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘mine’ to be united with the Lord. This is the supreme state.”-Bhagavad Gita

Humility, or being humble, is being respectful, submissive, and modest. It is the opposite of pride and arrogance and is considered a virtue by most major religions and philosophical traditions. We are most often humiliated when we lack humility. The challenge is that our nature compels us to want to feel powerful and important. Admitting that we are neither can feel like going against our will to survive.

A person who practices humility becomes teachable and more easily acquires wisdom. They become a better listener and a more valuable friend. He or she is also better able to recognize personal traits or faults, which leads to a willingness to improve.

It’s obvious why humility is an important aspect of most world religions. It opens our hearts and mind to the will of God.

Connecting The Definitions Of Humility

Each religion provides valuable wisdom into the virtue of humility. Taken together, a truly humble person would be one who has cast away the inflated ego that was a barrier to truth and God (Hinduism); one who submits to the will of God, because He is the supreme authority (Islam); and one who recognizes that all things come from God and to him all credit and glory are due (Catholicism).

While each of these religions approaches humility in slightly different ways, one does not need to be Hindu to read and learn about humility from the Hindu perspective. The same goes for a Muslim or a Christian. We should seek knowledge, listen, absorb wisdom, and find ways to apply that wisdom in a way that fits with our beliefs

Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, and peoples of any religion may have different definitions of God, but why should this prevent them from learning about each other? Acknowledging that each religion has something good and wise to offer would be an act of humility.

Being Humble

Humility is difficult to acquire because we instinctively avoid things that humble us. Like many things, this difficulty can be overcome one step at a time. Here are a few things you can do everyday to practice being humble:

Admit when you’re wrong. No one likes to accept their own mistakes, but doing so builds character and sets a good example for others. Practice admitting to the little mistakes with minor or no consequences. This prepares one for the big mess-ups, which will inevitably happen.

Avoid taking credit. When we accomplish things, we naturally want to share the news with others. This desire for recognition and praise is not wrong, but too much of it inflates the ego. Instead, keep some achievements hidden from others. It will do you good, and any who discover you didn’t step in and take credit will have more respect for you.

Learn from those around you. There will always be people who have advanced beyond us in certain ways. Don’t envy or resent them, learn from them.

Help someone. The best way to become humble is by being humbled. By serving or helping someone, we send the message that their needs are more important than our own.

There are many more ways to practice humility. To make lasting change, gradually fold humble actions into your everyday life. Don’t try to do too much at once because you will only burn yourself out. Too much humility can be a bad thing. The best way to make permanent change is to make proper humility a habit.

By:
Lewis F.