This is not about external hardships at all. I can drink wine with great pleasure, eating a delicacy. I can buy beautiful things and not limit myself. For me, pleasure is a means of attaining higher States, just as prayer, for example, can be a means of achieving higher States. There is no difference what we do, there is a difference how we do it: we get pleasure to distract from the pain inside, or with the motive to know life in all its manifestations, living high States of consciousness through everything: through sadness and through pleasure.
What is real austerity for me is the control of my behavior and my emotions. This is not a ban on feelings, it is not a suppression of emotions. I call this unconditional benevolence. No matter how much a person hurts me, I try to keep my heart open. This is gentleness and openness, and this is the hardest of all disciplines: to observe all your feelings impartially. As Richard Rudd writes, only the mind can be overloaded with emotions, the heart can never be overloaded, it can contain all the suffering of the world.
How do we respond to rejection? Treachery? To the anger directed at us? To be arrogant towards us?
A retaliatory rejection? Are we starting to be harmful and deprive others of something, our attention? Responding with anger? Resentment?
Any external austerity has no meaning if there is no internal austerity: no matter what, to maintain unconditional benevolence. And benevolence is not so much ostentatious as inside the heart, no matter how much it bleeds at this moment. And, believe me, unconditional benevolence, when it is sincere, not feigned, completely disarms the 'offender', because there is a contact of hearts, even if it remains invisible to the mind. This is intimacy and it has nothing to do with sex, although it may include it. No fasting and any external self-ban will help us, they will not help us to 'enlighten' as long as we are led by what we feel and what we think.
This leads to freedom, liberation. There are no other roads there. As long as we forget about heart-opening-no-matter-what, we are slaves. Slaves to their emotions, their traumas, their failures, their egos.
While maintaining unconditional benevolence, we offer the lower aspects on the altar of the higher goal.