Aparigraha – Non Possessiveness
If we want to access the abundance of the Universe, then there must be a balance between “taking and giving” and even give a bit more. If we have an income, it is good to offer 5-10% to charity and humanitarian acts, so that we give something back to the Universe.
That which we do not realise is that abundance is not related to the accumulation of commodities or to usurping things, but to keeping the channel of flow open by offering and receiving. In reality, the more we offer (services, knowledge, time, goods) the more we receive.
So, we arrive to the next yama, aparigraha, which is translated as non-accumulation, non-greediness, non-avarice or non-possessiveness.
Aparigraha-sthairye janma-kathamtaa-sambodhah. Yoga Sutras 2.39
This sutra tells us that “When the yogi settles in non-greediness, they know the purpose of being born”, and if we think about it a little bit, that’s the exact opposite of what is presented by the consumerist society. Greediness keeps us constantly occupied and disoriented from life’s true meaning.
Modern society teaches us that accumulating wealth and commodities is the purpose of life. That the more money, property, and goods we acquire the more we deserve to be respected, appreciated and noticed in society. Advertisements sell us happiness, satisfaction, allure, respect and self-esteem through the possession of their commodities. We consume huge amounts of energy, time, even our whole life in order to accumulate stuff, because we have erroneously believed that they will offer us peace and happiness. Some people work two or three jobs in order to obtain the commodities they dream of.
Truth is though, that the happiness they offer is ephemeral and the more we chase after acquiring commodities, the more we distance ourselves from peace and happiness. On the contrary, stress and fear take over, stealing our energy and time. Of course, the fault is not in the commodities but in the erroneous perception that peace, happiness and self-worth depend on factors outside of us.
Aparigraha suggests that we do not accumulate more than we need, that we do not buy out of envy or greediness. The more we consume, the more we increase out dependency on material goods. Think that once there were no computers or smartphones and that we were just fine. Now, if our computers break down or if we lose our cell phone, we become upset, because we are so depended on these things. Open your drawers, your closets and your storage rooms and ask: “do I really need all of this stuff, the clothes, the shoes?” Next time you will be ready to buy something, think, “do I really need this?”, “will I be happier if I have it and for how long?” If the answer is no, then do not add one more object to your collection.
Greediness and accumulation also grow out of fear. Fear of not being safe if I do not have enough commodities, or that I am not worthy of love and acceptance. Yoga practice teaches us that safety, value and happiness are mainly an internal state that emanates from the connection to our spiritual nature, and gradually helps to rid ourselves from the patterns of greed and all kinds of stealing.