APARIGRAHA – NON-GREED

Aparigraha – the final Yama – translates to “non-greed”, “non-attachment” and “non-possessiveness” (‘graha’ = ‘to take, seize or grab’,  ‘pari’ = ‘on all sides’, and the prefix ‘a’ = ‘not’). This Yama urges us to take only what we need, to hold onto only what serves us in the present moment, and to let go when the time is right. Aparigraha is actually one of the central teachings in the Yogic text the Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna advises : “Let your concern be with action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction”. This teaching emphasizes focusing on the present actions without attachment to the outcomes, highlighting the journey over the destination. So often we worry if we’ll be successful enough, or ‘good enough’ when we put our hearts on the line to show the world what we’re made of, that we forget why we started in the first place.

Great poets like Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman, painters like Camille Corot, and even composers like Beethoven exemplified this principle, creating despite uncertainty about what would come of their work. By relinquishing the need for external validation and embracing their passions purely for the love of creation, they lived fulfilled lives. When we understand and can fully comprehend how to live in this way, it’s a bit like taking a huge sigh of relief.

When non-possessiveness is established, knowledge of the why and wherefore of one’s birth is obtained.

YOGA SUTRA 2.39

This Yoga Sutra underscores that by practicing Aparigraha, letting go of possessiveness and greed, we gain deeper insights into the purpose and meaning of our existence. It emphasizes the importance of detachment from material possessions and desires as a path to attain spiritual understanding and fulfillment.

Take only what you need and leave the land as you found it.

NATIVE AMERICAN PROVERB

Native American wisdom echoes the sentiment of this Yoga Sutra : “Take only what you need and leave the land as you found it”. Yet, in our consumer-driven culture, we often accumulate more than necessary, burdening ourselves with physical and emotional baggage. Aparigraha teaches us to discern between our genuine needs and desires born out of a sense of lack. How many clothes do you have in your cupboard that you know you won’t ever wear again? How many gadgets, ornaments, books and shoes do we have that we really just don’t need? Moderation in consumption is key, as excessive possessions weigh us down physically and energetically.

The principle extends beyond material goods to food consumption, with wastage contributing to global hunger despite abundant resources. Many texts advise eating moderately, so as not to disturb our practice, and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika in particular lists over-eating as a hindrance on the Yogic path. It has been well documented that the world’s ‘blue zones’ (the places in the world with the highest life expectancy, and the healthiest quality of life) eat until about 80% full, so as to allow the body to properly digest and assimilate food. Okinawa in Japan is one of these blue zones, and the phrase ‘Hara Hachi Bu’, meaning ‘eat until you are eight parts full’ originates here. It’s not just how much we eat that is worth considering, but also how much we throw away. 30% – 50% of the food produced in the world ends up as waste. With a growing global population of around 9 billion people, demands for food are growing, but still well over 8 million people in the world go hungry every day. The food currently wasted in Europe could feed around 200 million people, so why are we still being greedy, over-buying and wasting food?

Attachment to positive experiences is naturally human, but clinging to them impedes our growth. The Sanskrit concept of ‘Parinamavada’, meaning ‘everything is in a constant state of flux’, reminds us that change is inherent in life. By embracing both joy and sorrow, light and dark, we enrich our human experience. Happiness, joy and peace are important emotions to feel, yes, but so too is sadness, anger and loss. To experience only the good stuff is to experience only half of what life has to offer. The school of life exists to allow us to experience and learn from every aspect of our being, and to truly live we must not push away the things we don’t want to feel, but allow them to happen, and know that this too shall pass. When we let the moment be what it is without either trying to cling to it, or to push it away, we can really say we’re living in that moment, allowing things to come and go, without the need to possess any of it.

Practicing Aparigraha :

  • Practicing this Yama offers us so much freedom – the freedom to pursue our passions without worrying about the outcomes, the freedom to rely less on external and material possessions to bring us happiness, and the freedom to experience everything life has to offer. See what happens when you embrace this Yama in your life, what happens when you just let go? Reflect on how you can cultivate a little more ‘non-attachment’, ‘non-greed’ and ‘non possessiveness’ in your live. Pause before acquiring new possessions, reflecting on their true value in bringing lasting happiness or peace. Release the urge to control outcomes and focus on the journey itself. Remind yourself daily that true fulfillment lies not in possessions but in experiences. Let go of concerns about the future and immerse yourself fully in the present moment. Detach from outcomes and embrace the freedom of living without attachment.
  • Do you feel limited by others’ perceptions or expectations of you? Tune out those that aren’t truly invested in your growth and success, and remember that you chart the course for your own life. Rewrite the narrative with your actions.
  • Recognize when it’s time to move on. What are you holding on to in your life that might be holding you back
  • Next time your mind shifts into worry mode, ground yourself by remembering that it’s going to be OK. Focus on the present moment, enjoying life as you go.

Let your concern be with the action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of your action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction.

KRISHNA