The Yoga Tutor

Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness

[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 313 ]

The Sanskrit word aparigraha is derived from graha, which means "seizing or grabbing hold of," and pari, which means "all around," "beyond" or in this case, "excess." The particle 'a' gives the opposite meaning. The essential translation of aparigraha is "not to accumulate excess," or "not piling up."

Simply put, aparigraha is "non-greediness."

This tenet of non-possessiveness can be seen as a more subtle aspect of the rule of asteya. While 'do not steal' means not to take what does not belong to you, 'not to accumulate' means not to gather what you do not need. This includes not accepting favours which you do not require, not being attached to the objects that you possess, and not to accumulate material properties that you do not need.

It is important to always remember that we are not simply here in this world to satisfy our own desires. For this reason, the yogi does not have things only for the sake of having them. Rather, he possesses only those things that are necessary.

The average person in Western society would not see him or herself as greedy. In fact, they would likely see themselves as 'needy' due to the great distortion of our perception of 'need'. In the global information and media age, we are all presented with regular examples of countless people -- politicians, movie stars, sports idols, music icons, high-profile business personalities and a growingly visible economic upper-middle and upper class of people who demonstrate inscrutable material excess. The relentless media message is 'bigger and better', 'fancier and flashier', 'lavish, luxurious, affluent', 'more, more, MORE!'

There is an ever-increasing sense of separation for the average individual of the haves and have nots, making the vast majority of people feel that they are falling short of the necessities of life. Wants have become the new needs and these new needs are the invisible greeds that permeate our minds today. As I.K. Taimni Says in his book, The Science of Yoga:

"The tendency to accumulate worldly goods is so strong that it may be considered almost a basic instinct in human life."

This tendency is a consequence of the state of mental agitation which most people today possess. The need to have things that are not necessary, to take from another without having worked for it, or to expect free favours, all reflect nothing else but poverty in spirit. It is the result of a search for satisfaction from the external world, which itself stems from lack of deeper meaning and purpose in life.

This search is in vain, because once momentarily satiated by one thing, the mind immediately heads toward another in a perpetual and endless chain. Taimni paints a succinct evolutionary delineation of this peculiar contemporary mental attitude:

"Of course, as long as we live in this physical world, we have to have a few things which are essential for the maintenance of the body, although essential and non-essential are relative terms...

But we are not satisfied with the necessities of life. We must have things which are ... not necessary for keeping body and soul together, but are meant to increase our comforts and enjoyments. We do not, however, even stop at luxuries. When we have at our disposal all of the means that can insure all possible comforts and enjoyments for the rest of our life we are still not satisfied and continue to amass wealth and things...

There is no limit to our desire for wealth and the material things which we like to have around us and obviously, therefore, we are dealing here with an instinct which has no relation with reason or common sense."

He then points out that this almost instinctive drive to accumulate things has such a negative effect on life, it makes it an absolute necessity for one to transcend it in order to truly find happiness, as well as further their evolution:

"First, you have to spend time and energy in the accumulation of things which you do not really need. Then you have to spend time and energy in maintaining and guarding these things which you have accumulated, the worries and anxieties of life increasing proportionately with the increase in accumulations. Then consider the fear of losing things, the pain and anguish of actually losing some of them every now and then [which is inevitable], and the regret of leaving them (all) behind when you ultimately bid goodbye to this world. Now add up all of these things and see what a colossal waste of time, energy and mental force all this involves. No one who is at all serious about the solution of the deeper problems of life can afford to squander his limited resources in this manner."

That is why the yogi cuts down on those things which are a source of constant disturbance to his/her mind. This not only means material possessions, but also activities too, such as social events, sporting and social club affiliations, and leisure habits, all of which may also be a strong point of attachment and, in the same way, a constant source of disturbance to the mind. In the simplest way, the yogi eliminates all those things from his/her life which are unnecessary from an evolutionary standpoint...


NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.

"The Science of Yoga is a course worthy of

leather binding and an honored place in the
finest libraries in the world 
... It is indeed a masterful work."


Dr. John Michael Christian


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