As I prepared to write this blog I felt the need to look up the translation of Aparigraha. Here’s what I found:
· a = “non” or “not”
· pari = “about”
· graha = “taking”, “seizing”, “holding”, “obtaining”
Now we see why traditionally this yama is translated as non-possessiveness, non-attachment, non-greed, and non-clinging.
Some of the modern translations include:
· Nischala Devi describes this yama as an awareness of abundance, and a sense of fulfillment.
· Michael Stone describes it as “voluntary simplicity”, the opposite of materialism and hoarding.
· Nicholai Bachman uses the idea of rejecting the concept of “mine”.
· Deborah Adele believes it is the practice of “letting go”. She explains that, “What we try to possess, possesses us”.
Here is how Patanjali expresses this concept in the Yoga Sutras:
YS 2.39 When no longer grasping for things, we discover why we were born.
This practice includes not “holding onto” firm ideas or beliefs. Being able to let go allows us to value all outcomes and as Michael Stone says, to “use all the ingredients of one’s life”.
It involves not controlling other people. Controlling behaviour often comes from a need for stability and security, and yet in this world that is impermanent and ever changing, we need to find something else to provide that sense of stability. This creates a shift in our reference from external (ego-based) to internal (spirit-based). This expanded awareness gifts us with abundance in consciousness, and we can anchor to our deepest Self, which is not subject to the ebbs and flows of the world of form. When we choose a simple life there is more time for contemplation and inner work.
In her book, Deborah Adele talks about how there is a lot of trust needed to practice this particular yama. She describes how letting go can feel very vulnerable and uncomfortable – like a trapeze artist hanging mid air as they let go of one bar to get to the other. By clinging to anything, the mind becomes disturbed with expectations, and if these are not met there is criticism, judgement, and disappointment. In these disturbances we can lose the ability to recognize and connect with the joy of moment or experience.
Something I have seen in this practice is confusion with indifference… Non-possessiveness is not indifference. Aparigraha isn’t ignoring, shutting down or turning away from anything. We actually care and continue to be engaged in the process of our lives, we are letting go of the need for it to “look a certain way” in order to be happy or satisfied.
The invitation is for you to consider where Aparigraha shows up in your life… What are you holding onto that you no longer need? What possesses you? How can you simplify?
Enjoy the practice!