Aparigraha can be translated to non-greedy, non-hoarding, non-possessive or non-attachment.
So what does this mean? Well, it means several things really. First and foremost you shouldn’t just take gifts because they are given to you. If you are a politician and you are offered a luxury vacation to Bora Bora that’s being paid for by a medical firm you probably shouldn’t take that gift.
Aparihraha has a lot to do with non-attachment. There is a difference between what we want and what we need. For instance, I would really like to have more yoga clothes and more dresses in my closet. However, I don’t really need more yoga leggings. I already have enough to start a whole yoga clothing store. On the flip side we’re going to New Zealand next week and I have absolutely zero clothes for spring so I absolutely need a sweater or cardigan to keep me warm. Oftentimes what we need and want are two very different things.
Practicing Aparigraha in real life
I can write you a whole novel about all the things I want. Granted, it would be a very boring novel, but I could write it. But I try practicing Aparigraha. There are many times where I see dresses I would absolutely love to have, but if I buy every dress I love I would be hoarding (and I would go bankrupt very soon). Yes, I still buy dresses and yoga clothes but I try to do so consciously. I no longer just go on mindless shopping sprees.
I think it’s important that we try to distance ourselves a little bit from our desires. Otherwise we become a slave to our desires. My shopping is a good example. Most people know I like shopping. I love beautiful things. However, I oftentimes will tell myself that I cannot go shopping, or I tell myself that I can only buy the things I actually need (like a sweater for NZ). Or if I’m buying a new dress, perhaps I tell myself I’m only allowed to buy one dress. Otherwise I tend to go overboard, and I hoard and spend too much money.
We probably all have these things. Perhaps you don’t have it with shopping. Maybe you have it with chocolate. My mom and sister for instance have it with yarn (they both knit a lot, which means beautiful, free sweaters for me ;)). They can buy endless amounts of yarn. My dad tends to save almost everything. Other people have a million plants in their homes. Perhaps you have it with chocolate cake. My guess is you have several areas in your life where you need to practice Aparigraha because we all do.
I would also like to mention there’s a difference between ethical and legal actions. I have a prime example from a recent trip to Sri Lanka. Normally, renting a bicycle would be around 500 LKR. All of a sudden when there was no fuel in the village and everyone needed to rent a bike the price went up to like 800 LKR. Was it legal? Absolutely! Was it ethical? Probably not… It’s called capitalism. It is legal, but not ethical. Legal and ethics are two very different things.
The idea with Aparigrapha and all of the other yamas (and all the other limbs) is that we need a place to practice these. We need a place where we can get in touch with these things. This is where practice comes in. The asanas. We are not just practicing because it’s fun and we get a flat belly. Our practice is a place where we go to cultivate deep purification of the mind, body, senses and the soul. That is what practice is all about.
I hope this blog post has given you a slightly deeper understanding of Aparigraha and how you can practice it in your life.