The Fifth Yama: Aparigraha

Friday, 23 October 2020 17:37
The final Yama is Aparigraha, meaning abstention from greed or non-coverting. BKS Iyengar gives the following definitions in Light of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:
Freedom from avarice [extreme greed for wealth or material gain], non-acceptance of gifts, without possessions, without belongings.
It is evident that this Yama is entwined with the other Yamas in the form of our desire for MORE. The word Parigraha means ‘grasping at’. The word grasping gives us a sense of image of a sweaty hand reaching out continuously in a rapacious, insatiable manner. For some of us the need to acquire more is so strong it becomes an all-prevailing emotional state. We are fed by the all-pervasive capitalist system that is destructive, self-perpetuating and all-consuming.
As SS Varma in ‘Yogic Practice - Yama and Niyamas says: ‘The tendency to accumulate is so strong that it may be considered almost a basic instinct.’
The Yama, Aparigraha, involves curbing the tendency to accumulate and be greedy. To recognise what is truly important to us and what is superfluous, in order to ’declutter’ to find clarity in a world of useless junk. In an attempt to be free from worldly aspirations to become a happy and satisfied person. 
It also involves Asteya (the Third Yama: non-stealing). As Feuerstein states:  ’Effectively, we are habitually stealing from future generations by condoning and supporting all those corporations that are rapaciously stripping the Earth of its natural resources to meet our ever-growing demand for consumer goods.’ This is destruction, food waste, cruelty, landfill on a global scale.
‘Overconsumption has become an unconscious habit, and we take all the little and big luxuries afforded to us by our modern society for granted.’ (Feuerstein, G. Yoga Morality - Ancient Teachings at a Time of Global Crisis, Hohm, Arizona, 2007, p.185)
The main Yoga Sutra of Patanjali that relates to Aparigraha is Sutra 2.39:
Aparigrahastairye janmakathamtā sambodhah  
Interpreted as:  When non-greed is confirmed, a thorough illumination of the how and why of one’s birth comes.
The ‘how and why of one’s birth’???  What do you think that means?  Is it the absolute knowledge of who you are (without all your stuff around you) and what your purpose is on the Earth right here and now? 
‘When one is living without surplus possessions and without greed, one realises the true meaning of one’s life, and all life unfolds before one.’ BKS Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Thorsons, London, 2002  p.152
Iyengar also says it is ‘difficult to master’. I’m glad he’s included that!  When we understand our motivators we can investigate and see what causes our desires. We are able to detach from the cause and effect relationship that ensues in endless repetition of our current life as well as reincarnating in future ones (since Yoga maintains that the present life is only one in a sequence of embodiments) until we can recognise and absorb the truth.
Another aspect of Aparigraha is the acceptance of gifts. The accepting of gifts brings an element of obligation. And then we may be bound by this obligation. 
Iyengar also says it has a third meaning:  freedom from ‘rigidity of thought’ (p.153). This is also a form of possessiveness - holding onto a thought. We can get stuck in this thought and it becomes unshakeable. Much of life that is reflected through the screen at us (TV shows, movies) are primarily about the main protagonist obsessed with one thought (usually to kill/hurt someone. Sounds extreme but usually true!). Then the negative cycle continues.
Therefore, by loosening the hold on who we think we are, we discover the secret of who we really are and what our purpose is. By breaking the cycle of desire we avoid generating new karmic debts and find ourselves becoming increasingly generous. We accept that everything we need is already in us. We can then become happy and content through this inner freedom.
Get on your mat and find your inner freedom :)
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