Aparigrah is the opposite of parigrah, and refers to keeping the desire for possessions to what is necessary or important, depending on one’s life stage and context. The precept of aparigraha is a self-restraint (temperance) from the type of greed and avarice where one’s own material gain or happiness comes by hurting, killing or destroying other human beings, life forms or nature.
Aparigraha is related to and in part a motivator of dāna (proper charity), both from giver’s and receiver’s perspective.
Etymology and meaning
Aparigraha is a compound in Sanskrit, made of “a-” and “parigraha“. The prefix “a-” means “non-“, so “aparigraha” is the opposite of “parigraha“, so aparigraha is speech and actions that oppose and negate parigraha.
Parigraha means ‘to amass’, ‘to crave’, ‘to seek’, ‘to seize’, and ‘to receive or accept’ material possessions or gifts from others. The word also includes the idea of doing good with the expectation of benefit or reward, not just for the sake of merely doing good. Parigraha includes the results as well as the intent; in other words, it means the attitudes of craving, possessiveness, and hoarding, but also the things that have been acquired because of those attitudes. The concept of aparigraha as one of the means to liberate the soul from the cycle of birth and death was first laid down by first tirthankara in Jainism, Rishabhdeva.
Monier-Williams states that the word “parigraha” has roots in the Vedic texts as well, referring to fencing an altar, enclosing something, assuming or putting on a dress or receiving something. In the Brahmanas and later texts, the term contextually means accepting or taking a gift, acquiring, possessing, claiming, controlling something such a property, or assistance, or constraining force on others. In some texts, the root reflects the state of marriage or having a family.
The virtue of aparigraha means taking what is truly necessary and no more. In Yoga school of Hinduism, this concept of virtue has also been translated as “abstaining from accepting gifts”, “not expecting, asking, or accepting inappropriate gifts from any person”, and “not applying for gifts which are not to be accepted”. The concept includes in its scope non-covetousness, and non-possessiveness. Taylor states, aparigraha includes the psychological state of “letting go and the releasing of control, transgressions, fears” and living a content life unfettered by anxieties.
Aparigraha is one of the virtues in Jainism. It is also one of the five vows that both householders (Śrāvaka) and ascetics must observe. This Jain vow is the principle of limiting one’s possessions (parimita-parigraha) and limiting one’s desires (iccha-parimana).
In Jainism, worldly wealth accumulation is considered as a potential source of rising greed, jealousy, selfishness and desires. Giving up emotional attachments, sensual pleasures and material possession is a means of liberation, in Jain philosophy. Eating enough to survive is considered more noble than eating for indulgence. Similarly, all consumption is more appropriate if it is essential to one’s survival, and inappropriate if it is a form of hoarding, show off or for ego. Non-possession and non-attachment are a form of virtue, and these are recommended particularly in later stages of one’s life. After ahiṃsā, Aparigraha is the second most important virtue in Jainism.
In the Yoga Sūtras (II.30), aparigraha is listed as the fifth of the Yamas or code of self-restraint, after with Ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (non-falsehoods, truthfulness), Asteya (not stealing), and Brahmacharya (sexual chastity in one’s feelings and actions).
अहिंसासत्यास्तेय ब्रह्मचर्यापरिग्रहाः यमाः ॥३०॥
Non-violence, Non-falsehood, Non-stealing, Non-cheating (celibacy, chastity), and Non-possessiveness are the five Yamas. (30)— Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 2.30
Aparigraha is thus one of the five essential restraints (yamas, “the don’ts”) in Hinduism, that with five essential practices (niyamas, “the dos”) are suggested for right, virtuous, enlightened living. While Yoga Sutras distills the ten yamas and niyamas, these virtues appear, in various discussions, in Vedic texts. It is part of ethical theory in Hinduism.
James Wood states, aparigraha is the virtue of abstaining from appropriating objects because one understands the disadvantages in “acquiring them, keeping them, losing them, being attached to them, or in harming them”. Patanjali suggests that greed and coveting material wealth increases greed and possessiveness, a cycle that distracts from good reasons for activity that should motivate a person, and ultimately to a state where a person seeks material wealth without effort and by harming, hurting or impoverishing someone else, or some living creature. Yoga Sutra’s sutra 2.39 states,
A quote explaining what John McAfee puts forth in regards to the influence of greed on human behaviors, connections between a few attachments:
- When we start to satisfy desires, new levels of greed or attachment can start to develop. Coupled with asteya, parigraha (coveting/hoarding) can lead an individual to lie, steal, cheat, or even murder for the desired item, regardless of the outcome of their actions. Greed is probably the highest act of not practicing aparigraha, since greed generally equates to collecting things well beyond one’s immediate or foreseeable future needs.
Taking without effort, harming someone’s position and life by reducing input, possessiveness impedes freely accessing public information, changing quality of relations between public service and citizens and harms valued considerations of another’s kindness. A significant change is bringing about an orderly virtue, diligence into fields formerly motivated by unhealthy competition and monetary gain, the latter made human life to be unconcerned and uninterested about the positions moved to other states and more so, switched to temporary replacements, and is informally to restrict available services due to moment by moment choices, also by hoarding funds and wealth. Coveting and harmful accruement violates a belief in property ownership as a result of ones own efforts.
अपरिग्रहस्थैर्ये जन्मकथंतासंबोधः ॥३९॥
With constancy of aparigraha, a spiritual illumination of the how and why of motives and birth emerges. (39)— Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 2.39
Restraint from possessiveness and greed, or aparigraha, leads one away from harmful and injurious greed, refraining from harming others, and towards the spiritual state of good activity and understanding one’s motives and origins. The virtue of non-coveting, non-possessing is a means of Sādhanā, path of spiritual existence. In outer world, aparigraha manifests as non-possessiveness with simple living; while in psychological terms, it is a state of non-attachment, non-craving and one that envelops the sense of contentment.
Jealousy is an eventual result of a mental setup directed by accumulation and then want of accomplishments garnered by successful people, numerous accomplishments will accumulate jealousy without any real limit that could control and inhibit this desire. Shadripu are spiritual ailments preventing our movement to from the material to a higher awareness and good direction (dama) of the senses. Impulses can be broken down by a surrender of the outcome or by surrender of the ego to God.
Relation to charity and conservation
Some suggest aparigraha implies the concepts of charity (dāna) and conservation. Taking and wasting more of nature, or from others, is inconsistent with the ethical precept of aparigraha.
Scholars suggest aparigraha allies with ideas that inspire environmental and ecological sustainability. Aparigraha suggests the reduction of waste and adds a spiritual dimension to preventing destructive consumption of ecosystems and nature.
Difference from Asteya
Asteya is also one of the five vows taken by Jain ascetic monks to attain liberation. It is the virtue of non-stealing and not wanting to appropriate, or take by force or deceit or exploitation, by deeds or words or thoughts, what is owned by and belongs to someone else. Aparigraha, in contrast, is the virtue of non-possessiveness and non-clinging to one’s own property, non-accepting any gifts or particularly improper gifts offered by others, and of non-avarice, non-craving in the motivation of one’s deeds, words and thoughts.
The ancient Tamil moral text of Tirukkural speaks about aparigraha in its chapters on renunciation (Chapter 35) and extirpation of desire (Chapter 37), besides various other places.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia