Simplification of lives with Aparigraha

(Sharing by Gimling Lee as part of the 30hr Discovery Programme)

Aparigraha refers to non-greed or non-possessiveness. It is the fifth and last of Patanjali’s yamas, and refers to both material and spiritual realms.

In the material sense, we should not accumulate and hoard possessions. Seeking to own more only brings grief to the psyche. There’s always the next pair of shoes, the latest smartphone, a fancier car, or a larger home – but when does that end?

A few years ago, I read about minimalist living and practitioners who bring it to a whole new level. They set challenges for themselves, for example to live with 10 articles of clothing and 100 items in the house – pots, furniture, toiletries and all. While few of us could change to that lifestyle cold turkey, it set me thinking about how we could drastically simplify our lives. (My mum spontaneously picked up Marie Kondo’s The Life-changing Magic of Tidying up, but that’s another story altogether. As of press time, we are incomplete “Kon”-verts.)

Before our next purchase then, let us participate in a thought exercise. What is the function of the item in my life? Do I own something similar or performs the same function? ? If I would only use it rarely, could I then borrow one? And at the end of the day – is it a need or a want?

From there, we can pare down what we own to the things which fulfil our needs, but not our wants. Owning more would weigh us down. We become attached to said possessions and worry about losing them.

In the spiritual aspect, aparigraha would refer to living in the moment and non-attachment. We shall take joy the moment and in the action, but remove attachment from the outcomes. In our asana practice, this means to focus wholeheartedly on the single asana, but to avoid comparison to how we have performed on a previous day, and to remove thoughts about insufficiency. Can we perform an task to our full capacity for the joy of immersing ourselves in the action, instead of doing it for the sake of it’s outcome or judgement from others?

Let us practice gratitude towards life and the universe. Aparigraha allows us freedom from externalities, and redirects us to seek the peace which is inside us.

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