This month, we explore aparigraha, the last of the five Yamas (read the July Jivamukti focus-of-the-month essay here.) Preceded by non-harming (ahimsa), truthfulness (satya), non-stealing (asteya), and wise use of sexual energy (brahmacharya), aparigraha is non-possessiveness.
Some other ways aparigraha can be translated are: non-greed, non-possession, renunciation of non-essentials, poverty, deprivation, freedom from clinging, non-acceptance, renouncing, grasping for what is beyond one's needs, a desire that takes over the entire person.
One way we can practice this Yama is to follow the adage: Live simply so that others may simply live.
In his book Inside Patanjali's Words: Explore the Heart of Yoga: A Sourcebook for the Study of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (side note: I highly recommend this book if you want to take a deep dive into the Yoga Sutras), Jaganath Carrera says about aparigraha:
"Literally, not to grasp beyond, around, or away, parigraha indicates a state of mind so overtaken by a passionate desire for something that one is tempted to break moral and ethical precepts in order to grasp, hold onto, or obtain material possession or status. Therefore, greed is not just wanting something or more of something. Greed drives us to actions that harm others or ourselves in some way. It's when our desire for material advantage allows us to disregard the welfare of others."
"Parigraha, a root of the word, has the sense of dallying or wasting time. It suggests an ethically, morally, and spiritually fruitless mindset that takes possession of the individual. In other words, greed crowds out or diminishes most other beneficial and selfless thoughts, goals, and objectives."
"The fact that one of the roots of the word, graha, also means, a state that precedes from magical influence and takes possession of the whole person, shows that self-centered desire overpowers our authentic self, our innate human nature."
"Aparigraha has also been translated as not having possessions. One way of practicing it is to contemplate the fact that we need not ever feel that we possess anything. It is the feeling of ownership that causes many of our problems. Instead, think of all the objects as having been provided for your service or to provide opportunities for learning and growth."
"Hoarding, grasping, and harboring the unrealistic expectation that any thing can bring happiness is a manifestation of ignorance. Happiness always comes from within, not from any object or situation. Enjoy things when they come, for as long as they remain, and send them off in peace when they go" (pp. 192-193).
"The end goal of aparigraha is to awaken the meaning of life. This includes the meaning of our own lives, the significance of events that come our way, and more incredibly, the meaning of existence itself. Such an attainment requires an absolutely firm, unwavering state of freedom from craving that has no hint of self-denial, but is instead rooted in a mind saturated with the requisite patience, openness, and delight" (p. 216).