The fifth Yama described by Maharishi Patanjali, within the Yoga Sutras, is Aparigraha. This Yama is not one of the ten traditional Yamas. To understand Aparigraha, we might want to look at the polar opposite, which is “Parigraha.”
Parigraha is the desire to acquire power, glory, people, and worldly objects. This would include land, clothes, cars, homes, or wealth of any kind. This is what humans spend most of their time working for. Is the desire for abundance wrong, and did Patanjali feel we should take a vow of voluntary poverty?
Unfortunately, we cannot ask Patanjali for an exact clarification, but we can use a bit of common sense to realize his point. That point being: The excessive desire for power and wealth has caused humankind much grief in the shape of wars, violence, and crimes, for many thousands of years.
If we go back to the beginning of our species, it is likely, primal man was as possessive of objects as we are today. So, the ethical guideline of Aparigraha was put into place to prevent desire from causing excessive behavior, mental illness, violence, or worse. After all, our wants can far outweigh our real needs.
On the other hand, if we were all to take a vow of poverty, humankind would never have advanced to this point. Consider this: If you embrace poverty completely, you cannot see the abundance or opportunities right in front of you. A person, who believes firmly that poverty is a natural way of life, cannot see the opportunities to help his, or her, family.
In short – monks, nuns, and priests, take a vow of poverty, but we do not all want to become a monk, nun, or priest. Bless those who do, because we need them, but many of us desire to exist in family units. In order to sustain a family, you cannot take a vow of poverty. Families work together, in the best of times, to prepare for the worst of times.
As humans changed from being hunters and gatherers, to creating farming communities, they began to stockpile their harvests in order to survive rough winters. Later, agricultural societies gave way to industrial- and service-oriented societies, which are driven by currency.
Therefore, it should be noted that material is required in order to survive, unless you can count on the community to support you. However, the accumulation of unnecessary possessions is a waste of time and energy.
It creates clutter in your home and would serve a better purpose, when we make a donation to a local charity. Wasting is a violation of Aparigraha. To acquire possessions and see them waste away, rather than share, or donate them. is a negligent act.
Maharishi Patanjali constantly emphasizes moderate viewpoints within the Yoga Sutras. With that said, readers who have extremist views are not consistent with the words of Patanjali.
© Copyright 2008 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications