What is the Concept of Aparigraha?

Aparigraha is a concept relating to the absence of possessiveness. This is one of the main virtues of Jainism. Aparigraha is the opposite of parigrah. Parigrah relates to keeping things or possessions because they are necessary.

One way to think of aparigraha is being aware of change in life. It is inevitable and it happens constantly. You may wish your children could remain babies, but you know that they must change and grow into adults. You yourself must grow older with every passing day. This is aparigraha -the living understanding that there is no way to hold on to anything including moments of time. There is no way to truly possess anything.

If you try to hold on to the past, for example, you can make yourself depressed or anguished. It is only by awakening to the lessons that come with letting go and not holding on that we find true peace.

As a word, it is closest to the Sanskrit word vairagya. This is the word for detachment. This is a path that India’s holy men take when they leave all worldly possessions behind and go on to live lives of austerity.

It is fine to possess material objects for the purpose of using them in life. For instance, owning a cup or a spoon has a use for one to feed oneself. However, it is the possession or hoarding of objects or things for the purpose of having more that becomes the antithesis of aparigraha. Respecting oneself and others as well as being aware of earthly needs is important but so is distinguishing those needs from wants.

There are physical needs but when the senses begin approaching desires for the sake of satisfying those desires there is a problem. This behavior leads to taking more than what is needed or to being dishonest or stealing from others.

The word can be broken down to mean grab or take. This is the essence of Graha. The pari refers to taking on all sides. The “a” negates these two words making the meaning of the whole word that of non-accumulation or detachment.

Many people who practice yoga will also practice Aparigraha as it is one of the Yamas. There are poses that help one to physically practice the art of non-attachment. The balance is found between taking and receiving as well as keeping and letting go.