Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Yoga of Non-Greed

Here are some notes I made for the presentation I gave last night at yoga teacher training on aparigraha, or non-greed and non-grasping. At the end are some questions you can contemplate and offer answers to - if you're so inclined - in the comments section. Enjoy!

Yoga Sutra II.39

aparigrahasthairye janmakathamta sambodhah

Translation adapted from T.K.V. Desikachar:

“One who is not greedy is secure. He has time to think deeply. Her understanding of herself is complete.”

There are two basic ways greed manifests.
1. Desire for that which you don’t have, or perceive you don’t have
2. Stinginess with what you do have, hording

Wants vs. Needs: This yama really zeros in on our muddy thinking around needs and wants. We frequently mistake want for need, and these mistakes are reinforced by our possession-addicted culture. What is it that you really need in life? And what do you actually own anyway?

Greed and the Material: Those of use that have a lot of “stuff” in our homes and apartments often struggle around taking care of it all. Having more might offer convenience and comfort in the short term, but in the long term, having too much often ends up draining your time and energy.

Greed and the Non-Material: The same can happen to those who don’t have a lot of material possessions, but who lust after ideas, knowledge, or experiences.
Excess time and energy might be spent on, for example, learning every possible variation of trikonasana and the history behind each variation, and then more time and energy spent on defending what you have learned. (Notice the first half of the example demonstrates desire for more, while the second demonstrates a form of stinginess.)

“The final yama in Patanjali's list is aparigraha, or nongreed. This is a very difficult one to practice, surrounded as we are with advertisements that attempt to whip up our desire for more. In some ways our society's economic system is based on greed … Greed is not just confined to material goods. We may hunger after enlightenment, difficult asanas, spiritual powers, or perfect bliss. One way to sidestep the trap of greed is to follow the advice of the sages: Be happy with what you have. This spirit of true renunciation will diminish the power of aparigraha.”

Article by Judith Lasater

Greed and Your Identity: One of the very tricky places where greed manifests is around identity. Think of all the effort you put into building yourself in certain ways, presenting yourself in certain ways, and also in trying to get rid of that which you don’t like or want about yourself. Now, certainly some of this effort is quite necessary for living a healthy, fully engaged life, but some of it is also based in greed. Holding on to certain accomplishments, skills, or personal qualities in order to impress others, fit in with a certain group, or demonstrate your worthiness is one way this happens. Another is in all the attempts to hide disliked or maladapted qualities, lack of skills or lack of accomplishments.

Ultimately, manifestations of greed are really demonstrations of a lack of faith in yourself, and in the divine of the universe. Fearing you won’t be provided for, or won’t be able to get what you do need in the present or future, you take excess or withhold too much.

“By the observance of aparigraha, the yogi makes his life as simple as possible and trains his mind not to feel the loss or the lack of anything. Then everything he really needs will come to him by itself at the proper time.” B.K.S. Iyengar in Light on Yoga


What do you really need?

What are some things (objects or ideas/experiences) that you think you need, but actually don’t need?

Where in your yoga practice have you been letting something external define your happiness? Where in the rest of your life?

What can you do differently to practice aparigraha in these situations?

No comments: