The last Yama means “non-greed,” “non-grasping,” or “nonpossessiveness.” As you already know, in Sanskrit, adding an “a” prior to the word turns it into its opposite. “Parigraha” means “to crave” or “to seize.” This principle is about not seeking or craving material possessions—an abstention from greed. That’s what it’s about: non-acquisitiveness. Now the thing is, everybody has heard or read that a genuine seeker of spirituality should shun all types of possessions and materialism.
Theoretically, this is true. But in practice, we come yet again to the issue of oppressing desires. Do you know what happens when you suppress a
powerful desire? It consumes you, and it’s just a matter of time until it explodes and takes possession of your life. Suppression is never the way forward. To truly put this Yama into practice, what’s required is discernment. This means not forcing desires away, but understanding that what you genuinely desire is not actually what you think it is. If you want a new expensive thing, but your guru forces you to not buy it by saying “You should neither desire nor cling to material objects” (which is true), and you end up not buying it through sheer will, that doesn’t mean you’ve dissipated that desire—it just means that it was pushed back into the subconscious.
This untranscended desire will germinate and spread negative seeds through your psyche, and then at some future point, either in meditation or in life, it will come to the forefront and have to be dealt with. Suppression of desires can turn them into powerful monsters. Most of the time, meditation in and of itself is not enough to awaken the required discernment. You also require strong additional pointers that direct your intellect toward such insight and discernment. These pointers on their own are not enough either, despite what Neo-Advaita contemporary teachers may suggest. Meditation and direct pointers both work together synergistically.
The following chapters will help you to awaken the required insight—they will propel your heart to silently say: “I know this is true.” Consciously, you will have no doubts whatsoever. Then, with the help of continued spiritual practice and by reflecting on these pointers, your subconscious will
be flooded with this higher level of awareness, leading you to live a life true to what your beingness already knows. That being said, this very rarely
occurs in an instant; it’s more of a progressive nature, a realization that you slowly grow into and integrate.
However, if there’s still a strong remaining desire toward materialism, it’s okay. Live your life and fully experience it through the senses. Build a
business or get a fantastic job, earn lots of money, buy whatever you wish to buy, get your dream partner, go on vacation to the most exotic and marvelous places, etc. Do everything that you believe will fulfill you. Then, if despite all of this hard work and perseverance you don’t succeed in acquiring what you wished for, or once you directly realize that “having it all” will never be enough to bring total fulfillment and permanently cease suffering, you can finally turn to spiritual life and practice. You can easily realize for yourself how delusional the “love for things” is and how they can trap you into a vicious cycle:
Whenever you obtain some new thing that you adore, observe how you feel after its “honeymoon” period has passed. The initial rush and pleasure you got from that thing begins to fade out until it just becomes another ordinary object. It has lost its value or appeal, and now your mind may desire something different, something better or new. When you get a new iPhone, you treat it with so much care, just like a newborn. A couple of months afterward, you’re already throwing it around to the couch or bed.
Did this new thing bring any lasting satisfaction, or did it just provide a temporary anesthesia? It’s a fake happiness, one that you will keep pursuing and never finding. Possessions can be like taking cocaine in order to experience a short burst of happiness—but this is fleeting and you’ll eventually feel the negative aftereffects. Unfortunately, just like most drugs, the joy experienced when getting new things reinforces the reward pathways in the brain, becoming addictive and creating a sort of dependence. You then
want new things in order to continue feeling that pleasure. It’s a never-ending cycle; a mirage that you can never reach.
Now, I’m not saying you can’t buy or own anything. You obviously can buy whatever you wish. You don’t need to be poor or buy cheap things of
inferior quality that will not serve you as well. It’s just that you must awaken out of this materialistic-trap of living just to acquire pleasure-giving things you don’t really need!
Why do I Want What I Want?
Why do people want material wealth? It’s about desires and aspirations. It is because they believe that those things that they want will make them feel complete and happy. Whatever people wish for is just because they believe it will make them happy. What they are really looking for is happiness! Whenever you desire something new, ask yourself: Why do I want this? I want you to dig deep into your mind with this question. Why do you want what you want? Why is this desiring emerging in the first place? What void is it going to fill?
Let’s suppose Maria longs to find a partner. She’s had some relationships before, but they never quite worked out. Now she really wants to find her “soul mate.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but if she were to investigate her reasons, maybe she would find the underlying cause for this desire. “I want to find a loving partner.”
“I have an empty feeling, a feeling of lack inside. I want a partner so that I can fill that void and feel complete.”
Ok, this was quite easy. But what if we exchange “I want a loving partner” for “I want a new flashy car,” or “I want to achieve professional success”?
“I feel a sense of lack. I want a new flashy car so that I can get the approval of other people. That car is a symbol of money and success, and people will like me, respect me, and look up to me if I have one.”
Why do you want the approval of other people?
“I feel like I’m not enough. If others approve of me, I approve of me. I need the validation to feel good.”
So do you want the approval of other people, or do you want to feel good and complete?”
“I want to feel good and complete. Deep down, I am insecure.”
Do you need the approval of other people to feel good, secure, and complete?
“I guess so…”
I bet you’re not seeking everyone’s approval. You’re not seeking the Dalai Lama’s approval. You’re seeking your peers’ approval, and that of people you believe have some degree of authority.
“Yes, that’s correct.”
You’ve been led to believe that by being approved of by someone you consider to be more worthy than you, your worth will increase—and thus you
will feel happier and more complete. Do you see the fallacy in this? You give others more worth than you give yourself, and then you need those very same people to give you your worth back so that you can feel worthy. They have the power. Yet it was you who gave them the power—so who’s got the power after all?
There’s always a reason for wanting whatever it is that we want, and if we go deeply into the “why,” it will always end up being about happiness
and completeness. Spirituality is about ending the feeling of lack, which means we have to be everything. If we are everything, we can’t feel that we lack anything. To be everything, we have to stop being something. To be the Whole, we have to stop being a “part”—“I.” By breaking the harsh barriers of this physical body through spiritual practice, our awareness “expands” from a localized spot to a non-localized awareness. When there’s no location, our circumference is everywhere, but our center is—nowhere.
This pursuit of security, of feeling good, of being happy, of being totally contented and complete is the highest pursuit. It’s seeking God. God is absolute happiness. God is peace and bliss beyond comprehension. That’s the goal of humanity, that’s your goal—to be perpetually happy, to be blissful beyond any possible understanding. That is being one with God, which is the purpose of all Yogas and genuine spirituality. All unhappiness comes from unfulfilled desire. When we find our true nature, when we find God, the ultimate desire for happiness and completeness is fulfilled, and therefore, we will no longer be unhappy. That is real Freedom.
If you understand that what you want is to be happy, and that the only reason you want to achieve whatever it is that you want to achieve (e.g., mundane success, acquiring new possessions, or any other externally oriented goal) is because you believe these things will bring you happiness, then you will not desire them anymore. You will only wish for absolute happiness, absolute bliss, absolute peace, and absolute ecstasy. You don’t need “things” as the intermediary of happiness—they are a very poor middleman anyway. If you want happiness and completeness, things are but a scam. What you really want is the end of all desires—the desirelessness that comes with realizing your true blissful nature.
Desires = restlessness.
Desireless = peacefulness.
“God is absolute bliss.”Atharva Veda
Few have the genuine desire to realize the highest truth, and fewer still have the self-sincerity, discipline, and patience to attain it. This is
exclusively a result of their lack of discernment. They are also looking for that supreme happiness, and think a “successful life” (whatever “successful”
may mean to them in terms of achievements in society) or acquiring material wealth will bring it.
But you are not going to settle for a temporarily successful life. You are going for the eternal. You want to be eternally happy. Why would you want to achieve any lesser goals than this unbounded bliss? Understanding this gives rise to total abstention from greed (Aparigraha).
Of course some bad habits may still emerge from time to time; of course your desires for material things may still pop up from time to time; but
neither will fool you anymore because you know that none of these things will ultimately satisfy you. It’s smoke from a smoldering—and about to be
extinguished—fire. With time, practice, and surrender, there will come a day when no more desires for these types of things emerge anymore. When that day comes, you shall be ready for the beginning of true “non-possessiveness” (Aparigraha). And you’ll realize that you don’t even really possess your “I”—it belongs to the universal dance of God. That’s the ultimate form of Aparigraha.
Your Mind is the Ruler of Value
I want you to notice that whatever you see, it actually doesn’t mean anything in itself. It is your own mind that applies an interpretation to what
you are perceiving. We give meaning to everything we perceive.
Your thoughts and constant interpretations color whatever you perceive, and attribute a meaning to it in accordance to your “self.” Everything we
apprehend is automatically perceived in a way that is either beneficial or harmful to our survival and self-continuance (both of the body and of our
Imagine that your grandmother gave you an old family bracelet moments before her death, and whispered to you “This bracelet has been with our family for five generations. Keep it safe. This is my last wish.” The bracelet now carries with it a powerful emotional charge. It may be totally meaningless to everyone else, but to you—it is exceptionally important.
A few weeks later, at a friends’ reunion, you bring that bracelet and show it to your friends. Suddenly, a friend says that she has a similar bracelet. She
takes it off of her arm and asks you to hand yours to her so that she can compare how similar they are. Lo and behold, the bracelets are identical!
Your friend can’t pinpoint any difference between them. Accidentally, she drops both, and after picking them up, you are horrified. Now, you don’t know which bracelet is yours and which bracelet is your friend’s! “Don’t worry, they are exactly the same,” says your friend.
“You don’t understand; this bracelet is special! It was given to me by my grandmother right before she passed away,” you reply. But how could you even tell the difference between them? You can’t! You see, it’s not the object in itself, but the meaning and value we ascribe to it that makes it meaningful and valuable.
Hence we must understand that we give everything we perceive all the value that it has for us. We can realize that nothing has value in and of itself,
but only if we venture beyond our usual limiting mind. To perceive something as it really is, you need to distill all coloration from your awareness.
If you are looking at everything with glasses that have purple hued lenses, you’d think that everything is purplish. It is not. Look at whatever you see during your day and realize that nothing has value or meaning in itself—things are intrinsically empty. Pay close attention to those things that you feel especially attached or attracted to. You will soon find out, experientially, that there’s no more useless and nonsensical obsession than pursuing happiness and fulfillment through materiality.
Our current culture has distorted the way we perceive this world. If I asked you to think of something extremely valuable to you right now, I bet you wouldn’t think about water. Yet water is one of the most valuable things a human being can have. But we take it for granted. Do you know what else we take for granted?
Our own consciousness.
Don’t take it for granted. Pay attention to it. It is calling you! Without consciousness, nothing would be.
Consciousness is our mother—and our father. And we, as consciousness, are its child. Self-recognizing oneself to be this consciousness is the most valuable achievement in the whole universe.