Aparigraha (Sanskrit: अपरिग्रह) is the concept of non-possessiveness, non-grasping or non-greediness.[1] It is one of the virtues in Hinduism and Jainism.

Aparigrah is the opposite of parigrah, and refers to keeping the desire for possessions to what is necessary or important, depending on one's life stage and context. The precept of aparigraha is a self-restraint (temperance) from the type of greed and avarice where one's own material gain or happiness comes by hurting, killing or destroying other human beings, life forms or nature.[2]

Aparigraha is a concept that is related to and in part a motivator of dāna (proper charity), both from giver's and receiver's perspective.[3][4]

Etymology and meaning

Aparigraha is a compound in Sanskrit, made of "a-" and "parigrah". The prefix "a-" means "non-", so "aparigrah" is the opposite of "parigrah", so aparigraha is speech and actions that oppose and negate parigraha.

The word parigrah means ‘to amass’, ‘to crave’, ‘to seek’, ‘to seize’, and ‘to receive or accept’ material possessions or gifts from others.[5] The word also includes the idea of doing good with the expectation of benefit or reward, not just for the sake of merely doing good. Parigraha includes the results as well as the intent; in other words, it means the attitudes of craving, possessiveness, and hoarding, but also the things that have been acquired because of those attitudes.[5]

Monier-Williams states that the word "parigraha" has roots in the Vedic texts, referring to fencing an altar, enclosing something, assuming or putting on a dress or receiving something.[6] In the Brahmanas and later texts, the term contextually means accepting or taking a gift, acquiring, possessing, claiming, controlling something such a property, or assistance, or constraining force on others.[6] [6] In some texts, the root reflects the state of marriage or having a family.[6]

The virtue of aparigraha means taking what is truly necessary and no more. In Yoga school of Hinduism, this concept of virtue has also been translated as "abstaining from accepting gifts",[7] "not expecting, asking, or accepting inappropriate gifts from any person", and "not applying for gifts which are not to be accepted".[8] The concept includes in its scope non-covetousness,[9] and non-possessiveness.[10] Taylor states, aparigraha includes the psychological state of "letting go and the releasing of control, transgressions, fears" and living a content life unfettered by anxieties.[11]


In the Yoga Sūtras (II.30), aparigraha is listed as the fifth Yamas or code of self-restraint, after with Ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (non-falsehoods, truthfulness), Asteya (not stealing), and Brahmacharya (sexual chastity in one's feelings and actions).[8][12]

अहिंसासत्यास्तेय ब्रह्मचर्यापरिग्रहाः यमाः ॥३०॥

Non-violence, Non-falsehood, Non-stealing, Non-cheating (celibacy, chastity), and Non-possessiveness are the five Yamas. (30)

Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 2.30[13]

Aparigraha is thus one of the five essential restraints (yamas, "the don'ts") in Hinduism, that with five essential practices (niyamas, "the dos") are suggested for right, virtuous, enlightened living. While Yoga Sutras distills the ten yamas and niyamas, these virtues appear, in various discussions, in Vedic texts.[14] It is part of ethical theory in Hinduism.[15]

James Wood states,[8] aparigraha is the virtue of abstaining from appropriating objects because one understands the disadvantages in "acquiring them, keeping them, losing them, being attached to them, or in harming them". Patanjali suggests that greed and coveting material wealth increases greed and possessiveness, a cycle that distracts from good reasons for activity that should motivate a person, and ultimately to a state where a person seeks material wealth without effort and by harming, hurting or impoverishing someone else, or some living creature.[8] Yoga Sutra's verse 2.39 states,[16]

अपरिग्रहस्थैर्ये जन्मकथंतासंबोधः ॥३९॥

With constancy of aparigraha, a spiritual illumination of the how and why of motives and birth emerges. (39)

Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 2.39[17]

Restraint from possessiveness and greed, or aparigraha, leads one away from harmful and injurious greed, refraining from harming others, and towards the spiritual state of good activity and understanding one's motives and origins.[8][17] The virtue of non-coveting, non-possessing is a means of Sādhanā, path of spiritual existence.[17] In outer world, aparigraha manifests as non-possessiveness with simple living; while in psychological terms, it is a state of non-attachment, non-craving and one that envelops the sense of contentment.[18]

Related terms

The virtue of aparigraha is sometimes referred by other terms such as alobha (अलोभ)[19] or agradhnu (अगृध्नु)[20] – which all mean "refrain from avarice", "avoid accepting and craving for gifts", and "restrain from excessive greed". For example, Max Müller translates the first hymn of Isha Upanishad as the precept, "Do not covet the wealth of any man!"[21][22] The "do not covet" and "do not accept" virtue precept also appears in verse 8.1.10 of Srimad-Bhagavatam.[23] In Shanti Parva and other books of the Epic Mahabharata, "non-covetousness" is described as virtue,[24]

That person who, always practicing truth and self-restraint and sincerity and compassion and patience and renunciation, becomes devoted to the study of the Vedas, does not covet what belongs to others, and pursues what is good with a singleness of purpose, succeeds in gaining moksha (self-realization, liberation). One should devote oneself to the practice of all these virtues.

The Mahabharata, Shanti Parva, XII.300[24]

Similarly, in Book 3 Chapter 2 verse 71 of the Mahabharata, the virtue of alobha (aparigraha) is discussed.[25] Book 9, Shalya Parva of the Mahabharata, clarifies that self earned and proper pursuit of artha (wealth, profit, means of livelihood) is good till it is achieved without sacrificing either dharma (righteousness, morality, ethics) or kama (love, pleasure, emotional contentment),[26]

धर्मः सुचरितः सद्भिः सह दवाभ्यां नियच्छति
अर्थश चात्यर्थ लुब्धस्य कामश चातिप्रसङ्गिनः
धर्मार्थौ धर्मकामौ च कामार्थौ चाप्य अपीडयन
धर्मार्थकामान यॊ भयेति सॊ तयन्तं सुखम अश्नुते

Morality (Dharma) is well practiced by the good. Morality, however, is always afflicted by two things, the desire of Profit (Artha) entertained by those that covet it, and the desire for Pleasure (Kama) cherished by those that are wedded to it. Whoever without afflicting Morality and Profit, or Morality and Pleasure, or Pleasure and Profit, followeth all three – Morality, Profit and Pleasure – always succeeds in obtaining great happiness.

The Mahabharata, Shalya Parva, IX.60.17-19[26]

In Vaishnava Dharmaśāstra, in the concluding chapters of a dialogue between Vishnu and Lakshmi, the concept of non-covetousness is extended to "not coveting someone's spouse".[27] The dharmasastra includes aparigraha among virtues such as, "being friendly towards all creatures" (ahimsa), "being free from wrath" (akrodha), forbearance, being driven by excellence in one's own business, being skilled in related businesses and learning new abilities, "being humble before everyone", "being positive", "being driven by one's duty", among others.[27]


Aparigraha is one of the virtues in Jainism. It is also one of the five vows that both householders (Śrāvaka) and ascetics must observe. This Jain vow is the principle of limiting one’s possessions (parimita-parigraha) and limiting one’s desires (iccha-parimana).[5]

In Jainism, worldly wealth accumulation is considered as a potential source of rising greed, jealousy, selfishness and desires.[28][29] Giving up emotional attachments, sensual pleasures and material possession is a means of liberation, in Jain philosophy.[30] Eating enough to survive is considered more noble than eating for indulgence.[28] Similarly, all consumption is more appropriate if it is essential to one's survival, and inappropriate if it is a form of hoarding, show off or for ego. Non-possession and non-attachment are a form of virtue, and these are recommended particularly in later stages of one's life.[28] After ahiṃsā Aparigraha is the second most important virtue in Jainism.[30]

Relation to charity and conservation

Some[31] suggest aparigraha implies the concepts of charity (dāna) and conservation. Taking and wasting more of nature, or from others, is inconsistent with the ethical precept of aparigraha.[32][33]

Scholars[30] suggest aparigraha allies with ideas that inspire environmental and ecological sustainability. Aparigraha suggests the reduction of waste and adds a spiritual dimension to preventing destructive consumption of ecosystems and nature.

Difference between Asteya and Aparigraha

Asteya is the virtue of non-stealing and not wanting to appropriate, or take by force or deceit or exploitation, by deeds or words or thoughts, what is owned by and belongs to someone else.[34] Aparigraha, in contrast, is the virtue of non-possessiveness and non-clinging to one's own property, non-accepting any gifts or particularly improper gifts offered by others, and of non-avarice, non-craving in the motivation of one's deeds, words and thoughts.[8][35]

See also


  1. Arti Dhand (2002), The dharma of ethics, the ethics of dharma: Quizzing the ideals of Hinduism, Journal of Religious Ethics, 30(3), pages 347-372
  2. Sharon Lauricella (2013), Judging by the way animals are treated: Gandhi as a manifestation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Gandhi Marg Quarterly, 35(4): 655–674
  3. SC Jain (2012), Spiritual Guidance in Achieving and Sustaining Organizational Excellence, Purushartha: A Journal of Management Ethics and Spirituality, 4(2): 1-16
  4. N Kazanas (2013), Vedic Tradition and Civilization, in On India: Self-Image and Counter-image (Editor: AN Balslev), SAGE Publications, ISBN 978-8132110927, pages 27-41
  5. 1 2 3 K Jain, Indologica Taurinensia, Vol. 30, Issue 11, pages 139-146
  6. 1 2 3 4 Sir Monier Monier-Williams, Parigraha, A Sanskrit-English Dictionary: Etymologically and Philologically Arranged with Special Reference to Cognate Indo-European Languages, Oxford University Press (Reprinted: Motilal Banarsidass), ISBN 978-8120831056, page 593
  7. The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali Verse 2.30
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 The yoga system of Patanjali James Wood (Translator), Harvard University Press, pages 178-182
  9. Kumar, Mathur et al (2010), New Horizons in Indian Management, ISBN 978-8178357119, page 280
  10. Nancy Gerstein (2005). Guiding Yoga's Light: Yoga Lessons for Yoga Teachers. Pendragon. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-9722809-8-3.
  11. Jennifer Taylor (2008), End-of-Life Yoga Therapy: Exploring Life and Death, INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF YOGA THERAPY, No. 18, pages 97-103
  12. Georg Feuerstein and Jeanine Miller (1997), The Essence of Yoga, ISBN 978-0892817382, Chapter 1
  13. Yoga Sutra, Sadhana Pada, Verse 30
  14. Mathew Clarke (2014), Handbook of Research on Development and Religion, Elgar Reference, ISBN 978-0857933577, page 83
  15. Andrea Hornett (2013), Ancient Ethics and Contemporary Systems: The Yamas, the Niyamas and the forms of Organization, in Leadership through the Classics (Editor: Prastacos et al), Springer, ISBN 978-3642324444, Chapter 5, pages 63-69
  16. Non-Possessiveness: Let Go of What Keeps You From Moving Forward Irene Petryszak, Yoga International (2014)
  17. 1 2 3 The yoga system of Patanjali James Wood (Translator), Harvard University Press, pages 187-188
  18. KM George (2014), Toward a Eucharistic Missiology, International Review of Mission, 103(2), 309-318
  19. alobha Sanskrit English Dictionary
  20. agRdhnu Sanskrit English Dictionary
  21. The original: ईशा वास्यमिदँ सर्वं यत्किञ्च जगत्यां जगत् । तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथाः मागृधः कस्यस्विद्धनम् ॥१॥
    The translation: ALL this, whatsoever moves on earth, is to be hidden in the Lord (the Self). When thou hast surrendered all this, then thou mayest enjoy. Do not covet the wealth of any man!
    The source: Max Muller, VÂGASANEYI-SAMHITÂ-UPANISHAD, Sanskrit Texts
  22. Ralph T. H. Griffith, The Texts of the White Yajurveda Book 40, page 304
  23. SB 8.1: The Manus, Administrators of the Universe Canto 8: Withdrawal of the Cosmic Creations
  24. 1 2 Section CCC MN Dutt (Translator), The Mahabharata, page 567
  25. The Mahabharata in Sanskrit Book 3, Chapter 2, Quote – "इज्याध्ययन दानानि तपः सत्यं कषमा दमः | अलॊभ इति मार्गॊ ऽयं धर्मस्याष्ट विधः समृतः ||
  26. 1 2 Section LX Kisari Mohan Ganguli (Translator), The Mahabharata, page 567
  27. 1 2 Vishnu Chapter XCIX, Julius Jolly, The Sacred Books of the East, Editor: Max Muller, Volume 8, page 300
  28. 1 2 3 MR Mehta (in Editor: P. Kapur), Value Education, Volume 1, ISBN 81-7835-566-3, pages 329-330
  29. Aparigraha - non-acquisition, Jainism, BBC Religions
  30. 1 2 3 Mark Juergensmeyer and Wade Clark Roof (Editors), Encyclopedia of Global Religion, SAGE Publications, ISBN 978-0761927297, page 609
  31. Shonil A. Bhagwat, Yoga and Sustainability, The Journal of Yoga, Fall/Winter 2008, Volume 7, Number 1, pages 1-14
  32. C. Betal (2008), CONSERVATION OF ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT THROUGH YOGIC LIFESTYLE, Journal of Environmental Research And Development Vol, 2(4), pages 905-911
  33. DK Taneja (2014), Yoga and health, Indian Journal of Community Medicine, 39(2), pages 68-73
  34. Donna Farhi (2011), Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit: A Return to Wholeness, MacMillan, ISBN 978-0805059700, pages 10-11
  35. David Frawley, Yoga and the Sacred Fire: Self-Realization and Planetary Transformation, Motilal Banarsidas, ISBN 978-8120827462

Further reading

External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 9/23/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.