Aparigraha | non-desire
Aparigraha is the concept of non-greed, or non-possessiveness from Jainism and the Raja/Ashtanga yoga traditions. This means limiting possessions to what is necessary or important to live. The five yamas are shared with Jainism in their sacred vows and Sadhus traditionally have very few, if any possessions.
The word literally means non-grasping and greedlessness. ‘A’ creates a contradiction or antonym in sanskrit, so parigraha means reaching out to take for one’s self. The idea behind the concept is to take no more than what is necessary. This includes refusing gifts.
Aparigraha creates detachment from material and worldly things. Strict Jains will completely renounce all property and social relations. But these extreme examples might be considered out of natural balance. Human contact and relations are healthy and necessary parts of life.
Renouncing material possessions is impossible in a consumer based society. So we have to work outside of the ideal, in the realities we face as a modern world. But understanding that excess can easily create suffering is an important concept. Acceptance of what you have been given is the most important lesson here.
The key is the amount of energy one expends on the taking, or accumulating possessions. Great examples of this are shoe collections, expensive super cars, and 13,000 square foot houses. The excess literally creates inconvenience, not to mention the attachment to a material and fleeting object. One can understand that these things likely do not contribute to happiness, but can easily take away from contentment; the addiction to needing more is an easy trap to fall into. Detachment from material possessions creates freedom. If you have seen ‘Fight Club’, you can understand how material possessions can slowly begin to take over your life. Take what you need, but understand that the idea of ‘more’ can be toxic.
Social interaction are also important to detach from, another main concept of aparigraha. It allows you to appreciate the intricacies of the interactions and to see the true nature of the relationship. The idea is to live in harmony with the people you are interacting with. Not attaching to particular conversations can be necessary in complex relationships. Being able to separate from others to see the truth in situations is extremely important to friendships, marriages, parenting, etc.
I will conclude that like all other things, aparigraha requires balance and should not be taken on with a full head of steam to lose all possessions and completely detach from the world forever. Instead, work the idea of having less into your life, maybe getting rid of a third car, or not being worried about the size of your television (although, big TVs are pretty awesome!). So take this concept, like all others, in moderation, especially at first.
It can be easier to detach from the world, rather than be accepting of it. This is the final piece of the puzzle, to be accepting of what you truly do need! This will vary from individual to individual, so comparing yourself to others is quite irrelevant for positivity of the concept to have an effect on you.