Guidance on aspects of Greed



In Sanskrit aparigraha means the opposite of greed, that is, non-greed. However for the purposes of this book it is easier to look at the more familiar ideas of avarice*, covetousness* or more simply, greed for possessions. We are actually encouraged to envy other peoples possessions by advertisers these days. The idea is to get people to spend money on possessions in order to keep people employed, for example in manufacturing, transporting and selling things. However, if this leads to feelings of envy and discontentment, and to unnecessary use of resources, perhaps society needs to look at other ways of employing people.

Greed is a major problem in society today. For convenience we will look at two aspects of greed at this point in the book. The first concerns greed for possessions and the second, greed for food.

Regarding avarice, or the greed for possessions, in the past, for most people it was enough to have a roof over one’s head, a bed and a table to eat off. Only the very few possessed many beautiful things. These were considered to be the province of Rulers and the ‘Wise and the Good’. However, over the past two centuries it has become possible for most people in the developed world to fill their homes with innumerable articles, pieces of furniture, decorations and electrical goods to the extent that they do not appreciate what they do have. People are always wondering if they ought to have something better or more up to date, because that is what their neighbour or friend down the road has just acquired. People are being persuaded by advertising companies to feel embarrassed about what they do have, in order to get them to buy a newer model! This leads to an ever-increasing use of limited resources. If people asked themselves, “Do I really need this?” before buying yet more “stuff” they might be surprised to find how little they actually do need. One of the problems of owning a lot of stuff is the fear of losing it! In some areas peoples' homes have become like fortresses, with iron railings around them, guard dogs on duty and close circuit television to watch for intruders. We need to consider whether we are becoming slaves to our desires for material wealth and ask ourselves if this is a sensible way to live.

Many people, particularly people in the West, also consume food without regard for need. In countries such as Britain and the U.S.A. more people are over weight than the number of people who are at their normal, healthy weight. Why do people do this to themselves?

Sometimes it is because of a lack of education, or following a bad family habit. Sometimes people have genuine medical problems which cause obesity, but mostly it is caused by a lack of self-discipline. Often when people are bored or unhappy their minds turn to food for comfort. People may become care­less about their bodies, when they fail to recognise them as vehicles of the immortal soul. ‘Spiritual people’ can be gluttonous too. They may have decided that they are so keen to repeat the pleasures of tasting food and of having a full stomach that they cannot give up over eating. Many of these people will suffer painful illnesses as a result. What they are choosing to forget is that, in consuming too much, they are wasting useful resources.

There is a strange disease of modern times, which involves people not eating enough and becoming extremely thin, it is called anorexia nervosa. Sometimes people eat and then deliberately vomit the food up afterwards. This is called bulimia. In these illnesses people do not seem to see what the mirror shows them. Sometimes they die from starvation, or damage to their organs through lack of nutrition. They may be doing this to try to look as slim as the fashion models appear to be, or to punish or 'control' themselves or someone else in their lives. It is a very dangerous condition. Young people need to find out what a healthy diet consists of and make sure they follow it as closely as they can. Yoga is not for those who eat too much or too little.

Although in the west some people who practise yoga do enjoy a glass of wine, many yoga practitioners do not drink alcohol at all, as they feel it interferes with the processes of the mind. They are not willing to have a ‘hangover’ the next day, after over indulging themselves. They enjoy feeling healthy and vibrant every morning. When one’s energies are flowing well, one does not need artificial stimulants such as coffee, alcohol, cigarettes or other drugs. All of these things can create a dependency and should ideally be avoided. Yogis do not want to be mastered by anything other than their own Higher Self.