I was asked on Jewish parallels to the Jain concept of Aparigraha. Any thoughts about Jewish texts that fit this concept? I found a few texts in a quick web search. Does anyone have any comments on these texts? or any difference in tonal qualities or applications between the Jewish and Jain concepts?
The Jewish texts are all in their unedited web version. I do have an attraction to this question as the opposite of all the current Orthodox interest in popular culture, conspicuous consumption, and wealth.
Aparigraha means taking what is truly necessary and no more. Aparigraha is the sanskrit word for non-possession or non-possessiveness; or non-covetousness, non-grasping, non-attachment, non- greed or trusteeship or limiting one’s personal desires and belongings or limit possessions to what is necessary or important. It is the antonym of the word parigraha, ‘compulsive hoarding,’ which means reaching out for something and claiming it for oneself.
Aparigraha is in the first place understood as an economic concept: one should not collect more material items or money than one needs, one has to set certain limits Aparigraha gives importance to abandoning emotional and mental attachment also. Mahatma Gandhi is famous for phrasing it as ‘there is enough for everyone’s need, but not for anyone’s greed.’
Aparigraha means giving up your worldly possessions like wealth and property without attaching thoughts of what you have given up. The thoughts can comprise of sadness or happiness. By giving up I mean, one should not attach himself to the very thought of owning something. This does not only apply to materialistic things but also to the baggage that we carry within ourselves from the past.
“Who is rich? He who is happy with his portion” (4:1)
The tendency of the wealthy is to seek to increase their assets, as our Sages have commented: “A person who possesses 100 desires 200; one who possesses 200 desires 400.” One who is truly wealthy is one who does not become caught up by such desires, but rather maintains inner peace and calm. Nor will this approach force him to sacrifice wealth. On the contrary a person at peace with himself is far more able to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves, and thus achieve success in the world at large. (The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
Histapkut defined as contentment through simplification, is a trait designed to help us grapple with the idea that “less is more.”
Rabbi Shlomo Ibn Gabirol says, “Who seeks more than he needs, hinders himself from enjoying what he has. In giving up what you don’t need, you’ll learn what you really need.”
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov teaches in Likutei Moharan (II,19), that, “The main goal of a Jew is to serve God with simplicity and without any sophistication.” It means that when it comes to serving our creator or working on improving ourselves we need to do so in a straightforward manner.
Simplicity and contentment have to go hand in hand. Figuring out what middah we need to work on or what spiritual or religious goal we need to set for ourselves doesn’t always have to be the loftiest of ideals or the most rigid level of observance. It is often we who are the ones that over-complicate things.
Bitachon and Histapkus. These are the principles for all good middos. They are the the antitheses of desiring and coveting, and the root of all [middos] is Bitachon. One who lacks Bitachon cannot retain Torah (Gra to Devarim 32:20). histapkus which is the opposite (of “do not covet”) is a foundation for the entire torah and it means to believe with emuna shlema (whole faith) to not worry about tomorrow. And he whose heart is good with bitachon even though he has transgressed severe sins, he is better than one who is missing in bitachon because such a person (who lacks bitachon) will come to jealousies and hatred and even though he studies torah and is involved in good deeds, all of this is only to make a name for himself.” (Even Sheleimah 3:1-2):
As we have written, all transgressions and sins result from coveting. Lo Sachmod encompasses all of the commandments and the entire Torah. Histapkus, the converse [of Lo Sachmod] is the foundation of the entire Torah. It consists of complete belief, of not worrying the worries of tomorrow… One whose heart has been enhanced by the trait of Bitachon — even if he transgresses severe transgressions — is superior to someone who lacks Bitachon, for [through lack of Bitachon] one comes to jealousy and hatred. Even if he is involved in Torah and Gemilus Chesed [his activities are meaningless] because he only does so to glorify his own name (Gra, Likkutim to Rabba bar Chana in an explanation of Sabbei d’Bei Athuna d”h Iysai Budia).
“It is well known that “histapkus”, being satisfied with just the basics, is one of the greatest attributes. The Vilna Gaon writes (in “Even Shlaimoh”) that this quality is even more necessary than bitachon (trust that Hashem provides) to acquire Torah. One aspect of histapkus is to train oneself to be satisfied with little and not run after “bigger and better” in food, in clothing etc. Nevertheless, at this level, one still feels that he is missing something. An even higher level is “Someach B’chelko” – To be happy with whatever one has — without being bothered because of what he does not possess; without even feeling he is missing anything. The highest level of all, however, is the attribute of “Yeish Li Kol”, feeling that he has everything; that there is nothing more [materially] that he could even want. This is what [Hashem meant when he said to Avrohom Ovinu] v’heyei tomim – be whole, perfect – lacking nothing.” (Mishnas Rav Aharon, Vol. 3 Ma’amar “Kol Mitzvoh Shekiblu Aleihem B’simchah” p. 123 in first ed.)
More texts from Deiah vDibbur that are related but not as relevant.