“Sadhana Pada - On Spiritual Disciplines”
“When non-acquisitiveness is established, an understanding of the purpose of birth is gained.”
Why am I Here?
At one point or another, every human being on Earth asks his or herself the Universal Question: “Why am I Here?” or “Who Am I?”
Well? Can you answer that for yourself? Of course you can’t. It is beyond the reason and understanding of our mind. And it is part of our global maturity and spiritual humbleness to recognize this human limitation.
One way we can come closer to this understanding is to detach ourselves from material possessions. This does not mean to became a recluse or renunciate; quite the opposite, actually! But the meaning of the above Yoga Sutra can be found within itself—for us to have non-acquisitiveness.
What Does This Mean?
It is wise not to acquire possessions because things have strings attached. Not only are you physically responsible for maintaining the things that you own, but you inevitably acquire a mental attachment to those things. This makes you dependent on them. A person who has possessions is a prisoner of those objects, and must expend energy and time caring for them.
In contrast, a person who owns and desires nothing is absolutely free. This is because possessions satisfy the body, encouraging identification with it, and tend to muddy the mind. They take the focus off of what is truly important, causing unjustified worry and fear.
The first time I heard this idea, I was appalled. I was new to yoga and it’s concepts, and was raising two toddlers. We lived in a four-bedroom home in a family-centered community. I balanced work in order to provide for them, and my husband and I were happy together...or were we?
The anger and resentment I felt when first learning the concept of non-acquisitiveness was coming from the reality that I was afraid to face: I was truly, 100% attached to my house, kids, job, husband, and status. If you were to ask me the Universal Question ten years ago, I would have answered without thinking twice; “That’s easy! I know who I am! I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a college graduate, etc.”
But what happens when those things are taken away?
Well, that’s exactly what happened. Without having roots firmly planted in wisdom and understanding, I was blown away with the wind. With the loss of possessions came the loss of myself. I was nothing.
Believing what I told myself, that I was nothing, instilled a sense of failure in me. And I began to act in a way that I felt…like nothing. I allowed the loss of my marriage and material things to define me and before I knew it, my job and friends were gone, too.
Take This Analogy
A man looks over the fence at his neighbor’s house and realizes that his neighbor has put in a swimming pool. Feeling envious, he decides to put a pool in his backyard, too, including a hot tub and gazebo. Now, to pay for those things, he has to work longer hours. This takes him away from his house and his family, and he decides to go on vacation to get away from all of the stress from his work and his wife.
They spend money to go away on vacation, all the while swimming in the hotel pool and worrying about whether the person they have hired to care for the house and the dogs will do a good job. The man is no longer living in the present moment. He is attached to his possessions, worrying about the future and the past.
After getting a grip on myself, I discovered a part of me that I didn’t know was there. The part of me that is okay with just me; not the me that lived in a perfect house, with a perfect family, and a perfect diamond on my finger. Things weren’t perfect anymore. And I sold the diamond to pay rent.
But things were still okay. I was still okay.
Living Without Possesions
Without possessions, I was forced to care for my children without furniture or toys. We went to the park and played outside together. We went to the library and read books together. The time spent together was richer than anything I could have acquired through my cushy career and income. My kids and I grew up together. And for the first time in my entire life, I was present.
I learned to love myself and was therefore able to reflect that love onto my children, family, and friends. And when you practice Bhakti Yoga in that way, the freedom from material attachments allows you to be free to love.
When the yogi no longer desires to have possessions, he frees himself from the material world. When you’re no longer a prisoner to material objects, energy can be spent caring for people, instead of things.
This can be misinterpreted as the idea that having material things is bad, but that’s not true. We all need things in order to live in this world and be comfortable. The question only you can answer for yourself is ‘how much is enough?’ Why are you working longer hours? Why do you desire the more expensive car, the new clothes, or the treasures found at the shopping mall? Does it help to answer the Universal Question for you?
My Answer To The Universal Question TODAY
If you were to ask me to answer the question today, I would have a different answer. I am here to be a drop in the ocean, to teach my children about Love, to bring joy to other people, to keep doing my best. I’m here to keep working towards gaining a perspective of the purpose of my birth—both in this life and in past ones.
To gain a comprehension of the law of Karma and understand what lessons remain to be learned before attaining Realization...and being okay with the fact that I may not attain Realization in this life, because I might not be ready.
Of course, I can’t answer the Universal Question because it cannot be answered. But everyone can find an answer for themselves.