गते गते पारगते पारसंगते बोधि स्वाहा

gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā

The Heart Sūtra

With Christmas just around the corner let’s talk about the act of giving away.
In yoga, aparigraha is a profound concept that encourages us to cultivate a mindset of non-possessiveness and letting go. Derived from the Sanskrit words “apari” meaning ‘non’ and “graha” meaning ‘greed’ or ‘attachment,’ aparigraha teaches us to release our desires for material possessions and attachments, leading to a state of contentment and inner freedom. The essence of aparigraha, besides being the fifth yama in the yoga sūtra of Patañjali eight limbs, can also be explored in the following part of the Heart Sūtra, a revered Buddhist scripture:

gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā

It is often translated as: “gate” – gone, “pāragate” – gone beyond, “pārasaṃgate” – gone completely beyond, “bodhi” – awakened mind/enlightenment and “svāhā” – well said/may it be so/to surrender one’s ego.

While “svāhā” does not have a precise equivalent in English, it carries a sense of devotion, surrender, and self-offering.
This mantra is a profound expression of the journey towards enlightenment, emphasizing the transcendence of worldly attachments and the attainment of ultimate wisdom which the Buddhist call “Prajñāpāramitā”.
When chanting this mantra, we acknowledge the need to let go of attachments, desires, and possessions that hinder our spiritual growth and inner peace. It serves as a reminder to detach ourselves from the materialistic world and embrace a more minimalist, simple and a way of living full of contentment.

I have recently found it quite liberating just removing the social media apps from my phone.
Material possessiveness also reflects in our digital identities through the strong emphasis on showcasing wealth, possessions, experiences and perfection online. We often link our self-worth to the things we own, the places we visit, degrees we have, homes we have built, and how flawlessly we present our lives in the digital realm. In the yoga teachings, the principle of non-attachment teaches us to free ourselves from clinging to material possessions or any identity tied to them. However, we tend to anchor our self-worth to the possessions we display, often straying from the yogic concept of non-attachment. Of course, not all is negative, there are many things the digital world can teach us but we are usually distracted from the positives by the desire to ‘have more’ for ourselves.

I will admit that I am a big fan of Star Wars and the jedi master Yoda reminds us of deep spiritual teachings by saying: “train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose”.

It’s not just the digital identities of social media that are driven by possessiveness. Now travelling, once a means of exploring new cultures and experiences, has taken on a new dimension in the era of social media. Taking a journey to distant places are no longer solely about immersing oneself in the local culture or beauty. Instead, they’ve become opportunities to capture the perfect picture or video to share with the online world. The significance of the moment experienced is often overshadowed by the pursuit of that ideal shot that will resonate on our digital platforms. It highlights the paradoxical nature of the world we are creating, where the pursuit of possessing more, leaves us with a feeling of emptiness.
Our perception often deceives us into believing that acquiring more leads to a better version of ourselves. The pursuit of increased wealth, a higher follower count, extensive travel, and an accumulation of more and more is mistaken for the path to becoming a superior version of ourselves. We want more because we constantly live in the fear of becoming less. Giving away, is not making us become less but is a great way of being more, which reminds me of this story:

Jimmy and the Cat
One day little Jimmy was riding his brand new bike near the park as he noticed a group of kids tormenting a lost cat. The boy went to the kids and asked them to stop tormenting the cat and in return they can have his new bike. The surprised kids couldn’t believe it and agreed as Jimmy rescued the cat in his arms and walked home. As the little boy came home his parents asked what happened to his new and very expensive bike. Jimmy told his parents what happened. His mother, very impressed by the selfless action of her child, went and told this story to a neighbour. After a couple of days the whole town knew about the story, it even made its way into the daily newspaper. After another couple of days the local bike shop thought that such a selfless act deserves a reward and sent three new bikes to little Jimmy. Now, not just having saved the cat but also three bikes richer, the boy enjoys riding a different bike every day. Soon in the newspaper someone posted about the generous act of the bike shop and their donation to Jimmy. Within weeks the bike shop was packed and sold more bikes than ever.

Jimmy didn’t identity with his bike enough to have it be more important than the life and well being of the cat. This wise child wasn’t attached enough to feel the emptiness that occurs to most of us when things we are attached to are lost or damaged. Learning to let go prevents us from fuelling emotions like jealousy, greed and fear. Generosity and selflessness often lead to a profound sense of wholeness and is good training for the process of letting go. By sharing and extending kindness, whether through acts of giving, support, or compassion, we forge a deeper connection with the world and its inhabitants. This sense of connectedness and contribution to the well-being of other humans and non-human animals, through putting aside personal desires, fosters a fulfilling and complete inner state, enriching our lives with purpose and a profound sense of fulfilment. Material wealth itself isn’t inherently negative; it can be a force for good, enabling numerous positive actions. However, the issue arises when one becomes overly attached to it. – The greater the extent of your giving, the more abundance you’ll receive in return – A saying I’ve found to be very true on my life’s journey.

Just as in our story, true happiness lies not in what we possess, but in the freedom of giving away and finding fulfilment in the happiness and joy of others.


– Dean Galip