Beyond Sustainable Economy: Interrelationship of Aparigraha and Anekanta

Published: 15.08.2017

1. Introduction

With a few exceptions, most persons in this world are running after more and more worldly things.  We also know that many wealthy persons such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have donated billions of dollars for the benefit of the humankind. We would see that an anekānta view can motivate some one to move in the direction of charity and aparigraha. The anekānta view includes analyzing, understanding, and experiencing an event or facts from all essential points of view.  An anekānta vision does not imply ambiguity or confusion or indecisiveness. The correct and complete description of an event or facts described by multiple points of view, which may sometimes appear contrary to each other, is required to provide a correct vision.  Such a correct and complete description by multiple  points of view can be considered as an anekānta view.  For more details about anekānta one may refer to the literature [1-3].

In this article, we shall try to relate the anekānta view with aparigraha so that the view can be valuable not only for our academic development, but can also be useful  in our practical life.

2. Anekānta understanding of aparigraha limited to materialistic life

Many persons are interested only in their worldly life of at most about a hundred years.  But an understanding of the recipes of a good life is not an easy task. A good life cannot be defined by an ekānta view such as 'more money means more happiness.' An understanding of the rules of a good (materialistic) life requires an anekānta vision. Though an anekānta view limited to the materialistic world would not be as complete as a view that includes the spiritual aspect, yet such a limited anekānta view may be more valuable than an ekānta approach [see Table 1 for more details]. The popularity of books written by authors such as Napoleon Hill [4-6] is an evidence of this fact that 'more money means more happiness' may not be correct and complete.  A drastic increase in the salary of a majority of his employees by Henry Ford [7], which resulted into a better financial health of his company, is also an evidence of the fact that sometimes sharing the profit with a desire to help others may be a good recipe for the success and happiness.  In many cases, economists see the possibility of higher rewards by sharing the prosperity with the employees.

Table 1: Ekānta and anekānta understanding limited to the materialistic life
Ekānta Anekānta Comments
More money means more happiness. I cannot afford to donate.  I cannot afford to increase the salary and living conditions of my employees. I am not sure about my future, therefore, I need to protect and preserve even old clothes and utensils which are no longer useful to me. For my future security, I need to collect and protect as much as possible.
(1). An increase in the conditions of my employees may be expensive but I can afford to take some risk. It may or may not reward me financially but I would derive happiness by seeing my employees more happy.
(2). The donations of some old things can reduce the clutter in my house and can make the life of the recipients more comfortable.  Thus this may bring happiness to all concerned. 
(3). A desire to purchase more and more things just for the purpose of showing off my prosperity may hurt my own peace and prosperity. I also want to explore the pros and cons of simplifying my life.
The anekānta understanding is better than the ekānta understanding.  However,  a desire of more and more consumption and production of material goods  may lead to ecological imbalance.  It may also create dissatisfaction in the society when one compares one's possessions with others. Those who simplify their life may find more time for fine art, music, sports, etc. But if there is lack of control on the sensual pleasures due to ignorance regarding the spirituality then the depression and other sicknesses may hurt. Without bringing a spiritual dimension to anekānta view, this view is incomplete. Due to ecological imbalance and social unrest, the materialistic progress with heavy consumption cannot be sustained. We need aparigraha based on the anekānta which includes spiritual dimensions.


If you make donations or release a significant portion of your earnings to improve the conditions of your employees by giving them better facility to make them happy, and then in return you see the possibility of more productivity and more profit in your account, would such charity or liberal action then be called aparigraha?


No, it is not aparigraha, but it may trigger aparigraha in one's mind.  This example simply illustrates that many times by serving others we serve our own interests.  Such an understanding may be a first step towards achieving aparigraha by those who are simply focused on their materialistic life.  Such a broadening of understanding can be seen as a progress in the direction of anekānta and aparigraha.  This example also illustrates that the anekānta view can motivate you to share your prosperity. 

The reverse is also worth noting.  If the more prosperous and blessed people do not come forward to improve the conditions of the poor, then the negative results in the form of low productivity, sickness, crimes, accidents, violence, depression, etc. may become more frequent in the society.

This discussion is not limited to very rich and very poor people. A middle class man or woman may also get advantages in various ways by simplifying [8] their life and by carefully decreasing their possessions. Many persons can improve their life and reduce the clutter [9] in their homes by donating old utensils, clothes, shoes, etc. which are obsolete or extra to them.  Again such sharing of possessions with others with the motive of helping others may not be called aparigraha proper, but such an anekānta understanding of materialistic advantages of sharing may be a good start to proceed in the direction of aparigraha which may bring happiness to all concerned.

3. Advantages and disadvantages of anekānta limited to materialistic life

Please refer to Table 1, especially its third column. One of the key points is to note that more and more consumption in a society with a strong desire for sensual pleasures cannot be sustained.  Ecological imbalance, diseases, crimes, depression, etc. may overturn the materialistic progress.

4. Aparigraha through  anekānta with  spirituality

When we realize that limitless sensual pleasures through material goods cannot be sustained in a society, it becomes helpful to add the spiritual dimension to our anekānta view.  In a purely materialistic world view, even our donations are meant for sensual and emotional pleasures and comforts of human beings including ourselves. But with a spiritual dimension, we give more weight to love, peace, and harmony and we even care for animals and ecology. With spirituality the source of our satisfaction is the realization of an eternal soul in every being and the existence of a divine orderliness (through karmic laws) all around us. We not only wish to enjoy such divine beauty ourselves, but we also like to share our resources and experience to help others see the divine orderliness and the eternal soul in every being.  With this realization, the sensual pleasures do not stand at the top and the ego may occupy the back seat. With the anekānta vision, we derive pleasure in driving the vehicle of our life that not only has an accelerator, but also has brakes on the sensual pleasures under our control. We may sometimes experience ānanda or freedom when we see practically that we are not being controlled by our sensual pleasures. Thus we enjoy self-imposed limits on the sensual pleasures and material goods.  This is aparigraha in the real sense. In technical terms, Bhagavan Mahāvīra described this as a Parigraha Parimana Vrata (to limit our possessions at a carefully pre-determined level) [10 ]. For a society, this scenario is sustainable and comfortable to all concerned.

5. Aparigraha through  anekānta with  spirituality of a higher level

Jain āchāryas have described two types of possessions (parigraha): (1) External parigraha (2) Internal parigraha [11a]. House, material goods, servants, etc. fall under the external type.  Among the internal type there are 14 kinds.  The worst or the topmost among these internal 14 is mithyatva which means falsehood (or the possession of wrong notions) [11b].  In the true sense I am a soul, but if I think that I am this physical body or that the body is mine, this erroneous notion constitutes mithyatva. Even if we consider that emotions such as anger, greed, etc. are mine forever, this is also mithyatva. Such mithyatva is considered as the biggest parigraha.  Āchārya Kundakunda has explained that not even a molecule is mine [12a]:

Ahmekko khalu shuddho damsanananamaio sadaruvi |
Navi atthi majjha kimchivi annam paramanumittam pi ||

The English translation of this verse as written by Chakravarti [12b] is as follows:

"Absolutely pure, having the nature of perception and knowledge, always non-corporeal, I am indeed unique.  Hence not even an atom of alien things whatsoever (whether living or non-living) is related to me as mine.

A person who does not have mithyatva parigraha is known as samyakdṛṣṭi (a being with true vision).  A samyakdṛṣṭi does not consider him or herself as the owner of their body or house or bank account.  They considers themselves as a trustee of these externals.  Though they make liberal donations, but internally they realize that they are not a donor in reality.

How can one donate or renounce  something which is not owned?

Thus at this level of spirituality, good donors are those who donate, but internally does not consider themselves as a donor. Similarly, a good aparigrahi is the one who reduces the external possessions, but does not consider him or herself as the performer of the renunciation.  A donation without any obligation or ego, or a reduction in the possessions without any obligation or ego can be highly valuable for bringing peace and harmony in society. 

  1. Paras Mal Agrawal, Adhyatma se swasthya, samriddhi, evam shanti-1: Anekant Samajh (In Hindi); Indore, Kundkund Jnanpith, 2009.
  2. Acharya NemiChandra, Vrihad Dravya Sangrah, commentary by Shri BrahmaDev, Verses 3, 6, 7, and 9
  3. Acharya AkalankDev, Tattvarthavartikam (Rajvartik), Sutra 1.33 (Edited and translated in Hindi by Pt. Mahendra Kumar Jain), Bharatiya Jnanpith, 2004.
  4. Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich; Ballantine Books, 1987.
  5. Wayne W. Dyer, Manifest Your Destiny; HarperPaperbacks,1997.
  6. Louise L. Hay, You Can Heal Your Life; Hay House, 1999.
  7. The following lines at this website are worth noting: "Ford astonished the world in 1914 by offering a $5 per day wage ($110 in current dollar terms), which more than doubled the rate of most of his workers.... The move proved extremely profitable; instead of constant turnover of employees, the best mechanics in Detroit flocked to Ford, bringing their human capital and expertise, raising productivity, and lowering training costs. Ford announced his $5-per-day program on January 5, 1914, raising the minimum daily pay from $2.34 to $5 for qualifying workers."
  8. For example see: a) Elaine St. James, Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter. New York, Hyperion, 1994. b)
  9. For example see:  Xorin Balbes, Soulspace: Creating a Home that is Free of Clutter, Full of Beauty, and Inspired by You. New World Library, 2011.
  10. Acharya Samantabhadra, Ratnakarand Shravakachar, Verse 61.
  11. Acharya Amritchandra, Purushartha Siddhyupaya, (a) Verse 115 (b) Verse 116.
  12. (a) Acharya Kundakunda, Samayasaar,  Verse 38. (b) For the English translation of the above, see A. Chakravarti, Acharya Kundkunda's Samayasaar; Bhartiya Jnanpith,1989.


Title: Beyond Sustainable Economy
Author: Dr. Rudi Jansma, Dr. Sushma Singhvi
Publisher: Prakrit Bharati Academy

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. A. Chakravarti
  2. Acharya
  3. Acharya Kundakunda
  4. Acharya Nemichandra
  5. Adhyatma
  6. Anekant
  7. Anekānta
  8. Anger
  9. Aparigraha
  10. Body
  11. Chakravarti
  12. Detroit
  13. Dravya
  14. Dravya Sangrah
  15. Ecology
  16. Ekānta
  17. Greed
  18. Indore
  19. Kundakunda
  20. Kundkund
  21. Mahāvīra
  22. Mithyatva
  23. Paras Mal Agrawal
  24. Parigraha
  25. Purushartha
  26. Soul
  27. Sutra
  28. Violence
  29. Vrata
  30. Āchārya
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