yellow orange flower at amritapuriEditor’s Note: Amrita Yoga is more than just asanas; it’s a tool to experience the treasures of India’s ancient scriptures and yoga philosophy.

Sage Patanjali outlines the path of Ashtanga Yoga, the eight limbs of yoga. The first limb is yama (moral regulations). The second limb is niyama (inner observances), the third limb is asana (posture), and the remaining limbs go on to elaborate on pranayama (participation with life energy through breath), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), samadhi (absorption with Supreme Consciousness).

wood mala beads prayerAccording to Patanjali, aparigraha (non-possessiveness), is one of the yamas, the ethical disciplines or moral regulations. Aparigraha is an attitude of not grasping or holding onto things. Practically applied in our daily lives, it can be about giving away things that we don’t need.

In this article, Tirtha explains beautifully how her satsanga community put the principle of aparigraha into practice.

Fundraising Seva

Climate change seems to be bringing even more natural disasters, at a faster rate. We watch the news, feeling helpless. What can we do to help?

forest scene with sunlightWhen the tsunami hit south Asia in 2004 many members of our satsang (in Victoria, Canada) wanted to do something. Within a couple of weeks, we organized our first yard sale.

Although we’ve done other things to raise money, yard sales have been one of our best fundraising activities. We held five more that year.

Yard sales are an easy way for a satsang or yoga community to work together and raise some money. They also benefit many people. Some of us also experience good lessons through participating in the sales.

“It gave me a really good chance to let go of some stuff,” said Dhyani Jo, who donated several bags of items. “Amma says if you hold onto things that you’re not using, it’s like stealing because you’re depriving someone else of the chance to use it.”

(In Awaken Children Vol. 5, Amma says, “Those people who keep more things than they need, without giving anything to others who are badly in need of them, are really thieves.”)

“But of course, what else would Amma, who sees the whole universe as Her own Self, do with it?”

“Knowing that everything is God’s, and is only lent to us, if we’re not using it we should pass it on,” Dhyani Jo added. “We’re not only letting it go to someone else, we’re also raising funds for Amma, so it’s a win-win situation for everybody.”

plant growing on white wallAt Amma’s Pacific Northwest Retreat a few years ago, one of the welcoming local dignitaries gave Amma several gifts. She took each one out of a brown paper bag and presented it to Amma, who held it to Her forehead to bless it and then passed it to Her attendant.

When all the presents were given, apparently not knowing what else to do with the empty bag, the woman handed that to Amma as well. Amma accepted it with just as much respect as all the other items, held it to Her forehead and then passed it to Her attendant. Many of us laughed, to see such respect for a brown paper bag that had been so casually given. But of course, what else would Amma, who sees the whole universe as Her own Self, do with it?

At one of our yard sales, a fellow driving by yelled out his window to ask if we had anything free. “I felt irritated,” said Grace, one satsang member. “But Dhanya was pleasant and friendly to him. She found out he was actually living in his van. He was interested in a Coleman stove, and she gave it to him for $3.50, the change in his pockets. I was reminded that some of the people in our own city need help too.”

bay and coastlineWe also realized there is a constant flow of things, looking for a home. After the first couple of yard sales, we thought we must have exhausted the satsang’s resources. But for every sale, there were always more things, and lots of good stuff to sell.

Letting Go

“Letting go of my own decent stuff that I didn’t use made me realize I need to be far more thoughtful about what I spend money on,” one satsang member said. “And seeing the endless flow of other peoples’ things go through my house and yard made me realize there is always a LOT more where they came from. When we get rid of excess stuff, it doesn’t decrease our happiness.”

In fact, getting rid of things can make us feel better. During one three-month stay at Amritapuri, Kalavati enjoyed the peace and freedom of living in a one-room flat with very few and simple furnishings. After she returned to Canada, one night she had an experience that caused her to decide to get rid of some of her extra possessions.

sunset over waterWaking during the night, she walked through the dark house to the bathroom. On this particular night, she could see strands linking her to each item in her house. “It was awful,” she said. “It felt like I was caught in a web.”

Initially she wanted to live very simply in one room and rent out the rest of her house, but with a home-based business as well, that was not possible. However, she did clear her house of many attractive objects and things she didn’t use, and donated many items to our yard sale. A few years later, she became a renunciate and lives in Amritapuri.

It seemed fitting that we in the West, who have so many possessions, should get rid of some of them in order to help those who had lost almost everything. Not only did we enjoy the opportunities to serve, but we learned some valuable lessons, as well: Everything has a value. If we’re not using something, it’s time to pass it on. An uncluttered house may likely be more peaceful. And it’s both a blessing and a pleasure to help others.

Tips for Yard and Garage Sales:

  • As you collect items to sell, look for items that could bring more money if someone is willing to take them to a consignment store, or sell them online on behalf of your group (e.g., good-quality clothing, vinyl LPs, quality books, antiques, etc.)
  • Advertise the sale as a “multi-family” sale. People will be more likely to come because they’ll expect a larger assortment of goods.
  • Try to have the sale near a main road, in an area where there’s lots of pedestrian traffic. Use large bright signs on poster board to lead people from nearby main roads.
  • Bunches of balloons help people see you, and make it look friendly and attractive.
  • Borrow tables from a church or organization to display items on.
  • Have a plugged-in extension cord so people can try out electrical items.
  • Play easy-listening music. Pleasant sound gives people more privacy to talk to each other about potential purchases, and they also feel more relaxed about staying and looking.
  • Have chairs for volunteers to sit on, plus one or two for shoppers who may need a rest, such as elderly folks.
  • Let helpers who have lots of garage-sale and second-hand shopping experience decide the prices.
  • It can save a lot of time not to put prices on less expensive items. When we asked prospective customers “What do you think it’s worth?”, often they named a higher price than we might have asked… so everyone was happy.
  • Be willing to negotiate. Keep in mind you want to sell things. If items are priced too high, you’ll just have to store them or give them away when they don’t sell.
  • If everything is jumbled together it’s difficult for people to see what’s there. Display similar items together, such as sporting goods, mechanical items, yoga books and videos, kitchenwares, children’s books and toys, etc. Pull out especially interesting items and display them near the front to draw people in.
  • Set up a clothesline to hang clothes on, or borrow a portable wardrobe. Or set up a gazebo tent – it’s great to have some shade on a hot day, and also gives the yard an attractive, festive look that will draw people over to look.
  • Be prepared with a cash float with lots of change and small bills.
  • Consider offering a small assortment of baked goods and tea, coffee or juice for sale at reasonable prices (or to give to children).
  • Have enough help to set up and get organized quickly. Otherwise, many “early birds” will leave without seeing everything.
  • Ask some helpers to come at the end of the day to pack up. Also ask people with larger vehicles to come and pick up unsold items.
  • Before you organize the yard sale, figure out where you can take unsold items at the end of the day. Are members willing to store some of the “good stuff” until the next sale? (However, things can get moldy in an unheated basement or garage). Or is there a charity organization that will accept items, such as the Salvation Army, a transition house, or organization for the homeless, etc.?
  • Have fun! And let us know how your yard sale goes!

Author: Tirtha

As always, thoughtful comments are invited and appreciated. Share your reflections with us! See below to leave a comment.


Aparigraha, The Virtue of Non-Possessiveness
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Aparigraha, The Virtue of Non-Possessiveness
In fact, getting rid of things can make us feel better. During one three-month stay at Amritapuri, Kalavati enjoyed the peace and freedom of living in a one-room flat with very few and simple furnishings.
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Amrita Yoga Amritapuri
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