There is an article that will be coming out in Dialog this winter called “Religion and the Environment: Thomas Berry, the Bishnoi, and Satish Kumar,” by Christopher Ky Chapple.
While I was editing this article, I was brought to a full stop by this quote:
“Aparigraha means do not acquire what is not necessary. Do not shop beyond
your daily need. Recognize that whatever you acquire will bind you tightly.
Free yourself from nonessential acquisitions and from materialism. This
means that the acquisition of every pot, chair, or table is a religious
decision. Consumerism cannot exist comfortably with aparigraha.
Practitioners of Jain ecology limit the type and quantity of food to be
consumed and the number of clothes to be worn each day. In Jain ecology each
act involves limiting consumption. For a Jain, to shop or not to shop is a
religious question. … Aparigraha is a form of “holy poverty” or voluntary
simplicity.” It is by Satish Kumar, in his chapter “Jain Ecology,” in the book, Jainism and Ecology: Nonviolence in the Web of Life, edited by Christopher Key Chapple.
As someone who regularly “shops beyond her daily need” [let’s just say I have an expansive wardrobe and leave it at that], I was thinking about what it means to be “bound” to the things I buy, and how those ties impinge upon and weaken the ties that bind me to my neighbor, and to creation as a whole. The more “stuff” I have, the more it all matters–the more space it takes, the more attention I have to give it, the more time and energy it all takes: that is time and energy that could be spent on others. It’s time and energy that turns me inward, rather than outward–in Luther’s language, curves me in on myself. In other words it’s sin.
While I’m not convinced it is inherently wrong to have cute shoes, pretty dresses, and big rings, I am convinced that their acquisition needs to be given more consideration than I usually give, and more critical reflection than I usually offer. It is hard to disagree with the statement that “To shop or not to shop is a religious question,” regardless of how much it convicts me. The harder question for me, then, is what, exactly, does this uncomfortable intersection between shopping and faith demand of me: less shopping? different shopping? Probably. But I don’t want to, even though I know I should. Maybe I can start with baby steps. I really don’t want to be attached to things, even as much as I enjoy them. I want to hold “stuff” lightly, and be able to let it go easily. I think I can do that much. It’s a start.