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Possessing Nothing Voluntarily In Hinduism

In Hinduism, Akincanyavada is a vow voluntarily taken to remain without anything, of great ascetic value and a principle of ideal life. Akincana means one who has nothing – he possesses nothing and nothing belongs to him.

To renounce money, refrain from acquiring and preserving all objects of enjoyment and uprooting all earthly attachments, is to be an akincana. According to this theory of akincanyavada, happiness lies not in collecting valuable material articles but in renouncing them. Thus, this theory is similar to vairagya (renunciation), except that it has an extreme emphasis on renouncing material possessions.

Akincanyavada is based on the teachings of a brahmin named Sampaka (Mahabharata, Shanti Parva). Sampaka was very poor. He wore only rags and did not partake of any proper food. Once he told Bhishma, the grandsire of the Pandavas that whoever took birth in this world had to face both joys and sorrows with equanimity. If the Supreme Self bestowed only joy or only grief, one would neither be satisfied with his happiness nor would he feel much pain in his sorrow. He alleged that Bhishma was not trying hard enough for the higher values of life. According to Sampaka, Bhishma had no time at this disposal to practice self-control and freedom from desire because of the burden of the kingdom. He would get real happiness only if he renounced everything and did not crave for anything. And then, wherever he went he would experience sublime bliss.

An akincana is free from the fear of death and destruction of his kingdom or other belongings because he does not have any. It is only an akincana who can have sound sleep without a bed and pillow. Even the deities of heaven are envious of him. One might call this a path of poverty, but it is poverty chosen voluntarily. In reality, such a person is the richest person in the world and is constantly living in a world of bliss.

Nevertheless, giving away your possessions and physically running off to the Himalayas is not Akincanyavada. Having a claim on earthly articles, even in the mind, goes against the norm of akincanyavada. We might have nothing with us, but if our mind is lingering around the objects of the world possessed by others, then the objects of the world possessed by others, then this state of mind is against Akincanyavada. Bondage is in the feeling of possessiveness about things, not just in having them. We may haver our necessities, even some comforts, but if we are detached from them, then we are akincana.

In Hindu scriptures, King Janaka has been cited as the best example of detachment and renunciation. The story goes that the entire kingdom of Mithila was on fire, and yet he did not feel sorrow at the total destruction of his kingdom. However, while he was a king, he had always done his best for his subjects.