Asteya: Art of Non-Stealing

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"Asteya Pratisthayam Sarva Ratna Upasthanam"

To one established in non-stealing, all wealth comes.

-Yoga Sutras, 2.37

 As we continue the study of the Yamas from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, we focus our attention on Asteya, or non-stealing. Now, this might seem like a no-brainer to most, but it's in the exploration of this sutra beyond the material that proves there is much work to be done. 

Given–we know that stealing is a punishable crime and if we wish to live good, honest lives we should not take other people's possessions. However, have you ever stopped to think about the other ways we steal from others? The act of stealing goes well beyond the physical permeating through the mental, emotional and spiritual planes. Some examples include, but are not limited too, being late, talking over someone when they are talking, talking too much, not listening when others speak, wasting other people's time, hiding information for personal gain, blaming others for your actions, claiming ideas that are not yours, etc., etc. When we look at the act of stealing beyond the material, it's easy to see how we unknowingly steal from each other all of the time. 

Not only do we steal from each other, but we are all guilty of stealing from Nature. Swami Satchidananda writes "All of us are thieves. Knowingly and unknowingly, we steal things from nature. With every minute, with each breath, we pick nature's pocket. Whose air do we breathe? It's nature's. But that doesn't mean we should stop breathing and die. Instead, we should receive each breath with reverence and use it to serve others; then we are not stealing." 

So, how do we overcome this act? First, we must become aware of our actions and acknowledge when we are stealing from others, working to examine our motivations. Second, we must take action. Instead of being late, be on time, instead of talking over someone, pause before commenting, instead of keeping information for your own personal gain, share and be honest, instead of placing blame, take responsibility for your actions, and finally, give credit where credit is due. We must practice. This is not a clear and easy path, but with effort, all the fruits of the Universe will come to you. 

I particularly like Swami Satchidananda's sentiment that "If we are completely free from stealing and greed, contented with what we have, and if we keep serene minds, all wealth comes to us. If we do not run after it, before long it runs after us. If nature knows we aren't greedy, she gains confidence in us, knowing we will never hold her for ourselves." 

What are other ways that we steal from each other? What are some reasons why we might unknowingly take what is not ours? How do you practice asteya?