Asteya, the third yama of Patanjali’s Yoga, is non-stealing. It is more than not taking somebody else’s stuff. Behind the principle of asteya) is the notion of abundance, the idea that there is enough for everyone and everything is connected.
In an ideal world, we would all share resources. Everyone would contribute to the community, and all people would have enough. In fact, in such a world, there would be no need for money. It would be a win-win scenario where, even though I might come out on top in one situation, you would have an equal opportunity to shine as well.
We don’t live in an ideal world. But if we want to come closer to ideal, we need to remember this: Nothing on this planet is truly ours. We are visitors, and we should act like visitors. More to the point, we should act like guests. Once we understand that nothing is ours, stealing is no longer possible. Sharing resources is the goal when we practice asteya as yogis.
Asteya Means Living in Harmony
When we live harmony with those around us, not looking to compete, control, or end up with more than our neighbor, we are practicing asteya. It’s not wrong to want things, and there are certainly things we need, but we must be sure we aren’t taking from others to get more for ourselves.
The theft non-stealing in yoga prohibits is much broader than what we traditionally think of as stealing. It’s obviously wrong to go into a neighbor’s home and take some gold jewelry, money, or a computer. Most of us understand that would be stealing. But we steal in much more subtle and insidious ways, even from ourselves, in ways that make us spiritually weaker.
Asteya in Yoga is Motivated by Oneness
When we interact with others, is it about the relationship or is it all about us? Do we lift others up by being positive and supportive or bring them down with anger and negativity? Bringing others down may not seem like stealing, but in a very real sense, it takes something from their lives. Just as importantly, it takes something from us, so it’s worth thinking about why we may do things that bring others down.
Often, we want what others have because we don’t think we are enough as we are. We may feel insecure and believe we don’t have more because we’re not worth more. To live by the principle of asteya is to be responsible for our own lives. That doesn’t always mean everyone’s efforts will be equally rewarded. Life isn’t fair. But we need to live with integrity if we want to feel whole and powerful.
We Already Have All We Need
True happiness comes from living without envy of others or the need to hoard excess. Many hard-working, honest people live without much in the way of material possessions or attention. On the other end of the spectrum are those who have more than they can ever consume and believe they deserve it. When we envy those who have more, or when we feel entitled to more than we need, we are engaging in subtle forms of stealing.
Non-stealing in yoga also means sharing attention and treating others as equals. When people feel valued, they feel empowered to live from a place of abundance rather than feeling the lack that makes any form of stealing tempting.
What is your view of non-stealing in yoga? Do you see it as more than taking others’ possessions?
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