Asteya is the Yama of non stealing. This one seems straightforward at first, maybe even an offshoot of Ahimsa when one first thinks of it. But there is more to not be stolen than may meet the eye.
If we look at my running example, the story of our traveling merchant friend, we know there are particular individuals who are in the business of stealing. We can infer that if the thieves succeed at stealing from the merchant, it will adversely affect him. While many of us wouldn’t take the course the thieves have chosen, we must be mindful of other ways we may be stealing unintentionally.
Under the guidance of Asteya in particular, we are reminded of how much in this world we must share and that when one individual takes more than he or she needs, it can affect us all. More importantly if you or I are that person, we should refocus our intention and attention because we have clearly lost the reason for our action.
Part of non stealing is recognizing what one needs, taking no more and no less, for more will become a burden in some form, and less would not be respectful or gracious to the self. This also means recognizing the difference between needs and wants, as wanting is what ultimately leads to suffering. Suffering in this way is avoidable if we inquire inward, clearing any distorted feelings to see the reality of what will serve us and what will not.
So how can we practice Asteya in our day to day lives? The most obvious is in our materialism, our belief in ownership, and the illusion of wanting to own more or not owning enough. Here, we can begin to understand the behavior of how we consume, and start reflecting on the intangibles we may be stealing that we never realized, like a small child who gloms the time of their parent because they know no better.
Take a breath and show gratitude and appreciation. All that we’ve procured through life is ours for a reason, and we’re not intended to take from others what they’ve procured.
“When we played softball, I’d steal second base, feel guilty and go back,” said Woody Allen. Again the Yamas are guidelines, and may not necessarily apply in the sports world, but Mr. Allen’s point here still applies, and it’s something we’ve all heard growing up, taking something that’s not ours isn’t right, and we know it.