ASTEYA NON-STEALING

Asteya – the third Yama – translates to “non-stealing”. Yet, its essence goes beyond refraining from physically taking from others. It’s about cultivating a sense of abundance and contentment within ourselves, so we don’t feel the need to take from others. Asteya resonates throughout Indian texts, including the Sutras, the Mahabharata (which includes the Bhagavad Gita), the Upanishads, and the Vedas. Gandhi recognized the importance of non-stealing and considered it one of his ’11 Vows’, extending its meaning to encompass mankind’s greed and craving for artificial needs.

When non-stealing is established, all jewels present themselves or are obtained.

YOGA SUTRA 2.37

This Yoga Sutra illustrates that practicing Asteya, refraining from stealing or coveting what belongs to others, naturally attracts abundance and prosperity into your life. But why do people feel compelled to steal in the first place?

The root cause of Asteya : “I’m not good enough.”

The impulse to steal often stems from a sense of lack within ourselves. When we feel incomplete, desires and greed arise, leading us to believe others possess what we are lacking. Yet, the essence of Yoga, meaning ‘union’ or becoming ‘whole,’ guides us to realize that we are already enough.

Material possessions can’t fill the void within us. Buying more than we need perpetuates a cycle of craving, as we attempt to satisfy deeper emotional needs with material goods, subconsciously looking to ‘fill a gap’ that we feel. Gandhi’s insight : “Mankind’s greed and craving for artificial needs is also stealing”, reminds us to reassess our consumption habits. Time and time again we temporarily satisfy ourselves by buying yet more ‘stuff’ we don’t need. And yet the more material things we have around us, often the more material things we feel we need. Obviously these material possessions can’t replace whatever it is our soul really needs.

In each moment, we have the opportunity to experience a range of emotions and sensations – yet we tend to cling only to those which seem pleasant and enjoyable. This clinging tightly to pleasurable experiences is known as ‘raga’, and although the experience itself may be one of joy or happiness, the action of trying to hold onto it out of desire ultimately creates more suffering or ‘dukkha’. The opposite of this is ‘dvesa’, which translates as ‘aversion’, often to pain or suffering – basically that feeling we get when we try really hard not to feel a painful physical or emotional feeling when it arises. Continually running around in circles after experiences which bring us only pleasure keeps us locked in a cycle of wanting and desiring, which – if we think about it – never really ends. Even when we feel content, there’s always that small part of us that worries about what might happen if we lose this feeling / person / possession / experience. By attempting to feel only the ‘good’, we ignore the other half of life completely. By going into the dark places we fear of treading the most, the lighter experiences shine even brighter, and we’re made whole by allowing ourselves to experience every emotion there is to offer. There doesn’t have to be ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in every situation, there simply just ‘is’, and if we allow ourselves to step into the parts we fear a little, we give ourselves the opportunity to fully experience life in that very moment. By embracing the entirety of the human experience, including discomfort, we find wholeness and freedom from craving.

Practicing Asteya :

  • By practicing abundance : Abundance means to have a large amount of something – so much so that there is no need for anything else. Acknowledging that you are enough and have enough is a key to wanting and desiring less, and therefore feeling a lot more whole and happy within ourselves. Cultivate gratitude for the abundance already present in your life. A grateful heart doesn’t feel the need to take more.
  • Cultivate creativity and resourcefulness. Find solutions and abundance within yourself, not by taking from others.
  • Practice mindful consumption. Choose quality over quantity, and avoid impulse purchases. Consider decluttering possessions and reassessing consumption habits to make space for what truly matters. When feelings of lack arise, repeat the mantra ‘I am enough’ to cultivate contentment and fulfillment within yourself. Resist the urge to hoard and consume. Take inventory of what you have, give away what you no longer need, and only buy what adds true value to your life. It might also help to examine the root cause of why you want to buy each item and try to address those causes. Try investing in other areas, such as experiences and friendships.
  • Try to stop eating when you feel full. Eat enough to nourish your body and feel satisfied. There’s no need to take in more than is necessary.
  • Don’t underestimate your own talent — you’re just stealing from your own growth. Avoid selling yourself short and be proud of the skills and talents you’ve worked to build. Share them freely, knowing your wellspring is infinite.
  • Give credit where credit is due and be free with your gratitude. Acknowledge your coworkers’ ideas in group meetings, speak the compliments you keep inside, and allow others to shine. Rather than seeking the spotlight, trust that your hard work and attitude will be enough.
  • Don’t manipulate or guilt-trip others to give you what you want. Respect their emotions and choices.
  • Compare yourself to yourself, not others. Celebrate your personal journey and unique path.
  • Avoid envy and competition. Instead, find inspiration in others’ success and focus on your own goals.

Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tune into.

WAYNE DYER