” To one established in non-stealing, all wealth comes.”
– from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, chapter 2, verse 37; translated by Sri Swami Satchidananda.
Asteya is translated as non-stealing. In general, it means not taking what is not given. Don’t steal. Seems obvious and straight forward. But to really embrace asteya, I think we need to go deeper than the obvious. What is the motivation behind not-stealing?
I’ve been giving this one a bit of thought lately, and it occurs to me that Asteya is intricately linked with appreciation, and with the cycle of integrity – wholeness – that is found in giving and receiving. To steal is to be ungrateful; conversely when we are in a state of gratitude, appreciating what is given and open to what we may receive, then there is no thought of stealing.
Is it even possible to steal and be grateful at the same time? I don’t think so.
Imagine this scenario: You send something to someone in the mail. Maybe it is a just a note, or maybe a birthday card with a check, or maybe you go the extra mile and send a gift. Maybe it is for no special occasion. Maybe you just want to connect. So you send this thing off in the mail. You figure it will take x number of days to get there, so you wait, happily anticipating that this person will be glad to hear from you.
Time passes, you hear nothing. No phone call, no return note, no thank you. Not even an acknowledgment that this person heard from you.
How do you feel? Angry? Hurt? Cheated? Stolen from perhaps?
Here’s why: Because in failing to say thank you, this person failed to complete the circle of giving and receiving. In failing to complete the circle, something is stolen: the opportunity for connection. (yes, i know, we can also give without attachment, but that is a subject for another post. For now, let’s all just admit that we like to be acknowledged.)
Is it a stretch to talk of that as stealing? Maybe, but there is no doubt that something remains unfinished. The circle is not complete.
Things like this happen all the time. Lack of acknowledgement, lack of appreciation. Eventually the giver stops giving, or gives without enthusiasm, or worse, gives out of obligation rather than love. Resentments build up, people drift apart. It might be unconscious, but it happens.
Has something been stolen?
I think so. I think that we have effectively stolen a bit of joy from ourselves and from each other.
Integrity means wholeness. A complete cycle. I wonder how things might change if we approached all of life with this idea?
What would happen, for example, if we paid our bills with gratitude, with thanks for services rendered? What if we tipped that waitress out of appreciation rather than obligation? What if, rather than complaining that art is expensive, we truly stepped back and appreciated the work and passion that went in to it? By not appreciating it, haven’t we stolen something from the artist?
And what about free services – do we offer a donation? Give thanks? And if we are in need, can we gracefully accept a gift that is given? If we refuse, haven’t we stolen from something from the giver?
Just thoughts to think on.
I’ve not mentioned in this post the idea of asteya on the mat, but I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Do you think asteya is related to giving and receiving? How does the idea of non-stealing play out on the mat? Would love to hear you ideas ~
~ peace ~
This video (link below) just came to my attention the other day. I am not able to embed it, but if you click the link it will take you to the site where you can watch it. It will only take about 10 minutes of your time, and I think it is worth watching.
Read another Asteya post here