Asteya – Non Stealing

Asteya (non-stealing) may be the most important principle for a society’s well-being. If we were able to staunchly abide by it, there would be no poverty, no war and no misery in the world, and in the contrary, we would live in peace and harmony.

Asteya-pratishthaayaam sarva–ratnopasthaanam. Yoga Sutras 2.37

According to this sutra, “When the yogi settles in the principle of non-stealing, all material goods flow freely towards the yogi” – which means that if we adhere to asteya consistently and under all circumstances, our whole life is transformed, as we achieve a deep mental balance, in which never again do we need to worry about our material needs, as they are freely fulfilled by the Universe. This might sound magical or occult, but it is nothing more than trusting and being in tune with the cosmic flow and abundance of the Universe.

When we refer to stealing, we usually think about money, clothes, jewelry and all kinds of material goods. But, as is the case with most of the yamas and niyamas, stealing also has various layers, like an onion, which when pealed, deeper and deeper layers are revealed, until we reach the heart, the root of stealing, which is in the mind.

The reason we steal is the false perception that there is a lack of abundance in the Universe or that there is not enough for everyone or that we cannot create abundance for ourselves.

Let’s examine though the different kinds of stealing in order to understand the importance of this specific yama:

The most obvious one is to take something which is not ours. Like removing money, material goods from a store, fruit from orchards without asking first, steal someone else’s time by being late to an appointment or take more of their time than necessary, steal energy, happiness, blackmail someone’s feelings, steal another’s romantic partner, work position, intellectual property. It is amazing how many yogis present through the media ideas, quotes and articles that are not theirs, without mentioning the author.
Another form of stealing is mental stealing. In that case, out mind is flooded by the desire to steal something, but we don’t do it out of fear of punishment or shame if we get caught. But the desire to steal is in our mind.

A third form of stealing is taking something without giving back what we owe. We don’t pay for a subway ticket, we park at a regulated parking spot without paying the fee, we don’t pay our bills, we do not return borrowed goods, like money or a book we borrowed from the local library. We go to events that have a suggested donation without offering something back. We might save some euro, but the imbalance we create in our mind and society is huge. To lead a parasitical way of life, drawing as much as we can without offering anything or a minimum is a kind of stealing.

And lastly, when we try various tricks in order to receive as many services as possible by paying less than we owe. For example, an employer can abuse the working hours of a worker by paying the minimum salary allowed. Big companies become rich by manufacturing their extremely expensive products in countries where people work very long hours for very little money. The extend to which we participate in this system is certainly a topic we need to explore if we want to work with asteya.