Definition: The word ‘asteya‘ is a compound derived from Sanskrit language, where ‘a’ refers to non- and ‘steya’ refers to practice of stealing, or something that can be stolen.
The monk on the left is receiving something far greater for his integrity than the things that are being stolen from his bag. We each have two sides to our nature, both must be accepted, yet we are responsible for choosing the one that serves the whole. While he may be aware that he is being taken of advantage of, he does not judge; this gives him peace of mind.
“The real cause of theft is too many desires and undisciplined Indriyas (senses). To abstain from theft, one should slowly curb desires, discipline the Indriyas and control the mind.”
— Swami Sivananada
2.37 asteya pratisthayam sarva ratna upasthanam
When non-stealing (asteya) is established, all jewels, or treasures, present themselves, and become available to the Yogi. — Patanjali
Stealing is taking that which is not freely given. When we take what isn’t ours we sow the seeds of distrust in ourselves and in others. This creates a world that is more closed, more possessive, and more fearful.
From the perspective of yogic development, stealing originates from compulsive desires and the grasping of the senses. Additional restlessness is created as we are constantly looking over our shoulders to see if we will be caught, or if others will steal from us. This prevents us from developing the meditative state and creates stress in our bodies and minds. Sincere practice of yoga helps to curb desires and discipline the senses, making us self-contained and less prone to stealing. Theft is not limited to possessions, it includes the stealing of others’ time, attention, and/or opportunities.
Another powerful exploration of asteya is to look at where you entertain “poverty consciousness”. Look at what you covet and examine where it reflects a sense of lack within yourself. Lao Tzu wrote, “When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” Live this truth and you will create a world of trust and transparency – the peace and abundance you will receive is worth more than its weight in gold.