Analyzing Asteya

Ramakrishna Ashram, Mysore India

Asteya: Non-Stealing or the Opposite of Stealing

When I introduce this concept to my young students I always ask them to list for me things people can steal which aren't possessions.  Here are some of the answers they give:

1. Confidence
2. Heart
3. Ideas
4. Happiness

I add Time and Focus and Attention to the list.  Then I ask them to give each other full focus as one by one they lead the group in Sun Salutations.  From then on they never forget.

Asteya.  There are so many levels to what this instruction of Non-Stealing can mean.  Stealing comes even from accepting a gift that doesn't belong to us a teacher once told me.  What's a gift that doesn't belong to us?  The one we know deep inside there is a hidden price for, those gifts which are not really gifts.  With many gifts there is an expectation of something being given back in return.  As long as that is there it will cloud our thinking and our purity of action, taking us further away from the self realization which is yoga.  The deeper we go into our practice, the more hesitant we'll be to accept anything we didn't truly earn and even those things we have.  Focus becomes on doing the work and staying away from collecting objects and accolades which quickly become distractions.

After explaining that the Sanskrit "A" in front of the word Steya can be taken to mean "the opposite of" (stealing), I had one young student surmise that ASTEYA could mean giving, give back, or service.  I liked that definition, and it works.  In it is also the answer to how to work on this concept of Non-Stealing.  When we want to avoid a behavior it is helpful to cultivate the opposite habit.  If we become completely involved in giving, it soon becomes habit for us to give instead of take.  After forming that habit, stealing feels unnatural, and wrong to our inner being.

Why we steal is the next question that arises.  Is it a feeling of scarcity?  A fear of falling behind or not having reserves?  Do we feel cheated and owed?  Is it unconscious habit?  There are many motivations, some extremely deeply rooted, which drive our behavior.  It's helpful to remember that all the Yamas and Niyamas have positive results.  Only by experiencing the positive results of Non-Stealing will we be encouraged to keep vigilant about this behavior.  The effect of being firmly grounded in Non-Stealing is that all means will come to you.  If you think carefully you probably already know at least one person who lives this way.  She never seems to want for anything even though she never seems to try too hard.  There's a trust. 

Don't listen to me!  Build your trust through experience.  Practice the month of August, non-stealing.  Don't take anyone's space, time, gifts, or ideas.  Treat it as an experiment and share your thoughts and experience with me on Instagram by tagging @landyoganyc and hashtag #alleightlimbs.  I can't wait to hear what you find! One vigilant practitioner will take home a well earned Lululemon mat and mat bag at the end of the month.   Keep Sharing!  Keep Growing!  Keep Practicing!  All Eight Limbs.