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Yama #3 Asteya

April 29, 2013

In continuing the review of Yama, the moral injunctions/the culture of self-restraint, we review Yama #3, Asteya. 

Asteya translates as non-stealing. Let me begin by saying this is not going to be a preachy blog on how you should not steal. I’m not going to write about something you already know. What I want to write about is a concept perhaps you haven’t thought about before:  how do we steal from ourselves? How do you cheat yourself? Do you steal your own productivity with time-wasting activities? Do you steal your own accomplishments by robbing your efforts instead of supporting your efforts? Think about this for a moment:  what would you have accomplished if your stealing self had not stolen from you? Now you know what I mean.

The actual sutra is II.37 Asteya-pratisthayam sarva-ratnopasthanam. “When one is established in refrainment from stealing, all jewels manifest”. Edwin F. Bryant writes in his commentary of this sutra, “Established in non-stealing, a glow of detachment and indifference radiates from the face of the yogi.”  Suppose you are trying to lose weight:  established in non-stealing, you build indifference to temptations that otherwise prevent you from accomplishing your weight goal. Suppose you are trying to get out of debt:  steeped in non-stealing, detachment from possessions helps you to avoid wasting your money on unnecessary things.

Then there is the mind. The mind invented a fabulous tool so that it doesn’t have to admit to stealing:  rationalization. Rationalization is a perfect way to steal while fooling yourself that what you are doing is okay. Are you taking more than your share? You may rationalize that because you got there first, you can take as much as you can carry. Are you hoarding? Here, besides being greedy, you are stealing your own self-respect.

If you practice non-stealing, you become known as one who can be trusted, one who has integrity, and virtue, and you also have self trust. These jewels are invaluable indeed.

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