Asteya is the third yama or disciplined restraint in yoga. Asteya translates as non-stealing. Taking something that doesn’t belong to us causes stress, over-excitement, chaos, or fear: it eats up our peace of mind. We don’t have to be a bank robber, shoplifter or embezzler to be stealing. There are many subtle ways of violating asteya:
~keeping things we borrowed
~stealing ideas without acknowledgment
~depriving someone of their due reward or good name
~being possessive in relationships
~withholding time, energy, or love in relationships
According to Vimala Mclure in the Ethics of Love, when we steal we diminish our innermost selves. When we cheat on our income taxes, lie on a loan application, or keep a wallet we found, our conscience throws up a flag. “Warning: part of your spirit has just died.”
Asteya is an encounter with the power of non-attachment. When we look honestly at the subtle ways we’ve been stealing we may come to understand that in each instance there is an attachment to a specific outcome.
Rolph Gates offers specific examples: “We want the last orange in the refrigerator more than we want to be a good partner or we have a tough week at work so we under tip the waiter at the diner.”
Beneath the attachment lies a basic fear of not being taken care of. Living in accord with asteya is a practice in faith building.
Many of the writings about asteya point out that generosity and honesty are the antidotes to stealing and that practicing asteya bestows material and spiritual prosperity.
In order to practice asteya consider where you can become more transparent. Ask yourself how to cultivate more generosity and honesty in your everyday life.
To sum it up, Swami Satchidananda says, “Traditionally people who are well established in the virtue of non-stealing are described as always being sustained by life; they never lack anything for further growth.”