Asteya: The Practice of Non-Stealing

Asteya: The Practice of Non-Stealing
by: Artemisia Shine ♥ January 2011

“You are quaffing drink from a hundred fountains: whenever any of these hundred yields less, your pleasure is diminished. But when the sublime fountain gushes from within you, no longer need you steal from the other fountains.”  ~Jelal ad-Din Rumi


The Yamas and the Niyamas comprise two of the eight limbs of Classical Ashtanga Yoga as first written around 200CE by Patanjali Jois in the Yoga Sutras. Yama is the Sanskrit word for “abstinence” and the five Yamas are a set of external disciplines we can apply in our lives to help align more harmoniously with the Universe. Niyama translates as “observance” and the five Niyamas are a set of internal observances that help us align more fully with our highest Self.

The third Yama is Asteya, or non-stealing. We all can recognize the more palpable forms of theft and can easily refrain from pinching our neighbor’s bicycle seat or taking lunch money from the kid down the street.  It is the more intangible ways we rob from others and ourselves that require active discipline.

Stealing may not crop up in the more obvious forms of shoplifting or credit card fraud but may lurk in the deeper recesses of our minds. Do you secretly long for another’s job, lifestyle, relationship or physical form? These lusts are stealing your happiness and sense of contentment not to mention pilfering the present moment. Look within for riches and find fulfillment in your internal wealth rather than looking beyond yourself for satisfaction. This will moderate excessive desire for objects coveted by the senses — ideas, effects, energetic attention from others, status, power, or recognition. Practice asteya by recognizing the gifts you already possess. As Carl Jung asserts, “Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” Cultivate the patience, strength and courage to bring your inner dreams to life!

Do you sometimes wish you had the hamstrings of the girl on the mat next to you when her forehead gently kisses her ankles in Paschimottanasana? Where the mind goes, the attention flows. Practice Asteya in every asana. Focusing on your limitations robs you from reveling in the beauty of the divine manifestation of life that is expressed through your unique form.

Are you regularly behind schedule for appointments or commitments? Do you arrive after class has already started or hold your yoga students for a few extra minutes of savasana?  When we are late we are stealing time from others.  Take a critical look at what is behind this chronic lateness. Could you be clinging to every moment, trying to wring all that you can from life? Are you packing too much into your day? This is a form of hoarding – insatiability collecting stolen moments for the fear of being in lack.  Hoarding is a form of theft. Asteya proscribes respect for the time and energy of others.

Have you taken a look at your ecological footprint lately? Granted we live in an industrialized nation, but do your consumption patterns border on over-indulgence? What is your fair share? Take a moment to bring mindfulness to your next shopping trip, be it at the local grocery store or retail center. Is that purchase extracting clean water, livable wages, health or ecological diversity from another? Can you meet your needs without deleteriously impacting the needs of others?

There is no need to steal.  Trust that all you truly need is present in the universe and available to you.  It is written in Yoga Sutra 2.37 “When one is established in refrainment from stealing, all jewels manifest.”

~ Artemisia Shine