When was the last time you were late to a meeting? Did you “steal” the valuable time of others? Has it ever occurred to you that hoarding — keeping more than you actually need, be it food, money, possessions, could be a form of stealing? Have you ever taken someone else’s idea and pretended it was yours, taking credit which belongs to another? And how about stealing emotions from others — by pretending to be connected but actually being detached from them? Or having “casual sex” which was only casual for YOU and not the other person.
In this lesson, we continue examining the moral and ethical “limbs” of the Eight Fold Path of Yoga. This is one of the yamas. We have already spent time with the first two — non-violence and truthfulness. Now we turn to asteya, non stealing. As you have seen, there is considerable depth to each of these concepts. That is how it works in this spiritual study of yoga. You can’t just say in a flippant way something like this. “Me? I don’t steal from people. I am not a thief.” And maybe you are not and never have been. Let’s see…
LESSON TWENTY NINE
ASTEYA — NON-STEALING
From the first time I heard of the yamas, my mind went straight to the Ten Commandments. They were rules. You could take an inventory and check off the ones where you deserved a gold star and the ones that seemed a little “iffy.” At one point in my yoga practices, I went through each of them every single day, just before meditating. I did this self-examination through the yamas. At the beginning, just as with the Ten Commandments, I think I did some kind of surface evaluation. It took a long time for me to recognize just how much depth there is to each.
Before saying more, please remember that these lessons are not meant to set up a sense of guilt or failure. We have already ascertained who you are at the depth of your being. That you are loved beyond measure and that IT is the core of your being. But we still live in the world, illusion or otherwise. If we can better align our daily behavior with our spiritual Truth, we will certainly find ourselves lighter and happier. There will be congruity.
Swami Sivananda wrote:
Desire or want is the root cause of stealing.
This is interesting to contemplate. If we are content with what comes to us, to fill our needs, we will not be tempted to steal. Yet we are surrounded, from the time we are infants, with the notion that we need more, should accumulate more. Advertising and commercials ceaselessly tell us about all the things and experiences we don’t have. On top of all of that, the implication is often made that, unless we have those “things,” what ever they may be, we are inadequate, unworthy. We don’t “rock.” It is no wonder then, that we are sometimes willing to do anything to get them.
Here are a few thoughts to consider, remembering that you are “witnessing” your behaviors, not “judging” them:
- The most basic idea in non-stealing is whether or not you have knowingly stolen something that does not belong to you. This is not hard to evaluate, unless you steal without even knowing or thinking about it. If you robbed a bank or stole a purse, you know you have been stealing. If you put an article of clothing in a bag and did not pay for it, you stole something. If the cashier forgot to charge you for something and you knew it, did you steal? Just think about what you may have taken that was not yours. whatever it was.
- What about stealing of personal information, like passing on a confidence that was shared by a friend.
- If you regularly play loud music or party late into the night, are you stealing quiet time from others?
- Do you repeatedly interrupt conversations to make your own point? Is this stealing?
- Do you steal from the environment if you use more of something than you need?
- How about stealing from animals or mother nature?
These questions are posed to broaden the concept of non-stealing. Again, they are not meant to evoke guilt or shame. The PC (politically correct) police do a good job at that already. YOU decide what makes you comfortable and how you feel. I might say that I could likely answer yes to many of the above questions — though I never robbed a bank or stole a purse. At least not in this lifetime.
Let me know if you have other ideas to contribute on this subject of non-stealing. I am always interested in what you think.
With love and namaste, Deanne
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