Practicing Ashteya In Daily Life

An integral part of yoga philosophy, the five yamas of yoga lay out the guidelines for how yogis can interact with themselves and the world around them. Patanjali Maharishi believes that practicing the yamas, and in turn practicing a life of restraint, is essential for yogis. Each yama categorizes the various ways in which you can practice restraint in your life; in this post I’ll be talking about ashteya.

Ashteya is the idea of non-stealing, non-covetedness, and freeing oneself of jealous thoughts. Patanjali writes that, “ashteya pratisthayam sarva ratna upasthanam,” which essentially translates to this idea that when ashteya is firmly established in a yogi, precious jewels will present themselves to the yogi. Many of the simple examples of ashteya are fairly easy for a regular, grounded person to follow: don’t steal, don’t shoplift, restrain from feeling jealous about your friend’s shiny new going-out dress. But I wanted to expand two important questions that arise out of thinking about ashteya: How else can we apply this thinking to our daily lives? Moreover, actual jewels and treasures are not going to spontaneously appear in front of us, so why should we even bother practicing ashteya?

First, let’s talk about what else we can do to practice ashteya. Ashteya is not only about coveting physical objects or people. Stealing and jealousy can manifest in many sneaky ways: stealing time, stealing resources, jealousy of other peoples’ bodies, careers, and life paths. You can practice ashteya by being on time, not stealing others’ time, and letting go of any resentment that you harbor. As a college student, with everyone around me starting to get jobs in big companies and large salaries, it’s hard not to feel some sort of jealousy about where others are headed in their lives. Ashteya is about letting go of that in order to figure out your own life path.

But what can we gain out of practicing ashteya? My interpretation of Patanjali’s so-called “precious jewels” is that when you start committing yourself to ashteya, you will find contentment and peace with what you have. The joy and understanding that arises from being happy with what you’ve got is the treasure that Patanjali was talking about. I’m still on the path to practicing ashteya and I hope this helps you in doing the same!

Sakshi