The eight limbs of yoga are described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Within the first branch “Yama” is found ‘Asteya’ (a = not, steya = stealing) – one of the five primary rules of social behaviour – not to steal. It is mentioned in many other Indian texts; in the Bhagavad Gita (in the Mahabarata), in the Vedas and in the Upanishads.
I would think the concept of not stealing to be fundamental to all cultures, religions and belief systems and a pretty standard rule throughout households worldwide.
As we raise our children, they are all taught not to steal. They should be honest – to not take anything that does not belong to them. This is the initial understanding – where we all start – we all know stealing to be wrong.
Exploring the concept more deeply: Why would we want to steal? Because we are needing something; whether that need is real, or imagined. At the root of this – we have something lacking; something missing. We think we need to fill this gap extrinsically – from the outside – with ‘things’ or sensations. In our fast-paced modern world we are watching these desires and cravings become increasingly urgent and immediate.
When actually, we need to fill this ‘gap’ ourselves, be fulfilled from within. To find solutions intrinsically, rather than using the temporary ‘fix’. We need to shift our mindsets from scarcity to abundance. This we are trying to overcome with our practice of yoga in all its forms with its 8-limbed approach.
Assuming that we are already not physically stealing goods from one another, we can see that the concept of Asteya is also highly intertwined with some of the other yamas:
Ahimsa (non-violence) – understand that stealing is a violent act.
Satya (truth/honesty) – if you live an honest life, the fear of scarcity falls away.
Aparigraha (non-hoarding) – not mindlessly consuming and coveting possessions.
Do not steal from our beautiful planet – use only what you really need.
I feel that easy practices to incorporate Asteya into our daily activities also involve time. Be punctual – do not steal another’s time. Be quiet – I quote Mahatma Ghandi: “Speak only if it improves on the silence”….