Saturday, November 12, 2011

WHAT is ASTHEYAM or Non-stealing in Yoga= why is it Essential? = Its benefits = Yama, the 1st step of Patanjali Yogasutras


In the last 2 Posts, we examined the first 2 parts of Yama, which is the first step of Ashtanga Yoga. These two parts are Ahimsa (non-violence)  and Sathyam (truthfulness). We will now examine Astheyam, the third part of Yama.


Stheyam means stealing what belongs to others, usually  without their knowledge. Astheyam means Non-stealing.

There are professional Robbers, thieves, dacoits, pirates etc – who have made it their lifelong profession to steal what belongs to others.

But, Astheyam is not limited to the absence of - such small or large scale stealing of things.

Ravana took away Rama’s wife, Sita – when Rama was not present. This too was stealing. All of Ranava’s greatness falls into dust because of this one act.

Today, Corruption is a big issue in many countries including India. What does not belong to someone is taken away by him from others under some pretext. This is also stealing.

Stealing is resorted to under various pretexts – for fulfilling basic needs, for becoming rich quickly, for depriving another of his belongings, for acquiring some fancy items presently belonging to someone else – and so on. These are mere Pretexts. There is no real or valid ground for STEALING at all.

Stealing can be – of money, other valuables, intellectual properties, ideas, and so on.

If we knowingly take away something from another – paying less than the just and fair price for it, that too is stealing.

We hear of many different forms of stealing in different countries and different institutions. Some students write a thesis or article or do some research and innovative work. But, the teacher or Guide claims it as his own! A subordinate does a great work but the boss claims all the credit! These are all various forms of stealing only.

A Doctor gives treatment to his Patient. If it cures, he takes the credit. If it does not cure, the debit goes to either the Patient or even to the almighty!

Thus, stealing can take numerous forms.

Somebody has lost a wad of currency notes on the Road, and you have seen it. Suppose you do not know who has lost it there. What will you do? If you take it – that too is stealing. Even now, we hear that in some Islamic countries, it is treated as a crime to touch such money seen on the road. Let it be there for its rightful owner to come, find it and take it.

What is stolen and how it is stolen -  is not important.  The internal idea in our head, of stealing, is more important.

It reflects  the tamoguna in us. Stealing has huge habit forming potential. Some people cannot just avoid stealing from any one, any where, any thing. It is called kleptomania. The itch to steal is very great in them. Some others do it, when they feel, it is safe.

Stealing is violence. Stealing is untruthfulness. The thief does not care – what becomes of the person from whom he has stolen.

Therefore, anyway, it is against the first 2 principles of Yama.

Tamoguna, lack of self-respect and lack of love for others are at the base of the habit of stealing.

We must rise from Tamoguna to Rajoguna and from Rajoguna to Sathvaguna – to come out of such nasty practices. We must learn the dignity of work and value of contentment with just reward for our work. These must be taught from childhood to all.

Laziness must never be encouraged. A day must not end without working for sufficient hours fruitfully, earning our needs fully. We must not demand or accept rewards in excess of what our work deserves.

If we cultivate love and compassion for others – we will not steal their belongings. When such love is lacking, people steal even from their spouse, children or Parents.

An African-American proverb says – If you will lie, you will also steel; if you will steal; you will also kill. It is a progression from one smaller sin to a bigger sin – and we must avoid them all – telling lies, being violent and stealing.

You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.” Says the Bible

If you have to steal – steal somebody’s heart – says a great ancient saying.

The essential mark of civilization in a country is defined by how honestly its citizens earn their living.

We are all fairly conversant with the evident repercussions of the habit of stealing.

1.           We will get caught some time or other – and face punishment, much bigger than what we thought is likely for us. This is the obvious (dristaphalam) result of our crime.
2.           The sin of stealing -  results in a huge Adristaphalam (unseen result). We will never be able to link a huge catastrophe in this birth itself or even in a future birth - that may befall us – with the stealing that we have done today. We cannot escape the cause-consequence cycle inherent in our Karma.
3.           No thief can ever be a happy and fearless man.
4.           No one can trust and respect a thief.

On the other hand, Astheyam (non-stealing) – creates huge happiness and joy in us. Astheyam creates in our minds the necessary environment – for Yoga. You are happy with what you have, with what God has given you as your just reward.

Gita says – what have you brought along with you to this birth, which you can claim as your own? What will you take along with you when you go, as your own? Nothing.  So Indian culture considers stealing as one of the worst SINS.

Buddha says – all of our life, we are gathering dust around us in many forms (as money, ornaments, property etc) – until we become dust our self. He discourages even other forms of hoarding wealth, apart from stealing.

Essentially, People commit theft – due to total lack of clarity in Life Goals.

But, Kings and Governments have their duty – of ensuring ASTHEYAM by all  of its people.  No one in the country must steal. It is not merely a step in Yoga. It is what a king must ensure in all of its people – whether someone is a Yoga Sadhaka or not. No society can survive when stealing is widely prevalent in it.

One beautiful aspect of these three  parts of Yama which we have examined so far is – they are the bridges between you and the rest of the society. When you follow them, you become a trusted, loved and honoured member of the society. If you do not follow them, and are either violent, untruthful or stealing, you cannot be an acceptable member of the society.

At the personal level, You lose something very precious when you steal – your happiness, your joy, your self-respect and your only chance to become equal to the divine. Astheyam restores all this back to you.

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