Yoga Ethics 3, Non-Stealing, Asteya

posted in: Life, Yamas & Niyamas | 8
Door from Malbork castle, Poland (RKG photo)

Even one life lived according to the third yogic principle, asteya, contains the seed of global transformation. Contrary to what contemporary culture would have us believe, greed is not written into our DNA.

Nonviolence remains at the core of the wheel of Yoga Ethics as codified by the Indian sage, Patanjali. Honesty, Non-stealing, Moderation and Non-Covetousness form the spokes of individual restraint. Practiced with whole-hearted effort, this wheel can turn humanity into a compassionate machine.

It is said that once the student is grounded in ahimsa, (nonviolence), the other practices fall into place naturally.

Nevertheless, contemplating the ways we can put the universal principles into practice in our twenty-first century lives, will afford us a deeper, happier, and in this case, a more just existence.

Sutra 2.37 says (trans. by Feuerstein, THE YOGA SUTRA OF PATANJALI):

When grounded in non-stealing, all kinds of jewels appear for him.

One fortunate aspect of the economic downturn is that folks are cutting back. It’s a necessary frugality that our parents had and it’s a benefit to the spiritual life of the society as well as our pocketbooks.

There are myriad opportunities to practice Non-stealing, and I’m including Over-Consumption here,  in our rich world.  One of the fortunate benefits of the global economic and environmental crisis is the burgeoning of a frugal mindset, once possessed by those who came of age during the Great Depression in the US. Simplicity is starting to go viral in the younger generations. As individual after individual begins to examine and then alter their consumptive habits, it won’t be long before this way of life is taken for granted. It is the only JUST way to live.

It would be beneficial if, TODAY, we each walked through the door leading to a simpler lifestyle and thought up at least one way we could lessen our carbon footprint, whether it be by delaying another trip to the store, walking to a friend’s house, or growing some summer vegetables in the backyard or on the rooftop. I’m going to place my canvas bags in the car so I will have them available when I go to the supermarket.

Recently my book group tackled Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s the story of how her family lived for one year as localvores. WHY did they do this? Several reasons, but a big one was to reduce the dependence upon petroleum products due to shipping.

I’ll never eat another meal or whip through a grocery store without thinking of the ramifications of where my food has come from. Living in a farm-rich area, I vow to make a bigger effort to find and procure food and other cottage products from local sources.

Asteya includes mentally coveting to the usual physically taking another’s goods — very Catholic from my perspective — since I was taught that I can sin in the mind. I never got off the hook! How often do I act unconsciously striving for GOODS GOODS GOODS. In this culture, contentment—the polar opposite of covetousness—is a tough garden to cultivate—asking myself the question, how much is enough? Because whenever I cross the border beyond my needs — I stray into using what another could have used—I steal.

The MEDIA does not advocate for asteya. For me, it is a continuous challenge to develop a “non-wanting” mentality. My parents definitely mastered this much more deeply than me or my generation.

Lake Erie stone (carolyn photo)

Swinging the discussion around to yoga practice and life in the typical yoga class, here are some questions that help deepen my thinking regarding asteya:

* When I am not paying attention in class, from whom am I stealing?

*When I arrive late for class, from whom am I stealing?

*When I miss practicing, from whom am I stealing?

*If I push beyond my safe edge, from whom am I stealing?

*If I don’t work at my edge in practice or in class,from whom am I stealing?

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8 Responses

  1. Congratulations and keep up the good work. Love & blessings 🙂

    Lea’s last blog post..Two Awards

  2. I’ve been thinking about this in relation to mystical catholicism actually…

    The seven deadly sins list is not supposed to be a list of rules regarding our material lives, but that is what they have turned into and that is sad because there is much to learn from them.

    They actually were born of the Desert Fathers’ 8 Bad Thoughts, a much more “eastern” version in that these early monks believed that our demons were of the mind and that controlling the mind was how we attained any kind of enlightenment.

    Not just by following some rule book and getting points! Arrgghhh. 🙂

    Blisschick’s last blog post..MysticBliss: Rilke on Death

  3. Declutering is an effective way to permit energy to flow more freely within and around you. The musical mantra posted above is incredibly uplifting. Thanks for sharing.

    Liara Covert’s last blog post..Why believe in supernatural intervention?

  4. LEA, Welcome to LaughingYogini – so good to see you here. Glad you enjoyed and “received.” carolyn

    BLISSCHICK, intriguing thoughts….wondering where you are reading the Desert Fathers? Do you have a post about them?

    YES…..regular folks live by rules. Mysticism, by its very nature, is beyond rules. Mystics live on the level of the spirit – ahhh, that’s why we love them so. Some of us were simply born mystics, at least I think that’s what explains the unavoidable attraction to the spiritual life.

    There was an interesting article a while back regarding feelings of spirituality from a scientific viewpoint though. It was intriguing as it explained PHYSICAL reasons, sometimes in the environment that cause folks to “go spiritual.” I’ll try to dig it up.

    LIARA, Fascinating juxtapositioning of decluttering and Deva Premal. I’ll always think of that now when I listen to her!

    You are right of course. No one would ever say that there is an ounce of clutter in her mantras. Perce related her feelings in class when we played Deva Premal’s Satsang cd in class on the ABOUT THE YOGINI page.

  5. This is wonderful! I was searching for something on Patanjali and decluttering and got exactly what I needed. I’ve never really held onto a lot of physical things, but emtional…hmmm…that’s a different story. Teaching and practicing yoga has lifted the burden of wanting “stuff”. I love your comment about having the business plan with the big bucks. I had the same and still do, but it has been rewritten on a different level. Now I teach. It’s difficult financially right now, but I absolutely love it. Life feels so much better when you’re doing something you love. My surroundings are getting lighter and lighter.

  6. Blisschick, re-reading your comment today and thinking about the connection you – and the Desert Father’s – made regarding the mind’s role on the path of enlightenment. Isn’t it wonderful how such different religious cultures come up with the same idea? And here we are today, on our mats, re-discovering it all over again.
    Thanks again for your comment.

    Donna, ooops, I missed your comment last January (it was a tough winter with both of my parents’ deaths)….Hope you are still feeling good in your decision to teach and that your surroundings are growing lighter and lighter. Love love love this.

    I’m going to use your comment in a new post on asteya: “Teaching and practicing yoga has lifted the burden of wanting “stuff”.”

    Thanks for being.

  7. Thank you for this practical post on Asteya and Patanjali’s Sutra 2:37!

    The practice of asteya is a reflection of one’s integrity. When we are centered, in integrity with ourselves, sufficiency, wholeness, completeness and joy are cultivated from within. Understanding (sometimes with surprise) arises that we already have all we need and that ‘we are the ones we have been looking for’.

    We are freed from mistakenly relying on what is outside to enrich our lives and as we generate reverence for our own integral being, we generate the same for others, increasing awareness of and respect for our own and their time, energy, and resources.

    From this awareness, our focus shifts toward what we may offer instead of what might be gained– and through asteya, an incredible abundance becomes shared.


  8. Oh Mary, “When we are centered, in integrity with ourselves, sufficiency, wholeness, completeness and joy are cultivated from within. Understanding (sometimes with surprise) arises that we already have all we need and that ‘we are the ones we have been looking for’. ” Such wisdom. A gorgeous comment that really deepens the practice. Thanks for being here.

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