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.
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?