The traditional translation of the sanskrit word Asteya is “non-stealing” or “non-coveting”.
I really appreciate the following modern translations in terms of approaches to this practice:
· Nischala Devi explains it as generosity without expectation in return.
· Michael Stone describes it as not taking what isn’t freely given – like waiting under the fruit tree until the fruit falls.
· Nicolai Bachman practices Asteya by only accepting what has been earned.
Like all the yamas, this is a powerful concept to practice.
Here’s the sutra:
YS 2.37 Established in non-stealing, all jewels come close.
Deborah Adele explains that it “calls us to live with integrity and reciprocity”. She then describes that there are many forms in which we steal:
· From Others: this includes taking anything from them that isn’t ours to take (success, failure, time), not paying attention to others, jealousy or envy.
· From the Earth – so many valuable life-sustaining resources have been used up without cognizance around what this means for the life of the resources (be they plants, animals, minerals, soil, air…) or future generations. Someone once said that on this earthly journey it is important to remember that we are simply borrowing from the earth.
· From the Future: when we focus on what we don’t have instead of having gratitude for what we do have, it creates a sense of emptiness that gets filled with busyness, food, and stuff.
· From Ourselves: direct quote from Deborah Adele’s book, The Yamas & Niyamas, because I’ve never heard it stated more clearly and compassionately:
“In all the ways that we impose an outside image of ourselves onto ourselves, we are stealing from the unfolding of our own uniqueness. All self-sabotage, lack of belief in ourselves, low self-esteem, judgments, criticisms, and demands for perfection are forms of self-abuse in which we destroy the very essence of our vitality.”
This practice invites us to relinquish the idea that things outside yourself will provide you security and happiness. When inner fullness predominates, you lose the need to manipulate, obscure, or deceive.
The invitation is for you to consider where Asteya shows up in your life… Do you wish you had what someone else does? Who are you stealing from – yourself, others, the earth or the future? How can your awareness around this begin to shift your choices around Asteya?
Enjoy the practice!