As I approach the start of my 500 hour yoga teaching training with Rolf Gates in November, I am brushing up on my non-asana yoga philosophy. The first question out of Rolf’s mouth will most likely be “What are the Yamas and Niyamas?”
Yamas are the 5 restraints in classical yoga philosophy – ie Morals to live by. They are Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Brahmacarya (moderation), Aparigraha (non-hoarding) and Asteya (non-stealing). One that seems to be on my mind lately is Asteya.
Asteya seems pretty simple. Don’t steal. I think most of us are pretty good at that. But I know at some point probably most everyone has taken something that doesn’t belong to them. And probably everyone has had something taken from them. Back in the day when I was a little younger and dumber, I stole. I admit it. It seems like when I stole, I always got things stolen from me. It was hard to put 2 and 2 together at the time. For example, I remember taking a pair of sunglasses from my cousin’s beach house. I was like “they don’t need them – they are just buried in the closet and they look really cool on me.” It seems like Karma keeps coming back on this one as whenever I lose a pair of sunglasses, I remember those Cape Cod sunglasses.
When we steal, we can expect Karma to rear its head, guaranteed. I can think of other examples in my life when I have taken something that hasn’t belonged to me and the equivalent value (or more) was taken back. Cause and effected finally sank in and I was no longer a teenager. So how does Asteya fit into our life now and are we really following it?
A better translation of Asteya could be taking something that isn’t freely given to you. Now that Jody and I have our own small business, our taxes are complicated. There are many deductions to save on taxes. Just write it off, right? But cutting corners on taxes would be breaking the Yama of Asteya. If you don’t report all your income, is that stealing? All debates aside on the effectiveness and efficiency of our governments, yes.
Let’s look at some other examples where it could be considered taking something that isn’t freely given to you. Do you not tell the restaurant if they forgot to put something on your bill? Do you take something from the lost and found that isn’t yours? Do you park in someone else’s parking spot? An item at the store with the wrong price tag? Borrowing someone else’s passwords for access to Netflix? Burning CDs for one another?
These are tough questions to answer and happen to all of us. I don’t know all the answers to these questions and my answer to you is to follow your own moral compass. Another way Asteya shines it light is through false entitlement or crying poverty. Stuff like “Joe down the street has a lot of money, he doesn’t deserve it and I do. He won’t mind if I keep his power tool.”
How far should you take Asteya? How should we look at things in our own life? Through the feeling practice of yoga, of course. The energy of your body will tell you if something is right or wrong. As Rolf says, “Yoga serves as our mirror, revealing ourselves to ourselves. As we shine the spotlight of our awareness on Asteya, we begin to see the manifold ways in which we act out faithlessness instead of faith.”