The Yoga Tutor

Asteya - Non-theft

[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 261 ]

In Sanskrit, the word for "steal" is steya. The negative particle 'a' makes the translation of the word asteya mean "no theft."

Asteya means more than just not taking what belongs to somebody else without permission. We have to take the word in its more comprehensive

Most people who have developed any kind of moral sense will not actually go to the length of just taking what belongs to another. Yet very few people can be considered entirely guiltless altogether, from the moral point of view, of stealing.

Many subtle and indirect forms of misappropriation have become commonplace in contemporary social life and the average person's rather insensitive conscience does not feel noticeably disturbed when they take part in these hazy activities.

The 'civilized person' won't walk out of a restaurant with a pocket-full of silver cutlery, but they may happily accept some perks of their job which they may not necessarily need, nor be deserving of. One may get a new pair of eye glasses every year, simply because their company health plan allows them to, even though they may already have 3 pairs with an identical prescription!

Asteya then, should be viewed in a broader sense -- as abstaining from misappropriation of any kind. The yogi does not allow himself to take anything that does not rightly belong to him, nor anything that he does not truly need.

This certainly included goods or money, but it also involves more intangible things such as credit for something which he is not wholly responsible, or privileges which he does not rightly deserve.

Asteya also means not to use something that has been leant to you for reasons that it was not intended or for more than the owner has assumed that you were planning on using it for.

Therefore, in yoga the notion of stealing includes the taking of property, the abuse of trust and privilege, honesty and genuine integrity in usage. From these simple principles alone, the yogi is able to reduce his needs to the bare minimum, thinking that if he gathers what he does not really need, then he is indeed a thief. As I.K. Taimni Points out in his book, The Science of Yoga:

"It is only when a person succeeds in eliminating, to a certain extent, this tendency towards misappropriation in its cruder forms that he begins to discover the subtler forms of dishonesty which are woven into our lives and of which we are hardly conscious."


NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.

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