Asteya is the third Yama, or social observance, in Patanjali’s Sutras. It means ‘non-stealing’.
Superficially asteya is a concept easy to grasp yet there are greater depths to explore beyond the simple idea of not taking what isn’t yours.
On the gross level we can steal another’s belonging. On a more subtle level we can steal another’s time. If we interrupt a conversation we are, as Nicolai Bachman writes in his volume about the sutras, stealing attention.
Pulling the veil back further we recognize that covetousness and envy are also forms of thievery by the manner in which they tarnish attitudes and dull joy. Both Bachman and scholar IK Taimni draw our awareness to the truth that when we embrace asteya we rise above our basic nature. When we are honest and honorable we nourish the heart and soul.
And that is why asteya is important to me. I want to live an honorable life. I try to not steal joy, celebration or even sorrow and pain from others. I don’t take what is not mine. I avoid feelings of envy. I listen without interruption. Usually. But I am not perfect and this is a practice.
What resonates for me most as I practice asteya and non-stealing is my relationship with time. I place huge emphasis on arriving where I am needed on time. To that end I am especially cognizant of beginning and ending my classes and private appointments with clients on time.
Anything less? That would be stealing.