View Full Version : Yama and Niyama: stealing

10 May 2008, 09:46 AM
Hari Om

The last four posts offered the idea on brahmacharya, ahiṁsā, satya and aparigraha¹. I thought to continue the discussion within the 5 yamas called out by Patañjali.

Also I offer this posting of the last yama on Saturday, owned by Shanaiscarya or Shanaye kramati sa - the one who moves slowly, Śani. He is also known as Yama. As we said, this word yama means act of checking or curbing , suppression , restraint and these are some of the qualities and influences of Śani.

Yama or Śani is known to bring about discipline, restraint. This blossoms into focused attention, leadership qualities, tenacity, durability, steadfastness, logic, renunciation and the like. Many have a negative view of Śani, yet it is he, acting as moksha karaka [the significator of moksha] and supports the native's spiritual endeavors via this discipline.

One does not much negotiate with Śani. It is by his influence that discipline or restraint is gained. Some even say it is he as Yama that brings and manages death. In the case of the 5 yamas we talk of , it is the death of the yamas we wish to have succeed in our being… bringing death to hoarding, untruthfulness, injury and the like. So the association of Yama + Śani + behaviors we want to be rid of aligns well.

Lets look at the last of in the list of restraints, steya. This is the notion of stealing. Steya स्तेय is anything stolen or liable to be stolen. The yama or restraint that is suggested by Patañjali' is a-steya (asteya)अस्तेय or non-stealing. Seems straight forward. Do not take things that do not belong to you.

What is the benefit of non-stealing? Chapter 2 sutra 37 says the following: asteya-pratisthayam sarva-ratnopasthanam

asteya - non-stealing
pratisthayam - to stand firm , be based or rest on, be established , thrive , prosper sarva-ratnopasthanam
sarva - all, everything, altogether , wholly , completely , in all parts
ratnopasthanam- is ratna+upasthāna: ratna is a jewel , gem , treasure , precious stone, anything valuable or best of its kind both in class and kind i.e. people and objects + upasthāna is coming into the presence of , going near to , or the act of placing one's self near to

Three views on this sutra
Version 1
When asteya or non-stealing is established (pratisthayam), all jewels (ratna) present themselves (upasthāna)

Version 2
Residing firmly or established in great integrity (asteya-pratisthayam) one's presence approximates precious gems (ratnopasthanam)

Version 3
The fruit of being established (pratisthayam) is honesty (asteya) is that all (sarva) luxury (ratna) will be at your disposal (upasthāna)

There is another type of steya that one can also consider - that of the temptation of theft , some may call this envy or jealousy. That is the notion of gaining or seizing the status of another. This too is something that requires asteya. We have already discussed the brother of asteya, and that is aparigraha or hoarding, these are closely related.

Yet I ask you, what do you really own, possess or want to steal that would be really yours? What am I talking about? Let's get some help from the Maitreya Upaniṣad.
King Brihadratha decided to go to the forest for sanyas. He prepares his son for the kingdom, and then retires to the forest. Upon
doing tapas for some time, the sage Sakayanya muni comes to him (like a fire without smoke as the story goes). This muni departs the wisdom of Lord Maitreya, the same way as it was given to Sakayanya from the Lord, and that is the knowledge of the SELF.

He explains the SELF, as pure, unbounded and free from states , pure, steadfast, immutable, untarnished, un-eager, desire-less (that is the 3 guna's). Being unmanifest, subtle, invisible, non-object, un-possessive, free from states, non-agent, (but) abides like an agent. He tells the King.

The muni also describes the self (of the relative field of life) , that is attached to fruit of actions, white and dark as he calls it 'good and bad' for lack of a better term. Sakayanya says, "Borne alone and defiled by the stream of qualities, unsteady, wavering, bewildered, full of desire, distracted, one goes on into the state of self-conceit in thinking, 'This is I' and 'That is mine' one binds himself with himself , as does a bird with a snare."

This notion of 'that being mine' is a distraction of the small self. When we (I) think about it, What can we really say we own? We look to this world and it is made up of the 5 tattva's ( earth, air, fire, water and space). Where have we created any of these elements to say we possess the right to call them our own?

But one says, but what of a car? All the tattva's are in an auto. But isn't it 'mine' ? I paid for it? All of these elements come from our good earth, and that has come from our sun. And our sun they say is perhaps a 4th to 7th generation sun that collected all these elements from past sun's that exploded. All these things come together to offer us the car, water, gas, the shoes we wear, the body we have. All of this has been in the making for billions of years out there in ākāśa, in space. Where have we created one atom in our contribution of this Universe? How may one look at possessions then?

The things we possess are useful and allows us a comfortable life - a blessing to be counted.
While these things are in our 'possession' it is my humble opinion we should act as stewards and keep these things in good order.
Where we can help others with the application of possessions, the best we can, this makes good common sense.
In the final analysis, all that we touch and come into contact is, itself, an expression of Brahman, and one being mindful of this, is considered wise.

So , if one steals, or hoards… who are you stealing from? And can you really claim possession or title to anything? The Isavasya Upaniṣad, first sloka says it well ( the rsi is Svayambhuva Manu)

Om Isavasyamidam sarvam yatkiñca jagatyam jagat
tena tyaktena bhuñjitha ma grdhah kasyasvid dhanam

Isavasyamidam - idam sarvam, all this (this entire universe) + Isavasyam - pervaded by Isa, the Lord
yat kiñcha - also whatsoever, and whatever there may be
jagatyam -( prakrtyam or prakriti) - primordial nature
jagat- the world
tena - in that manner, on that account (by Him the Lord)
tyaktena - tyakta - abandoned ~ renunciation;( I have seen this yaktena offered as dattena vittena or wealth granted, allotted, given)
bhuñjitha ~ do experience, enjoy (bhuj the granting of enjoyment or favor)
ma grdhah - do not crave for, do not seek
kasyasvid - any one else's
dhanam -wealth

In brief ( as you can read the meaning from the sloka's translation above)
… enjoy whatever is given to you by Him, and do not seek (or covet) the wealth (dhanam) of others. It all belongs to, and pervaded by, the Lord (Isavasyam).


1.Words used

Aparigraha is to back-away from and release (from the behavior of, since it is a yama) of grasping, binding and seizing. Therefore apaigraha is a most descriptive term for the absence of hoarding.
Satya सत्य is true , real , actual , genuine , sincere , honest , truthful , faithful , pure , virtuous , Reality. We know there are two levels or experiences of this. One is the spoken word, the truthful word, some call this honesty.
Ahiṁsā अहिंसा we know as non-injury. Some call this non-violence.
Brahmacarya ब्रह्मचर्य - the conventional view: state of an unmarried religious student; a state of continence and chastity yet we talked of its components brahma+carya; Brahma as the creator, the creative impulse of all + carya is conduct. So , both put together, it is the conduct of Brahma, the source, Brahman. The path that leads to Brahman.

Eastern Mind
13 June 2010, 07:29 PM

YAMA 3 — Asteya, Nonstealing

Uphold the virtue of non stealing, neither thieving, coveting nor failing to repay debt. Control your desires and live within your means. Do not use borrowed resources for unintended purposes or keep them past due. Do not gamble or defraud others. Do not renege on promises. Do not use others' name, words, resources or rights without permission and acknowledgment.

This for me boils down to garnering trust. Can you imagine a world where nobody trusted anyone. You can't lend, you can't leave things in the open. Nothing like that because some other person is out there and is going to take.

I remember working as a bartender in my youth before encountering SD and having a particularly poor night of hard work rewarded with "Hurry up!" from customer and boss alike. So in this mood I managed to defraud the boss of $3.00 by paying for a lesser drink than I actually got. I went home and couldn't sleep, so then the next night unstole, be once again stealthily putting the money back in the till.

Why would one lose sleep over such a small thing as 3 bucks? From the inside I 'knew' (sensed, understood) that it was wrong. It was a valuable lesson then and it is still.

Obviously those who do partake in the practice don't understand karma. Either that or they are willing to accept the karmic debt.

The sense of false promise being wrong teaches you to shut your mouth and think a bit before saying, "Yes, I'll do that." How many times have we counted on someone to show up for a volunteer task, and then called to say, "I forgot," and seemed to think nothing of that. How can we respect that?

I remember being shuffled back into a line for a tire change at a place that hailed itself as a member of the Christian Business Association. The reason: a Christian friend of the manager came along and the owner/manager decided to allow him to cut in line in front of me. I asked for my keys and left.

Aum Namasivaya