A Deeper Look at Asteya
Recently, I led a class where, as a group, we discussed Asteya (the 3rd Yogic Yama of non-stealing). When leading classes on the Yamas, I like to consider the antidote to each…in this case, our own value and what we genuinely contribute to the world. The more firmly rooted we are in the knowing of our own value and what we have to offer means that we naturally have no orientation toward “stealing”. Our class conversation took shape around the concept that we’re born into Oneness, as infants we’re still harmonized with that from which we came. As babies, all our needs are met without question…we’re hungry then we’re fed, we’re tired then we nap, we need a bath and we’re bathed. Our whole world however small at that time, is oriented toward our own needs and we hold no concept of lack.
However, beginning very young, experiences start popping up, experiences that bring a subtle yet dawning awareness of an “other” and suddenly, we’re experiencing all that’s impermanent in life because we’ve become aware of material consciousness. This movement of Prakriti is perceived pretty early on in life…and it brings with it a new knowledge of that which is “changeable”, that which is an “other”. These experiences that bring us there are subtle, and perhaps not particularly memorable, but they build on one another; and I wonder, is this awareness of “other” meant to happen? So many people want to reach Moksha or Nirvana as though it would be an achievement, seemingly identifying at all with Prakriti as a bad thing, but the very want to reach Moksha is Prakriti itself. This movement of Prakriti is natural, and it is also seemingly necessary as it seeps in to our development by nature. Prakriti is what is necessary to draw us back to the Brahman, that Oneness we were born experiencing, they are two sides of the same coin. Are these experiences meant to be a way of leading us away from Oneness so that we can learn what Oneness is, and then exercise our free will back toward that.
The problem lies not in Prakriti itself, but in what we've done with Prakriti in our systematized modern culture. The system of society is structured in such a way that, it grabs this young, new awareness of “other” and runs with it. That open vulnerability of being in such a new awareness is immediately bombarded with media images and surrounds that tell us how much we need. And, being so young, experiencing the tenderness of a new awareness, we’re not emotionally or mentally developed enough to fend off the onslaught…we just keep up and grow up into a belief that we are Prakriti, and the result is that general inner sense of lack. If we could have reached a level of maturation mentally and emotionally in the quiet of traditional values first, learning the observance of Prakriti, we may not have had the vulnerability of being force-fed lack. Our group came to see how complex an issue Asteya really is in our world…it is so multi layered and multi faceted…in both tangible and intangible ways. As Asteya is so awareness oriented, it cannot stand on its own, the awareness needs to come from our work done with Satya, which helps us perceive Prakriti hopefully with some intelligence. And so, it seems, Asteya isn’t necessarily so action-oriented itself, but is instead the mindfulness of value and truth in hopes of bringing about right-action, depending on what we choose. Food for thought.
**Image credit: By Khokarahman - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37528449