When non-stealing (asteya) is established, all jewels, or treasures present themselves, or are available to the Yogi.” (Patanjali Yoga Sutra, 2.37)
Non stealing is the third virtue to be consciously cultivated by practitioners of Hatha Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga and when we say “consciously cultivated”, it means that we are naturally in the habit of stealing! Although this does not mean that we are thieves who loot a bank, what is implied here is that we always have a tendency towards wanting that which we don’t have but others might have. This tendency is subtle “stealing”. This is not at all wrong in the strictest sense, for it is not a crime to want to live a good and comfortable life by enjoying what the world has to offer. But under the right (or wrong) circumstances, these desires may reach a point of desperation driving us to forcibly take from others that which does not belong to us. So let us all ask ourselves some questions.
Why is it that we always want more and more?
Whether we are aware of it or not, it is true that our mind does not like to be limited by anything. Somewhere in the recesses of our mind, we want to be unlimited. But we also make the mistake of identifying ourselves and our happiness with whatever our senses throw at us. For example, we feel that having a house will make us happy. When we have our house, we don’t realize that the house is just an excuse for creating a feeling of happiness in us. The feeling is truly ours, whereas the house belongs to the environment. We make the mistake of associating ourselves and our happiness with this house. So in a way we are limiting our happiness by giving it boundaries in the form of a house while we yearn for being unlimited in happiness!
The fact is our senses are limited! So while it is not bad to want unlimited happiness, it is certainly a mistake to depend on our senses for this. Our senses are employed by the mind to go to the external world and perceive things. But these senses jump from one object to another, compelled by the charms and temptations of the world. If today having a house makes us happy, tomorrow the house is forgotten and we feel that having an expensive car will make us happy! Our senses can only perceive the objects of this world and only give a partial view that is charming and compelling and this can only give us an inkling of joy.
To sum it up, it is in our nature to search for everlasting happiness, but we fall into the habit of “stealing” (wanting more and more from the external world and from others) because in our desire to be happy we are enslaved by our limited senses which tend to jump from one object to the other and our feeling of happiness also follows suit.
What will it do to us if we were not to get all that we wanted (or) if we got them?
Whenever we are enslaved by the senses we desire (Kama) the objects of the world or other people to make us happy. If the desire is somehow fulfilled we feel proud (Mada) to have it and this pride leads to intoxication and greed for more such objects (Moha). If our desire to have something that we don’t already have is not fulfilled we feel anger (Krodha) and jealousy (Matsarya). These emotions, which come as side effects for having the desire for worldly objects/ people, feed the ego. And when we are egotistical, we forget the people whom we love and who love us and that will create further barriers to reach everlasting happiness. We often see that it is precisely these feelings that drive us to the point of desperation leading us to do wrong things.
Do we deserve the things that we desire?
We may desire for a lot of things, but it is always better to make ourselves worthy of the desired object. For example, a student desiring high grades in exams should put in the effort necessary to get the grades rather than take it forcefully by unethical means.
Can we rise above this feeling of wanting more and more?
By continuously reminding ourselves that wantonly wanting more and more from this world will only add on to our sufferings and make us more enslaved to our senses, we can certainly let go of this inclination. Our personality is after all composed of our habits. If we start putting in the right efforts in our actions to make ourselves more worthy and keep reminding ourselves that thoughts of forcibly taking things from others will only add on to our miseries, we can create new positive habit patterns. This leads us to develop a natural resisting power in the mind and a feeling of “aboveness” to the temptations of worldly things. That is when we attain a mental victory over our senses and emotions.
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