Asteya: An Effective Self-Purification Tool
It is the third Yama/personal guiding principal of the famous Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali. In its crude sense it does mean—not to steal/ achieve the property, belonging, rights of any one overtly or inadvertently. If analysed deeply, it can happen only when someone has greed, material attachment or ambition to fulfil all the desires, irrespective of the right/ capability for the same. Most of the social problems and lawlessness of today are on account of the lack of this human quality. It is visible in all sections of the society, at all levels, irrespective of the vocation, education and affordability.
It indicates deep relation of the desires and their self-control by the individual, reflecting on the persons’ social behaviour. For ages people have accepted the principle of—“Might is Right”. It indicates the acceptance and forceful use of physical power, knowledge power, position power, location power, money power, resource power to be used for the exploitation of others or depriving them of their genuine rights and belongings, for one’s selfish motives. This tendency has given rise to all types of class wars, social conflicts, wars between the nations, religious conflicts and all grades of social crimes. It is all on account of the un-controllable desire for having all the resources and opportunities for mighty position and luxurious living, even at the cost of others. So it creates “oppressed” and “oppressor” classes and an unending conflict between them for the restoration of their rights.
Expression of these evils is called “Steya” which is opposite of “Asteya”. In its frank form it is seen as the grabbing of land/property of others, superseding others by deceit, religious conversions, human atrocities of all kinds (sexual abuse, rape, murder, unauthorised occupations etc.). Therefore, it strongly reflects the need for the control of undue desires, which are aimed to snatch the rights and possessions of others. Evasion of taxes, bribing others for gaining the control on the legitimate rights of others are common practices and therefore give birth to unending confrontations between snatcher and sufferer individuals and classes.
It may, therefore, be convincingly said that “honesty/ non-stealing should not be a policy only, but an integral value system of personal and social life”. Policy is a shield but value system is internal to an individual and if integrated in the “personality development” process of the life, then can be rewarding for individuals and the society, alike. Many social and religious reformers have, therefore, stressed on this human quality and value system for the “self-purification”. Most of the religious preachings strongly advocate the cultivation of this property among the devotees but most people limit their understanding of this issue as religious version with no practical or social link. It is very unfortunate and needs a fresh look for its relevance in personal, professional and social life. If it is seriously attempted, it can revolutionise the human society for its much-desired peace, harmony and universal brotherhood. “Are we really serious to re-examine it for our self” is the million-dollar question.
By Dr Dipak Shukla