The yama Asteya considers non-stealing or taking what is not freely given. This includes taking what belongs to another without permission, using something for a different purpose than it was intended for, or using something beyond the time permitted by its owner. I think it is safe to say that most people are not thieves and do not consciously steal as there are laws and penalties in place to prevent these actions. Socially it is unacceptable to steal. But consider the idea of taking too much. Is this a form of theft? Society promotes our separation from one another. The survival of the fittest and “dog eat dog” mentality creates constant competition to succeed in life by making money and consuming goods. Caught up in the rat race, the greed of taking more than we need is justified by the fact that we need to ensure our livelihood. We can make thieves of ourselves trying to fill all the lack created by the obligation to prosper and succeed. Generosity is challenged by the idea of getting ahead. When we see ourselves as separate we identify success with money, ownership, and attachment to things. Greed is perpetuated as we succumb to the story of the successful self. In his book Ascent of Humanity, Charles Eisenstein addresses this:
“Indulging it greed only exacerbates the underlying need, because enclosing more of the world into the domain of mine separates us all the more from the connected interbeingness for which we hunger.”
Taking more than we need may provide some feeling of security but perpetuates the need to keep taking. Generosity, charity, and love are ideals that can shift this pattern. Witnessing how interconnected we are with our communities and nature can provoke us to give back and help others. Opening the doors of generosity, benevolence and the practice of non-greed promotes a deeper connection with others. As humans this is something we all crave. The opposite action of stealing is giving. As individuals we are all blessed with amazing qualities, talents and passions. These are our gifts to share. Be the Gift.