From the surface meaning of the word Asteya or non-stealing, it’s about not stealing or not taking anything that doesn’t belong to us, whether those things has an owner or not, or belonged to somebody or not.
And, from the surface meaning of the word Aparigraha or non-covetousness, it’s about not coveting, or not possessing, or not grasping, or not greedy towards worldly objects or material and sensual enjoyments. As well as not accepting bribe or supporting bribery.
Both of them are related to greed. Greed is one of the characteristics of egoism.
Practicing Asteya and Aparigraha, abstaining from stealing and coveting, can help to eliminate greed from one’s mind and helps eliminate egoism on the path of self-inquiry.
There are some teachings beyond these literal meanings.
Before we know what is the ego and the truth of names and forms, when we are still influenced by greed, then the practice of non-stealing and non-covetousness has its importance and merits.
When one is observing the practice of Asteya and Aparigraha, one doesn’t need to acknowledge others or to glorify oneself for observing Asteya and Aparigraha, one just is. There’s no attachment or identification of “I am observing Asteya and Aparigraha.”
When we know what is the ego and the truth of names and forms, and we are free from the influence of greed, then all these practice don’t mean anything, or are useless. One who is free from egoism and ignorance doesn’t need to practice Asteya or Aparigraha as one doesn’t need to remind oneself or to restrain oneself not to steal or not to be greedy, as there is no greed or the desire to steal existing in this mind.
Greed exists in many places that we might not be aware of. There are many ‘spiritual’ aspirants fall into the trap of greed without being aware of it. Greed doesn’t just apply to attachment, craving, longing and grasping towards worldly material objects and achievements.
Longing for merits and virtues is a form of greed. Longing for accumulating good karma by performing good actions is a form of greed. Longing for spiritual achievements, entitlements and acknowledgement is a form of greed. Longing for agreement, supports and association is a form of greed. Longing for good conditions, good relationships and happiness is also a form of greed. Longing for something that we like and want may it be something good and right which doesn’t exist in the present moment now is a form of greed. Longing for assistance or blessing from any external source is a form a of greed. Longing for good health and longer life span is also a form of greed. Longing for changing the world to be the way that we think it should be is also a form of greed. Longing to have bigger and more yoga centres is also a form of greed. Longing to be a great yoga teacher to teach yoga is also a form of greed.
One is free from greed when one is completely free from attachment, identification, clinging, longing, craving and aversion, whether towards spiritual or worldly objects and achievements.
One will enter into silence when all forms of gross and subtle greed, desire, attachment, clinging, longing, grasping, craving and aversion subsided.
The realization of unconditional love and peace has nothing to do with the quantity or amount of Karma yoga or selfless service that we can perform through this life existence. Performing lots of charity work or volunteering service might generate some satisfactory happy and joyful feelings, and sense of meaningfulness in the mind, but it doesn’t guarantee us liberation from ignorance and suffering, if we don’t know what is performing actions without the influence of egoism, without intention, without attachment, identification, craving and aversion.
When we know the truth of names and forms, we will realize there is nothing in this life existence that the mind perceives through the senses that really belongs to ‘us’, or who we think is ‘I’, including the existence of the body and the mind, and their functions.
We can be in a relationship with someone. But, this relationship and the person in the relationship with us don’t belong to us. We will generate ‘problems and unhappiness’ for ourselves and the person in the relationship with us, if we think we own this relationship and the person in the relationship with us, or we think they belong to ‘I’.
If there is nothing belongs to anyone in this worldly existence of names and forms, there’s no such accusation of somebody ‘steals’ or ‘takes’ something that ‘belongs’ to somebody else. It’s the same as the teachings of yoga about oneness or non-separateness, and selflessness or I-lessness. The idea of something being stolen from someone by someone (objects and subjects) doesn’t exist when we realize oneness or non-separateness.
This doesn’t mean that one can take advantage of this teaching to ‘take’ or ‘steal’ anything that we like and want, thinking that “I am not stealing anything from anyone, as everything doesn’t belong to anyone anyway.” This is corrupted thinking influenced by ignorance.
Just like someone might take advantage of the teachings of yoga about “everything is just what it is, it is neither good nor bad” to be doing bad actions, while thinking that “I didn’t do anything bad as there is no bad.” It is the desires, intention, attachment and identification that makes the difference. While being ‘aware’ of such actions are ‘bad’ and still intentionally doing ‘bad’, while thinking and believing that there is no ‘bad’, doesn’t free one from the consequences of actions, or the bondage of cause and effect.
It also doesn’t mean that one can ‘take’ or ‘steal’ other people’s spouse or children freely, or one can ‘take’ or ‘steal’ other people’s ‘belongings’ or ‘properties’ influenced by some egoistic selfish desires and greed, and thinking ‘I’ am not committing any violation or intrusion towards anyone’s existing life and property. Taking anything that doesn’t ‘belong’ to us is ‘stealing’, even when there are no owners for anything. Everything and anything is not just doesn’t belong to anyone, but also doesn’t belong to ‘I’.
When one is free from ignorance, egoism, attachment, identification, craving, aversion, and all sorts of impurities, when one is beyond all the perceptions of name and form, one won’t be ‘taking’ or ‘stealing’ anything or anyone from anybody or anywhere.
When we are living on the earth, being in this space, and consuming the sunlight, the water and the air to be existing, did we ever ask permission from them, or did they give us any permission? The elements of fire, water, wind, earth and ether pervade the entire body and mind, did they ask the permission of this body and mind, or did the body and mind give permission to them?
The elements of fire, water, wind, earth and ether don’t exist if the universe doesn’t exist. And vice versa.
The universe exists because of the elements, and the elements exist because of the universe.
But out of compassion, everyone and everything co-existing and depending on one another to be existing. The sun, the water, the air, the earth and the space have no intention to be involved in actions of ‘giving’ and ‘taking’. They have no intention to allow or disallow anything to be existing or not. They have no identification of ‘I’ am ‘giving’ something from ‘I’ to someone or something for everything to be existing, or ‘I’ am ‘taking’ something from someone or something for everything to cease existing, it doesn’t matter who they are, what they are, how they are, where they are.
And above all, there’s no ‘I’ involved in all these ‘gives and takes’ that is happening from moment to moment.
Before the realization of selflessness or I-lessness, all actions are bound by the idea of give and take, and are not free from the bondage of cause and effect.
Upon the realization of selflessness or I-lessness, all actions are neither give nor take, or are beyond giving and taking, and are free from the bondage of cause and effect.