How often have we heard people talk of the “good old days”, when life was “simpler”, with the romantic suggestion that people were happier then?
We had less in the “good old days” – houses had one bathroom, cars didn’t have air bags or GPS, phones weren’t mobile, an overseas holiday was a once-in-a-lifetime event. The possessions and experiences that we take for granted today exceed what the wealthy had in our parents’ time. We are far richer now, in material terms, than in the past.
Despite our wealth, people complain that the cost of living is too high. How can this make sense? Have we become spoilt by having so much?
Every day we are bombarded by marketing of the latest “must have”. We are told our lives will be better with the goods they are spruiking. We are enticed with easy credit. All too often, we fall for the glossy sales-hype and we fail to consider the interest on our borrowings will cost more in the long-run.
Despite our failings and poor economic decisions, we are still far wealthier than our parents. But are we truly as wealthy as we should be? Do we rush around trying to fit too much into our day (see my blog “Stealing Time”)? Do we buy things we don’t need?
Asteya is translated as “non-stealing” and “do not take what is not freely given”. It also means “do not take what you don’t need” or “don’t over-consume”. When you take more than you need, you deprive someone else of the ability to use that item. You also create needless environmental harm – depleting resources and adding to pollution. Thus, taking what you don’t need steals from the health of the planet.
Asteya encourages generosity. By only taking what we need, there is more to share with others. This is not only good for the planet, it is also good for the spirit. When we take less, we have more to give, and giving is good for the soul. By breaking our addiction to wanting more, we discover how wealthy we all are.
Swami Sivananda said ‘desire or want is the cause for stealing’. If we can learn to control our desires – not to want something we don’t really need – don’t fall for the glossy marketing – don’t desire something because someone else has it – we soon discover how much farther our money goes and how much wealthier we are than we first thought. This is the message of Asteya; as Patanjali says: ‘To one established in Asteya, all wealth comes’.