Saturday, October 06, 2007


Rudolf Steiner gives the broader definition of stealing in his summing up of the Indian concept of Yama:

"Yama includes everything which has to be given up by one who wishes to go through a yoga training, and its precepts we find more fully expressed in the commandments: Non-lying, non-killing, non-stealing, non-extravagance, and non-desiring. The commandment 'non-killing' is a very strict one, and holds good for all beings. No living being may be killed, or even injured, and the more strictly this is kept, the further the student is brought. It is beside the question to ask if this can be carried out in our civilization.

'Non-lying' is easier to understand when it is kept in mind that every lie is a murder on the astral plane.

'Non-stealing': That must also be carried out in its strictest sense. A European may say he is not stealing, but in the eyes of the oriental yogi the matter is not so lightly disposed of. In the countries where these precepts were first divulged by the great teachers of humanity, the conditions of life were much simpler, and the principle of theft could easily be fixed. But a yoga teacher would not agree that a European does not steal. If, for example, I appropriate in an unlawful way the working power of another person, if I procure a profit for myself, a profit that is permitted by law but that means the exploitation of another person, the yoga teacher will call that 'stealing.' Our ways of life are complicated. Many transgress this commandment without being in any way aware of having done so.

'Non-extravagance' is just as complicated. A person whose money is invested in distilleries without his knowing it, is just as much guilty as the manufacturer who distils liquors. The fact of not knowing does not change the Karma. But if you are rich your possibility of hurting others is lessened in the proportion in which you strive after frugality.

'Non-desiring' is very difficult. It implies striving to be without any wants whatever; approaching the world without a single desire, and merely doing what is demanded of us by the outer world. Even the feeling of satisfaction in bestowing benefits must be suppressed. In the yoga teachings Yama is enforced with the utmost severity, and cannot, as it is now taught, be transplanted to Europe."

It is interesting that Pantanjali makes the following distinction between wealth and theft:

"When abstinence from theft, in mind and act, is complete in the Yogee, he has the power to obtain all material wealth."
But that interpretation is by the theosophist, William Quan Judge, and it doesn't make a lot of sense since why would the yogi want "all material wealth".

A better version is by Charles Johnston: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:

"The obvious meaning is, that he who has wholly ceased from theft, in act, thought and wish, finds buried treasures in his path, treasures of jewels and gold and pearls. The deeper truth is, that he who in every least thing is wholly honest with the spirit of Life, finds Life supporting him in all things, and gains admittance to the treasure house of Life, the spiritual universe.

"37. Where cessation from theft is perfected, all treasures present themselves to him who possesses it."

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