Non-stealing or Non-coveting Part 1

Bodhinatha continues today with the yamas, the Vedic restraints, with number three, nonstealing, neither stealing, nor coveting nor entering into debt. Though the grossest form of asteya, stealing other people's possessions or money, is probably not a challenge to those of us listening, the more subtle area of entering into debt is a big problem for most people these days. Debt that is of a reasonable amount and is paid back within the agreed upon period of time is okay, but regularly spending beyond one's means, living on credit cards, purchasing on credit without thought of how to afford the bill, gambling and unfounded speculation are all abuses that are restrained and corrected by following the yama of nonstealing.

Unedited Transcript:

This morning, we are continuing our series on the Yamas and Niyamas.

Let me give a little introduction for those who aren't familiar with the Yamas and Niyamas. We printed a giveaway flyer here, some twenty thousand copies, five thousand of which went to Trinidad to a very dynamic Missionary couple there, the Raghunanen family there. They are busy promoting Gurudeva's teachings all throughout Trinidad. Part of Gurudeva's teachings are the Yamas and Niyamas. This pamphlet is a very simple summary of them, designed to be handed out, given to children, used in classes and so forth. Then, it is backed up by a great amount of detailed description in 'Living with Siva'. Gurudeva goes on in great length about each of the Yamas and Niyamas. So together, the teacher can hand this out to all the students as well as for his own personal use or her use and use 'Living with Siva' as a textbook for developing a presentation.

Let me read the top part which introduces the concept, 'Hinduism's Code of Conduct'. "The Yamas and Niyamas drawn from the Vedas, are the distilled wisdom of thousand of years of religious culture. They are simple guidelines charting the path of good conduct. Yama means reining in or controlling the base, instinctive nature. Niyama means unleashing or expressing the divine nature. Observing these twenty restraints and religious practices builds good character, which is the foundation for happiness and spiritual unfoldment."

Previously, we went through the first two yamas. First one is Non-injury. Did that a few weeks ago, as well as Truthfulness. Today we are up to number three, Non-stealing, asteya. Asteya, non-stealing, is defined as neither stealing nor coveting nor entering into debt. It has a three-fold, three-part definition. Neither stealing or coveting nor entering into debt.

Of course, when you think about stealing we can say for sure, no one here today is involved in shop lifting or robbing banks! So certainly, the grosser form of asteya or stealing, taking other people's money or belongings, there is no challenge. We are all clearly not involved in such activities. Then where is the challenge? The challenge is in the more subtle forms of non-stealing and coveting and entering into debt. Those are the more subtle forms of non-stealing.

Let us look at debt first. The literal meaning of the statement, not entering into debt, of course sounds like it means you shouldn't have any debt at all. But even though it says that, that is not what Gurudeva meant by this statement. Debt that is of a reasonable amount and is paid on time is fine. It is the debts that are too large and not paid on time that are a problem.

Let us look at some examples. Many individuals spend beyond their income, their monthly expenses never fail to exceed their monthly income. So, why is that? Well it is for different reasons. Some people want to live a lifestyle that they really can't afford to live. They are not going to face the consequences. They want to live with more possessions then they can really afford to have. So they are constantly overspending. Other people are compulsive spenders. Walk past something in the shop window and it looks great and they can't resist buying it. Come across something on the internet, very attractive and they buy that with no thought about, "How am I going to be able to pay for it? Well, I will put it on my credit card." That always seems to be a solution. Then, there are others who are just not very disciplined about it at all. They don't really add up what they are spending. It just kind of works out that way, that they are spending more than they bring in. But they have never sat down to figure it out.

In all three instances, you are ending up in trouble and an excellent solution for anyone in this kind of situation would be, of course, to establish a monthly household budget.

What are the consequences? If you are regularly spending beyond your means, you know what happens. Who is knocking on your door? The creditors. You start getting phone calls and letters from creditors and demands. All of that can be quite upsetting, so much so, that the vibration of the house can be disturbed, can cause strain, upset. Even serious arguments between husband and wife come about just because the creditors are knocking on the door in an aggressive way. It is very disruptive potentially to any family life.

How does this relate to stealing? It relates in that when you sign up for credit, when you open a credit account, you say you will pay within a certain amount of time, thirty days usually. So when you don't pay within that time, what are your doing? You are stealing. You are using their money, as if it was your own. You are taking the business's money and living off of it. So that is the sense in which it is stealing.

Unfortunately today, this can be quite easy and why is that? Because credit cards seem to pour in, in the mail. All these applications to sign up for this credit card, sign up for that credit card, no credit check. Even teenagers end up with lots of credit cards somehow. It is very, very easy to get used to charging things on credit cards and get used to working with other people's money. Gurudeva even calls it an addiction, addicted to abusing credit. You have probably heard him describe this addiction. He calls it on OPM addiction. It is not a drug. OPM stands for Others Peoples Money, OPM. What is an OPM addiction? We are addicted to spending other people's money, yes. Some people even run their businesses on OPM. That is where they get their working capital. They are using another business's or many other business's money by not paying them on time. They have raised some working capital. But of course, that is stealing the other person's money because you are not abiding by the credit agreement that you said you would when you signed up. You said you would pay within a certain amount of time. Otherwise, if you told them your real plans they would not have let you have the credit, right? "I am not going to pay for a hundred and eighty days because I am going to use your money." If you told them that, they would not have given you the account. So clearly you are fudging.

Gurudeva goes on to list other kinds of inappropriate debt. Paying an extremely high interest on a credit card, some charge as much as twenty-one percent. Entering into a contract where your ability to repay it on time is questionable, taking a chance. What would be an example of that? You buy a second car on a great deal, nothing down, no payments for six months and how are you going to pay for it when the six months is over? You have a hope, no plan. You have a hope that your income will somehow increase by that time. "That is six months away, so there are lots of chances my income will increase between now and then." That is taking a chance. You don't really have a solid way of paying for it and that is inappropriate debt.

Gurudeva goes on to list gambling and speculation. He says gambling also falls into this category because there is always the chance in gambling after you have lost a lot, you will try and regain it. You will put up much more than your family can afford to lose, in some hopes of recovering. That is the real downside of gambling, that desperation. You have lost so much that you have got to win it back and you put up the house or all your cars or something. Speculation, more than you can afford to lose is also a form of inappropriate debt. For example, you hear about a great technology stock and you empty your son's education fund. You have twenty thousand sitting there but you are going to put it on this stock and double or triple the money, for sure. Of course, you cannot afford to lose that because it took many, many years to build up. Speculating more than you can afford to lose.

It may not be clear why gambling and speculating are looked at as forms of debt. So Gurudeva goes on to explain. "Compulsive gambling and reckless, unfounded speculation are like stealing from your own family, risking the family wealth. More than that, it is stealing from yourself because the remorse felt when an inevitable loss comes, can cause a loss of faith in your abilities and your judgment." So, you are stealing from two. You are stealing from your family by risking what it can't afford to lose. You are stealing from yourself, when occasionally you do lose, you lose your self esteem, you lose your confidence, you lose your momentum.

Those are some thoughts on debt.

Photo of  Gurudeva
It is not advisable to habitually sit for meditation with no particular goal or direction, for we often end up walking in mental or subconscious circles.