Not to take possession what belongs to others is asteya. It means non-stealing. Stealing may be of four types:
1. Physical theft of any material object. Ordinarily those persons who steal material objects are called thieves. But thieves are not only those persons who flee with stolen objects after committing armed robbery. Whatever is taken in possession by the use of brute physical force, of arms or of strength of intellect, whether it is money or goods, amounts to theft, because behind such actions there is the intention of taking others’ property deceitfully. However, acceptance of anything like money, crops, gold, etc., in exchange for money in a proper way is not theft.
2. Psychic theft. Here you did not take material possession of anything, but you planned it in your mind. This also called theft, because you have mentally stolen. Only the fear of law or of adverse criticism prevented you from doing the action physically.
3. Depriving others of their due physically. Even if you do not take possession of what belongs to others, but you deprive others of what is their due, you become responsible for their loss. This is also stealing.
4. Depriving others of their due mentally. If you do not actually deprive anybody of what is justifiably their due, but you plan in your mind to do so, that too amounts to theft.
Some explanation here is necessary regarding the third and fourth types of theft referred to above. You may have seen that many educated people travel by train without purchasing proper tickets. They do not directly steal money from the Railway administration, but they deprive the railway administration of its due. A little thought will reveal that there is a sort of barter relationship of the passengers and the railway administration and therefore ticketless travel amounts to theft of the type referred to under 3 and 4 above. Those who travel by train have obtained the facility from the railway administration. By purchasing tickets they pay for that facility in full and consequently the railway administration cannot be held in high esteem for rendering a social service. When the railway is not rendering free services, not to pay one’s travelling fare is theft.
Consider for a moment: what type of person commits such a theft for a few rupees only! Often people of the type indulge in all types of tall talks, freely criticize the leaders, and accuse them of corruption and nepotism. If their shortcoming is pointed out, they plead “It is difficult to live in the world with such strict morality. Those who run the railway administration in such a manner deserve it – this type of theft is justified.” Missionaries or ascetics who convey a divine message, or political leaders with the noble purpose of doing good to the country, are seen to be often indulging in ticketless travel. This is a daily occurrence. Bribing government employees to evade income and other taxes, or demanding travelling allowance for a higher class when they actually travel in a lower class, these are all nothing but cheating. It is not only theft, it is also pettiness.
All these tendencies to steal are contradictory to the code of asteya. In many cases even educated people often act knowingly against the principle of asteya or do not want to accept that petty stealing violates it. The author was once questioned by an acquaintance who was a Railway employee as to why he had purchased a full ticket for a nephew aged thirteen years, when a half ticket might have done (half tickets being permitted up to the age of twelve only).
There are some moralists who do not want to cheat any particular individual, but do not consider anything wrong in cheating the well-to-do or the government. Many a shopkeeper would sell adulterated commodities to his customers but entertain his own friends and guests with genuine items. It should be remembered that all actions with such a psychological background are against asteya. The easiest way of practising asteya, as in the case of all other principles of Yama and Niyama, is auto-suggestion. If people, right from the childhood, remember these codes and remind themselves what is correct, they will not go astray when they grow up – even in the midst of temptations – and they will be able to maintain the high standard of thoughts and character.” – Sarkar, Prabhat, Ánanda Púrńimá 1957, Jamalpur, ElEdit 7, Prout in a Nutshell Part 11, A Guide to Human Conduct, ASTEYA
Yama is divided into five parts (1) Ahiḿsá, (2) Satya, (3) Asteya, (4) Brahmacarya and (5) Aparigraha.“…
…”3. Asteya – To renounce the desire to acquire or retain the wealth of others is “Asteya.” “Asteya” means “non-stealing.” ” – Sarkar, Prabhat, 1958, ElEdit 7, Yogic Treatments and Natural Remedies, Appendix, YAMA SÁDHANÁ
“ “The fourth characteristic is asteya. I think you are all conversant with the meaning of the term. Asteya literally means not to steal anything physically or mentally.” ” -Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, 18 February 1979, Bangalore, ElEdit 7, Ánanda Vacanámrtam Part 8, The Ten Characteristics of Dharma
““Asteya”. Asteya is a very important principle in our code of conduct. It means, “non-stealing”. There are two kinds of stealing: internal and external. To deprive others of what is legitimately due to them or to take away things from others without their knowledge is called external stealing. Internal stealing is stealing within one’s mind. Although internal theft does not harm anyone, unlike external theft, it nevertheless makes one a thief. It is done mentally out of shame, fear, or lack of opportunity. So asteya means desisting from theft of any kind.” - Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, 10 November 1978 evening, Kalikata, ElEdit 7, Ánanda Vacanámrtam Part 4, The Ten Characteristics of a Dhármika
“A very popular name is “Hari”. In Saḿskrta the root verb “Har” means “to steal”, and “Hari” means “the stealing agent”.
It is fundamentally against Sixteen Points and Yama and Niyama, so how can Parama Puruśa steal? He is stealing, that is, His actions are ultravires to the principles of Sixteen Points, and Yama and Niyama? It is against Asteya.
Though He cannot go against the principles of Sixteen Points, Asteya and Yama and Niyama, but the very name says that He is a thief. You heard “Hari” means thief?
Yes, He is a thief, but He is not against Sixteen Points or Yama and Niyama. How can this be? As explained, each and every entity is within His mind; He is the generator, operator and destroyer. Everybody is His, all are His loving children. But you know, whatever a man does, that very man will have to undergo the reactive momenta of his original action or actions. Suppose a man committed so many sins in so many lives; now he will have to undergo the reactions of those actions, of those bad actions. Then for all millions of years he will have to pass through so many troubles, so many pains, so many mental tortures. A father cannot like this, a father cannot think that His children will have to go through so much trouble because of their past bad actions. So what does He want? He wants His sons to give Him – what? The sins committed by them. But the sons will say, the daughters will say, “No, Father, we will give you flowers, we will give you sweets, we will give you so many things; but we can’t give you our sins. We can’t.”
Then what will this loving Father do? He will secretly take away the sins. He is the great thief.“ -Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, 10 May 1979 evening, Fiesch, Switzerland, ElEdit 7, Ánanda Vacanámrtam Part 12, The Supreme Witness and the Great Thief
” “Asteya” means “non-stealing” – not stealing physically or mentally; not cheating physically or mentally.” -Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, 2 December 1978, Madras, ElEdit 7, Ánanda Vacanámrtam Part 6, Ten Wonts of Dharma
“Another of Parama Puruśa’s names is Hari. What is the meaning of Hari? “Harati pápáni ityarthe”. One who steals one’s pápa (here pápa means “saḿskáras”) is called Hari. But why should Parama Puruśa steal anything? He already has everything. He does not need anything from anyone. Yet Parama Puruśa steals from His devotees – not directly but indirectly. This is a sorrowful matter as it goes against the principle of asteya, which tells us to refrain from theft. Parama Puruśa Himself steals. How shameful! How deplorable! Actually, He is compelled to steal. Why? He steals because He dearly loves His devotees.
Parama Puruśa will think how His devotees may get final liberation from the burden of their accumulated saḿskaras. He is bound to think in this way. After all, it is the duty of a father to think about the future of his children. So Parama Puruśa says to His devotees, “Just see how difficult it is for you to carry such a heavy load of saḿskaras. You are small children. The load weighs more than you. How long will you be able to carry such a burden? You have accumulated so many saḿskaras that you will have to carry the load for many lives, for thousands of years. One life will certainly be insufficient. So I have a proposition. Give me the entire load of your accumulated saḿskaras. I will carry it for you”.
The devotees reply, “How can we possibly give our heavy burden to You? No, we must carry the load ourselves. We will sing songs and dance for you, but We will never give you such a heavy load of sins”.
But Parama Puruśa knows that His dear devotees cannot carry such a heavy load of sins. If they do not give away the load it will be a constant strain for them. So what does Parama Puruśa do in such circumstances? He takes their sins without their permission. If someone takes things from others without their permission, what is it called? It is called theft. Thus, as Parama Puruśa takes the load of sins from the devotees without their permission, He is certainly a thief “Harati pápah yah sah Harih.” One who steals others sins is called Hari. So, one of His names is Hari.” -Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, 22 February 1979 morning, Bhopal, ElEdit 7, Ánanda Vacanámrtam Part 8, He Who Steals Others Sins Is Called Hari
“Asteya is one of the principles of Yama. Paradravya ‘-paharan’atya’go’steyam. ["Not to appropriate the things belonging to others is called 'asteya'."] It means “non-stealing”. He was always very strict in observing those principles of honesty and morality and would see that those around him also followed them. His colleagues from the Jamalpur railway office still tell stories of his honesty.
In those days, the British Eastern Railways set up and ran many big hospitals, mechanical workshops, railway institutes, etc. They would allocate millions of rupees for those projects. But misappropriations of money do happen in any big operation and the company needed to send out auditors. Unfortunately, the company’s project inspectors and auditors were often easily bribed and the problems would continue as before. Shrii Prabhat Ranjan’s honesty was well-known. The authorities would send him for auditing. Shrii Prabhat Ranjan then formed his inspection team from honest and impartial employees. He introduced a rule that his team members would stay only at the railway company’s guesthouses and must never accept hospitality outside the official arrangements.
Once it happened that two members of his team out on inspection of a hospital ate a sumptuous meal as the guests of the local officials. As soon as Shrii Prabhat Ranjan came to know of it, he sent them back to Jamalpur. He explained his actions to the railway authorities and had replacements sent.” – Acarya Vijayananda Avadhuta, Anandamurti As I Knew Him, Teaching People in Various Ways, Page 90, 1994, Ananda Marga Publications