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Asteya (Sanskrit: अस्तेय) literally means "non-stealing".[1] It is a virtue in Hinduism and Jainism.

Asteya is considered as one of ten forms of temperance (virtuous self-restraint) in Indian philosophy. The practice of asteya demands that one must not steal, nor have the intent to steal another's property through action, speech and thoughts.[2][3]



Sandilya Upanishad identifies ten yamas (forbearances, form of restraint) as a virtue in Yoga: ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, daya, arjava, kshama, dhrti, mitahara and saucha.[4] It explains asteya as neither taking nor coveting (wanting to take) another's property through the actions of one's body, speech, or in one's thoughts. Patanjali includes asteya in his five ethical precepts.[5]

Asteya in practice, states Patricia Corner, implies to "not steal", "not cheat" nor unethically manipulate other's property or others for one's own gain.[6] Asteya as virtue demands that not only one "not steal" through one's action, one shouldn't want to encourage cheating through speech or writing, or want to cheat even in one's thinking. Smith states[7] that the virtue of asteya arises out of the understanding that all misappropriation is an expression of craving and a feeling of lack of compassion for other beings. To steal or want to steal expresses lack of faith in oneself, one's ability to learn and create property. To steal another's property is also stealing from one's own potential ability to develop.[8] The Sutras reason that misappropriation, conspiring to misappropriate or wanting to misappropriate, at its root reflects the sin of lobha (bad greed), moha (material delusion) or krodha (bad anger).[9]

Gandhi held ahimsa as essential to the human right to life and liberty without fear, asteya as human right to property without fear.[10] Asteya follows from Ahimsa, in Gandhi's views, because stealing is a form of violence and injury to another person.[10] Asteya is not merely "theft by action", but it includes "theft by intent" and "theft by manipulation". Persistent exploitation of the weak or poor is a form of "asteya in one's thought".[10]

Dāna, that is charity to a deserving person without any expectation in return, is a recommended niyama in Hinduism. Dāna is the complementary practice to the yamas (restraint) of asteya.[11]



In Jainism, it is one of the five vows that all Śrāvakas and Śrāvikās as well as monastics must take.[12]


  1. ^ अस्तेय Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Koeln University, Germany
  2. ^ Patricia Corner (2009), Workplace spirituality and business ethics: Insights from an Eastern spiritual tradition, Journal of business ethics, 85(3), 377-389
  3. ^ KN Tiwari (1998), Classical Indian Ethical Thought, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120816077, page 87
  4. ^ KN Aiyar (1914), Thirty Minor Upanishads, Kessinger Publishing, ISBN 978-1164026419, Chapter 22, pages 173-176
  5. ^ A Dhand (2002), The Dharma of Ethics, the Ethics of Dharma - Quizzing the ideals of Hinduism, Journal of Religious Ethics, 30(3), page 355
  6. ^ Patricia Corner (2008, August), EXTENDING THEORY THROUGH EXPERIENCE: A FRAMEWORK FOR BUSINESS ETHICS FROM YOGA, In Academy of Management Proceedings (Vol. 2008, No. 1, pp. 1-6), Academy of Management
  7. ^ D'Arcy Smith (2007), The Issue of Vocal Practice: Finding a Vocabulary for Our Blocks and Resistances, Voice and Speech Review, 5(1), 128-131
  8. ^ JP Falk (2005), Yoga and Ethics in High School, Journal of Dance Education, 5(4), pages 132-134
  9. ^ Klaus Klostermair (2007), A Survey of Hinduism, 3rd Edition, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791470824, page 347
  10. ^ a b c Nikam, N. A. (1954), Gandhi's Philosophy, The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 7, No. 4, pages 668-678
  11. ^ Patañjali (Translator: SV Bharti), Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: With the Exposition of Vyasa, Vol. 2, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120818255, pages 684-686
  12. ^ Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (1999), Jainism: An Indian Religion of Salvation, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-1376-6