The Biggest Robbery
Asteya, which is composed of “a” (non-) plus steya (act of stealing), translates into “non-stealing.” This is not about stealing money or robbing from others—you don’t need a book to tell you that you definitely shouldn’t do that. This is about not stealing your highest potential from yourself. If there’s one thing we all don’t get back, it is time. Whether we like it or not, time passes on. Time is the ultimate destroyer of all things in this relative universe. Nothing in this dual existence can overcome time. Time is Yama the Hindu god of death. So why do you keep stealing your own inner treasure from yourself by postponing happiness and freedom (your ultimate goals)? Why do you keep acting like there’s enough time? There’s a story about a man that stole himself of his own realization.
A Cup of Milk
There was a young man who seemed to be quite sincere, and for many years all he wanted was to become enlightened. He had read some sacred scriptures and had a basic understanding of what enlightenment and the spiritual path entail. This knowledge, alongside an urge to be free of Maya, can be quite powerful. But he wanted a guru because he felt he couldn’t do it all by himself and wanted some help and direction. So he went around searching for one until he heard a tale of an enlightened guru living in the jungle.
He promptly packed his stuff and went to that said jungle to find the enlightened guru. After wandering for a few days, he finally found someone in the heart of the jungle, just quietly sitting. This had to be the enlightened guru he had heard about—he could feel it. The guru’s aura was bright and strong. As he approached the enlightened guru, the young man humbly prostrated and asked him to teach him the path toward enlightenment. “You still aren’t ready. Maya will trick you into ignorance,” said the guru.“I am ready Master. Please teach me,” supplicated the man. The guru looked at him and nodded his head.
“Ok, I’ll teach you—but first, please, go get me a cup of milk. I haven’t eaten or drunk anything in many days.” So the young man set out across the jungle to the nearest village to get a cup of milk. The sun was blazing hot at that time of the day, and he couldn’t seem to find a way out of the jungle. The heat was becoming too much, the man was tired, and his stomach also began to wish for a cup of milk.
Suddenly, he saw a dog running around in this remote place; he found this weird, and so he started following the dog. He noticed that the dog had a collar, and this piqued his curiosity even more. After spending around 10 minutes chasing the dog, he noticed that he was nearing the edge of the jungle, close to a village. He looked ahead and saw a beautiful young woman who was the dog’s owner. As soon as she smiled at him, he was captivated by her beauty and fell in love. Eventually, they wound up getting married. Since she came from a wealthy family, the man ended up working for the family business. Children soon arrived, and then grandchildren. The man eventually became a great patriarch of his large family, admired by the entire village.
Decades went by, until one year his wife got sick and ended up passing away. Unfortunately, the man from our story couldn’t overcome his grief and fell into a prolonged depression. One day, as he was walking by the village, he gazed over and saw a man milking a cow. This jogged his memory and he suddenly recalled the cup of milk his guru had asked him to fetch decades before. He began running as best as his old body would allow in the direction of the jungle. It wasn’t easy, he was sweating, and his breathing was difficult as he gasped for oxygen.
He went straight through the jungle, directly to the spot that his faint memory recollected from decades prior. After a few minutes, he suddenly saw the figure of the guru. He didn’t seem to have aged at all. “So, have you brought me a cup of milk? I’m starving. What took you so long?” “Maya, dear Master. I’m so sorry. I see now the intricate web that I was entangled in.” His weak heart was pounding from the run and from the shock of finding his guru still waiting there for him. Suddenly, as he was looking at the Master and feeling utter disappointment in himself for his own forgetfulness, he saw the Master’s facial features reflect the face of Yama, the Hindu god of death. The man’s time had come and he knew it.
He took one last deep breath, closed his eyes, and his body died on the spot. He had stolen himself of his own spiritual progress in this lifetime due to his forgetfulness. It’s not that one can’t live life and still be enlightened—it’s about not letting the web of Maya envelop you in this dream, stealing you of your inner treasure. If you’re not looking at the light, you’re looking at Yama. After all, forgetfulness of our spiritual nature and path can only lead to the darkness of ignorance—the prison of time—which always results in death. Don’t let anything in the web of Maya trap you and rob you of your own inner wealth. Don’t be like the man in this story. The pleasures in this world are always temporary.
Your true Self is eternal life. And guess what, if our protagonist had brought that beautiful young woman back to the guru along with the cup of milk, perhaps they could have both overcome Maya together. He ended up stealing both his and his wife’s chances at Self-Realization. If he had taken a step back for a moment, just long enough to reflect on his inner dimension, he might’ve remembered sooner about his guru in the jungle. This introspection would have taken him from unconsciousness and forgetfulness to consciousness and lucidity.
That could have altered the course of his life. Self-introspection is critical, otherwise one can go years or even lifetimes without advancing a single step on their spiritual path. The purpose of this lesson is to help remind you of what is truly important. Live your life, take care of your responsibilities, do what you have to do, but at no point must you ever forget to always move in the direction of fulfilling your highest potential—realizing your true eternal nature. Ultimately, this is the most significant decision in your life, one that you will have to consciously reaffirm every day in order to prevent Maya from taking over and stealing you of your divine bliss.