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The Dangers of Living In A Material World September 12, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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“Theft is the one unforgivable sin, the one common denominator of all sins. When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. There is no act more wretched then stealing.”

– Amir, remembering the lessons of his father, in The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

There are times when we have everything we need and we not only recognize that, we appreciate it. There are times we may have less than what we need and, while we may recognize that, we focus on what we have and appreciate that. There are times we have more than our fair share and, whether we understand that or not, we appreciate what we have.

Then there are all the other times.

Times when, regardless of what we have, we can’t help thinking about having more. More. More. Desire is a powerful thing. It is a charge of energy that can manifest in a billion different ways: we can have what we need, but want more; we need more than we have and be brutally crushed – even driven – by that awareness and the desire for more; we can have more than others can every imagine and yet we can imagine more. And, that energy, that compulsion, that urge drives our words and our deeds. We become greedy.

On a certain level, it doesn’t matter if the desire starts in the heart or the mind, because it can take root in either place; and, once it takes roots it blossoms into greed. And greed is the kind of blossom that spreads. So, you may be more or less content, but then I can suggest that you are missing out on something and, over time (with enough suggestions, especially at a young age), that suggestion creeps in and suddenly you are doing and saying things in order to change what you possess. That’s basically the model of capitalism, materialism, and consumerism. It is the very premise of advertising: someone convinces you that you need something you want and/or that they have the best version of what you need and/or want. (And why would anyone ever settle for less than the best.)

Notice the words. They are sneaky. Words are also wonderful: Which is one of the reasons why it’s important to pay attention to the word choice when it comes to commandments, precepts, and/or vows. Take for instance, the “Ten Commandments” as outlined in Exodus. In the Talmud (in the Jewish tradition) and the King James Version (KJV) of the Christian Old Testament there is a lot of “thou shalt” and thou shalt not” attributed to outward behavior; meaning things people are commanded to do/say or not do/say. However, there are some that are specifically related to thought.

“COVET (verb transitive)

  1. To desire or wish for, with eagerness; to desire earnestly to obtain or possess; in a good sense.

COVET earnestly the best gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:31.

  1. To desire inordinately; to desire that which it is unlawful to obtain or possess; in a bad sense.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors house, wife or servant. Exodus 20:17.

COVET (verb intransitive) To have an earnest desire. 1 Timothy 6:10.”

– quoted from Webster’s Dictionary 1828: American Dictionary of the English Language

Towards the beginning there is the commandment to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Yes, it is true, there are (external) words and deeds related to this commandment; however, the commandment itself is related to the mental exercise of memory/thought. Then, at the very end, we get to the commandment(s) related to stealing and more often than not the instruction does not state, “Thou shalt not steal.” (Although Exodus 20:17 is often translated as such). Instead, the passage related to stealing (someone’s wife, slaves, animals, or anything else) is a commandment about thought.

When it comes to theft, Patanjali also directs us towards our thoughts – and reminds us that the desire for someone else’s stuff starts inside of us, with a thought or feeling for more. Similar to harming, we can be directly involved in stealing, we can motivate others to steal on our behalf, and/or we can tacitly condone stealing. The practice requires refraining from all types of stealing. As you reap what you sow, the practice comes with priceless rewards.

Yoga Sūtra 2.37: asteyapratişţhām sarvaratnopasthānam

– “When a yogi is established in non-stealing, all gems manifest.”

As he does with the other yamās, Patanjali explains that when the practice of non-stealing is deeply embedded in our hearts and minds there is an energy shift. Specifically, internalizing the practice of asteya is rewarded with the “gems” of nature. In the commentary for sūtra 2.37, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait defines these gems as “Lofty ideals, scientific discoveries, human values, uplifting thought, and the virtues of the heart – love, compassion, selfishness” as well as the bounty of nature. Consider how often we wish for material things, but also how often we look at someone else’s accomplishments and wish they were ours.

At what point does the wish become desire? At what point does the desire become greed? At the point when it may be too late to turn back, because we are so far down the road we don’t realize we are lost (or consumed).

“When desires invade our faculty of discernment – our buddhi – we become consumed by fulfilling them at any cost. Because our buddhi is compromised, we neither see nor care to see the difference between right and wrong. Ethics and morality no longer matter – we are determined to get what we want. To accomplish this, we may involve others directly in achieving what is not ours, employ others to get it for us, or give tacit consent. To some extent, this has been accepted as a standard business practice.”

– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.37 from The Practice of the Yoga Sūtra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

Please join me for a 90-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Saturday, September 12th) at 12:00 PM. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0.

Today’s playlist is available onYouTube and Spotify. (This is the playlist entitled “07222020 The Perfect Taco.”)

You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Not on the playlist, but definitely comes to mind…

### PER RABBI WEINBERG, BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE ###