By Dr. K S Radhakrishnan on 20-06-2017

Whatever be the definition given to the term theft, stealing
has been considered as an unethical act by every religionas well as all systems
of law. The Indian term to abstain from stealing is ‘Asteya’.

‘Why should we ask the society to abstain from stealing?’ is
a question to be answered by the philosophers of ethics. Imagine that everyone
in a society practices theft. It is needless to say that no one can lead a
normal life in such a society. A society in which everyone practices theft can
create only confusion. Nobody can lead a normal and peaceful life in a confused
state of affairs. Therefore the primary requirement of the normal human
existence is order rather than chaos.

The primary duty of every ruler, whatever is the nature of
the theory of statecraft, has to ensure law and order; that is to provide
conditions for the existence and co-existence of one and all.

Asteya, specifically demands everyone not only
to take something of somebody either by force or consent but also to give up
everything that is essential to ensure ones’ own existence. In this sense Asteyaspecifically says that one has to
regulate oneself to fix his or her minimum as a prelude to establish law and
order in a civic society. In short law and order can be maintained properly not
by the police force but by the self regulating individuals who firmly believes
in virtues.

Note: Asteyais a Sanskrit word that means
non-stealing and it is an important principle of Hinduism and is a vow taken by
Indian spiritual aspirants. Asteya means much more than the Biblical
commandment ‘Thou shall not steal’.  Asteya
refers to not stealing, not coveting, non hoarding as well as not obstructing
other people’s desires in life.

About The Author

Dr. K S Radhakrishnan

Dr. K S Radhakrishnan (formerly Vice-Chancellor of Sri Sankaracharya University and Chairman, Kerala Public Service Commission) is a learned scholar who has been earnestly trying to revive the ancient knowledge in Indian culture. He worked as a lecturer early in his life and now lives an eloquent advocate of social and cultural causes.