A lot of people think that yoga is just a system of stretching exercises. However, yoga is in fact an all-out system of improving the human condition, turning an ordinary human being into an extraordinary human being. The foundation of yoga is good conduct. That is, we should live our life in way that puts us in harmony with our society and with our own inner self.
One of the principles of good conduct is known in Sanskrit as “Sayta.” There is no English synonym for Satya, but the yoga master Shrii Shrii Anandamurti has defined it as “proper action of mind and the right use of words with the spirit of welfare.”
The essence of Satya is that we should use our thoughts and words to bring about the welfare of others. Oftentimes Satya is equated with “truth” or “truthfulness.” In most cases when you are truthful with someone, then you are sincere, honest and acting in a way that will promote welfare.
But this is not always the case. For example, suppose someone is being chased by a thug and that thug comes to you asking where his intended victim has fled. If you tell the truth then an innocent person will be injured. In this instance exact truthfulness does not promote welfare, and a proper response would be to tell something that is not a true fact. Saying that the intended victim went “south” when in fact he went “north” would be the proper response and would be in accordance with Satya.
It is for this reason that Satya is also translated as “benevolent truthfulness” in some cases.
Thinking, speaking and acting in the spirit of welfare is perhaps the most important of the set of principles that comprise the yogic moral code. If you are thinking about the welfare of others then it is impossible to commit theft or to harm another. Beyond this, there is even another reason why establishment in Satya bolsters a person's moral strength.
Whenever our thoughts, actions and deeds are aligned our will power is strengthened. Our inner mental stamina becomes strong when we remove contradictions and inner conflicts which are naturally created when we tell something to someone but are thinking something else inside and when we do something entirely different.
This strengthened mental stamina is what gives the glow to a person who is fighting for a just and moral cause and is the reason why good ultimately triumphs over evil. A tyrant may appear strong on the outside, but inside he or she may be thinking “yes, I have cheated the people. I am wrong” Conversely, a simple person, fighting for just cause is thinking “I am fine, I am doing the right thing.” If there is any inner doubt or inner conflict then it can contribute to defeat on the battlefield (or in the field of life). Similarly, the strength that one gets from having constantly worked for the welfare of others leads to victory.
Thus, Sayta, thinking and acting in the spirit of welfare, is a cornerstone of morality and proper conduct and is one of the key ingredients to living an ideal life.
"find them yourself" may also be an appropriate reply within the context of Satya when approached by a thug seeking their prey.
As for the asana from a stolen book issue, it would be unreasonable to expect an ignorant person to also be an observant person. Some need to be taught not to steal. Perhaps asana is the very path through which that book procurer would find Asteya.
Though to really press the issue try some more finite examples...try the person who illegally downloads mantra from the internet and uses that for meditation - or the same example where a person copies a music cd and uses it for asana...how about copying a friend's asana dvd to begin your practice. Are these okay? Perhaps for the uninitiated but for the seasoned practitioner...????
Yes, Gordon. Sometimes good things can come with bad beginnings. There is an old story about a thief who was fleeing from people who were chasing him. He didn;t know where to hide. Then he got an idea: he would pose as a sadhu and changed his appearance a bit, and sat under a tree and faked like he was meditating. He sat there a long while, and then people came and offered a lot of respect to him, giving flowers and fruit etc. Then the thief thought, if people are giving him so much respect and he is just a fake yogi, then what would the experience be like if he became a real yogi. And so he became a true yogi after that.