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Asteya: Providing Consideration

I am so excited that in this blog post, I have found a rare opportunity to combine my legal training with yogic ethics. The theme of this post is asteya or not stealing. Of course, stealing is illegal, but that is not what I want to talk about now. Rather, I want to talk about the concept of "consideration," which I learned in first year is an essential element of a contract. At first, this was confusing as I thought of consideration as thinking: you consider something; you think about it. However, in the context of a contract, consideration is when one party provides value (often monetary, but not always) to another party in exchange for a benefit. The consideration and the benefit do not necessarily have to be of equal value, but if the party that is to receive the benefit doesn’t provide some consideration, then there is no contract. Not providing some level of consideration when one has received a benefit is a bit like stealing, as it involves taking without giving back.

If I might get a bit metaphorical here (after all, I was an English literature major before I was a law student), I see this a good metaphor for life. We have all seen people who act as though the world owes them something, as though they have some sort of contract with life, and they are waiting for life to pay up. Maybe we have even been these people from time-to-time. What if we viewed this differently? What if we were able to appreciate all of the benefits that life has already furnished us with, and, while recognizing that we can never provide consideration of equal value, we still sought to do what we could to hold up our end of the bargain.

Recognizing all of the benefits we have, what consideration can we provide? At the most basic level, we can express gratitude for what we have rather than complaining about what we don’t have. We can find ways to look after the earth by reducing the impact we have on our environment or planting trees and plants. We can try to add to the net kindness in the world by helping and supporting others. We can raise our children to be good citizens of the world. We can approach life with a sense of generosity and open-heartedness rather than stinginess and grasping. We can spend our days asking, “What can I do?” rather than, “What can I get?”

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