One day Dala Tarwadi's wife told her husband she would like to make brinjal sambhar and asked him to get a brinjal. Dala Tarwadi stole into Vasaram Bhuvo's field where brinjals grew in abundance. But he did not just take one and run. He was a man of integrity and felt that he should ask permission to take the vegetables. So crouching beside the brinjal plants he whispered:
"Field, field, may I take a brinjal?"
Then answering for the field replied: "Why just one, dear Tarwadi? Take ten or twelve."
Then he took a dozen brinjals and sneaked out of the field. A few days later he raided the field again. And then once more.
The owner of the field, Vasaram Bhuvo, a giant of a man and the most hard-working farmer in the village realised that somebody was stealing his brinjals and began to keep a watch on his field. One night he saw Tarwadi sneak in and followed him. Tarwadi, unaware that he had an audience, as usual asked for and gave himself permission to take the brinjals. But before he could touch them, Vasaram caught hold to him and carried him away. He dumped him at the edge of a pond.
"Pond, pond," said Vasaram, "how many times should I dip this wretch into your water?"
And answering for the pond, replied: "Not just once, dear Bhuvo. Dip him into it a hundred or two hundred times or more."
When Tarwadi staggered home later that night he was soaking wet --but he was cured of his thieving ways for ever.
There are five basic principles of human values to practise, given in our Dharma shastras under the concept of Yama or self control. They are: Ahimsa, Sathya, Astheya, Brahmacharya, and Aparigraha.
The above story highlights the third principle - Astheyam ; which is non- stealing of another’s property – whether wealth, women, land, ideas or any object of one’s possession under any circumstance or any kind of compulsion. The word 'property' not only confines to physical objects but even criticizing someone in a way that harms him/her also amounts to theft (of his good name).
When we need anything, there is nothing wrong in us taking it with the permission of the owner. But to take or use any object without such permission amounts to stealing. For example - It is very common among students to borrow a friend's book or camera and use it. But when the book is pampered or the camera is damaged, the responsibility for getting it repaired is that of the user and not doing that before returning the object equals to theft.
Thus even the thought of taking another's property should not arise in the mind. Nor should one tell others to commit theft.
This is a hard principle to practice initially, but gradually when this value is deeply imbibed in one self, the conscience stays clear and this helps us evolve in our saddhana with purity of mind and clarity.