I undertake the training precept to refrain from taking what is not given.
This precept encourages us to reflect on our actions and how they might affect others. I used to dismiss this admonition with the idea that I don’t steal, so what’s to think about? But of course, I wasn’t getting what I could from the precept. In recent years it has come to be a sensitive meter that reveals my motivations in all kinds of situations. Sharing what food there is, being diligent about the cleaning, keeping the shopping list current, checking for other drivers and their (apparent) moods, phoning or emailing the friend or relation who might appreciate being remembered, putting things away – all of it is a way of being in the world that tries to give rather than take.
Not taking what hasn’t been offered is sometimes paired with generosity (as a remedy), but it’s opposite is not stinginess. The opposite of this precept is more like carelessness – working from the “me and mine” model, rather than the “we are all in this together and may have unpredictable sensibilities” model.
Personally, I feel that using pirated DVDs, etc. is a form of taking what hasn’t been offered. Even though someone has offered it, the people who made the video, wrote the music, performed it, etc. – they haven’t offered it. Someone else took it and re-sold it. So I’d just prefer not to join that chain of events.
Perhaps oddly, I get a warm and fuzzy feeling from keeping this guideline in mind. It’s a real form of security to me, knowing I can rely on it to help me remember to include the needs and feelings of others in my thoughts and actions.