I heard the above quote recently and immediately drifted into my own world of transcendental meanings behind it. Having heard it from a Buddhist I assumed it was of some dharmic source. We were discussing matters in the context of ideas, not material belongings. Turns out that it is simply a recognition that any creative endeavor that one is accused of plagiarizing has very likely taken it from someone who himself plagiarized it from yet another.
But who is that “someone else”?
It turned out to be about stand-up comics stealing each others’ material, I believe. But I preferred to take it further and point out that anyone who steals a creative idea from someone is taking an idea that did not originate with either of these hypothetical people, but from the Lord. The only problem with this is that the idea is stolen from someone who received the idea as a divine gift. So it is hard to say that it was stolen twice as the Lord spares His gifts willingly.
But it is true when the gift was meant for someone else. It is like doing the dharma of someone else which is warned against in Bhagavad-Gita Chapter 3, Verse 35. We all have our own “gifts” and if we think them so inferior as to cause us to steal from others, then we are not carrying out our own dharma.
This is not to say the exchange of ideas is adharma, necessarily. Creative collaboration can be such an exhilarating experience that it can only be yet another “gift” – or, if you prefer, a happy result of past karmas.
And it is also not meant to say that one should let himself be robbed of one’s work simply because “it was never mine to begin with.” Some say there is a fine line between the fight for justice and ego consciousness. I say only the individual can know his true motives and drives.
Just something to think about whenever one becomes too ensnared in the I, me and mine of creative endeavors.