contentment sutra

posted in: Life, yoga | 1

I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of contentment. It’s an old topic, one the ancient Indian sage Patanjali included in his Yoga Sutras.


(trans. Bouanchaud)
II.42 samtosad anuttamah sukha-labhah

Samtosat: through or by contentment

Anuttamah: the strongest

Sukha: of happiness

Labhah: obtaining, gain
Contentment brings supreme happiness. (B.Bouanchaud)
From contentment one gains unsurpassed joy. (D. Brooks)
The result of contentment is total happiness. (Desikachar)
From contentment and benevolence of consciousness comes supreme happiness (BKS Iyengar)

Is contentment the aim of yoga practice?

Is all suffering alleviated through contentment or do we look at the sufferings in our own lives in a contented fashion?

Does happiness imply a different vision of suffering? Or can the two emotions exist simultaneously?

Is total happiness only possible through a practice of contentment?

If all life is suffering as the Buddha tells us, why should we bother trying to attain happiness?
Does contentment imply a turning away from the difficulties of life, an acceptance of poverty, cruelty, and violence in the world?

Won’t we be missing out on much of our human emotional range if we practice contentment? Won’t we become zombies? Can one’s passions be ignited while one is content?

Are there any other effects or side effects of contentment?

Is it possible for contentment to exist on a greater scale, say in a community or in a nation? Would this be the same as peace? What is the relationship between contentment and peace?

Is there a relationship between contentment and the practice of svadhyaya (self-study)?

What is the relationship of asana practice and contentment?

wet leaf (Zoar Valley NY - MPG))

The sutra tells us there is a direct relationship between contentment and personal happiness. With contentment, one’s emotions are brought under an even keel, the fluctuations of the mind are stilled. Isn’t this the purpose of yoga?

I try to search for sukha in each pose, to achieve joy while my body works on the edge of pain. This has incredible implications when suffering from emotional lability. We learn to accept where we are at at any given moment; this is contentment and the sages tell us that if we work on this, we will attain the supreme gift of happiness.
Patanjali tells us something profound, yet really simple: be content and you will be happy. Want what you have and don’t want what you don’t have. A recipe for happiness that has one ingredient: contentment.

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One Response

  1. wildflower

    thank you, laughing yogini, for these thought-provoking comments.

    achieve joy on the edge of pain…interesting!

    if contentment is seated in the degree to which we try to alleviate our own suffering, can contentment arise, too, from doing the same for others?

    would working toward alleviating the suffering of others speak to some of the other questions too? i.e., when more people are content, might a wider peace arise?

    in addressing the notion of personal suffering, do the Buddha’s eight steps on the Middle Path also bear relationship to contentment?

    it seems that the definition of terms is important here: can the means by which some of us seek “happiness” actually be a source of our “suffering?”

    whew! lots to chew on.

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