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.
YOGA SUTRA STUDY
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?
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.