I write so much about longing and the un-contented parts of my life that it’s hard sometimes to acknowledge those areas of my existence that are perfectly or imperfectly just fine. I often feel a sense of contentment after writing, especially in free writing in a journal—as if I’ve purged the “vritti” out of my system. There is however, a sense of contentment that comes with acknowledgment of longing as a perennial aspect of the human condition. And a deeper contentment is possible through recognition of the longing as an expression of the Divine.
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)
The result of contentment is total happiness. (Desikachar)
From contentment and benevolence of consciousness comes supreme happiness (BKS Iyengar)
When at peace and content with oneself and others (Santosha), supreme joy is celebrated. (Nischala Joy Devi)
This sutra can be linked with Sutra 1.13 : tatra sthitau yatno’bhyasah
Persevering practice is the effort to attain and maintain the state of mental peace.
In an earlier post, I wrote about practicing through emotions. Linking these two sutras, Patanjali says that the way to mental peace is through persevering practice and by practicing contentment, or mental peace, we’ll achieve happiness.
Santosha, or the practice of content-ment, is the ability to feel satisfied within the container of one’s immediate experience. (Donna Farhi)
Family gatherings often are times when I see sides of myself that I don’t like (a Living Mirror). They can be occasions of great dis-contentment for me. They are also the times of my greatest happiness. Trying to navigate them and remain centered is a worthwhile goal for anyone. Amy Weintraub in Yoga for Depression ties Santosha with a quotation from Swami Kripalvanandji “My beloved child, break your heart no longer. Each time you judge yourself, you break your own heart.” She says that “both self-love and self-acceptance grow with practice.”
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, and the fluctuations of the mind are stilled. Isn’t this the purpose of yoga? I search for sukha in each pose, to feel joy while my body works on the edge of pain. This has incredible implications for those suffering from emotional lability. Can I learn to accept where I am at at any given moment? This is contentment and the sages say that by working on this, I 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.