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Santosha is the second Niyama of typical Ashtanga Yoga. It is one of the important virtues to be observed in Yoga practice as well as in religious practices of India.
Let us have an insight into its meaning and its relevance to the practices of Yoga and Religion.
Santosha means contentment and lack of desire for a thing that one does not have. It denotes the satisfaction with things that one already has. It not applies to things but also to situations, qualities, and the like.
The Santosha is the combination of two Sanskrit words: ‘Sam’ meaning “completley” and ‘tosha’ meaning “contentment”. It denotes “absolute contentment.”
Satisfaction, gratitude, and happiness are the three important aspects of Santosha.
In Tamil, which is one of the oldest vernacular languages of India, Santosha means “happiness.” By usage over time, the original meaning (contentment) would have changed and the word now denotes “happiness” in Tamil.
Dhrtir, Santusti, and Tusti are the equivalent sanskrit terms which are used interchangeably with Santosha. These words stem from the same root. Yet another word is “Tripti’ that means satisfaction. It is “Tirupti” in Tamil.
Santosha may be defined as “persistently maintaining the inner serenity irrespective anything happens outside. It is keeping the equipoise in happiness and sorrow. “
Santosha In Yoga
How does contentment help in yoga? The practice of contentment makes you desire-free. You aspire not newer things. You are satisfied with what you already have. It drastically reduces the amount of modifications happening in your mind. It drives away distractions from your mind. By this way, it prepares you for the next-level in the path of yoga.
Now let us see how yoga scriptures describe contentment in yoga practice.
In Yoga Sutra
saṁtoṣāt-anuttamas-sukhalābhaḥ From contentment comes supreme happiness Yoga Sutra 2.42
Contentment results in supreme happiness. What is supreme happiness? How it differs?
I hope you agree that happiness has a short life. When does one becomes happy? Of course, on attaining something. In achieving a material, money, or status or on getting a desire fulfilled or when an expectation becomes a reality, one tends to be happy.
Imagine, you have got something that you have been longing for a long time. It has now become a reality. Does it go on giving happiness? Once your expectations became a reality, it is true that you are happy for a while. Then you start to desire for something more. Now, Your happiness has gone.
You think happiness rest in those things you yet to have. It is not with the things you already have. It is a cycle. You are firmly fastened in that cycle. Nothing gives you permanent happiness or supreme happiness that lasts for ever.
Sage Patanjali comes to you with a solution. If you want to have a long-lasting happiness, just practice contentment. He assures that happiness does not lie with things that you don’t have yet. It lies with the things that you already have. This is what contentment is and this is what supreme happiness is.
In Yoga Upanishads
yadṛcchālābhato nityaṃ prītiryā jāyate nṛṇām । tat santoṣaṃ viduḥ prājñāḥ parijñānaikatatparāḥ ॥ 5॥
brahmādilokaparyantādviraktyā yallabhetpriyam । sarvatra vigatasnehaḥ saṃtoṣaṃ paramaṃ viduḥ । śraute smārte ca viśvāso yattadāstikyamucyate ॥ 6॥ Darshana Upanishad 2.5 and 2.6
The accidental acquisition of any gain in daily life gives happiness. The wise people long for acquisition of wisdom. It is Santosha. But the supreme order of contentment is getting rid of all attachments till one realises Brahman. This is the meaning of the above two verses of Darshana Upanishad.
Santosha In Hinduism
Apart from the yogic point of view, Contentment is one of the important observance in religious practice of Hinduism.
In Bhagavad Gita
Verse 2.70 states, ” a man who is not disturbed by the persistent flow of desires like an ocean which is always not disturbed by the incessant flow of rivers alone attains peace and not the man who goes after the desires.”
yas tvātma-ratir eva syād ātma-tṛiptaśh cha mānavaḥ ātmanyeva cha santuṣhṭas tasya kāryaṁ na vidyate For him who rejoices in the Self and who becomes illumined and fully content with the Self, there is no need for any duty. Bhagavad Gita 3.17
In Verse 10.4 and 10.5, Sri Krishna says “from me alone manifest the varieties in qualities amongst humans such as intellect, knowledge, clarity in thoughts, forgiveness, truthfulness, mastery over sense organs and mind, happiness, sorrow, birth, death, fear, courage, non-violence, equanimity, contentment, austerity, charity, fame, and infamy.”
Verse 12.13 and 12.14 state, “he who is not envious and friendly to all living creatures, who is free from false ego and ownership, who sees happiness and sorrow equally, who is tolerant and always practices contentment, who is self-controlled and engaged in devotional service with determination, who fixes his mind and intellect on me, is very dear to me.”
samaḥ śatrau ca mitre ca tathā mānāpamānayoḥ śītoṣṇa-sukha-duḥkheṣu samaḥ sańga-vivarjitaḥ tulya-nindā-stutir maunī santuṣṭo yena kenacit aniketaḥ sthira-matir bhaktimān me priyo naraḥ The devotee who is equipoised in friends and foes, honour and dishonour, heat and cold, happiness and sorrow, fame and infamy, who is free from association that contaminates, who is silent and showing contentment towards anything, and who is fixed in knowledge is very dear to me. Bhagavad Gita 12.18 and 12.19.
In Manu Smriti
saṃtoṣaṃ paramāsthāya sukhārthī saṃyato bhavet । saṃtoṣamūlaṃ hi sukhaṃ duḥkhamūlaṃ viparyayaḥ ॥ He who desires happiness should go for it with a perfectly contented disposition and control himself. This is because, the root of happiness is contentment and the root of unhappiness is the opposite. Manusmrti IV.12
Again, Verse 92 of Chapter 6 of Manu Smriti defines a ten-fold Dharma which are contentment, forgiveness, self-control, non-stealing, cleanliness, mastery over sense organs, wisdom, knowledge, truthfulness, and abstention from anger.
Santosha In Buddhism
Santutti Paramam Dhanam is one of teachings of Buddha. It means “the supreme wealth is contentment.” According to Buddhism, poverty involves sorrow, hence it should be avoided. At the same time, one should exercise contentment.
The second of the four noble truths is “desire is the root cause of misery.” Desire is the difference between need and greed. Discarding the greed is contentment.
Santosha In Jainism
Uttaradhyayan Sutra, one of earliest scriptures of Jainism, states that the greed increases possessions. The more we get, the more we desire. At the outset, desire for a little and be content with that. If you start satisfying your desires, millions won’t suffice.
A person without delusion has no misery. A person without desire has no delusion. A person without greed has no desire. A person without possession has no greed.
When you desire an object, you become restless till you get that object. On getting it, you become happy. Does happiness resides in the object? Is it intrinsic inside the object? If it is the case, it should always give happiness. Is it true that it gives happiness always? Does it give happiness to everybody?
On pondering over, you will come to know that the object could not give happiness always. It won’t give the same amount of happiness to everybody. It means that the happiness is not with the object. Happiness is intrinsic in you and it is not coming from outside. Your true nature is happiness itself. You forgot it and searching outside. Once established, you and your happiness are free from external influences. This is the real meaning of Santosha.
It seems, it is very easy to practice contentment. But in reality, it is one of the most difficult virtues to master. It drives your desires away. Having no desires, one’s mind become pure and there is no necessity for the feelings like dissatisfaction, frustration, anger, rage, lust, and jealousy. It is showing grateful for what you already have.
To master contentment, accept things, people, situations as they are. Be grateful to your have-s and ignore your haven’t-s. Accept life as it is. Complaint not how hard it is on your part to go through. Be equipoised in happiness and sorrow, friends and enemy, birth and death, praise and scold. Be happy which is intrinsic in you.