Contentment is critical for good niyama

Post By: Published on: December 5, 2016 Reading time: 4 minutes

School of Yoga explains contentment (santoṣam), the second niyama.

Contentment (santoṣam) – The feeling of happiness is fleeting, but the sense of peace is more lasting. Also, contentment increases calmness. As a result, there is increased clarity of thought and reduced conflict. This leads to greater productivity without agitation within, and in the environment. Finally, contentment increases positive energy in us. But, how does one recognize this & more importantly, imbibe it?

There is no easy answer to obtaining this sense of peace. But often, we do come across people who, though they may not be affluent, exude a sense of peace that lifts us also. How do they get it?

Contentment comes when the following conditions are met,
  • We accept that which comes to us – this means that we neither resist not enable change.
  • We are neither happy, nor sad with any outcome. In fact, we don’t work for an outcome. We get our gratification by doing our duty (that which we are supposed to do in that situation).

How does contentment (santoṣam) impact niyama?

Three elements seem to drive our ability to be content,

  • By avoiding opposites, such as happy/ sad, good/ bad, like/ dislike, right/ wrong.
  • Being able to act in congruence with one’s conditioning,
  • Ability to accept all outcomes in the same manner. This is called svikruta (acceptance).

Svikruta (acceptance):

We always work for something. This could be tangible, like money or intangible, like duty. However, we are often confronted with an outcome which is different from what we intended. This leads to disappointment, grief, anger and frustration. Consequently, our sense of peace is disturbed.

Contentment permeates in us when we are able to stop resisting the outcome, move our of denial and accept the change which was unplanned.

This ability to recognise grief and anger and quickly accept that which is not in our control requires enormous situational awareness (prajñā). Consequently, as we begin to increase our capability in this aspect, we begin to feel more contented. This increases our cognition of the Self.

Anecdotes, experiences and situations to help understand contentment.

(Wikipedia extract) Horatio Nelson was a British flag officer famous for his participation in the Napoleonic wars, most notably at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, where he lost his life.

Just before the battle was to begin on 21 October 1805, Nelson ordered the hoisting of the signal, “England expects that every man will do his duty”.

Shortly after one o’clock, Victory’s captain, Thomas Hardy realised that Nelson was not by his side. He turned to see Nelson kneeling on the deck, supporting himself with his hand, before falling onto his side. Hardy rushed to him, at which point Nelson smiled “Hardy, I do believe they have done it at last… my backbone is shot through”. He had been hit by a marksman and the bullet had entered his left shoulder, pierced his lung, and came to rest at the base of his spine.

Nelson was carried below by a sergeant-major of marines and two seamen. He was made comfortable, fanned and given lemonade and watered wine to drink after he complained of feeling hot and thirsty.

Just before he died, Beatty, the surgeon, heard Nelson murmur ‘Thank God I have done my duty’. Scott, who remained by Nelson as he died, recorded his last words as ‘God and my country’. Nelson died at half-past four, three hours after he was shot.

This incident embodies both, the ability to managing expectations and contentment at the outcome of performing one’s duty. Do you have similar experiences?

Points to Ponder on contentment (santoṣam).

Internal Tags: Karma, Dharma (conditioning)Stress and Situational AwarenessStress and pranaAwareness measures, Bhakti Yoga fundamentals, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga.

External Tags: Consciousness

  • How important is awareness of reality on santoṣam (feeling of contentment).
  • Can we generate this feeling of serenity within us?
  • How importance is the vision of current reality in the feeling of contentment?
  • Does “confronting as opposed to sidestepping issues” increase the feeling of contentment?
  • What is the impact of expectation on contentment?
  • How important is it to do your duty to achieve the feeling of calmness?
  • What is duty? Where does it start and where does it end? How do we know we are doing our duty?
  • How important is emotional stability in achieving a sense of peace?
  • What happens to the feeling of calm when the solution is one of consensus as opposed to compromise? Which is better?


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