The Second Niyama: Santosha (Contentment)

To refresh from last month, the five niyamas (codes of conduct/regulations) of Patanjali’s Eight Fold Path are:

  1.  Saucha (purity or cleanliness)
  2. Santosha (contentment)
  3. Tapas (austerity)
  4. Swadhyaya (self-study)
  5. Pranidhana (devotion to God).

Last month, we looked at the first niyama – saucha (purity or cleanliness).  This month, let’s explore the second niyama – santosha in more detail.

This month’s focus: Santosha

Santosha refers to contentment of one’s lot in life and the desire for no more than what is available to you.  It is an internal balance where one accepts the pleasures and pains of the world and preserves a sense of contentment within.  A key understanding of santosha is living in the present time; not longing for the past or worrying about the future, but an awareness of one’s responsibility in the present time.  Santosa is about cultivating an inner state of satisfaction with what you have – with whatever comes, be it the joys and the suffering.  Contentment is not a passive acceptance of suffering, but a balanced and controlled way of seeing the world, where an attitude of equanimity is closely associated with peace and joy.

This sense of contentment can be difficult in our often busy, materialistic world.  It is easy to buy into the ‘Greatest happiness’ perception of life, where we see happiness as a future goal… “If I get this job, then I will be happy… if I get married, I will be happy… if I earn this much money, I will be happy….”.  This way of thinking promotes a future/goal oriented attitude where happiness is not yet realised until a future achievement is gained.  The fact is, when one does achieve these goals, often times it does not bring this sense of happiness one was searching for, or a sense of contentment.  It is not uncommon to seek the next future desire to then make us happy.  When one seeks santosha, and finds awakening in the contentment of the present, our ‘need’ for things dissipate and a deeper sense of joy and contentment resides within.  This releases a sense of simplistic freedom within oneself.

So how do you practice santosha in your own life?
How do you live in the present moment and find contentment right here, right now, even when life is difficult?

True happiness comes from contentment with whatever one has, not with thinking that one will be happy when one gets all one desires.
 Edwin Bryant

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