Contentment - Santosha, Cultivating Joy and Serenity in Life


Santosha, the second niyama. Find joy in the morning. In the physical world no thing is perfect as it is subject to creation, preservation and dissolution. Perfection is in the inner world. Distinguish between that which changes, what's always in flux, the imperfect on the outside and the eternal you, always content on the inside. Focus on spiritual progress as the one constant that goes from life to life. No one can take that away from us. Live in the eternal now.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning,

Looking this morning at Gurudeva's definition of contentment. Sanskrit: santosha. In the yama and the niyama scenario it's the second niyama, contentment. So I'll be reading a line of the definition and then commenting on it. Seven lines.

Contentment reads: "Nurture contentment. Seeking joy and serenity in life."

So the definition is linking contentment with joy and serenity.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras does a similar, has a similar idea. It says: "Contentment brings unsurpassed joy." Same idea. So contentment and joy are linked together.

Certainly, a key to contentment is that we have to detach ourselves a bit from what's going on around us. In other words, the contentment is always there on the inside and we can't let what's going on the outside take that away from us. So this is how that reads:

"Be joyful and serene on the inside no matter what events are happening on life on the outside."

So that may be a new idea but actually we can do that. You know, we can find joy and contentment during our morning religious practice and then try and hold that through out the day. And if we get, if we lose it, try and reclaim it as quickly as we can because it's in there, inside of us. It's just that the ordinary way of looking at things, we give it up when something doesn't go right on the outside. But there's no reason to give it up.

Gurudeva has a related statement: "Life is meant to be lived joyfully."

That only fully comes to life, in one's life, if you claim it. So, the advice here says: Need to claim this on a daily basis. Be joyful. Make sure you find joy in the morning before you go out to face your tasks for the day. So, joy is something we can claim inside ourselves.

So certainly the basics on contentment and why it's listed in the niyamas is the yamas. It's understood so it's not even in the definition. But, there's no way you can be content if you're not following all of the yamas. For example: Small lie here, small lie there to make things easier seems to make life smoother but it also disturbs the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind doesn't know quite how to handle that. And then you have to remember them all, right? That's the hardest part of lying. I told this to this person but I told it slightly differently to that person and then over here I'm not sure what I said. Can't be content if you're making small lies.

And likewise, with the other yamas, you know, if we're just cheating a little bit on our taxes, not a lot, you know. Seems harmless, but it still, it disturbs the mind. And all of these little things add up into a big thing. Therefore, that's why the yamas are first. We need to perfect them and once they're in place then the niyamas are possible.

So contentment is based on that. And as I say, it's so basic it's not even mentioned in the definition.

Well the first line of the definition goes: "Be happy, smile and uplift others."

The idea here is that when we find joy and serenity on the inside, it becomes an even fuller experience if we share it with others. It deepens it. If we just keep it inside and not let anyone see it it's not as profound an experience as to experience it inside and then share it outside as well. So it should be shared by being happy, smiling and uplifting others.

And an interesting bi-product of that practice is: When you smile, you're happy and uplift others, others somehow seem to do that more to you too. So, that's good, right? We face more smiling and happiness from others because we're expressing it first. So we don't want to just sit there holding things in and expect everybody to treat us perfectly. That's not doing our share.

#2. "Live in gratitude for your health, your friends and your belongings."

So, this is the glass is half full approach that instead of lamenting about what we don't have reflect more on what we do have and how wonderful it is, you know. The family members we have, the friends we have, the job we have. It's not, nothing is always perfect, you know. And nothing can be perfect in the physical world. If something's perfect then it's in the inner world. Because everything in the physical world is subject to creation, preservation and dissolution. So, things eventually fall apart on you.

So, focus more on what you have in terms of health and belongings and, you know, be careful in our modern time not to take those advertisements too seriously that guarantee this kind of happiness, that kind of satisfaction if you only buy this or only have that. Because, as we all know, it's not true.

And this gratitude again is deepened when we express it. And expressing gratitude Gurudeva call appreciation. So verbalizing our appreciation on a regular basis helps us deepen our experience of gratitude and contentment.

"Don't complain about what you don't possess."

So, this is similar to the previous one which is talking about gratitude for what we have but it's an even more basic concept. We tend to complain. We tend to verbalize our dissatisfaction. And when you verbalize something, you make it stronger. So, be sure you're not complaining about things that aren't going right, things you don't have and so forth.

"Identify with the internal you rather than mind body or emotions."

So this is what we talked about at the beginning. That it's what's inside of you that's always content, joyful and serene. And what's not inside of you always is going through changes. The body has this health problem, that health problem. The mind can sometimes get agitated, emotions get disturbed.

So, we need to distinguish between what can be imperfect on the outside and the eternal you which is on the inside which is always content.

"Keep the mountain-top view that life is an opportunity for spiritual progress."

So, as we mentioned, the outer world of family, friends, career and possessions is constantly fluctuating. And if we're focused only on that we can be very frustrated when it fluctuates in a way we don't want it to. And modern life is full of changes that we didn't have long ago. There used to be more job security, more occupational consistency from one generation to the next. And these days that's all gone.

I was talking to a, e-mailing someone this morning. And he's been given, you know, a senior in his company, he's been given three years notice that the whole division in this country is closing down and moving to Bangalore. And a thousand people are going to be out of a job, including him, in three or four years. So, that's enough to lose your contentment, right? So, no job, no income. Oh oh!

So, we have to expect it. Part of the problem is if we don't have the right expectations that there is no permanent stability in what's around us. Family, friends, career, possessions, it's always in flux. So we have to be accepting of that flux and not expect it to be unchanging. Then that helps us deal with it and focus on spiritual progress. Because spiritual progress is what's constant. Any effort we put into making spiritual progress can't be taken away from us by life. No one can take away that job, you know, so to speak. No one can take away the fact that we've accomplished spiritual progress. So we need to make sure we're accomplishing it by daily practice and value that as the one thing that's permanent, that goes from life to life.

And the last one is: "Live in the eternal now."

Well the eternal now means being in the present. And what pulls us out of the present is the past and the future of course. And why does the past pull us out? Usually because things are unresolved. Something has happened that's bothering us that we haven't accepted. It's wrong; it wasn't supposed to happen. And, so we need to resolve it by understanding. By writing it down and burning it up, etcetera. We have certain techniques to free our awareness from getting pulled to the past.

Getting pulled to the future, the two examples we use is irrational worry and major decisions. So, as you know, major decisions we make an appointment with ourselves to do it. And irrational worry we, relates to the answer here.

The example Gurudeva gives is, his seven year old example, when he was seven years old, going from Lake Tahoe to Fallen Leaf Lake. And it's a vehicle that runs on skis, you know. Runners. Doesn't run on tires, you know, it's going forward on skis somehow. It's sliding along. And so he was worried that the snow and all would cause him to miss his favorite radio program which is Captain Midnight, right? Anyone know Captain Midnight? Have to be over 70 years old to even know Captain Midnight. Those were radio programs back then. He was worried he was going to miss his radio program. So, he was going into the future; he was going into worry.

And he came up, at age seven with the idea of saying: "I'm all right right now." And being in the present. Why worry about the future, it may or may not happen. Why not just enjoy the present? So the text says: You ask yourself the question. "Am I alright right now?" And you answer back: "Yes, I'm all right, right now."

So most of the things we worry about in the future won't happen. As Gurudeva says, unless you worry about them a lot. And then you create them. So, that's a warning. If you think about something a lot you'll attract it to yourself. So if you think about something negative, about the future, you'll end up finally experiencing it to fulfill your own energy that you put into that thought. So, we want to be careful not to worry unnecessarily about the future. Calm ourselves down through reason, through affirmation, and enjoy the present. So if we're not pulled to past and future, then we're in the present and therefore more content.

Thank you very much.

Aum Namah Sivaya.

Photo of  Gurudeva
A mother's place is within the home and not out in the world working. When she is in the home all day, she brings love and security to the children, sensitivity and stability to the husband.
—Gurudeva