2. Niyama - Contentment | Santosha
Summary of the Second Observance
Nurture contentment, seeking joy and serenity in life.
Be happy, smile and uplift others.
Live in constant gratitude for your health, your friends and your belongings.
Don’t complain about what you don’t possess.
Identify with the eternal You, rather than mind, body or emotions.
Keep the mountaintop view that life is an opportunity for spiritual progress.
Live in the eternal now.
The Second Observance
Santosha / सन्तोष
Contentment, santosha, is the second niyama.
How do we practice contentment?
Simply do not harm others by thought, word or deed.
As a practitioner of ahiṁsā, non-injury, you can sleep contentedly at night and experience santosha then and through the day.
Contentment is a quality that everyone wants, and buys things to obtain—
“Oh, if I only had my house redecorated, I would be content.”
“A new wardrobe would content me, give me joy and serenity.”
“To be content, I must have a vacation and get away from it all. There I can live the serene life and have joyous experiences.”
The dharmic way is to look within and bring out the latent contentment that is already there by doing nothing to inhibit its natural expression, as santosha, the mood of the soul, permeates out through every cell of the physical body.
Contentment is one of the most difficult qualities to obtain, and is well summed up within our food blessing mantra, from the Śukla Yajur Veda, Īśa Upanishad invocation:
“That is fullness. Creation is fullness. From that fullness flows this world’s fullness. This fullness issues from that fullness, yet that fullness remains full.”
This joy we seek is the joy of fullness, lacking nothing.
The Śaivite Hindu perspective is that contentment is a reflection of centeredness, and discontentment is a reflection of externalized consciousness and ramified desire.
Maintaining joy and serenity in life means being content with your surroundings, be they meagre or lavish. Be content with your money, be it a small amount or a large amount. Be content with your health. Bear up under ailments and be thankful that they are not worse than they are.
Protect your health if it is good. It is a valuable treasure. Be content with your friends. Be loyal to those who are your long-time, trusted companions.
Basically, contentment, santosha, is freedom from desire gained by redirecting the forces of desire and making a beautiful life within what one already has in life.
The rich seeking more riches are not content.
The famous seeking more fame are not content.
The learned seeking more knowledge are not content.
Being content with what you have does not mean you cannot discriminate and seek to progress in life. It doesn’t mean you should not use your willpower and fulfil your plans.
It does mean you should not become upset while you are striving toward your goals, frustrated or unhappy if you do not get what you want.
The best striving is to keep pushing along the natural unfoldment of positive trends and events in your life, your family life and your business.
Contentment is working within your means with what is available to you, living within your income, being grateful for what you have, and not unhappy over what you lack.
There are many frustrated souls on the path who torment themselves without end and walk around with long faces because they estimate they are not unfolding spiritually fast enough:
They have set goals of Self Realization for themselves far beyond their abilities to immediately obtain.
If people say, “I am not going to do anything that will not make me peaceful or that will threaten my peace of mind,” how will they get anywhere? That is not the idea of santosha.
True santosha is seeing all-pervasiveness of the one divine power everywhere. The light within the eyes of each person is that divine power.
With this in mind, you can go anywhere and do anything. Contentment is there, inside you, and needs to be brought out. It is a spiritual power.
So, yes, do what makes you content. But know that contentment really transcends worrying about the challenges that face you. Santosha is being peaceful in any situation.
The stronger you are in santosha, the greater the challenges you can face and still remain quiet on the inside, peaceful and content, poised like a hummingbird hovering over a flower.
Keeping Peace in the Home
Santosha is the goal; dharma, good conduct, remains the director of how you should act and respond to fulfil your karma.
This goal is attainable by following the ten Vedic restraints:
not harming others by thought, word or deed, refraining from lying, not entering into debt, being tolerant with people and circumstance, overcoming changeableness and indecision, not being callous, cruel or insensitive to other people’s feelings.
Above all, never practice deception. Don’t eat too much. Maintain a vegetarian diet for purity and clarity of mind. Watch carefully what you think and how you express it through words.
All of these restraints must be captured and practiced within the lifestyle before the natural contentment, the santosha, the pure, serene nature, of the soul can shine forth.
Therefore, the practice to attain santosha is to fulfil the yamas. Proceed with confidence; failure is impossible.
“Where do we let off steam? Mom works, dad works, the kids are in school, and when everyone comes home, everyone lets off a little steam, and everyone understands.”
The answer is - don’t let off steam in the home! The home is a sanctuary of the entire family. It should have an even higher standard of propriety than the office, the factory or the corporate workplace.
When we start being too casual at home and letting off steam, we say things that perhaps we shouldn’t. We may think the rest of the family understands, but they don’t. Feelings get hurt. We break up the vibration of the home.
Young people also let off steam in school, thus inhibiting their own education. They behave in a way in the classroom that they would not in a corporate office, and who is hurt but themselves?
It’s amazing how quickly people shape up their behaviour when they sign a contract, when they get a job in a corporate office:
They read the manual, they obey it and they are nice to everyone. This is the way it should be within the home. The home should be maintained at a higher standard than the corporate office.
The wonderful thing about Hinduism is that we don’t let off steam at home; we let our emotions pour out within the Hindu temple:
The Hindu temple is the place where we can relate to the Gods and the Goddesses and express ourselves within ourselves. It’s just between ourselves and the deity.
In a Hindu temple there may be, all at the same time, a woman worshiper crying in a corner, not far away a young couple laughing among themselves with their children, and nearby someone else arguing with the Gods.
The Hindu temple allows the individual to let off steam but it is a controlled situation, controlled by the pūjās, the ceremony, the priesthood.
So as to not make more karma in this life by saying things we don’t mean, having infections in our voice that are hurtful to others,
we must control the home, control ourselves in the workplace, keep the home at a higher vibration of culture and protocol than the workplace, and include the temple in our lives as a place to release our emotions and regain our composure.
It is making a lot of really bad karma that will come back in its stronger reaction later on in life for someone, the husband or wife or teenager, to upset the vibration of the home because of stress at school or in the workplace.
It is counterproductive to work all day in a nice office, control the emotions and be productive, and then go home and upset the vibration within the home:
After all, why is someone working? It’s to create the home.
Why is someone going to school? It’s to eventually create a home. It is counterproductive to destroy that which one works all day to create.
That’s why it is advised to use in the home the same good manners that are learned in the workplace, and build the vibration of the home even stronger than the vibration of the workplace, so that there is something inviting to come home to.
We have seen so many times, professionals, men and women, behave exquisitely in the workplace, but not so exquisitely at home, upset the home vibration, eventually destroying the home, breaking up the home.
And we have seen, through the years, a very unhappy person in retirement, a very bitter person in retirement: No one wants him around, no one wants to have him in their home. Therefore, he winds up in some nursing home, and he dies forgotten.
The Sanātana dharma and Śaiva samaya must be alive in the home, must be alive in the office, must be alive in the temple, for us to have a full life.
Where, then, do we vent our emotions, where do we let off steam, if not in our own home? The answer is, within the temple.