Santosha: The Contentment Within

by Soha Akbar

Santosha: The Contentment Within

Friends, have you ever pondered about happiness, and what factors contribute to happiness in your life? Do you feel joy in the present moment, or do you think, “I’ll be happy if such and such happens…”?

If we look inwards and reflect on our thoughts, more often that not we will find that our happiness is conditional; there is always some need that needs to be fulfilled in order to bring us happiness. This is very different from the joy derived from contentment, from being satisfied in the present moment. It is a simple idea, yet difficult to achieve in our day to day lives.

In the Ashtanga Yoga Philosophy, santosha is listed as the second niyama, or code of conduct. Sage Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutras, has mentioned the idea of contentment or santosha. Let’s take a look at that.

Chapter 2, verse 42 states:

संतोषादनुत्तम: सुखलाभः .४२

saṃtoṣādanuttamasukhalābhaḥ || 2.42 ||

BKS Iyengar explains the verse as: From contentment and benevolence of consciousness comes supreme happiness.

It means that in order to be truly happy, one has to be content. By and large, our unhappiness is due to our list of desires. Unfortunately, there is always something missing, something to be pursued, something to be achieved in order to say that one is happy or content. This peaceful joy come from within and is not dependent on external circumstances or external validation.

Our desires and cravings are both material and immaterial, tangible and intangible. We crave for success and praise. We run after money, fame and power. Often these cravings or wants present themselves in the form of, or lead to, attachments, where we do not want to let go of what we possess or desire to possess. For instance, we may cling to material objects around us; we may cling to our feelings of resentment or anger; we may cling to the idea that what we say or do is always right; we may cling to the idea of self-centredness. We often justify our wants as needs, that should be fulfilled in order for us to be content and therefore happy.

Yoga is the practice of uncovering the truth by removing the rubble of external wants, needs, expectations and ideas. Hence, Yoga provides us with tools such as self-reflection, contemplation and meditation in order to achieve santosha or true contentment.

One thing that needs to be remembered though, is that contentment does not mean complacency or incompetency. It does not mean being accepting unjust or unfair circumstances blindly. It means understanding that true happiness and gratitude is not necessarily reliant on external factors.

The society that we live in today has framed our mindset to believe that unless we have the next hyped product, or win the next big lottery, or visit the best Instagrammed destinations, we are lacking something. It is not easy to turn a blind eye to our cravings or desires. Being humans, we will definitely acknowledge it. Of course, we respond to our feelings and circumstances, but that response should come from a place of non-attachment or non-desire.

Letting go of these attachments or desires is an ongoing process. We cannot reach a state of real contentment in just a few tries. Santosha need not be an absolute idea; it is a practice in itself. Practising gratitude is a small step towards practising santosha. Think about what you are grateful for. Count your blessings, and you will be surprised how happiness can reside within you, not outside of you.

In case you are struggling with this profound philosophy of santosha, it can be best understood from and practised under learned teachers, teachers who have themselves ingrained this philosophy in their own lives. Delving deeper into the Yoga Sutras of sage Patanjali will further unfold the idea behind contentment. Sayujya Yoga in Mumbai teaches the Yoga Sutras as a part of their Holistic Yoga Teacher Training Course curriculum. Why not enrol under them and learn from the best? What you learn at Sayujya Yoga, you carry with you for the rest of your lives. Happy learning!

About the Author

Sohaila Akbar

Sohaila is a Yoga teacher, keen on bringing about positive changes in the lives of others through the knowledge that she has received from her teachers. Prior to this she was a school teacher working towards imparting academic, social and ecological knowledge to young learners. Sohaila is an avid reader of books and have an undying love for fiction. She prefers paperbacks and hardcovers over e-books anyday. She loves travelling, and a good cup of coffee is always welcome!