Contentment - THE ART OF REMOVING AND CREATING HABITS
Heartfulness eMagazine|August 2021
DAAJI continues his series on refining habits, in the light of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga and current scientific and yogic principles and practices. Last month, he explored the first Niyama of purity, shaucha. This month he shares his insights on that pivotal human quality – contentment, which is known in Yoga as santosh.
DAAJI

Our quest for happiness

Contentment, happiness, well-being … these have been considered hallmarks of a good life for people from all cultures since time immemorial. Yet, in today’s uncertain world, they seem to elude us more than ever before. When I remember my grandparents, who were simple village folk from Gujarat in India, they had very little in the way of material possessions, and they lived through tough times at the end of the British rule and India’s independence, but they had a higher level of contentment than most wealthy people living luxurious lives today. In my memories I still see their simple life, their smiles, their way of being with family members, and the fundamental principles that defined their lifestyle. These principles brought them a lot of stability, and they are the lifestyle habits that we are discussing in this series.

I hear the same stories from my Western friends, who tell me about their grandparents and parents living through the First World War, the Great Depression, and the Second World War, who also seemed to have a higher level of contentment than many people today. They made do with very little when resources were scarce, they appreciated so many of the very ordinary things in daily life, like wartime rations, a beautiful sunrise, a homemade Christmas present, and letters from loved ones at home or on the battlefield. They made something of their lives despite the hardships they endured. An amazing and inspiring example is the 1997 film, Life is Beautiful, about a Jewish-Italian bookstore owner whose family was captured by the Nazis and interned, and who managed to shield his young son from the horrors of concentration camp living with humor and hope.

Contentment arises when we are in contact with the soul. It is vital to understand this point: contentment does not come from the body or the mind. It emanates from the soul, as the layers of conditioning dissolve.

A striking modern-day example happened at a Heartfulness Youth Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2018. Those who attended were all graduates of the CAP Youth Empowerment initiative for disadvantaged youth, and many did not know where their next meal was coming from or when they would find employment. Their stories were difficult by most people’s standards, yet they exuded such life and joy that our team was brought to tears. Their openness and heartfelt participation were appreciated by all who attended.

So we can easily see that a person’s level of contentment is not necessarily related to their circumstances. Instead, it is directly related to their inner state – their level of acceptance, or alternatively, their level of expectation and desire.

Also, contentment arises when we are in contact with the soul. It is vital to understand this point: contentment does not come from the body or the mind. It emanates from the soul, as the layers of conditioning dissolve.

In this article, we will explore some of the practices that help us to experience that connection. But first, let’s explore the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the ancient patriarch of Yoga. These Sutras were written thousands of years ago and are still so relevant today. What does he say about this second Niyama of contentment?

Purity a Contentment a Happiness

First, Patanjali says that contentment arises out of purity, the first Niyama. He defines four qualities that arise out of purity, and the first is contentment. How does this happen? When we remove all the impurities, complexities and heaviness in our system that form coverings around the soul, we purify our field of consciousness, allowing us to focus inward and connect with the soul. It is here that we experience true inner contentment.

Second, Patanjali says that extraordinary happiness results from quiet contentment. So purity leads to contentment, which in turn leads to happiness. This extraordinary happiness is an inner state – it has nothing to do with the pleasures and pains of worldly existence, which are fickle, coming and going like the weather.

If you ask yourself, “What brings me happiness and contentment?”, it may be your relationships with loved ones, your career, or a comfortable lifestyle. But even if you have all of these things, will you truly be happy without inner peace and calm? If you also ask yourself, “How will I feel if my circumstances change?”, you may discover that your happiness is dependent on external events and circumstances. When situations change for the worse, like has happened to many with the Covid pandemic, will you still feel so happy?

A truly happy person is happy under all circumstances – external things and people may bring temporary happiness, which is important in day-to-day life, but they do not ensure lasting happiness, because when they are gone happiness also disappears.

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