|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 374 ]
Santosha means "contentment." The yogis understand that contentment is a fundamental necessity for the higher life. Without it, the mind is uncontrolled, influenced by unruly desires, which inhibits clarity, higher thought and understanding. A state of mental equilibrium, or santosham, is therefore an essential prerequisite for a peaceful, harmonious and satisfying life.
To be contentment, however, does not mean to just passively acceptance all circumstances as they are. Many people have the idea that being content means merely forcing oneself to accept what they cannot otherwise control; whether or not one is actually at peace with that acceptance is another matter.
But santosha is no such attitude. It is a genuine, unshakeable and all-pervading feeling of satisfaction and peace. It is an active, willing approval of the beings who surround you, and an active, willing approval of the circumstances that you are in, at all times. Santosha means making the best of all situations in life, striving to use them for their utmost benefit, even if at first glance they may seem to be unfavourable.
In other words, santosha is not a fatalistic attitude, but a focusing in the present and living each moment fully. It means opening up to the continuous experiment of life and maintaining a clear perception of what is now, the uniqueness of every moment.
The yoga aspirant aims at obtaining a condition in which he/she remains perfectly calm and serene whatever may happen in the outer world. Beyond cultivating the strength to merely suppress a mental disturbance if and when it arises, the yogi strives to prevent any such disturbances from even arising, knowing that it takes far more energy to overcome them completely once they have arisen and taken hold within the sub-consciousness of his/her mind.
The yogic virtue of santosha, then, is based upon a 'perfect indifference' to all the personal enjoyments, comforts, distresses and other influences that sway mankind. It is the attainment of a sense of peace which rises beyond the realm of the transient, material world.
Yet the average person still has, whether conscious of it or not, the idea that contentment will come when they have achieved a certain thing -- be it financial success, a desired family life, retirement, the collection of certain material items, realization of some goal, social status, recognition, etc.
They consciously forego contentment in the present moment for a perceived 'greater contentment' in the future. But this is a tragically false belief, as any simple observation of society will reveal. Those in society who have what you want are in no way more content than you are -- just as others who may want what you have, will not feel any less discontent than you do now when/if they finally attain it.
With this attitude, contentment always remains slightly out of reach. This 'contentment of the future' never arrives...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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