The Second Niyama: Santosha, contentment...

Saturday, 14 November 2020 15:11
We return to our discussion on the Yamas and Niyamas. This week - the second Niyama - Santosha (also spelled Santosa).
It’s pretty straightforward: Santosha means Contentment. From Wikipedia: ‘San, means "completely", "altogether" or "entirely", and Tosha, "contentment", "satisfaction", "acceptance", "being comfortable”. Combined, the word Santosha means "completely content with, or satisfied with, accepting and comfortable”.'
My famous blue raincoat:
A few night’s ago I had a scary dream (you could call it a nightmare). It was the weekend and I was at home with my husband and youngest daughter. I was discussing with my husband about taking the dog out for a walk, but it was starting to rain. I said I’d be happy to go but my raincoat, although quite effective, is blue and ugly and no-one wears a raincoat like that anymore, and I should buy a new one. At that point the rain became extremely heavy and the wind was howling. Next moment we looked over to the city (which we can see from our kitchen window) and I saw the skyscrapers being blown over. The feeling of doomsday. Just there. Nothing else seemed to matter; just wondering whether we would be still alive as the storm came towards us. I woke up. 
The moral of the story may not necessarily be me wanting a new trendy coat causing the end of the world!
In BKS Iyengar’s treatise on life, Light on Life, he emphasises that contentment should be cultivated to create a harmonious mind.  ‘The cultivation of contentment (santosa) is to make the mind a fit instrument for meditation as contentment is the seed of the meditative state.’ (From the chapter Living in Freedom, p.257)
How you live, and your approach to your life, brings you into a state of harmony. This harmonious mind helps you to function in a smooth way, adapting to your environment so the little things that happen to you each day, for example, having a minor car accident or having a tiff with someone close to you, does not fester and poison you. You are undisturbed by life’s inevitable challenges and obstacles. The practice of yoga - going to classes, doing a bit at home, brings the reward of mental clarity, an ability to relax and deal with what is going on around you.
In Light on Life, he specifies this lasting, stable and harmonious mind is achieved through the practice of Pranayama. Breath awareness and specific breath exercises (Pranayama) calms the active/moving/egotistical, or rajastic, nature of mind:
‘In santosa, the torso is a vessel that becomes filled with cosmic energy entering in the form of inhalation… For the benevolence of contentment is equally the soul moving out from the centre of being to occupy the torso. We are filling ourselves from outside, yes, but at this point, what is inside, being no longer blocked, moves out to fill us equally. This is the contentment of fullness… that is not charged with pranic energy, but with he soul’s insight.’ p.262
Contentment is underpinned by the concept of having enough. Being satisfied with what you have already and visiting our much discussed friend ‘desire’. Desire raises its ugly head again as the opposite to joy, and is the root of all suffering. (Manu-Smriti 4.12 - major Sanskrit work on morality and law) The contented person does not strive and grasp for MORE.
The radical concept of complete renunciation is simply impractical in our Western Society ruled by capitalism. However, the possibility of living through the eyes of having enough already can be considered. Feuerstein, the moral master, says: ‘It also makes sense… to arrange one’s life in a responsible way that minimises the pressures of modern life as much as possible, not only for oneself but for one’s entire family. [Less junk/reduce excess at Christmas??] This move toward voluntary simplicity calls for a fair amount of introspection and also collaboration within the household… For Western spiritual practitioners, the practice of contentment must start here.’ (Yoga Morality - Ancient Teachings at a Time of Global Crisis, Hohm Press, Arizona, 2007 p.238) Collaborate with your co-inhabitants to put the brakes on MORE.
All these concepts originate from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2.42:
Santosāt annuttamah sukhalābhah
From contentment and benevolence of consciousness comes supreme happiness. (Tranlastion: Iyengar, BKS, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Thorsons, London 2002 p.155)
If you’re content, then you’re happy.
Get on your mat:)
Great to see you all back in the studio
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