Swadhyaya and Santosha – Niyama of Raja Yoga

SWADHYAYA

Swadhyaya means living wisdom, self-study, self-analysis, self-awareness, self-modification, study of the scriptures. It is necessary to understand your own nature. Swadhyaya means spiritual self-education, contemplation and application of the scriptures or sacred texts of your chosen path.

Swadhyaya is awareness and knowledge of how to apply what you already know in your life. It means practical application of the wisdom that you have acquired.

Self-analysis, self-observation, self-understanding begin by putting together the jigsaw puzzle of your life and learning to differentiate between strengths and weaknesses, between ambitions and needs. Swadhyaya gives an in-depth understanding of your nature and what qualities make you respond in a particular manner.

Sometimes the weaknesses are so overpowering that you have low self-esteem: confusion and doubts creep in. Some-times the strengths are overwhelming, and you become over-confident, arrogant and rash. So many things can happen in each stage, and understanding this is known as swadhyaya.

Swadhyaya is a natural expression of a spiritual-minded person. Socrates, the Greek philosopher, said, “Know thyself.” It was also inscribed on the Apollo temple in Delphi. To know oneself is the birth right and the foremost duty of a person.

Practice 1

Take up any book on any philosophy, whether it is Samkhya, Vedanta, Tantra, Christianity or Islam. It may be the Bhagavad Gita, Bible, Koran, Yoga Vasishtha or Srimad Bhagavatam. Take one page each day, read and study. Think about what you have read, contemplate and try to understand. Let the information sink in and become part of you. Try to implement the wisdom of the lines you have studied.

Practice 2

The following practices can be used: SWAN meditation, Review of the Day (recollecting the events of the day), keeping a spiritual diary, antar mouna, meditation.

Outcome

Being established in wisdom, jnana, understanding.

SANTOSHA

Santosha means contentment, the feeling of fulfilment. It is one of the most difficult niyamas to apply. Santosha means to be happy with what we are, where we are, and what we have. Santosha is letting go of desires.

Discontentment means that you are always unhappy no matter what you do. You are always discontent either with yourself, other people, society or the world. There is a Russian saying: ‘Everywhere is good where I am not’.

The mind is restless because of greed, wants, desires. ‘Greed is a firethat consumes a man slowly, and contentment is a powerful means of extinguishing it.’

Vedanta teaches that there are four guards to the domain of liberation: peace, contentment, satsang and self-enquiry. In India you can see a beggar in the streets hungry and unwell but his attitude is: ‘This is God’s plan for me today, I didn’t have any food. I hope tomorrow will be different’.

Whenever you findyourself in unpleasant circumstances, findsomething positive and uplifting and do not complain. There is an old Sufi saying: ‘Either you complain or you want God. If you want God you do not complain.’

If you can be where you are and accept things as they are, in that personal adjustment with the environment, with the conditions, states, different forms of behaviour, mentalities, attitudes and actions, you experience a deep feeling of santosha. It is acceptance of life as it is. It is also one of the practices of bhakti yoga, according to the nine stages described by Sri Rama.

In santosha, raja and bhakti yoga interlink. When you truly surrender to the will of God as in bhakti yoga, you no longer hanker for your own choices in life and you are content with whatever God chooses for you. Every complaint would be a denial of God’s existence and presence in your life, and a bhakta will never do that.

Practice

Do not judge the outer circumstances. Do not complain. Accept. Practise santosha especially while doing karma yoga.

Outcome

Peace and happiness.

—Swami Omgyanam, Serbia