Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Santosha or contentment is an expression of a harmonious and balanced mind. One who does not desire or crave anything, one who is satisfied yet active and dynamic, is in a state of santosha. Often contentment is seen as a negation of effort and people say, “If I am content, it means that I don’t have to make any effort. I don’t have any desire, I don’t have to want anything, I don’t have to like anything; I just have to be satisfied with what I have.” That is wrong, as it goes against the principle of contentment. Contentment does not deny effort. Contentment emphasizes purushartha, the effort that one makes to become better. It is not just an action or performance of life, it is a continuous effort to become better each day.

Nobody makes that effort, and yet everyone wants to have the attainment. Contentment does not deny purushartha. It is an attitude, an awareness that “Yes, I am happy.” Just as one is aware of one’s suffering on a day-to-day basis, on a moment-to-moment basis, one has to be aware of one’s happiness on a day-to-day and moment-to-moment basis. If one has a fight with somebody, the whole day one will be aware of that person.

The whole day the thoughts about that person will go around and around in the head, about the awful things said and done. Just as one is aware of the pain and suffering constantly and continuously, can one make the effort to become aware of one’s happiness constantly and continuously? If one can do that, there is santosha and one is contented. Contentment is an awareness, an attitude.

When the aspirant identifies, maintains and sustains for extended periods of time, for as much as possible, the connection with internal happiness, and minimizes the experiences and projections of pain and suffering, that is contentment.

No fault finding

Santosha means finding contentment within and not finding fault with others. Both go hand in hand. Complete santosha is being contented and at peace. Many people are contented but not at peace. They are happy, yet still they try to find faults in other people or situations, believing that if they would change, they would become even more contented and happy. That is the ego principle again playing up: ‘I want more, this is not enough.’

One who does not struggle, or fight, who does not see any kind of fault in other people, but who lives and flows with life, is content. After all, who is at fault here? One is expressing oneself according to one’s level of evolution. Grass is small, trees are tall. Is it the fault of the grass that it is smaller than the tree? Is it the fault of the tree that it is taller than the grass? No. There is a natural law governing each and every being, each and every blade of grass, and everyone expresses themselves according to that natural law.

If there is acceptance of the natural law there will be no criticism. Of course, one has to strive to uphold the dharma because that is also a level of bhakti. Sri Krishna could have sat quietly and said, “Everyone is following their law, let the Pandavas do their thing, let the Kauravas do their thing.” He never criticized anyone He followed his dharma with happiness and contentment.