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Santosha -- Contentment

Contentment doesn't depend on outward circumstances. The more people anticipate it in future, less ability they have to enjoy it fully in present.
PTI | By Swami Kriyananda
UPDATED ON APR 23, 2004 05:34 PM IST

Swami Kriyananda is a direct disciple since 1948 of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi. He is the founder of Ananda Sangha, and of seven Ananda communities in America and Europe. Now 78, he has moved to India to make his Guru’s teachings known in the land of his birth: to teach the liberating meditation technique of Kriya Yoga, and to establish communities where householders and renunciates alike can seek God in the company of fellow devotees.

Santosha (contentment) is described in the Scriptures as the "supreme virtue." Many people, when they hear it described as a virtue at all, are puzzled. To them, contentment seems, if anything, the fruit of virtue rather than a virtue in its own right. If a person lives a good life, it may be assumed that he'll achieve a corresponding measure of contentment. To think of contentment as itself a virtue, however, may seem like "putting the cart before the horse."

People who make this mistake are confusing virtue with passivity. Many seem to think that, if a person is good, it simply means he hasn't the energy to be bad! Maya, or delusion, is a wonderful trickster. Deluding people with the false idea that contentment can come only after one has fulfilled a desire, maya puts them in a frame of mind where contentment becomes, for them, a virtual impossibility! For their constant expectation is of something to be achieved in the future. In this manner they push contentment forever before them like a wheelbarrow.

Contentment is, in fact, a state of mind. It must be actively practiced, not anticipated for some future time.

Is it possible to be contented under all circumstances? Indeed yes! Contentment must be a deliberately assumed mental attitude; it doesn't depend on outward circumstances, and in fact the more people anticipate it in the future, the less ability they have to enjoy it fully in the present.

I remember many years ago, in Mexico, being driven down to the charming little town of Taxco in the company of two wealthy men from north of the border. I was the guest of an employee of theirs whom they'd brought to Mexico to start a factory. It surprised me how urgent they were to reach Taxco -- dashing madly through the most beautiful, peaceful countryside. Once they'd reached there, they couldn't wait to get back to Mexico City. I decided to stay on in Taxco, but what an irony, I thought, to be so rich and so incapable of contentment when it seemed to be staring them in the face! It was only much later that I realized this simple truth: Contentment is ours already, if we will only live with contentment! And discontentment is ours also, if we insist on waiting for contentment to appear sometime in our future.

Swami Kriyananda's programme appears at 2200 hours IST on the Sadhna Channel. (For more, visitwww.anandaindia.org)

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