1. What is Santosha?
2. Manifestation of maya in our life
3. How does ignorance give rise to karma?
4. How can the principles of Yoga help us in achieving Santosha?
5. Specific Practices for Finding Santosha
6. Planting the Seeds of Good Karma by Practicing Santosha
7. Santosha’s place in the Patanjali system
Everyone wants to be happy, live in harmony with themselves and the world around them, engage in self-development and creativity, do what they love and earn decent money. Also, of course, everyone has their own cherished dreams, global goals, plans for the year and for future vacations. We want to reach the desired point in the near future, where everything is fine, our dreams are fulfilled, there are no problems, and we are enjoying the well-deserved fruits of our efforts. But does this point really exist on the life line? Is our much-desired happiness really in the future, or maybe this state does not depend on time and can be with us at every moment of life? Yoga will help to answer this question.
Follow the Santosha Principle
According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the primary sources of ancient knowledge, one must follow certain precepts in order to advance on the path of Yoga. One of these recommendations is to follow The Santosha Principle. This term is included in the concept of “niyama”, which is the second limb of the eightfold path of Patanjali and means “calming, saturation, contentment”¹. The sutras say: “[There is a possibility to achieve] Unsurpassed happiness because of contentness”².
Understanding and practical observance of this principle may elude us for various reasons. Sometimes, in our desperate pursuit of our goal, we forget about the present, that there is a wonderful life right now in every moment. It seems to us that we need to do a little more of something, and then happiness and joy will come. There is not much left for us to be happy, we need to be patient, work and suffer, and then we can finally relax, enjoy life and the results of our labors. Or vice versa, we are so tired of this race that we have no strength to run further, all our dreams seem distant and unrealizable, we give up, we are disappointed, and along with this, there is dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. This is how Maya manifests itself.
Nature of Maya
Maya is a Sanskrit term (translated as “illusion”), in the Indian religious and philosophical tradition – “a special force… hiding the true nature of the world, but at the same time helping the world to manifest itself in all its diversity”³. Maya creates an illusion and does not allow us to see the true reality.
According to the Axiomatics of Yoga, the higher “Self” is outside of space and time. The true nature of a person is indistinguishable from the nature of the Absolute, and the higher “Self” of each being manifests itself in this world and at the same time is outside it, where there are no concepts of space and time. “Since the spirit in its nature is not limited by time or space, it is infinite, all-pervading and full of itself”⁴. From the point of view of our higher “Self”, the concepts of “past” and “future” are only a convention and do not exist in the absolute sense of the word. Inside space and time, there are only manifestations of the higher “Self”, that is, our bodies.
It is possible to act in the most effective way in the present only considering that now, right at this second, every point of the Universe is harmonious and enlightened, since this is the natural state of the higher Self. But we do not feel this state of harmony and all-consuming happiness because of the veil of maya, although right now we have everything to experience happiness and joy.
The result of the action of maya is ignorance, and it gives rise to karma. Karma is the law of cause and effect, which says that every cause has its effect and every effect has its cause. Each action generates the seeds of karma, which we carry in the form of imprints on our bodies: physical, subtle and causal. If a person puts his hand into the fire, he will get a burn on the hand. This is a clear manifestation of the operation of the law of karma on the physical level. Imprints on a subtle and causal level are not so obvious, they cannot be felt, but they have a direct impact on us and our perception of the world. For example, we can experience certain emotions in connection with a previous negative experience, and pull this experience, as if on a string, with us into the future, transferring it to the events of the current life moment. Hence, there are misconceptions about many situations and phenomena in our lives, because of which we can commit wrong, inappropriate actions.
Yoga principles and the achievement of Santosha
According to the philosophy of the Open Yoga school, we should observe the First Principle of Yoga – do not harm anyone unless absolutely necessary, and the Second Principle of Yoga – try to be as efficient as possible in achieving our goals. Therefore, in order to productively implement the Second Principle of Yoga in our lives and achieve our goals, the best option would be to accept the fact that right now we have everything we need to be happy.
When we are in harmony with ourselves and are satisfied with what we have at the moment, we have no torment about what it could be, no regrets, no empty fantasies or dissatisfaction with the surrounding reality. We have absolutely everything so that we can achieve any goals. If we draw up a plan for their implementation and systematically move along the chosen path, taking the first step towards our dream, the Universe will definitely take a thousand steps towards us!
The practice of the First Principle of Yoga – not harming others by thought, word or deed – allows us not to create conditions for the unfolding of our negative karma in the future, which means it creates better conditions for us. We make decisions more calmly and balanced, our mind does not jump like a wild monkey, we perceive everything more clearly, and santosha is realized automatically.
Practices for Finding Santosha
Our thoughts are always trying to either carry us into the future or cling to the patterns of the past. It is much more important to be “here and now” and act from a sense of the present moment. Of course, it is not easy. First, we need to learn to observe ourselves, our sensations and manifestations. Yoga practice will help us find harmony with ourselves and feel the present moment:
- Concentration on breathing. We inhale, the lungs fill with air – this is how everything necessary for us enters our life. We exhale, and everything old, inappropriate and superfluous leaves with it. Being in the present moment, we can feel how all the life processes in our body are attuned to the pulsation of the Universe. Thus, we learn to catch the harmony of the present moment and feel it in life.
- Rita yoga, or dance yoga, when we move in the rhythm of the Universe, listening to it and tuning in to its waves. Rita yoga helps us directly feel the movement of the world around us and move freely at our pleasure, enjoying the harmony of the present moment.
- Meditation on the Central Channel or Sushumna. This is the main energy channel, goes through the base of the spine, running parallel to it and goes out through the top of the head. There is no space or time in this channel; it is completely straight and empty inside. Any action or thought directed to the Central Channel will respond in the body with happiness and joy. Thus, by practicing this meditation, we come closer to realizing our Higher Self.
- Bhakti yoga. This type of yoga teaches us the perception of beauty in every movement and manifestation of life. For example, we can observe the movement of clouds across the sky and at some point become so immersed in the process that the very process of thinking disappears. We will become these clouds flying through the deep sunset sky. We don’t need anything at this very moment. We are completely satisfied with what is happening around us. And we are happy. This is santosha – contentment with what you have and where you are.
Planting the Seeds of Good Karma by Practicing Santosha
Any events in our life directly depend on us. We are the creators of our reality and are fully responsible for what happens to us. Therefore, if we have chosen to follow the path of self-development, it is always important to remember the principles of Yoga and follow them, and even under adverse circumstances and unfolding negative karma, do not let it drag us into even more difficult life situations. It is important to remember that every step affects our future. Don’t worry about the karma we haven’t formed yet, or the one that’s already unfolding now, what matters is what seeds we’re planting for our future! “Thoughts of violence… arising from greed, anger [or] delusion… [have their] innumerable fruits of suffering and lack of knowledge…”⁵
It is also important to remember that if we honestly do everything that depends on us, then the other part of the work that does not depend on us, we can entrust the Universe with full confidence for a favorable outcome. We will be many times more effective if we concentrate all our efforts on what is in our power and if we do not unnecessarily wind ourselves up with thoughts about the possible future or worry about the past.
Understanding that absolutely everything is in our hands helps us move confidently through life. Each small step towards our goals will expand our freedom, and new opportunities will appear in our lives with it. Following the Santosha principle, we act with a different motivation: it is no longer a long run for fantasies of castles in the air in the distant future, but a measured movement towards our goals. At the same time, we enjoy both the process and the results of our actions.
From Patanjali’s point of view, in order to achieve the state of chitta vritti nirodha – stopping thought forms on the surface of the mind – it is necessary to adhere to the santosha principle, which is the key to a calm joyful mind. This state allows you to successfully practice the following steps: dharana, dhyana and samadhi, since attention will be less distracted by doubts and suffering. “With the similarity of the purity of sattva and Purusha [there is] an absolute isolation”⁶.
Following santosha gives us the opportunity to work with deep associative connections, calm down and accept the present moment as it is, without having the desire to correct anything, that is, to accept ourselves with all the advantages and disadvantages.
Guided by the concept of santosha, we go through life with content and enjoying every moment. This is how we approach the possibility of overcoming our ignorance and illusions about ourselves and the world around us. The future scenario of our life has not yet been written, but with our inappropriate thoughts we prevent the manifestation of the better reality that is prepared for us.
Take any actions aimed at achieving what you want, but remember the principles of Yoga and enjoy life right NOW!
¹V.A. Korchegina // Sanskrit-Russian Dictionary, edited by V.I. Kalyanov / 2nd ed., rev. and add.- M.: Publishing house Russkiy yazic, 1987, 944 p.
² Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Sutra 2.42 / Classical Yoga (“Yoga Sutras” of Patanjali and “Vyasa Bhashya”). Translated from Sanskrit, introduction, comments and reconstruction of the system by E.P. Ostrovskaya and V.I. Rudogo. – M.: Nauka, 1992. – 142 p.
³Isaeva N.V. Maya // New Philosophical Encyclopedia / Institute of Philosophy RAS; – 2nd ed., Rev. and additional – M.: Mysl’, 2010.
⁴1.54 Shiva Samhita
⁵Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Sutra 2.34 / Classical Yoga (“Yoga Sutras” of Patanjali and “Vyasa Bhashya”). Translated from Sanskrit, introduction, comments and reconstruction of the system by E.P. Ostrovskaya and V.I. Rudogo. – M.: Nauka, 1992. – 139 p.
⁶«Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Sutra 3.55 / Classical Yoga (“Yoga Sutras” of Patanjali and “Vyasa Bhashya”). Translated from Sanskrit, introduction, comments and reconstruction of the system by E.P. Ostrovskaya and V.I. Rudogo. – M.: Nauka, 1992. – 181 p.
Article author: Vereneya
Author of the drawing: Vereneya
Editing: Evgenia Agni, Maria Gayatri, Elena Lakshmi, Nasogma, Inna Shakti
Editor-in-Chief: Anastasia Andreichenko
Project curator: Kerigona
Translated by Avlaada, Elena Lakshmi