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सन्तोष Santosha

Posted by Julie Andres on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 Under: niyamas
This entry is about the second niyama, Santosha – contentment.
In my exploration of Santosha as an observance, my thoughts returned time and again to the words of my grandfather.
When Alejandro Andrés was in the latter phase of his of his life of 96 years, he would often tell me (with his still-thick Spanish accent): "I have lived through many challenges in my life, but now, in my old age, I can finally say that I am contented."
Yes, he had survived considerable challenges. He emigrated from Spain in his teen years and lived in Panama, Honduras, and Cuba before making his way alone to New York. He worked as a scenic artist in the silent film era in Hollywood, and later he supported my grandmother and two daughters as a graphic artist and lithographer through the difficulties of the depression. He lived thirty years beyond his initial diagnosis with cancer – a disease that did not spare the lives of his brother and two sisters. He even managed to survive his wife of over six decades by several years.
It's inevitable that I would think about Grandpa Alex's words as I consider the meaning of Santosha; I have thought about his message many, many times since his death in 1999. He told me that he was contented because he had no more expectations about how his life should be. He accepted it as it was, not as he had hoped or thought it should have turned out.
"Contentment is a kind of freedom," he told me. "I don't want anything anymore."
When contentment registers within me, and it does happen more often as I get on in years, it's almost always because I feel relatively unattached to the outcome of my actions. I'm experiencing the moment I'm in solely for what it is. Some describe this as dispassion, but it isn't really that at all. Contentment as I know it is imbued with love and spirit, with devotion and full-heartedness. And, most importantly, freedom from want, which is what my grandfather alluded to.
I recently read the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred yogic text written about 2,300 years ago. The 'Song of God' is presented in a simple question and answer format. The archer and warrior Arjuna feels torment at having to fight in face-to-face combat against his cousins in a tribal war. With poetic simplicity, Lord Krishna advises him that the paths of knowledge of reality, and skillful, detached action are the only things that can bring him peace.
Through the practice of meditation we train ourselves to notice and relinquish the mindless pursuit of achievement and acquisition, and when that takes place the soul is freed. Santosha is realized.
At the end of his life my grandfather saw the impermanence of all things. Through this - and quite unexpectedly, I suspect, because by then he was beyond expectations - he found the quiet peace of contentment.

In : niyamas 

Tags: yoga  yamas  niyamas  santosha  contentment  eight limbs  bhagavad gita  non-attachment 

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