|Year : 2015 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 14-19
Concept of contentment in various literatures
Sahukar Madhura, Pailoor Subramanya
Department of Yoga and Life Sciences, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
|Date of Web Publication
Anavatti - 577 413, Shimoga, Karnataka
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
The modern society has given us options and choices. More we have, more dissatisfied we are! Dissatisfaction brings nothing but unhappiness. The contented man is pleased with what he has. Such contentment breeds happiness and is worth cultivating. Various spiritual and yogic literatures explain the importance of being satisfied, with what to be satisfied and how to achieve satisfaction. This study unveils how our ancient time people were contented despite of the distractions from external world. The study explored Bhagavad Geeta, chanakya nīti, Samayocitapadyaratnamālikā (subhaṣita), śrī caitanya caritāmṛta, dhammapāda, Dīgha Nikāya, Nārada bhakti sutra, Patanjali Yoga Sutra, Yoga Vasistha, and Upanishads. This study answers what is satisfaction? How one can be satisfied? With what one should be satisfied? And why one should be satisfied? Satisfaction is the greatest wealth and highest happiness. It brings effortless concentration and removes obstacles in the path of Yoga. One who is satisfied is dear to God. As long as one is not satisfied in the self, he will be subjected to sorrow. With the rise of contentment the purity of one's heart blooms. The contented man who possesses nothing owns the world. This study is unveils how our ancient time people were contented despite of the distractions from external world. It is worth to be discriminative of what we should be contented with and what not.
Keywords: Contentment, happiness, satisfaction, satisfaction ancient times
|How to cite this article:
Madhura S, Subramanya P. Concept of contentment in various literatures
. Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol 2015;3:14-9
Who does not want happiness? In the modern world in spite of all commodities and luxuries, people are unhappy. Though satisfaction bringing happiness, people are in a dilemma whether to settle for the less than they deserve or settle for the second best when they deserve the first best. Such confusions lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. This study explored various literatures to answer "what is satisfaction? How one can be satisfied? With what one should be satisfied? And why one should be satisfied?"
Sanskrit equivalent words for contentment are तृप्ति (tṛpti), तुष्ट (tuṣṭa)(being satisfied), संतुष्ट (saṁtuṣṭa), तुश्टि (tuśṭi), तोष (toṣa) (derived from root तुष् tuṣ), परितोष (paritoṣa), संतोष (saṁtoṣa), प्रीति (prīti), नन्द (nanda), राधन (rādhana), समहित प्रसन्न (samhita prasanna, adjective), प्रसन्न (prasanna). In Pali language contentment is सन्तुत्थि (santuṭṭhi).
DhammaPada is a collection of Buddha's sayings. DhammaPada defines contentment and explains benefits of being satisfied. , Contentment is the ability to be happy and fulfilled in one's present state. That means content with anything that is available.
अत्थम्हि जातम्हि सुख सहाया तुत्थि सुखा य इतरितरेन
पुण्णम् सुखम् जिवितसन्खयम्हि सब्बस्स दुक्खस्स सुखम् पहानम्| Dhammapada Verse ३३१|
atthamhi jātamhi sukha sahāyā tutthi sukhā ya itaritarena
puṇṇam sukham jivitasankhayamhi sabbassa dukkhassa sukham pahānam | Dhammapada Verse 331|
Meaning: It is good to have friends when the need arises; it is good to be content with anything that is available; it is good to have merit when life is about to end; it is good to be rid of all dukkha.
Contentment is the greatest wealth and brings effortless concentration. The Buddha describes the monk's contentment as "He is satisfied with a robe to cover his body and alms food to satisfy his stomach and having accepted no more than is sufficient he goes his way, just as bird flies here and there taking with it no more than its wings." The Buddha also distinguished between worldly happiness which is dependent on sensuality, and spiritual happiness which is derived from being virtuous and gradually freeing the mind (Dhammapada 290). Happiness has an important role in meditation in that it assists in the development of a stable and effortless concentration. The Buddha said: "The mind that is happy becomes concentrated." (sukhino cittaṃ samādhiyati, Dīgha Nikāya 73).
आरोग्यपरमा लाभा सन्तुत्थिपरमम् धनम्
विस्सासपरमा नाति निब्बानम् परमम् सुखम् | Dhammapada Verse 204|
ārogyaparamā lābhā santutthiparamam dhanam
vissāsaparamā nāti nibbānam paramam sukham | Dhammapada Verse 204|
Meaning: Health is the greatest gift, contentment is the greatest wealth, a trusted friend is the best relative, Nibbana is the greatest bliss.
Buddha explains how one should be satisfied with the understanding of the nature of worldly pleasures. The lust can never satisfy rather brings momentary pleasure which leads to pain. The wise understands this temporary characteristic and even in heavenly pleasures he finds no satisfaction. The disciple who is fully awakened delights only in the destruction of all desires. If giving up small worldly pleasures results in great happiness to be found, the wise should give up small pleasures seeing (the prospect of) great happiness.
न कहापण वस्सेन तित्ति कामेसु विज्जति
अप्पस्सादा दुखा कामा इति विन्नय पंडितो।DhammaPada 186|
na kahāpaṇa vassena titti kāmesu vijjati
appassādā dukhā kāmā iti vinnaya paṁḍito | DhammaPada 186|
आपि दिब्बेसु कामेसु रतिम् सो नाधिगच्चति
तन्हक्खयरतो होति सम्मासम्बुद्धसावको |DhammaPada 187|
āpi dibbesu kāmesu ratim so nādhigaccati
tanhakkhayarato hoti sammāsambuddhasāvako | DhammaPada 187|
Meaning: Not by a shower of coins can sensual desires be satiated; sensual desires give little pleasure and are fraught with evil consequences (dukkha). Knowing this, the wise man, who is the disciple of the Buddha, does not find delight even in the pleasures of the devas but rejoices in the cessation of craving (i.e. Nibbana).
मत्ता सुखपरिच्चागा पस्से चे विपुलम् सुखम्
चजे मत्तासुखिर्ह् धीरो सम्पस्सम् विपुलम् सुखम् ।DhammaPada २९०|
mattā sukhapariccāgā passe ce vipulam sukham
caje mattāsukhirh dhīro sampassam vipulam sukham | DhammaPada 290|
If by giving up small pleasures great happiness is to be found, the wise should give up small pleasures seeing (the prospect of) great happiness.
| Narada bhakthi sutra
Those who get Bhakthi become perfect and become completely satiated and no other sense object is in his thoughts.  The satiation of a devotee and that of an ordinary person have completely different meaning. An ordinary person is satiated when his worldly desire is fulfilled. But he does not feel complete. Now desires rise in their mind as soon as the old ones are fulfilled. The desires are insatiable. All the objects without are not of much use in satisfying one's desires. So long one does not realizes the ultimate satisfaction, which can only come by being steady in one self that is no external object remains necessary to satisfy ones desire.
यल्लब्ध्वा पुमान् सिध्हो भवति, आमृतो भवति, तृप्तो भवति।NBS ४।
yallabdhvā pumān sidhho bhavati āmṛto bhavati tṛipto bhavati | Nārada bhakti sutra (NBS) 4|
Meaning: Getting which man becomes perfect, immortal, and satisfied forever.
| Yoga vasista
Contentment is to renounce all craving for what is not obtained unsought and to be satisfied with what comes unsought, without being elated or depressed even by them. Vasista says contentment is the supreme gain and is one of the gate keepers to liberation. 
संतोषः परमो लाभः सत्संगः परमा गतिः
विचारः परमम् ज्ञानम् शमो हि परमं सुखं। योग वसिष्ठ १६/१९।
saṁtoṣaḥ paramo lābhaḥ satsaṁgaḥ paramā gatiḥ
vicāraḥ paramam jρānam śamo hi paramaṁ sukhaṁ | yoga vasiṣṭha 16/19|
Meaning: Contentment is the supreme gain. Satsanga is the best companion to the destination. The spirit of enquiry itself is the greatest wisdom. And self-control is supreme happiness.
मोक्षद्वारे द्वारपालाश् चत्वारः परिकीर्तिताः
शमो विचरः सन्तोषश् चतुर्थः साधुसंगमः।योग वसिष्ठ ५९।
mokṣadvāre dvārapālāś catvāraḥ parikīrtitāḥ
śamo vicaraḥ santoṣaś caturthaḥ sādhusaṁgamaḥ |yoga vasiṣṭha 59|
Meaning: Vasiṣṭha says that the four sentinels posted at the gate of Moksha are śama (quiescence of mind or sweet patience), Vichara (the enquiry after Atman), Santosha (contentment of mind), and Sadhu-Sanga (association with the wise) and will have to be befriended by one wishing to attain Moksha.
Contentment is another gate-keeper to liberation. He who has quaffed the nectar of contentment does not relish craving for sense-pleasures; no delight in this world is as sweet as contentment which destroys all sins.
| Bhagvad geetha
Bhagvad Geetha  highlights the importance of satisfaction and ways of being satisfied. Lord Krishna says the state of happiness (satisfaction) which is irrespective of material existence leads to effortless concentration. One who is always contented is his beloved.
प्रसादे सर्वदुःखानाम् हानिरस्योपजायते
प्रसन्नचेतसो ह्याशु बुद्धिः पर्यवतिष्ठते |BG 2.65|
prasāde sarvaduḥkhānām hānirasyopajāyate
prasanna cetaso hyāśu buddhiḥ paryavatiṣṭhate | BG 2.65|
Meaning: One who is so situated in the Divine consciousness, the threefold miseries of material existence exist no longer; in such a happy state, one's intelligence soon becomes steady.
सन्तुष्टः सततं योगि यतात्मा दृढनिस्चयः।
मय्यर्पितमनोबुद्धिर्यो मद्भक्तः स मे प्रियः॥BG १२.१४॥
santuṣṭaḥ satataṁ yogi yatātmā dṛḍhaniscayaḥ |
mayyarpitamanobuddhiryo madbhaktaḥ sa me priyaḥ ||BG 12.14||
Meaning: Always contented, self-centered, self-controlled, resolute, with mind and reason dedicated to me, such a devotee of mine is my beloved.
According to Bhagvad Geetha, type of food has an impact on satisfaction. Satvik food, which is juicy, ghee mixed, wholesome, and pleasing to the heart, increases satisfaction. Whereas, Rajasic foods, which are bitter, sour, saline, excessively hot, dry, pungent and burning, increase pain, grief and disease.
रस्याः स्निग्धाः स्थिरा ह्रुद्या आहाराः सात्विकप्रियाः |BG 17.8|
rasyāḥ snigdhāḥ sthirā hrudyā āhārāḥ sātvikapriyāḥ |BG 17.8|
Meaning: Foods dear to those in the mode of goodness (satvik) increase the duration of life, purify one's existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such foods are juicy, fatty, wholesome, and pleasing to the heart.
आहारा राजसस्येष्ता दुःखशोकामयप्रदाः |BG 17.9|
āahārā rājasasyeṣtā duḥkhaśokāmayapradāḥ |BG 17.9|
Meaning: The foods that are bitter, sour, saline, excessively hot, dry, pungent and burning, are liked by the Rajasic and are productive of pain, grief and disease.
One can achieve satisfaction through Bhakthi (devotion), Karma (Action) or through Jnana (wisdom). Through Bhakthi Yoga - pure devotees derive greater satisfaction by dwelling their thoughts in Krishna (God) and surrendering their life to God.
मच्चित्ता मद्गतप्राणाः बोधयन्तः परस्परम्
कथयन्तश्च मं नित्यं तुष्यन्ति च रमन्ति च|BG 10.9|
maccittā madgataprāṇāḥ bodhayantaḥ parasparam
kathayantaśca maṁ nityaṁ tuṣyanti ca ramanti ca | BG 10.9|
Meaning: The thoughts of my pure devotees dwell in me, their lives are surrendered to me, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss enlightening one another and conversing about me.
Though Actions (Karma Yoga) - Lord Krishna says when one performs an action and assigned duties unattached, leaving results to God is always satisfied.
त्यक्त्वा कर्मफलासन्गं नित्यतृप्तो निराश्रयः
कर्मण्यभिप्रवृत्तो पि नैव किंचित्करोति सः |BG ४.२० |
tyaktvā karmaphalāsangaṁ nityatṛpto nirāśrayaḥ
karmaṇyabhipravṛtto pi naiva kiṁcitkaroti saḥ |BG 4.20|
Meaning: Abandoning all attachment to the results of his activities, ever satisfied and independent, he performs no fruitive action, although engaged in all kinds of undertakings.
Through Wisdom (Jnana Yoga) - Wise man gives up sensual desires which arise from the mind and focus on the pure state of self. Lord Krishna says being a Wise Person one's mind finds satisfaction in self.
प्रजहाति यदा कामन् सर्वान् पार्थ मनोगतान्
अत्मन्येवात्मना तुष्टः स्थितप्रज्नस्तदोच्यते ।BG २.५५।
prajahāti yadā kāman sarvān pārtha manogatān
atmanyevātmanā tuṣṭaḥ sthitaprajnastadocyate | BG 2.55|
The Lord said: O Partha, when a man gives up all varieties of sense desire which arise from mental concoction, and when his mind finds satisfaction in the self alone, then he is said to be in pure transcendental consciousness.
| Patanjali yoga sutra
Patanjali Yoga Sutra (PYS)  claims contentment brings unexcelled happiness and mental comfort.
सन्तोषादनुत्तमसुखलाभः। PYS २.४२।
santoṣādanuttamasukhalābhaḥ |PYS 2.42|
Meaning: From an attitude of contentment (santosha), unexcelled happiness and mental comfort is obtained.
Contentment removes obstacles in the path of self-realization. Contentment is one of the Niyamas (rules). Niyamas are the second rung on the ladder of Yoga. It is impossible for one who is dissatisfied with oneself or with anything else in life to realize the higher consciousness. Dissatisfaction is one of the great veils of avidya and should be removed. It causes many undesirable complexes and brings about a state of psychic illness, and if the mind is ill, no sadhana is possible. One who wants to attain self-realization must practice yama and niyama. To remove defilements, one must practice santosha (contentment). As a result, one can go deeper in meditation.
शौचसन्तोषतपस्वाध्याय ईश्वरप्राणिधाननि नियमः ।PYS २.३२।
śaucasantoṣatapasvādhyāya īśvaraprāṇidhānani niyamaḥ |PYS 2.32|
Meaning: Cleanliness (shaucha), an attitude of contentment (santosha), mortification (tapas), self-study and reflection on sacred words (svadhyaya), and devotion to the Supreme Lord (ishvarapranidhana) are the observances or practices of self-training (niyamas).
Great thinker Chanakya's collection of aphorisms from the various Shastras agrees there is no happiness better than satisfaction. 
नतृष्णायाःपरोव्याधिर्न च धर्मोदयापरः | चाणुक्यनीति |
natṛṣṇāyāḥparovyādhirna ca dharmodayāparaḥ |Cāṇukyanīti|
Meaning: There is no penance better than peace, no happiness better than satisfaction; there is no disease worse than greed, and no better dharma than kindness.
| SAMAYOCITA PADYARATNAMĀLIKĀ (SUBHASHITA)
According to Subhashita,  one should be happy and contented about his spouse, the food he gets to eat and the wealth he possess. But contentment should not have any place when it comes to learning, meditating or giving.
त्रिषुचैवनकर्तव्योध्ययनेजपदानयोः। समयोचितपद्यरत्नमालिका |
triṣucaivanakartavyoadhyayanejapadānayoḥ |samayocitapadyaratnamālikā |
Meaning: There should have satisfaction in 3 (aspects) - wife, food, money. There should be no satisfaction in 3 (others) - learning, meditating, giving.
Wife, food and money are toward sensual pleasure. Dissatisfaction in these, leads to unrest and constant agitation toward acquiring something more or someone better! These are temporary which leads to misery according to Bhagvad geetha. Whereas learning, meditating and giving takes one in the good path toward a meaningful life and one should never get satisfied or stop them.
| ŚRĪ CAITANYA CARITĀMṚTA
Chaitanya Charitamrita Antya, which is the final section of biographies of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, explains the quantity of food has an impact on satisfaction. Eating more than necessary cause dissatisfaction and one should eat moderately.
शिवानन्देर गौरवे प्रभु करिलाभोजन
अति-गुरु-भोजनेप्रभुरप्रसन्ननहेमन ।श्री चैतन्य चरितामृत अन्त्य 10.147|
śivānandera gaurave prabhu karilābhojana
ati-guru-bhojaneprabhuraprasannanahemana |śrī caitanya caritāmṛta antya 10.47|
Meaning: Because of śivānandaSena's glories, śrīCaitanyaMahāprabhu ate all kinds of prasādam to honor his request. However, the Lord ate more than necessary, and, therefore, his mind was dissatisfied.
| Stories from upanishad and bhagavata purana
In Kathopanishad,  Nachiketa was one who desired Knowledge for even many pleasures could not tempt him away. Nachiketha chooses the path of knowledge explaining the ephemeral nature of pleasure when Yama offers him a boon of material gains. Nachiketha replied that materialistic things endure only till tomorrow. Furthermore, they exhaust the vigor of all the sense organs. Even the longest life is short indeed. Wealth can never make a man happy.
In Bhagavata Purana, Yayati declared after a 100 years of enjoyment: "Wants have no limit; when one is satisfied, another one comes up, and then a third one, and so on." Thus, no wealth of the world can keep anybody content.
स्वोभव मर्त्यस्य यदन्तकैतत् सर्वेंद्रियाणां जरयंति तेजः।
अपि सर्वं जीवितमल्पमेव तवैव वाहास्तव नृत्यगी।कथा उपनिशद् २६।
svobhava martyasya yadantakaitat sarveṁdriyāṇāṁ jarayaṁti
tejaḥ | api sarvaṁ jīvitamalpameva tavaiva vāhāstava nṛtyagī |kathā upaniśad 26|
Meaning: Nachiketa said: But, O Death, these endure only till tomorrow. Furthermore, they exhaust the vigour of all the sense organs. Even the longest life is short indeed. Keep your horses, dances and songs for yourself.
न वित्तेन तर्पणीयो मनुष्यो लप्स्यामहे वित्तमद्राक्ष्मचेत्त्वा।
जीविष्यामो यावदीशिष्यसि त्वं वरस्तु मे वरणीयः स एव॥कथा उपनिषत् २७।
na vittena tarpaṇīyo manuṣyo lapsyāmahe vittamadrākṣmacettvā |
jīviṣyāmo yāvadīśiṣyasi tvaṁ varastu me varaṇīyaḥ sa eva ||kathā upaniṣat 27|
Meaning: Wealth can never make a man happy. Moreover, since I have beheld you, I shall certainly obtain wealth; I shall also live as long as you rule. Therefore, no boon will be accepted by me but the one that I have asked.
Satisfaction is the greatest wealth and highest happiness. It brings effortless concentration and removes obstacles in the path of Yoga. One who is satisfied is dear to God. As long as one is not satisfied in the self, he will be subjected to sorrow. With the rise of contentment the purity of one's heart blooms. The contented man who possesses nothing owns the world. Discontent or dissatisfaction brings nothing but unhappiness. This study is to explore how one can be satisfied? With what one should be satisfied? And why one should be satisfied? The study explored various texts Bhagavad Geeta, chanukya nīti, Samayocitapadyaratnamālikā (subhaṣita), śrī caitanya caritāmṛta, dhammapāda (Budhdhism), Dīgha Nikāya (Budhdhism), NBS, PYS, and Yoga Vasista.
Contentment is the ability to be happy and fulfilled in one's present state which means being contented with anything that is available. Though it sounds simple, it brings several benefits. The scripts claim Satisfaction is the greatest wealth to possess. It is unexcelled happiness. It brings effortless concentration. One who is contented is beloved to the God. Other scripture says Contentment is the gate keeper to liberation.
In scripts there is clarity on which one should be satisfied and with which one should not. One should be satisfied with wife, food, and money. There should be no satisfaction in learning, meditating and giving.
Worldly happiness is dependent on sensuality and spiritual happiness is derived from being virtuous and gradually freeing the mind. Satisfaction from sensual pleasure can only lead to misery as it generates craving. Interestingly type and quality of the food we intake has impact on satisfaction.
As per literature, one can acquire satisfaction through Bhakthi or through detached actions (Karma Yoga) or through Jnana Yoga by giving up sensual pleasures and understanding the nature of worldly pleasure. Kathopanishad narrates the importance of satisfaction through the example of Nachiketa. Nachiketas says that all the sensual pleasures are ephemeral. They wear out our senses; we become feeble and old after their enjoyment. Even longest life is nothing before eternity; and all the happiness because it has a beginning shall have an end also.
The modern society has given us options and choices. More we have more dissatisfied we are! This study is an attempt to unveil how our ancient time people were contented despite of the distractions from external world. It is worth to be discriminative of what we should be contented with and what not.
Budhdharakkhita Acharya. Translated from Pali the Dhammapada: The Budhdha's Path of Wisdom: Budhdhist Publication Society Sri Lanka; 1985. Available from: http://www.buddhanet.net. [Last accessed on 2014 Nov 11].
Müller M, Fausböll M. Sacred Books of the East - The Dhammapada and Sutta Nipata. Vol. 10. The Clarendon Press; 1881.
Swami H. Devarshi Narada Bhakthi Sutragalu - Kannada Version. 2 nd
Reprint. Mysore, India: Sri Rama Krishna Ashram; 2000.
Swami V. The Supreme Yoga - Yoga Vasista. Reprint. Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited; 2010.
Prabhupada AC. Bhagavad-Gîtâ as It Is. 2nd
ed. 35 th
Printing. Mumbai, India: The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust; 2009.
Swami Â. Patanjala Yogadarashana. 5th
Reprint. Mysore, India: Sri Rama Krishna Ashram; 2008.
Sharma AV. Sampurna Chanakya Neeti. Delhi, India: Manoj Publications; 2004.
Chakravarthy GN. Samskruta - Kannada Nigantu. Revised 2 nd
edition. Mysore, India: Geetha Book House; 2009.
Swami Ṣ. Upaniea Bhâvadhâre. 9th
Reprint. Mysore, India: Sri Rama Krishna Ashram; 2011.