Contentment: Does it elevate us or stop our Growth? Insights from Sankhya Karika

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Contentment is something that all of us seek. When one is at complete ease with oneself without having any feelings of dissatisfaction, we call it contentment. There is a certain acceptance of one’s own state of being. One feels that whatever one has gained so far is enough and there is nothing more that one needs to feel happy.

However, contentment can also limit our growth. What if we are contended and become aspiration less? What if the contentment is more of “these grapes are sour”  (recollect the fox and grapes story) thought? What if contentment is coming from an attitude of resignation? There is no way to figure this out on our own.

The Sankhya Karika highlights such contentments that can limit us from attaining higher states of being. Some of these also come from Vairagya and partly beneficial as well. The text calls it Nava Tushti or 9 contentments. Reading about this can reveal so much about our mind.

The Sankhya Karika talks of 4 internal and 5 external tushtis.

Prakriti: When the Sadhaka  reads about or listens to Gurus talk about Prakriti and how the whole universe is because of the moola Prakriti and everything is governed by it, he/she gets a feeling that “Viveka (discrimination) is nothing but another modification of that Prakriti. It is Prakriti who decides when that Viveka dawns and hence I personally do not need to practice meditation”. Just being satisfied with this thought is Prakriti Tushti.

Salila: When we think that “Viveka cannot be attained even by Prakriti because if Prakriti were to bring it, then everyone in the world would have got it because Prakriti functions in each one of us. The only way is to take to Sanyasa. Then where is the need to practice meditation?”. The Sadhaka becomes contended with Sanyasa and does not take any more effort. This is called Salila Tushti.

Kaala : When the Sadhaka thinks “Even if one has chosen Sanyasa, only time will grant Mukti”. Such a fatalistic attitude is called Kaala Tushti.

Bhagya or Vrishti : Thinking that “Neither Prakriti nor Time nor Sanyasa can give Mukti. It all happens only because of luck” is called Bhagya or Vristi Tushti. The Sadhaka also thinks of anecdotes of people attaining Mukti and attributes it to sheer luck. For example attributing the moksha of the children of Madalasa (who attained Mukti due to her instructions) to luck.

The external Tushtis are caused by a certain Vairagya and staying away from the activities of the senses.

Paara: When it is thought “How can one work under someone else.One cannot suffer under the hands of another.” Abstaining from acquiring wealth through other means and the contentment arising because engaging with the senses causes pain is called Para.

Supaaram: When wealth is acquired, one thinks of the various ways by which it can be destroyed: thieves, fire or floods. When one abstains from enjoyment thinking about such causes of pain it is called Supaaram.

Paaravaara: Constantly thinking that such wealth gained through lot of effort is wasted when enjoyed leads to a Tushti called Paaravaara.

Anuttamaambha: Thinking that “One can get addicted to enjoyment and one feels miserable if the objects of enjoyment are not available”. This leads to a certain abstinence from enjoyment and the contentment called Anuttamaamba.

Uttamaambha: Sometimes, we abstain from enjoyment by thinking of all the negative aspects of enjoyment like people deriving pleasure by killing animals. We feel contended with whatever we have and this is called Uttamaambha.

All of these are such relatable attitudes that we have. The guidance of a Guru becomes extremely relevant or important as there is no other way to figure things out by ourselves. Whether it is a settled contentment or a false notion, only the Guru will be able to resolve.