6 May 2539
เป็นตอนที่ 10 จาก 13 ตอนของ


Contentment (santosa or santuṭṭhi) is an important factor which supports the development of samādhi. In fact, it does not support merely samādhi but also all other practices of Dhamma, including our routine performance of duties.

Why do we practice contentment? A contented person finds happiness in the few things that he has; he is satisfied with whatever he has. On the other hand, a discontented person does not know happiness; he is not happy with what he already has. That means his happiness is based on what he has yet to possess. Therefore, he is never happy.

Happiness, however, is not the purpose of contentment. If we take happiness as the goal of contentment, we are again heading in the wrong direction as is possible in samādhi. Samādhi that does not move forward in the process of the Threefold Training leaves one indulging in happiness. In the same way, contentment which is satisfaction with what one has also leaves one indulging in happiness. So we enjoy the happiness and we do not have to do anything else since we are content. This is unacceptable. The practice is to keep progressing in the Threefold Training.

What is the role of contentment in the Threefold Training? We start by looking at the way it affects the next factor in the process. Happiness is simply an attendant benefit of contentment, a gift that comes in and of itself. When we are content we are happy. Contentment means satisfaction and it makes our mind calm, not agitated, not rigid. At this point, if we know how to use it, contentment can become a support in return. When we can become happy easily with the little that we have, our heart will be at peace and not tormented. We are ready to orient our heart into the process of our practice.

What effect does contentment have in the process of practice? Let us first look at someone who has no contentment. He who is not content seeks for happiness in what is not yet in his possession, so he is always on the search. He is therefore never happy. This will bring about the following consequences:

  1. Happiness through material goods is still not yet within his reach.
  2. He is always running after it:
    1. Time spent on the search for material consumption
    2. Physical energy wasted in the search
    3. Mental energy lost in thinking of ways to acquire material to enjoy

As such, the discontented person wastes time, physical and mental energies in trying to find happiness through material possessions. When he does not have enough time to spare, he takes it from his work hours. Sometimes he has to pay for his acquisitions. If he does not have enough money, he may be forced to get funds through dishonorable channels. With the money that he gets improperly, he looks for enjoyment. This surely is not a good thing to do. More importantly, when he is at work, his mind is not with his work; he is thinking of things to acquire. The fact that he has not found the happiness he seeks may affect his interest in his work. His work becomes some kind of suffering and torture to him. Samādhi is not developed. In the end, not only has he failed to find happiness, but at the same time, he has to work against his wishes, fighting with suffering and torture. Time, physical and mental energies are wasted in the pursuit of pleasures and material comfort. Everything is lost along the way for the man who is not content. Moreover, he may be lured into acting dishonorably.

On the other hand, a contented person knows he already has his material needs met. He does not have to waste time, physical and mental energies seeking happiness through material acquisitions. And precisely, these three precious items—time, physical and mental energies—are what we want to conserve. We want to use them for good causes. Lay people can use them in a meaningful way in their work and duty. Monks can apply them in the study, in the practice, and in the search for ways to perpetuate the Dhamma. Practitioners can devote themselves wholeheartedly to the cause of the Dhamma. We can carry out our work thoroughly and at the same time, we find happiness in doing our work and in performing our duty because we love our work. We like what we are doing. Our heart is set on wholesome deeds and we are satisfied in doing beneficial actions. We gain happiness through our work and are content with our material possessions. After all this, we still have time, physical and mental energies left to devote ourselves to wholesome causes. Everything turns out to be for the good.

One point that we need to remember is that contentment has the danger of not having a goal and thus may become a handicap—if we choose to rest here, it can sidetrack us in our practice. This happens when feeling content and happy, we may not want to do anything, we may only want to enjoy an easy life. Contentment as such leads to laziness, something that is not productive. Contentment as meant here has to pass along its effects in the process of the Threefold Training. As we have seen, when we are content in the right way, we are ready to perform good deeds because we have more time and energy at our disposal; and we use these to do beneficial works. As a result, we progress in our practice of the Threefold Training.

Here again we see how the main Dhamma components relate to one another. When the Buddha teaches contentment, he does not make it stand by itself. He shows us how the practice of contentment should be carried on. As is stated in the Fourfold Traditional Practice of the Noble Ones (ariyavaṁsa) for the monks:

  1. Bhikkhus have contentment as regards robes
  2. Bhikkhus have contentment as regards alms-food
  3. Bhikkhus have contentment as regards dwellings
  4. Bhikkhus delight in eliminating unwholesome qualities and in developing wholesome qualities

The first three attitudes support the last one. When the monks are content, they have more time and energy to practice the fourth point—such as the development of samādhi and insight, or to devote themselves to the study of scriptures for the perpetuation of the Dhamma.

When the Buddha does not team contentment with the development of wholesome qualities (kusaladhamma) and the elimination of unwholesome qualities (akusaladhamma), he teams it with effort. In any group of the Dhamma doctrines, wherever there is contentment, there is effort. This is a general rule because the two support each other. A person who is content is ready to practice diligently. The Buddha goes one step further—do not feel readily content with your good achievements. Our task is not finished; there is still more to do. This is a significant point that has to be kept in mind.

We should remember that the Buddha does not teach contentment only. Some people understand this in a narrow and obscure way. We have to be more analytic (vibhajjavāda). The Buddha teaches us to be content with what we possess, but not to be content in doing good. Because the Buddha was not content with the good already accomplished, he was able to attain Enlightenment. The Buddha himself said that he had realized the benefits of two qualities which he recommended to us:

  1. not being content with good achievements
  2. being unfaltering in effort

The Buddha explained to us what he meant by non-contentment and continuous effort: if the Buddha had been content, he would not have become enlightened. As cited above, the Buddha went to study with Master Āḷāra Kālāma and attained the seventh level of jhāna; and with Master Uddaka Rāmaputta, the eighth level of jhāna. If the Buddha had been content and satisfied with what he had achieved so far, he would have achieved simply samādhi and not the Enlightenment. But the Buddha was not content, not satisfied with merely good achievements. He was determined not to stop until he reached the goal. For this reason, he left the two masters to pursue his own spiritual search which led him to wisdom, to the realization of bodhi (the supreme knowledge) which is the ultimate goal—the Enlightenment.

To sum up, when we find contentment in our material possessions, we have more time and energies to devote ourselves to the cause of humanity. And when we do not rest, content with our progress, we can practice the Dhamma with unfaltering effort.

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