Santosha, the second niyama in the Raja Yoga system, means contentment. We also have a saying in the West that “Contentment is golden.” Why? Contentment is golden because it doesn’t depend on the things around you, the things that you have. Whenever I think of contentment I remember an old, poor rickshaw man in Madras, India by the beach. He taught me an unforgettable lesson.

The rickshaw pullers in India are the poorest people, in a way. During the day, a person who wants to go somewhere will sit in the cart and the rickshaw man just pulls the cart behind him as he runs in the street. One evening, I was walking around the beach and I saw a rickshaw man. As you know, these people don’t have nice, big, comfortable homes. So, in the evening, they pull the rickshaw under the shade of a tree and put it down. In between the two poles that they use to pull the cart, they place the cushion that the passenger uses to sit on. They lie down to rest on that cushion, and they put another cushion underneath their head for a pillow.

This rickshaw man was smoking a country bidi; he took a couple of puffs and then wrapped it up again for the next day because they are too poor to smoke the entire bidi all at one time. I saw his face and he looked so happy and so contented as he enjoyed the bidi that I just wanted to test him.

At that time, I was a sort of wandering sadhu with no home. I didn’t know where I would be sleeping that evening, what I would be eating, or who was going to feed me. I never worried about that. So, I walked over to him and said “Hi, can you pull me to a certain place?”

He looked at me and said in Tamil, “Swami, I have pulled enough for today’s food.” For working the whole day he might have earned 7 rupees—in those days equal to a dollar. Out of that 7 rupees, he will buy a bidi, he will have a country-made liquor for 2 rupees, and then he will give 3 or 4 rupees to the family to make some gruel. That’s it. There would be nothing left over.

Yet, he was saying to me with so much contentment: “For today’s food, I have pulled enough to satisfy me and my family. So, I don’t have to pull anymore. If you want to go somewhere, ask the next guy who is still waiting for some passengers.”

But I insisted, telling him that I preferred to go with him. “You keep this rickshaw very nice and clean and I seem to like you, why don’t you take me?”

“Swami, I have pulled enough today! Even if you give me a hundred rupees, I won’t pull you!” I just watched his face. My thoughts went to the Maharaja’s Palace where I was once invited to be a guest for a month. Even in their faces, I couldn’t see this kind of joy, peace and contentment.

That means, contentment is not in what you have. It’s in how you feel about what you have. And that is the secret to making everything golden.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda