How much stuff does a person need to be happy? This is a good question because our consuming culture teaches us that happiness comes from things, and the more things the happier. But is this really true?
I was convinced by hype and sleek marketing into believing that I'd really be happy if I got the newest iPhone, and was full of anticipation when it came in the mail. But it didn't make me any happier. Not one bit. I imagine this is a common experience. Just about every day, one vendor or another is creating this sort of shopping feeding-frenzy with their advertising and marketing strategy, and people rush out and buy. Yet, the world doesn't seem happier from all the shopping.
We live in a land of plenty and many or most of us could easily get by very well with less. I've seen people in India who clearly had very little in the way of stuff, yet who smiled and expressed joy often. Beyond having our basic needs for food, shelter and clothing met, it's not clear that more things result in more happiness. Actually, there is a good argument to the contrary.
Because we are so acculturated to having so much stuff, our desire for things seems endless. We crave things beyond our needs and often beyond our finances, and this creates a great deal of unhappiness. Unhappiness results when we don't get what we want, and it can also result even when we do get what we want because the desires have no end. Any happiness we feel upon satisfying one desire immediately goes away and is replaced by more wanting. So we are in a constant state of grasping and this keeps us from feeling true happiness.
One of the most basic and essential practices of yoga is called samtosha, contentment, and is defined as being satisfied with what we have. When we are truly satisfied with what we have, according to Yoga Sutras, chapter 2, sutra 42, we find unexcelled happiness. You see, happiness is already inside of ourselves, it is the very nature of our being. Once we let go of the painful chase after things of the world beyond what we actually need, then we find the pure and complete happiness that was already inside of us.