- Date: 14th century
- 1 a : the payment through penance of the temporal punishment incurred by a sin
- 2 a : fulfillment of a need or want
- b : the quality or state of being satisfied : contentment
- c : a source or means of enjoyment : gratification
- 3 a : compensation for a loss or injury : atonement, restitution
- b : the discharge of a legal obligation or claim
- c : vindication
Some of the earliest references to the state of contentment are found in the reference to the midah (personal attribute) of Samayach B’Chelko. The expression comes from the word samayach (root Sin-Mem-Chet) meaning "happiness, joy or contentment", and chelko (root Chet-Lamed-Kuf) meaning "portion, lot, or piece", and combined mean contentment with one’s lot in life. The attribute is referred to in the Mishnahic source which says
- “Ben Zoma said: Who is rich? Those who are happy with their portion.”
- A joyful heart makes a cheerful face; A sad heart makes a despondent mood. All the days of a poor person are wretched, but contentment is a feast without end.
- Who seeks more than he needs, hinders himself from enjoying what he has. Seek what you need and give up what you need not. For in giving up what you don’t need, you’ll learn what you really do need.
In a Buddhist sense, it is the freedom from anxiety, want or need. Contentment is the goal behind all goals because once achieved there is nothing to seek until it is lost. A living system cannot maintain contentment for very long as complete balance and harmony of forces means death. Living systems are a complex dance of forces which find a stability far from balance. Any attainment of balance is quickly met by rising pain which ends the momentary experience of satisfaction or contentment achieved. Buddha's task was to find the solution to this never ending descent into dissatisfaction or Dukkha.
The American philosopher, Robert Bruce Raup wrote a book Complacency:The Foundation of Human Behavior (1925) in which he claimed that the human need for complacency (i.e. inner tranquility) was the hidden spring of human behavior. Dr. Raup made this the basis of his pedagogical theory, which he later used in his severe criticisms of the American Education system of the 1930s.