आत्मानं रथिनं विद्धि शरीरं रथमेव च ।
बुद्धिं तु सारथिं विद्धि मनः . प्रग्रहमेव च ॥
[ Source – कठोपनिषत् ( 1 -3 – 3 ) ]
पद विग्रह :
आत्मानं रथिनं विद्धि शरीरं रथम् एव च ।
बुद्धिं तु सारथिं विद्धि मनः प्रग्रहम् एव च ॥
Know the Atman as the Lord of the Chariot, who sits within it and the body as the chariot. Know the intellect as the charioteer and the mind as verily, the reins.
This Shloka is from Kathopanishad ( कठोपनिषद ), which is one of the major Upa – Nishadas. This UPA- Nishada belongs to Krishna Yajurveda. The story of Nachiketas ( नचिकेत ) and Yama ( यम ), the God of Dharma and Death is very ancient. The entire UPA-Nishada is in the form of a dialogue between Nachiketas and Yama.
Before proceeding further, one may presume that the subject of this Shloka may be heavy in spiritual aspects. However, On proper appreciation of the meaning of the Shloka , one would agree that it applies equally to secular world around us. The essence is keeping the MIND in control and quiet.
This Shloka uses the analogy of the chariot to elucidate the method of reaching to the Supreme Brahman by the Jivatman who is enmeshed in the body mind complex. The body of a human is likened to a chariot. Our senses are the horses. The mind is the reins to the horses. The intellect is the charioteer. The Self is the master of the chariot. The objects of the senses are the road by which the chariot moves.
If the horses are controlled by an expert charioteer, he can guide the chariot to the right destination. An inefficient charioteer and restive horses will lead the chariot astray into a ditch and endanger the life of it’s owner. Similarly, one who can control his senses through a disciplined mind, will reach the final goal of his life, i.e. liberation ( in spiritual parlance ). On the other hand , a person of impure mind and uncontrolled senses will end up in the whirlpool of samsar ( संसार ) i.e. transmigration.
The whole concept of controlling the sense organs of a human being are best explained in this Shloka through the example of a chariot. The sense organs are very restless and fidgety ever eager to cantor away in different directions like horses attached to a chariot. If the horses are not put under tight leash, the chariot would topple over. Similarly, if one doesn’t control his sense organs which pull him in different directions, he would fall over the brink. For example, the eye sees something and gets enchanted with it, inspiring the mind to yearn for it. The mind then plots and plans to get access to this thing and acquiring it. It then orders the organs of action such as hands and legs to attempt to acquire this object. Meanwhile, the eyes see something else more attractive and enticing than the first one and changes its priories. While all this is happening, the ear, the tongue, the nose and the skin wish to have different things simultaneously and pull the mind in different directions. They all want that mind pay them equal attention, all at the same time. The result is obvious — the man is tossed like a leaf in a hurricane wind, his mind wanting one thing now and rejecting it in preference to other the next moment. If the five organs of perception viz., eyes, nose, ears, tongue and skin behave like untrained spoils horses, one can well imagine the disastrous consequences for the man and his peace of mind.
How to overcome the forces which dominate the mind which is being dictated by the sense organs. The best way is to let the charioteer i.e. our own intellect, our discriminating power, to have the reins over the mind and make sure that the intellect listens to the Charioteer, the Self. May be, understanding and finding the Self itself, is a quest of many lifetimes, with a much deeper import. In that case , there will be no case of runaway horses or chariots and the charioteer can safely reach his destination, of attaining liberation. When the charioteer happens to be the one who has absolute control over his horses ( read sense organs ) , there is no doubt that the journey becomes enjoyable and the destination, nearer.