V Subrahmanian, Monday, September 10, 2012 10:35 am

kaThopaniShad Series Part – 19

Part 19

Mantra 4:

Continuing the chariot imagery the AchArya Yama says:

इन्द्रियाणि हयानाहुः विषयांस्तेषु गोचरान्।

 आत्मेद्रियमनोयुक्तं भोक्तेत्याहुर्मनीषिणः ॥४॥

इन्द्रियाणि the senses हयान् horsesहुः they say विषयान् the objects तेषु in गोचरान् the paths आत्मेन्द्रियमनोयुक्तं endowed with the body, the senses and the mind भोक्ता the enjoyer इति thus आहुः say मनीषिणः the wise


The senses, they say, are the horses; the objects, the roads. The wise call the atman—united with the body, the senses and the mind—the enjoyer. 

The body-chariot has the various elements that are required to make the chariot a working one. The owner of the chariot, the jIva, the intellect, the chariot driver and the mind, the bridle to rein in the horses – are all required. The horses represent the sense organs. These are ten in number: the five sense organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue and skin) and five motor organs namely the organ of speech, hands, legs, the excretory and the genitive organ. The road on which the horses traverse denotes the sense objects: of sight, smell, sound, touch and taste. The entire seen world can be reduced to these five. All these exist not for themselves but for the sake of the Master of the chariot, the jIvAtman.

Here the upaniShad gives a definition of the jIvAtman: He is called a ‘bhoktA’, the experiencer of the fruits of his action. This ‘bhoktA’ is constituted of the gross body, the sense organs and the mind. This mind-body-senses apparatus is the instrument with which the jIvAtman experiences the world of objects and comes to be known a ‘samsArin’, a transmigrating individual soul. So say the discriminating ones. It should be noted that the Self, the Atman, by itself is not a bhoktA; it is only with the above stated apparatus does the Atman comes to be seen as an experiencer, a jIva. The very term ‘jIva’ has the connotation of being a living entity endowed with the faculties required for performing action, willing, thinking, resolving, knowing, feeling, etc. which are all driven by the life-force called the prANa.

Thus, the Atman in ‘association’ with this not-self apparatus is the bhoktA. The Self is said to be ‘as though thinking, as though moving’ by the bRRihadAraNyaka upaniShad (4.3.7): ध्यायतीव लेलायतीव etc. It is only if this true nature of the Self is understood it would be possible to appreciate the accrued nature of the Atman’s being a jIva. In other words, the Self comes to be seen as a samsArin, the transmigrating jIva, only through the wrong association with the body-mind-senses apparatus. Free of the association the Self is ever liberated. What is meant by realization is essentially this separating oneself from this body-mind apparatus and remaining as the pure Self with no action, duties, etc. Such a freedom is undoubtedly a knowledge that one is certainly the pure, action free Self alone and nothing else.

Thus the upaniShad admits that the jIva in his true nature is the Atman, the secondless, is free of the superimposition of the jIvahood is what makes one think of being finite. If such a superimposition is not admitted there is no true understanding of the Scriptural statement of the aspirant-jIva attaining the supreme state of ‘vishNu’, the Ultimate. If the bhoktA nature is admitted to be intrinsic to the jIva there is no way the jIva attains to the state of viShNu since the essential nature of an entity will not leave it.

Mantra 5

यस्त्वविज्ञानवान्भवत्ययुक्तेन मनसा सदा ।।
तस्येन्द्रियाण्यवश्यानि दुष्टाश्वा इव सारथेः ।।५।।

यः तु he who अविज्ञानवान् भवति is not discriminative अयुक्तेन endowed with uncontrolled मनसा mind सदा always तस्य his इन्द्रियाणि senses अवश्यानि uncontrolled दुष्टाश्वा इव like vicious horses सारथेः of a charioteer.


If the buddhi, being related to a mind that is always distracted, loses its discriminations, then the senses become uncontrolled, like the vicious horses of a charioteer.

Now, the role of the driver of the chariot is highlighted to bring to the fore the importance of the role of the buddhi, intellect, in a person’s life journey. In case the intellect is not well informed about the goal, the means to attain the goal, the readiness of the person in engaging himself in such an endeavour, etc. there is not much that can be achieved by way of progress in the journey. On the contrary it is very likely that one regresses much to one’s own chagrin.

Two aspects gain importance here: pravRtti and nivRtti. These can be translated as action and withdrawal or renunciation respectively. When there is the reasonable need for engaging in action, one should be able to do so without hitches. And, when there arises a stage when one has to withdraw from action, even this should be possible without obstacles. The mind-body-senses apparatus must be called into service in both these endeavours whether it is action or withdrawal. If the driver is not an adept there will be the prospect of the journey being an unpleasant one marked by jolts and diversions resulting in the owner of the chariot experiencing pain and pressure. What makes this such an unpleasant experience? On the first count it is the mind that remains uncontrolled. An unbridled mind will seldom co-operate with the rest of the apparatus in executing a task. There is bound to be a chain effect: the vicious horses, the senses, will pull the vehicle in unwanted and dangerous directions and objects therein. If the senses are to be held in check, the mind has to be capable enough to take up that task. And if the mind is to be trained in that skill, the intellect has to be taking the lead role.

Thus the intellect has an extremely vital role in the total smooth and successful functioning of the vehicle. Instead of reaching destinations that the owner and the driver have predetermined, the horses become the deciding factors in determining where one goes. Surely such horses are unruly and do not confer a safe and purposeful journey.

That is the reason why the culture of the intellect-mind-senses apparatus is a carefully planned process. The benefit of such a culture is stated in the next mantra:

Mantra 6

यस्तु विज्ञानवान् भवति युक्तेन मनसा सह ।

तस्येन्द्रियाणि वश्यानि सदश्वा इव सारथेः ॥ ६ ॥

यः तु But he विज्ञानवान् भवति who is discriminative युक्तेन मनसा सह endowed with a controlled mind तस्य his इन्द्रियाणि senses वश्यानि are in control सदश्वा इव just as obedient horses सारथेः of a charioteer.

But if the buddhi, being related to a mind that is always restrained, possesses discrimination, then the senses come under control, like the good horses of a charioteer. 

It is most beneficial to be endowed with a discriminative intellect coupled with a controlled mind. The senses in the service of such a person behave well, doing the bidding of the person and not indulging in their own whims and fancies. A chariot enjoys a fine drive only when the driver is informed, the reins are in his hands and the horses behave well. All misery we encounter in the world is brought on oneself owing to the wrong application of the apparatus in hand. Indiscriminate operation of the intellect, the mind and the senses spells doom and the result is there for one to see. On the contrary a careful disposal of this great power in the apparatus brings lasting joy. Either in the field of worldly endeavour or in the spiritual plane of self-realization the importance of a favourable apparatus is what the upaniShad stresses. The context of spiritual journey in its two contrasting situations is highlighted in the next two mantras:

Mantra 7

यस्त्वविज्ञानवान्भवत्यमनस्कः सदाशुचिः ।

न स तत्पदमाप्नोति संसारं चाधिगच्छति ॥ ७ ॥

यः तु But he who अविज्ञानवान् भवति is not discriminative अमनस्कः uncontrolled mind सदा ever अशुचिः impure न स he does not तत्पदम् the Supreme Goal आप्नोति attain संसारं च but in bondage अधिगच्छति he continues

If the buddhi, being related to a distracted mind, loses its discrimination and therefore always remains impure, then the embodied soul never attains the goal, but enters into the round of births.

The upaniShad uses the word ‘impure’. What does this refer to? It refers to the state of the personality. The personality is constituted of the intellect, the mind and the senses. What constitutes purity is the favourably disposed nature of this apparatus. An adversely disposed nature is designated as ‘impure’ by the Upanishad. Hence the exhortation is to make all efforts to gain such purity. And the greatest loss of not acquiring such purity is the certainty of not reaching the goal: liberation, the state of viShNu, the all pervading Self. And what is more, there is certainly the perpetuation of bondage.

Mantra 8

यस्तु विज्ञानवान्भवति समनस्कः सदा शुचिः ।

स तु तत्पदमाप्नोति यस्माद्भूयो न जायते ॥ ८ ॥

यः तु But he who विज्ञानवान् भवति is of a discriminative intellect समनस्कः controlled mind सदा always शुचिः pure स तु he indeed तत्पदम् the Goal आप्नोति attains यस्मात् from which भूयः again न जायते is not born in the world.

But if the buddhi, being related to a mind that is restrained, possesses discrimination and therefore always remains pure, then the embodied soul attains that goal from which he is not born again. 

He who is blessed with, by virtue of his own conscious efforts, a favourable apparatus and therefore pure, is assured of reaching the goal of liberation. Once this is attained there is also assured the fruit of not returning to the state of samsAra. Shankaracharya in the commentary uses a word ‘अप्रच्युतः’ ‘a-prachyutaH’ which means: one who does not fall. It would be interesting to note that the Upanishad had specified the Goal of liberation as the state of ‘viShNu’. This viShNu has a synonym ‘achyutaH’ which means ‘one who does not have a fall’. The state of liberation is such that there is no fall to the state of samsAra.

Part 1, Part 18, Part 20

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