Mind, Body, Soul|Oct 26, 2012 4:00 AM| by:

Chariot of the Gods

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The human body has been sometimes visualised as a chariot with horses as the vital–nervous forces driving it. The rein around the horses is the mind that holds the entire sensory-nervous-vital input together and passes it on to the higher intellect or buddhi that actually holds the rein and takes the chariot on to the chosen path. Finally, there is the soul who is the divine entity seated within the chariot. The symbol is a very apt one and conveys many things.

First of all the human body is seen as a vehicle that carries the soul on its onward journey along the pathways and battlefields of life. Depending on the soul type we have the corresponding pathway. The pilgrim soul that seeks high Truth and Wisdom must pass through austere slopes and mountain climbs. The chariot of the human body is not yet built to easily carry the embodied soul to those sublime peaks, let alone carry it to the land of the sun. It can at most brave some adventures on the way to reach a high hill-top from where some glimpse can be seen of the grand vision of a snow-clad peak as it is sprinkled by gold reflected from the light of the sun above. A rare pilgrim or two can climb further to some highest point if supported and assisted by the favourable gods of life, – the prana in us. He has to work against the grain of nature, turning inwards rather than outwards. It needs a strong rein, well-trained horses of a high breed and a one-pointed and able charioteer who can brave the snow-storms without wavering. Beyond a point, the chariot must be left aside, the pilgrim soul walks alone leaving the body still and immobile in a trance.

The second type is the warrior-soul, the seeker after some Ideal of Truth and Justice and a reign of Goodness here upon earth. His chariot must pass through battlefields of life, slaying all that stands in the way of a growing light. He has to fight and struggle against forces of darkness, – the adverse and hostile beings who pounce upon him unseen, springing a surprise on his body and soul. His chariot must be strong and sturdy, fit for the war, lest it be broken or bruised.

The third type is the lover-soul whose chariot carries him through fields of plenty,– the farmlands of God to reach the garden of delight where flowers of paradise bloom. His is the easiest journey, so to speak, but it has its own difficulties and dangers. The chariot can be easily waylaid and led into distracting diversions, even towards dangerous cliffs and precipitous abysses, by an alien and adverse spell of charm and attraction. It needs a truly wise charioteer to steer clear of these snares and concealed pits and fields where poisonous plants grow bearing charming and attractive flowers and blooms.

It is interesting to note that the soul needs the physical body for its evolutionary journey. A well-known Sanskrit verse of the great dramatist-poet and seer-thinker Kalidasa puts it thus ‘Sariram khalu dharmasadhanam’, – the body is a means for the fulfillment of ‘dharma’. This ‘dharma’ of course is not religion or religiosity as is commonly mistranslated but simply fulfilling the purpose of ‘That’ which holds our existence, the bedrock Reality of our being. It is as if the contact with the physical world is not only necessary but inevitable for our inner evolution. Here we must understand that the ancient seers saw in this material world a field of infinite possibilities. It is as if all the worlds, the gods and the demons and all else was crammed within matter. And as the soul in us evolved so did we discover the outer and inner possibilities, – first the outer possibilities of playing with material objects and next the inner possibilities hidden within the human frame, including the emergence of a greater consciousness and power in embodied life and earthly existence. And the only perfect way that the soul could explore the possibilities of the physical world was by entering into it, even identifying with it so completely as to forget itself and its true nature. The physical body becomes like a cradle carrying a sleeping infant soul; a cradle rocked by cosmic forces or tagged along and driven in its chariot through strange and unknown fields by a dim-lit and obscure corporal mind. For a long time the mind and the intellect will not know the aim and direction of the journey. They are driven by the sun and the winds, arrested by the rains and the storms of life. But since the charioteer mind knows not these immense cosmic forces it gives them the name of ‘necessity, survival, accident, chance’, etc. But a time comes when the soul grows and wakes up. It begins to read the scroll of destiny inscribed in its heart by the great World-Mother. It begins to understand the book of Fate better. The script of life, illegible and unintelligible to the sense-bound mind, begins to become clearer in the growing light of the soul.

But here arises another problem. The chariot has for long been pushed by the cosmic forces, led along unseen paths by an errant life, moved directionless and aimless at the behest of the ignorant and wandering mind. The reins have been left loose by an outward looking intellect, the horses, wild and untamed, pull it in various directions leaving the chariot weak and exposed to dangers. The result are the various forms of diseases that arise as the charioteer mind and intellect grapple with the various cosmic forces wearing material shapes and wandering through the forest of life. Precariously the charioteer tries to avoid pitfalls and dangers or repair the damage and heal the wounded horses. The chariot here serves well to protect the sleeping soul within who is not yet awake to its deeper and higher possibilities. Exploring the material world through a corporeal instrument that conceals much more than it reveals, the soul moves as if blind and sees in the cosmos an equally blind and somnambulist Force, too vast and mighty for its infant grasp. It relies on the report given to it by the charioteer who studies the laws of this universe of which he and the chariot are themselves a part and tries at best to save and survive. But a time comes when it is damaged beyond repair. Or else a time comes when the soul suddenly wakes up and finds its vehicle too inadequate for its use. Or a time comes when the soul simply feels the need for change and it stresses out from the chariot, and is carried by the Lord of cosmic Ignorance, Death, surrounded in a mist and haze of darkness beyond this physical universe. But its journey is incomplete, its evolution unfinished. It must return and resume from where it left, in a new body, in a new chariot.

The figure of chariot becomes at once the figure of a vehicle and a shield. At the same time it also indicates a hierarchical arrangement of powers and potencies in the human consciousness. In a hierarchical order these are, – the sense organs (or the horses), the mind and its apparatus (or the rein), the higher intellect (or the charioteer) and the soul (or the one seated in the chariot). Ideally, the path of life must be governed from above downwards or form within outwards, – in other words from the spiritual to the material. But what we practically see is a reverse order. This is so because of the inverse evolution and the ‘lag’ that follows the emergence of higher powers upon the lower. Thus, in our infancy (both in one life and across several ones) we are restrained, limited and governed by the material senses which are our first point of contact with the world. Next there develop in us faculties of elementary cognition, desires, a rudimentary desire driven will, emotions, reason and imagination, – the entire mental apparatus. These mental faculties are initially driven by sense contact and sense data but as the mind evolves through adolescence it begins to correct the sense data and even alters their in-out and begins to colour and govern what we sense, touch, hear, see, feel, smell, etc. This is what is well-known as the ‘mental conditioning’ of life. Still later and with the coming of maturity and with experience and struggle a kind of wisdom dawns upon us, – a capacity, however elementary, to distinguish between the right and the wrong, the true and the false. Yet due to the inverse evolution the mind and its apparatus may still be driven by the senses, and the higher intellect discriminative intelligence still be clouded by the mind and its desires and passions and emotions and imaginations and even its early pragmatic reason which depends heavily on sense data and observations to arrive at conclusions. A free play of the higher intelligence is rare in human beings and therefore in the majority life remains subject to and driven by the senses, passions, desires and all the rest of the mind.

Finally in the rare few, and with great difficulty, the sleeping soul begins to wake and with it wakes up in us the touch of the sublime and the ethereal. Thus is born in man the animal (sense driven), and man the mental being (mind driven) and man the thinker (driven by a higher intelligence), man the spiritual being. This too has stages and as in the earlier evolutions there is first an infant emergence dependent and easily clouded by the previous powers that rule and govern us and later a fuller emergence with the reversal of consciousness and authority. Thus is born the mystic poet, the sublime philosopher, and subsequently the saint, the sage, the yogi and the seer.

This interdependence of the higher and the lower creates a conflict and a disturbance of harmony every time a new element has to emerge. The previous managers of life resist, refuse and revolt, leading to all kinds of physical, vital, emotional and other forms of psychological unease, suffering and frank illness. With each emergence a new harmony is established. And the higher the emergence, the greater the depth and degree of resistance. This is a general kind of law of our inner evolution. In other words there is not only an ascending hierarchy of powers but also an ascending hierarchy of harmony / disharmony when two powers at different levels of our evolutionary level come into conjunction. Thus, there is an animal harmony in the primitive man who is centred around the force of life and the senses. His mind and higher intelligence has not yet awakened. There is in him a lower balance similar to that of the animal world. He does not readily fall ill, – physically, because his life force is well harmonized with the body, – mentally, because the mind has not yet developed enough to create disorder amidst his animal order. With the advent of mind this harmony is disturbed. There is a demand for new channels to provide the life-force for mental activities. The demands of life and body, natural so far to them, come under the scanner of the questioning mind which begins to rearrange the established harmony into a new order. But the mind’s light is itself an insufficient one. The mind has no absolute certainty of knowing what is true and good. It can at best make reasoned guesses or observational inferences. Its knowledge is analytical and derivative and therefore partial, inadequate and imperfect. A new power must emerge that can directly, intuitively as if in a flash separate the true from the false. This power develops as the mind of man begins to turn inwards and upwards to its own source rather than downwards and outwards to the objects presented to it by the senses. But once again the balance is disturbed as the mind must abdicate its reign and life must climb higher leaving its attraction for the lower and the lesser. Finally, even this higher power of a discriminating intelligence and its light of the knowledge must abdicate itself and all that is below it so that the true soul-power can emerge and take charge of life and thought and speech and act.

The symbol is interesting on other accounts as well. The parts of the chariot belong qualitatively to different levels of consciousness and each can be explained independent of the other. Thus, the main body or the physical frame is constituted of wood and steel, the horses belong to the animal world, the driver and the traveller are closely allied to each other. Now though they are together they are yet different and separate powers. Also while the outer frame (physical body), horses (senses and life energy), reins and strappings (mind) come together to form the chariot itself (and not the horses or the frame or the reins separately), the charioteer and the traveller come from outside. It is as if there is a container or a vehicle and the content or the passenger. You cannot find or understand anything about the latter by any amount of detailed analysis of the former. Thus, understanding the human body, the animating life force and the embodied mind cannot give us any clue about a higher consciousness and of the soul. They are seated within the chariot and are yet independent of it as if something of another, say a fourth or a fifth dimension had entered into and occupied our three dimensional universe.

The image of the chariot becomes therefore a near perfect image of the human being. The coming together of the powers of nature in a material universe and of the soul from a spiritual region of consciousness constitutes the enigma and the mystery of human life. The two poles of One Existence, – the spiritual and the material come close into each other’s embrace in the embodied human being. In the beginning the spiritual element is asleep and appears absent to our physical senses that are ever running outwards. Later, it wakes up and the human nature begins to feel a pull from within as if someone held the reins and set the direction and the course. After an initial struggle, the chariot yields to the charioteer, the instruments to their user and master. Finally, a fully awakened soul would draw greater and greater powers of a higher consciousness and transform the earthly chariot into a chariot of the gods with wheels of fire, hooves that match the wind and a rein made of lightening. The charioteer would then be not merely the buddhi or the discriminative intelligence (which is only a reflected power) but the all comprehending Sun of Truth itself and the traveller soul, armoured with shining powers and celestial weapons, becomes a god traversing the mortal world.