Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Image of the Charioteer Reigning In the Horses

Know the Self as Lord of the chariot, the body as the chariot itself, the discriminating intellect as the charioteer, and the mind as the reins. The senses, say the wise, are the horses, selfish desires are the roads they travel.

The Upanishads say that your body is like a chariot drawn by five powerful horses, the five senses. These horses travel not so much through space as through time. They gallop from birth towards death, pursuing the objects of their desire. The discriminating intellect is the charioteer, whose job it is not to drive you over a cliff. The reins he holds are the mind – your thoughts, emotions, and desires.

This image is packed with implications. For one, the job of the intellect is to see clearly. The job of the mind is to act as reins. When everything is working in harmony, our highest Self makes all the decisions. The intellect conveys these decisions to the mind, and the senses obey the mind. But when the senses are uncontrolled, they immediately take the road they like best: personal satisfactions, mostly pleasure. Then we are not making the decisions; the horses are.

-The Thought for the Day is today's entry from Eknath Easwaran's Words to Live By.

Eknath Easwaran's story rings true, and I for one, always tried to "reign in" the five horses with the help of the "intellect". But then, I did end up a few times off-road stuck in the mud despite my best efforts. Isn't the "intellect" just a fancy word describing what we think are our mind-driven powers to choose the "right" thing? Perhaps we should approach our power of discrimination more generally as the power to choose with the help of all our capacities, mind, feelings, body and senses. Along the Way you choose as feels right at this blessed moment in time. Sometimes you think, sometimes you feel, and sometimes the situation somehow chooses for us.

And which road exactly should we be choosing? Isn't it often the case that we have a vision of what we want to accomplish and we put our best foot forward to get it done, but when we get a strong signal that points in a different direction, we follow our instincts. I may have worked for some twenty years in my profession, I may plan to go another 10 years, but tomorrow the Tao sends me a signal and I simply quit. Along a spiritual path, She points the Way, and we use all our capacities mind to hang on to Her.

Along a spiritual path, love becomes our road-map. "Not this, not that" becomes our battle cry as we stumble through life, trying to hold on to Her. All of that actually sounds more complicated than it is. Holding Her hand, our trip always tends to be a pretty smooth, pretty straight-forward, and entirely pleasurable. 

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