Katha Upanishhad: chariot analogy (was Re: cloning)

Gummuluru Murthy gmurthy at MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA
Wed Mar 19 10:44:27 CST 1997

On Tue, 18 Mar 1997, Giri wrote:

> On Tue, 18 Mar 1997, Gummuluru Murthy wrote:
> > Now, the advaita literature is full of statements that the body is a
> > corpse powered by the sense organs.
>   ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
>         I am not so sure about this, but maybe I am just misunderstanding
> your statement. Even if the sense organs don't work (coma is a good
> example) the person is still alive, since his central nervous system and
> brain are functioning (atleast partially). Even if the person is
> "unconscious" the person can be alive. I believe that a person is alive
> so long as the "soul 'is in' the body."

Here, I am referring to Katha Upanishhad (III.3 to III.9), the chariot
analogy. I am presently reading this and trying to understand the

Also, in Viveka Chudamani and in Bhajagovindam (I cannot recall the verse
numbers, but can give the proper reference shortly), Shri Shankara calls
the body inert and it is just like a corpse.

In Katha Upanishhad (III.3 to III.9), Lord Yama, in teaching knowledge of
the Self to young Nachiketa, uses the chariot analogy.

The body is equated to the chariot
The occupant of the chariot is the Atman
Buddhi, the intellect, is the charioteer
Manas, the mind, is the reins
Sense organs are the horses that power the chariot
Sense objects are the road on which the chariot travels.

A similar analogy is also found in Bhagavad Gita (I can provide the
reference to the verse number shortly).

This analogy may be interpreted to mean that the body, the chariot, itself
is inert and derives its energy from the sense organs, the horses.

While every component in this analogy is important for the journey, it is
the buddhi, the charioteer controlling the sense organs, the horses
through the manas, the reins that control the journey. The chariot, the
body, is simply dragged on.

What I do not fully understand in this analogy is:

Is Atman just the occupant of the chariot only and is a silent witness to
this journey or is the journey taking place at the behest of the occupant?

Why journey at all ? The Atman, being detached from the chariot, the
charioteer and the horses, does not need the journey.

Chariot implies a journey. Whose journey is it ? Atman does not need it.
Where is this journey to ? Is this journey inward in search of "Who am I?"
(Atman already knows the answer). Or is this journey into the infinite ?

I would be most obliged for any clarifications.

Gummuluru Murthy
Sarvaagamaanaa maachaarah prathamam parikalpathe !
                                          Sage Vyasa in Maha Bharatha

For all (incoming) knowledge, discipline is the most fundamental.

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