deho rathas tv indriyāśvaḥ
ākūtir vikramo bāhyo
dehaḥ—body; rathaḥ—chariot; tu—but; indriya—the knowledge-acquiring senses; aśvaḥ—the horses; saṁvatsara—total years; rayaḥ—duration of life; agatiḥ—without advancing; dvi—two; karma—activities; cakraḥ—wheels; tri—three; guṇa—modes of nature; dhvajaḥ—flags; pañca—five; asu—life airs; bandhuraḥ—bondage; manaḥ—the mind; raśmiḥ—rope; buddhi—intelligence; sūtaḥ—chariot driver; hṛt—heart; nīḍaḥ—sitting place; dvandva—duality; kūbaraḥ—the posts for the harness; pañca—five; indriya-artha—sense objects; prakṣepaḥ—weapons; sapta—seven; dhātu—elements; varūthakaḥ—coverings; ākūtiḥ—attempts of the five working senses; vikramaḥ—prowess or processes; bāhyaḥ—external; mṛga-tṛṣṇām—false aspiration; pradhāvati—runs after; ekādaśa—eleven; indriya—senses; camūḥ—soldiers; pañca—five; sūnā—envy; vinoda—pleasure; kṛt—doing.
Nārada Muni continued: What I referred to as the chariot was in actuality the body. The senses are the horses that pull that chariot. As time passes, year after year, these horses run without obstruction, but in fact they make no progress. Pious and impious activities are the two wheels of the chariot. The three modes of material nature are the chariot’s flags. The five types of life air constitute the living entity’s bondage, and the mind is considered to be the rope. Intelligence is the chariot driver. The heart is the sitting place in the chariot, and the dualities of life, such as pleasure and pain, are the knotting place. The seven elements are the coverings of the chariot, and the working senses are the five external processes. The eleven senses are the soldiers. Being engrossed in sense enjoyment, the living entity, seated on the chariot, hankers after fulfillment of his false desires and runs after sense enjoyment life after life.
The entanglement of the living entity in sense enjoyment is very nicely explained in these verses. The word saṁvatsara, meaning “the progress of time,” is significant. Day after day, week after week, fortnight after fortnight, month after month, year after year, the living entity becomes entangled in the chariot’s progress. The chariot rests on two wheels, which are pious and impious activities. The living entity attains a certain position in life in a particular type of body according to his pious and impious activities, but his transmigration into different bodies should not be taken as progress. Real progress is explained in Bhagavad-gītā (4.9). Tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti: one makes real progress when he does not have to take on another material body. As stated in Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 19.138):
The living entity is wandering throughout the entire universe and taking birth in different species on different planets. Thus he moves up and down, but that is not real progress. Real progress is getting out of this material world altogether. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (8.16):
“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kuntī, never takes birth again.” Even if one is promoted to Brahmaloka, the highest planet in the universe, he has to come down again to the lower planetary systems. Thus he is wandering up and down perpetually, under the influence of the three modes of material nature. Being illusioned, he thinks he is making progress. He is like an airplane encircling the earth day and night, incapable of leaving the earth’s gravitational field. Factually there is no progress because the airplane is conditioned by the earth’s gravity.
Just as a king is seated on a chariot, the living entity is seated in the body. The sitting place is the heart, and the living entity sits there and engages in the struggle for existence, which goes on without progress perpetually. In the words of Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura:
karma-kāṇḍa, jñāna-kāṇḍa, kevala viṣera bhāṇḍa,
amṛta baliyā yebā khāya
nānā yoni sadā phire, kadarya bhakṣaṇa kare,
tāra janma adhaḥ-pāte yāya
The living entity struggles very hard due to the influence of fruitive activity and mental speculation and simply gets a different type of body life after life. He eats all kinds of nonsense and is condemned by his activities of sense enjoyment, If one really wants to progress in life, he must give up the ways of karma-kāṇḍa and jñāna-kāṇḍa, fruitive activities and mental speculation. Being fixed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, one can become free from the entanglement of birth and death and the vain struggle for existence. In these verses the words mṛga-tṛṣṇāṁ pradhāvati are very significant because the living entity is influenced by a thirst for sense enjoyment. He is like a deer that goes to the desert to search out water. In a desert an animal simply searches in vain for water. Of course there is no water in the desert, and the animal simply sacrifices his life in an attempt to find it. Everyone is planning for future happiness, thinking that somehow or other, if he can reach a certain point, he will be happy. In actuality, however, when he comes to that point, he sees that there is no happiness. He then plans to go further and further to another point. This is called mṛga-tṛṣṇā, and its basis is sense enjoyment in this material world.
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