aksam dasa-pranam adharma-dharmau
cakre ’bhimanam rathinam ca jivam
dhanur hi tasya pranavam pathanti
saram tu jivam param eva laksyam
aksam—the spokes (on the chariot wheel); dasa—ten; pranam—the ten kinds of air flowing within the body; adharma—irreligion; dharmau—religion (two sides of the wheel, up and down); cakre—in the wheel; abhimanam—false identification; rathinam—the charioteer or master of the body; ca—also; jivam—the living entity; dhanuh—the bow; hi—indeed; tasya—his; pranavam—the Vedic mantra omkara; pathanti—it is said; saram—an arrow; tu—but; jivam—the living entity; param—the Supreme Lord; eva—indeed; laksyam—the target.
The ten kinds of air acting within the body are compared to the spokes of the chariot’s wheels, and the top and bottom of the wheel itself are called religion and irreligion. The living entity in the bodily concept of life is the owner of the chariot. The Vedic mantra pranava is the bow, the pure living entity himself is the arrow, and the target is the Supreme Being.
Ten kinds of life air always flow within the material body. They are called prana, apana, samana, vyana, udana, naga, kurma, krkala, devadatta and dhananjaya. They are compared here to the spokes of the chariot’s wheels. The life air is the energy for all of a living being’s activities, which are sometimes religious and sometimes irreligious. Thus religion and irreligion are said to be the upper and lower portions of the chariot’s wheels. When the living entity decides to go back home, back to Godhead, his target is Lord Visnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the conditioned state of life, one does not understand that the goal of life is the Supreme Lord. Na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum durasaya ye bahir-artha-maninah [SB 7.5.31]. The living entity tries to be happy within this material world, not understanding the target of his life. When he is purified, however, he gives up his bodily conception of life and his false identity as belonging to a certain community, a certain nation, a certain society, a certain family and so on (sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam tat-paratvena nirmalam [Cc. Madhya 19.170]). Then he takes the arrow of his purified life, and with the help of the bow—the transcendental chanting of pranava, or the Hare Krsna mantra—he throws himself toward the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has commented that because the words “bow” and “arrow” are used in this verse, one might argue that the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the living entity have become enemies. However, although the Supreme Personality of Godhead may become the so-called enemy of the living being, this is His chivalrous pleasure. For example, the Lord fought with Bhisma, and when Bhisma pierced the Lord’s body on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, this was a kind of humor or relationship, of which there are twelve. When the conditioned soul tries to reach the Lord by hurling an arrow at Him, the Lord takes pleasure, and the living entity gains the profit of going back home, back to Godhead. Another example given in this regard is that Arjuna, as a result of piercing the adhara-mina, or the fish within the cakra, achieved the valuable gain of Draupadi. Similarly, if with the arrow of chanting the holy name of the Lord one pierces Lord Visnu’s lotus feet, by dint of performing this heroic activity of devotional service one receives the benefit of returning home, back to Godhead.
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