The Chariot and the Driver

Imagine that you are the driver of a chariot harnessed to five strong horses. What do you need to drive that chariot to your chosen destination? You need control over the horses. If the horses are unruly—if they stand on their hind legs, try to run in different directions, or refuse to obey your instructions—you’ll never reach your destination. What’s more, you run the risk of a serious accident, which could destroy or damage both the chariot and your own body.

The ancient yoga texts compare the body to a valuable chariot of which you are the driver. Your senses—the eyes, ears, tongue, nose, and sense of touch—are the five strong horses harnessed to the chariot. To succeed in life, you must be able to control your senses, just as the chariot driver needs control over the horses. If your senses are unrestrained, if they are like wild horses pulling you this way and that, you’ll never have any meaningful direction in life. You’ll simply get dragged this way and that by the senses. You’ll be the slave of your senses—a hedonist. And your life will surely end in disaster or, at the very least, in frustration and purposelessness.

The aim of yoga is to gain control over your senses, and this can be achieved by controlling the mind. The mind is the tool that directs the senses. It can be compared to the reins that are harnessed to the horses and used to direct them. So in order to control your senses, you must be able to control and direct the mind.

Yoga practice is meant to help you take control of the direction of your life. It does this by helping you develop and maintain control over your body, mind, and senses. You then have a much greater chance of attaining your goals and eventually experiencing the bliss of spiritual realization, the ultimate goal of yoga.

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