The Spirit of the Upanishads
The Upanishads view life as an adventure of the spirit in the world of time and space. In a famous passage of the Katha Upanishad this is elaborated with the help of a significant imagery — the imagery of the chariot. The individual, with his equipment of body, the senses, mind and intellect, finds his best symbol in a chariot with its horses, reins, charioteer and the rider. Such a chariot is meant to be put on the road and driven to its appointed destination. The success of the journey depends less on the smoothness of the road than on the strength of the chariot, the vigour of the horses, the toughness of the reins and the discernment of the charioteer. Weakness in any of these links will spell disaster for the whole venture. Life is a creative adventure. It finds its fulfilment in the course and at the end of a dynamic process and not in the context of a static complaisance. “All expansion is life; all contraction is death,’ says Swami Vivekananda. In its long journey to the temple of the unity of being, the individual experiences varying stages of excellence of truth, beauty, and goodness, physical or mental, individual or social. At the summmit jhe is promised the summon bonum or what the Upanishad terms as tadvishnoh paramam padam. But this long and arduous journey through life needs for its success an effective training of the personality. And that training is indicated in a memorable verse of this Upanishad where we are asked to combine strength of the body and vigour of the senses with force of will and conviction, clearness of vision and calmness of judgement: vijnana sarathiryastu manah pragrahavan narah. so’dvhanah param apnoti tad-vishnoh paramam padam.
“He attains the highest excellence who has an enlightened intelligence as charioteer and a tough determination as reins.”