Drive the mind’s chariot – don’t be driven by it

If a charioteer is inattentive, the horses will take the chariot where they want instead of going where the charioteer needs to go.

The Bhagavad-gita (16.13) compares our mind to a chariot, in which we are the occupant. Powered by the mind’s imagination, our thoughts rush from one scheme to another to another, ad infinitum. For example, when the mind is maddened by greed, it spins schemes for getting more and more money. And in actualizing those schemes, it even casts aside morality, spirituality and humanity (16.14-15). If we let ourselves be directed solely by our mind’s unguided imagination, it will delude and degrade us, making us chase after illusory pleasures and act unethically, even self-destructively.

Of course, imagination itself is not bad – it enables us to find creative solutions to problems and devise better ways of doing things. But for imagination to be used constructively, we need to direct it. Our inner resources for directing the mind include our strong intelligence, positive intention and healthy instinct. Intelligence refers to our capacity for careful holistic contemplation, intention refers to our defining purpose and instinct refers to our capacity to intuitively get things right.

To direct the mind, we need to strengthen our intelligence, purify our intention and tap our healthy instincts. All these happen when we study the Bhagavad-gita and connect with Krishna by practicing bhakti-yoga. Gita wisdom anchors our intelligence in timeless spiritual truths; practicing bhakti-yoga infuses us with the supremely positive intention of loving and serving Krishna; and the purification from bhakti practice provides us the discernment to tap our instincts.

When our mind is thus used consistently for devotionally constructive purposes, it slowly becomes our aide. It comes up with ideas that help us contribute externally and become purified internally, thereby finding lasting satisfaction in Krishna’s loving service.


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