Know the Atman as Lord of the Chariot, the body as the Chariot itself: know the Buddhi to be the Charioteer, and the mind (Manas) as the reins.
Everyone who is not a rank and brutal materialist has experienced at one time or another an awareness of a world which transcends that of the outer senses. While such an experience may be prompted, and often is, by sensuous perception, and originates in let us say, a beautiful sight—the starry firmament, a lovely sunset, a flowing river—the intense emotional response soon induces a higher state which satisfies a deeper aspect of one's consciousness. The occasions of such experiences are many and varied and come to different people in different ways. If genuine, they have one common factor: they bring a perception of something which transcends the senses and opens up a vista of a sphere of reality beyond the outer world of objective phenomena.
If we pause and analyse these moments of greater awareness, we find that they become possible when we forget our little selves. A beautiful sight, a melody, a poem, to which we respond intensely, momentarily enables us to forget the personal ego, ahamkara, and it is this self-forgetfulness that in turn enables us to reach a deeper level of consciousness. This indicates the need for detachment and impersonality, and explains why unselfishness has been emphasized by all the great teachers as a sine qua non condition for the spiritual aspirant.
But, while many have such glimpses of an inner world, they too often fail to take much notice of them and do not question to ascertain the meaning of the experience. If asked about it, they would likely agree that they derived joy and satisfaction from such touches of a transcendental reality. Soon, however, even the memory of the experience begins to fade away and the humdrum of the outward life once more claims and fully absorbs the mind's attention. The fact is, most people are "externally oriented." The mind is turned outwards, aware only of the external world, and does not easily turn inwards. Many ignore and even deny the inner world. And some who sense its reality are not always willing to explore it within themselves. And there are those who do not want to know it, rightly suspecting it might make demands that would result in a voluntary renunciation of much they now hold dear and which gives them sensuous pleasure.
And thus it is that men and women live lives hemmed in by the senses, unaware of the treasures hid within their own consciousness. While everyone is a potential mystic, most people never unfold their inner faculties, never become acquainted with their larger selves, and remain content to live prosaic and narrow lives.
The genuine mystic is one who recognizes the reality of "the other world," who, perceiving the existence in him, as in all men, of a divine spark, deliberately endeavours to explore his inner self in search of it. Mystic awareness changes, therefore, the orientation of the mind. Instead of remaining externally oriented, it becomes inwardly oriented. Withdrawn from the world of external perception and turned inwards, the mind is gradually transformed. It transcends the limitations of the personal and gains a deeper insight into the Impersonal Reality.
Danger, however, lurks at the initial stages. For, when the mind is turned within, unless the little self is forgotten, the state it enters will be psychic, not spiritual. The glamour of psychic experiences is great. The psychic state brings strange experiences that fascinate and intoxicate and prevent further progress.
We witness today an unhealthy curiosity which drives many to experiment with drugs or other physical means to induce abnormal trances and thereby experience strange "new" psychic states. On some future occasion we may revert to the misuse of such drugs. Here let us only point to this alarming and growing menace and submit that it is a symptom of the diseased state in which the mind of man finds itself, the only cure for which lies in restoring to man faith in an awareness of the Divine Presence, thus leading him to accept the need for self-discipline.
Modern therapy is usually understood as a system to mend or repair the mind. The patient goes to the psychiatrist to have his mind fixed, as he would go to the orthopaedist to have his broken leg set right. In ancient psychology the word had a deeper meaning, and therapy meant making the man whole. It demanded the inner integration of the man himself; the establishing of the right relationship among the different aspects of his being. In the image of the Kathopanishad, it is the restoring to the Spirit or the Atman his rightful place as the Lord of the Chariot, to Buddhi paralised, while the passionate mind, Kama-Manas, leads an independent life and, enslaved by the senses, leads the Chariot astray.
It is high time we should set things right! Let us look within for the Divine Charioteer and behind him to the Lord of Light. This will demand the eradication of selfishness and the unfoldment of the faculty to think away from the personal. We must learn to cultivate the inner, spiritual man by meditation, by reaching to and communion with the Divine, for
unless the flesh is passive, head cool, the Soul as firm and pure as flaming diamond, the radiance will not reach the chamber, its sunlight will not warm the heart, nor will the mystic sounds of the Akasic heights reach the ear, however eager, at the intial stage. (The Voice of the Silence)
May we make haste to prepare our consciousness to receive the Light of the Spirit!