Want To Stop Sabotaging Yourself? Unlock The Secrets Of Self-Mastery With The Vedas' Chariot Analogy

May 13, 2024

Read time: 8 minutes

Find out why gaining control over your mind is your secret weapon for personal growth.

You want to stop sabotaging yourself, but you don't know how. You've tried self-help books and motivational videos, but nothing seems to stick.

The truth is, the answer has been around for thousands of years. It's found in the ancient wisdom of the Katha Upanishad.

Specifically, the chariot analogy. It's not just a nice story. It's a powerful framework for understanding your mind.

It’ll help you finally understand why you keep getting in your own way. Why you can't seem to break free from negative patterns.

And most importantly, you'll know how to fix it. For good.

By mastering your mind, you'll gain a level of clarity and control over your life that most people only dream of.

Don't let this opportunity pass you by. Because without it, you'll stay stuck on the same old path. Going in circles, never quite reaching your destination.

In this newsletter, we'll dive deep into the chariot analogy. And show you how to apply it to gain clarity and control over your life like never before.

Your Body Is A Chariot

The great thinkers of ancient times have left us with a profound roadmap.

A path to understanding ourselves and unlocking true personal growth.

In the Katha Upanishad (1.3.3-4) they reveal a timeless wisdom:

"The individual is the passenger in the chariot of the material body, and intelligence is the driver. Mind is the driving instrument, and the senses are the horses. The self is thus the enjoyer or sufferer in the association of the mind and senses. So it is understood by great thinkers.”

Isn’t that fascinating?

Let’s break this down into the core elements:

  1. Self = passenger
  2. Intelligence = driver
  3. Mind = driving instrument
  4. Senses = horses
  5. Body = chariot

Now let’s analyse that.

First, the chariot, that's your body. It's the vehicle that carries you through this journey we call life.

The chariot is being pulled by powerful, untamed horses, which symbolise your five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. These senses are constantly seeking stimulation and bombarding your mind with information. This is where the mind comes into play.

Your Mind Is The Driving Instrument

According to the Katha Upanishad, your mind acts as the driving instrument, much like the steering wheel or reins of the chariot. It processes the sensory inputs received from the horses (your senses) and translates them into desires. It's like a GPS system, constantly suggesting directions based on the information it receives. "Turn left for that delicious chocolate cake," it might say, or "Take a hard right into a Netflix binge-watching session." Your mind is easily influenced by the pull of your senses, craving pleasure, comfort, and distraction.

If you allow these untamed horses to run wild, they'll lead you astray. You might find yourself overeating, overspending, or engaging in behaviours that don't align with your true self. It's as if you've handed over the reins to your senses, letting them steer your chariot off a cliff. This can trap you in a cycle of instant gratification and self-sabotage, constantly chasing fleeting pleasures.

That's why it's important to understand there's a higher faculty you can tap into to control the mind: your intelligence.

Your Intelligence is The Driver

The great thinkers describe that your intelligence enables you to make good decisions and take worthy actions in life.

Intelligence is different from being smart. Smart or clever is when you get high grades in school. When the Vedas speak about intelligence, they’re not referring to that IQ type of intelligence. For example, someone may have a very strong mind and high IQ, but their subtle intelligence may be weaker. They may have the mental capacity to get the highest marks in exams and assignments, but instead decide to hang out with friends, smoke weed and not study (like me when I was younger).

Intelligence gives you an increased ability to take charge of your life. Instead of being a slave to the mind, the senses, and the desires, you actually become the master of the mind, the senses, and the desires.

You Are The Passenger

And then there's you. In the Vedas, they use the word ‘Atma’, which means the self, the I, the eternal living being. The great thinkers and sages propose that you are the life force, the spirit soul temporarily inhabiting the body. They say, "You are spirit, not matter." They suggest that your essence is an eternal spirit soul, the living force that exists temporarily in this body. When you leave the body, it returns to the earth and decomposes. Your existence does not depend on the body; rather, the body's existence depends on your presence within it.

Their key insight is that you are not your physical body, brain, or mind. You are a spirit soul, temporarily residing in a material form.

People often say, "I have a soul," but as the novelist C.S. Lewis aptly states:

"You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”

This understanding reveals a hierarchy: the self (soul) is above intelligence, and intelligence is above the mind. The eternal spirit soul is the true essence of who you are, while the intelligence and mind are tools to navigate the material world during your temporary stay in the physical body.

How Does This Idea Help To Overcome Self-sabotage?

The chariot analogy provides a powerful framework for understanding how our untamed senses and mind can lead us into self-sabotaging behaviours. Let's look at some concrete examples:

  1. Excess social media use: You sit down to work and quickly check your social media—just a minute, you think. Suddenly, an hour vanishes. Social media, that major distraction, steals time and energy from your real goals and meaningful relationships. Lost in a stream of endless content, you're left feeling inadequate, anxious, or depressed as you compare your life to others' perfect moments. Meanwhile, your important, real-world connections suffer as virtual life takes precedence.
  2. Unhealthy eating habits: Your taste buds crave sugary, fatty, and processed foods, leading you to indulge in a diet that harms your physical health. You may find yourself overeating, snacking mindlessly, or choosing junk food over nutritious meals, leading to weight gain, low energy levels, and potential health issues. Here, your sense of taste is driving your mind to make poor choices that sabotage your health goals.
  3. Engaging in gossip: Your ears perk up when you hear juicy gossip or negative talk about others. You find yourself drawn into conversations that spread rumours, judge others, or promote a toxic work environment, ultimately harming your relationships and reputation. Here, your sense of hearing is leading your mind into behaviour that sabotages your social and professional life.

By understanding the chariot analogy, you can become more aware of how your senses and mind can lead you into self-sabotaging behaviours. With this awareness, you can begin to use your intelligence – the driver – to rein in these untamed horses and steer your chariot towards your true goals and values.

When you catch yourself mindlessly scrolling through social media, indulging in unhealthy foods, procrastinating, making impulse purchases, or engaging in negative gossip, pause and recognise that your senses are leading you astray. Then, consciously choose to redirect your focus and energy towards positive, productive actions that align with your higher self.

By consistently practicing this awareness and self-control, you can break free from the cycle of self-sabotage and cultivate a life of greater clarity, purpose, and fulfilment. The chariot analogy reminds us that we have the power within ourselves – our intelligence – to master our mind and senses, and steer our lives in the direction we truly want to go.

Mastering Your Mind: The Key to Self-Control

Intelligence is a tool one can USE to make decisions and take actions in life. It's the voice that helps us act in a way that will produce good outcomes. It prevents you from making mistakes and doing stupid things.

I (the passenger) can direct the intelligence (the driver). Similarly, I’m using my mind as a tool to steer my body in the right direction. The horses (the senses) are hungry, lustful and disobedient and pull on the ropes with great force, nudging the driving instrument (the mind) to steer in a certain direction.

The senses constantly influence the mind, instilling desires to enjoy the world. We desire to eat tasty foods, drink alcohol and buy shiny gadgets. These things “drive” the chariot. However, science shows that fulfilling these desires does NOT provide long-term happiness and fulfilment.

Ancient wisdom suggests we should guide our lives by our intelligence, and not our mind.

"For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his very mind will be the greatest enemy."

– Bhagavad-gita 6.6

By understanding the relationship between the self, intelligence, mind, and senses, we can begin to take control of our lives. When we let our intelligence guide our actions, rather than our untamed senses and desires, we can make choices that align with our true goals and values.

This is the key to breaking free from the cycle of self-sabotage. By consistently practicing self-awareness and using our intelligence to steer our mind in the right direction, we can cultivate a life of greater purpose, fulfilment, and happiness.

The Driver’s Seat

This ancient wisdom shows us that we're in control, not our cravings.

Every day, temptations bombard us: junk food, social media, gossip etc. It's easy to let them take over.

But when we do, we end up lost.

Overweight, unproductive, unfulfilled.

This is not about being perfect. It's about being mindful. Noticing when we're getting pulled off course and gently steering ourselves back.

It's a skill, like any other — the more we practice, the better we get.

When we're in the driver's seat, we're free. Free to go after what truly matters.

So what do you think? Will you take the wheel, or let your impulses steer?

The choice is yours.

To making a difference,

Dr Yannick

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