Hindu Philosophy of Intellect
In Hindu philosophy, the Upanishads use the metaphor of a chariot
to explain the importance of the human intellect.
On a chariot there is a driver and a passenger. The passenger has no knowledge or control of the
chariot's journey, nor does he interact directly with the driver. In the driver's hands are reins
attached to the bridles of several horses. With the reins, the driver is guiding the direction of
the chariot, which is continuously moving on a path.
The chariot is a metaphor for the human body. On the chariot (body) is a passenger,
who represents the the soul. The driver is the intellect. The soul doesn't have
knowledge or control over the decisions the intellect is making, but due to the presence
of the soul, the intellect has life energy and is active. The reins and bridles represent
the mind. The horses represent the senses, which are constantly gathering sense impressions
in the world. The path represents our human life.
This metaphor is a recurrent theme in Hindu philosophy. Our senses are constantly
gathering impressions of the external environment. These are
transferred to the mind. The mind then transfers them to the intellect for analysis.
A decision is made if something serves our self-interest or not, if it is desirable or
detrimental, good or bad. Accordingly the intellect decides to move in a particular direction.
Like the charioteer, the intellect controls the direction of our life through its understanding
What role does the soul play? In Hindu philosophy, we learn that apart from enlivening
all our material "machinery" (body, sense, mind and intellect), the soul is also giving a message
to the driver (intellect). The soul has a natural and continuous desire for divine unity.
It expresses this longing every moment. A reflection of this enters the intellect in a distorted form.
The intellect simply feels: "Something is missing." This subtle discontent and need for something more,
combined with its current understanding, causes the intellect to direct the chariot of our existence
in a particular direction to find happiness.
On its own, the intellect doesn't understand the source of this inner discontentment.
This is one of the greatest unsolvable riddles of human existence. Knowledge of the
source of and also the solution to our inner discontentment has to be explained to us. The answer lies in spiritual
knowledge found in Hindu philosophy -- because the origin of our longing is spiritual and divine.
The source of and the remedy for this longing is described by true Saints who have
realized divine happiness. Three factors have to come into alignment for true spiritual progress:
When we join our intellect with the intellect of a true Guru, we can properly guide the chariot of our life on a path
to divine happiness.
- The soul's longing
- A true Saint's knowledge
- Your intellect's understanding