The movements of the body are first generated from the heart, and all the activities of the body are made possible by the senses, powered by the ten kinds of air within the body. The ten kinds of air are described as follows: The main air passing through the nose in breathing is called präna. The air which passes through the rectum as evacuated bodily air is called apäna. The air which adjusts the foodstuff within the stomach and which sometimes sounds as belching is called samäna. The air which passes through the throat and the stoppage of which constitutes suffocation is called the udäna air. And the total air which circulates throughout the entire body is called the vyäna air. Subtler than these five airs, there are others also. That which facilitates the opening of the eyes, mouth, etc., is called näga air. The air which increases appetite is called krkara air. The air which helps contraction is called kürma air. The air which helps relaxation by opening the mouth wide (in yawning) is called devadatta air, and the air which helps sustenance is called dhananjaya air.
ähuù çaréraà ratham indriyäëi
hayän abhéñün mana indriyeçam
vartmäni mäträ dhiñaëäà ca sütaà
sattvaà båhad bandhuram éça-såñöam
ähuù—it is said; çaréram—the body; ratham—the chariot; indriyäëi—the senses; hayän—the horses; abhéñün—the reins; manaù—the mind; indriya—of the senses; éçam—the master; vartmäni—the destinations; mäträù—the sense objects; dhiñaëäm—the intelligence; ca—and; sütam—the chariot driver; sattvam—consciousness; båhat—great; bandhuram—bondage; éça—by the Supreme Personality of Godhead; såñöam—created.
Transcendentalists who are advanced in knowledge compare the body, which is made by the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to a chariot. The senses are like the horses; the mind, the master of the senses, is like the reins; the objects of the senses are the destinations; intelligence is the chariot driver; and consciousness, which spreads throughout the body, is the cause of bondage in this material world.
For a bewildered person in the materialistic way of life, the body, the mind and the senses, which are engaged in sense gratification, are the cause of bondage to repeated birth, death, old age and disease. But for one who is advanced in spiritual knowledge, the same body, senses and mind are the cause of liberation. This is confirmed in the Katha Upanisad (1.3.3-4,9)
The soul is the occupant of the chariot of the body, of which the driver is the intelligence. The mind is the determination to reach the destination, the senses are the horses, and the sense objects are also included in that activity. Thus one can reach the destination, Vishnu, who is paramaà padam, the supreme goal of life. In conditioned life the consciousness in the body is the cause of bondage, but the same consciousness, when transformed into Krishna consciousness, becomes the cause for one's returning home, back to Godhead.
The human body, therefore, may be used in two ways—for going to the darkest regions of ignorance or for going forward, back home, back to Godhead. To go back to Godhead, the path is mahat-sevä, to accept the self-realized spiritual master. Mahat-seväà dväram ähur vimukteù [SB 5.5.2]. For liberation, one should accept the direction of authorized devotees who can actually endow one with perfect knowledge. On the other hand, tamo-dväraà yoñitäà saìgi-saìgam: if one wants to go to the darkest regions of material existence, one may continue to associate with persons who are attached to women (yoñitäà saìgi-saìgam). The word yosit means "woman." Persons who are too materialistic are attached to women.
It is said, therefore, ätmänaà rathinaà viddhi çaréraà ratham eva ca. The body is just like a chariot or car in which one may go anywhere. One may drive well, or else one may drive whimsically, in which case it is quite possible that he may have an accident and fall into a ditch. In other words, if one takes directions from the experienced spiritual master one can go back home, back to Godhead; otherwise, one may return to the cycle of birth and death. Therefore Krishna personally advises:
"Those who are not faithful on the path of devotional service cannot attain Me, O conqueror of foes, but return to birth and death in this material world." (Bg. 9.3) The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, personally gives instructions on how one can return home, back to Godhead, but if one does not care to listen to His instructions, the result will be that one will never go back to Godhead, but will continue life in this miserable condition of repeated birth and death in material existence (måtyu-saàsära-vartmani).
The advice of experienced transcendentalists, therefore, is that the body be fully engaged for achieving the ultimate goal of life (svärtha-gatim). The real interest or goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead. To enable one to fulfill this purpose, there are so many Vedic literatures, including Vedänta-sütra, the Upanisads, Bhagavad-gitä, Mahäbhärata and the Rämäyana. One should take lessons from these Vedic literatures and learn how to practice nivåtti-märga. Then one's life will be perfect. The body is important as long as it has consciousness. Without consciousness, the body is merely a lump of matter. Therefore, to return home, back to Godhead, one must change his consciousness from material consciousness to Krishna consciousness. One's consciousness is the cause of material bondage, but if this consciousness is purified by bhakti-yoga, one can then understand the falsity of his upädhi, his designations as Indian, American, Hindu, Muslim, Christian and so on. Sarvopädhi-vinirmuktaà tat-paratvena nirmalam [Cc. Madhya 19.170]. One must forget these designations and use this consciousness only for the service of Krishna. Therefore if one takes advantage of the Krishna consciousness movement, his life is certainly successful.
akñaà daça-präëam adharma-dharmau
cakre 'bhimänaà rathinaà ca jévam
dhanur hi tasya praëavaà paöhanti
çaraà tu jévaà param eva lakñyam
akñam—the spokes (on the chariot wheel); daça—ten; präëam—the ten kinds of air flowing within the body; adharma—irreligion; dharmau—religion (two sides of the wheel, up and down); cakre—in the wheel; abhimänam—false identification; rathinam—the charioteer or master of the body; ca—also; jévam—the living entity; dhanuù—the bow; hi—indeed; tasya—his; praëavam—the Vedic mantra oàkära; paöhanti—it is said; çaram—an arrow; tu—but; jévam—the living entity; param—the Supreme Lord; eva—indeed; lakñyam—the target.
The ten kinds of air acting within the body are compared to the spokes of the chariot's wheels, and the top and bottom of the wheel itself are called religion and irreligion. The living entity in the bodily concept of life is the owner of the chariot. The Vedic mantra praëava is the bow, the pure living entity himself is the arrow, and the target is the Supreme Being.
Ten kinds of life air always flow within the material body. They are called präna, apäna, samäna, vyäna, udäna, näga, kürma, krkala, devadatta and dhananjaya. They are compared here to the spokes of the chariot's wheels. The life air is the energy for all of a living being's activities, which are sometimes religious and sometimes irreligious. Thus religion and irreligion are said to be the upper and lower portions of the chariot's wheels. When the living entity decides to go back home, back to Godhead, his target is Lord Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the conditioned state of life, one does not understand that the goal of life is the Supreme Lord. Na te viduù svärtha-gatià hi viñëuà duräçayä ye bahir-artha-mäninaù [SB 7.5.31]. The living entity tries to be happy within this material world, not understanding the target of his life. When he is purified, however, he gives up his bodily conception of life and his false identity as belonging to a certain community, a certain nation, a certain society, a certain family and so on (sarvopädhi-vinirmuktaà tat-paratvena nirmalam [Cc. Madhya 19.170]). Then he takes the arrow of his purified life, and with the help of the bow—the transcendental chanting of praëava, or the Hare Krishna mantra—he throws himself toward the Supreme Personality of Godhead.