आत्मानं रथिनम् विद्धि शरीरं रथमेव च।
बुद्धिम् तु सारथिं विद्धि मनः प्रग्रहमेव च॥
इन्द्रियान्णि हयानाहु विषयांस्तेषु गोचरान्।
कठोपनिषद् तृतीयवल्लिः श्लोकाः ३- ४
ātmānaṁ rathinam viddhi śarīraṁ rathameva ca |
buddhim tu sārathiṁ viddhi manaḥ pragrahameva ca||
indriyānṇi hayānāhu viṣayāṁsteṣu gocarān|
kaṭhopaniṣad tṛtīyavalliḥ ślokāḥ 3- 4
The Individual aatma is the owner and rider of the chariot, The external body with its limbs skin bone and blood is the chariot itself The intellect is the charioteer and the mind is the rein. The sense organs are the horses, and their paths are the sense objects. The learned call the individual the enjoyer who is integrated in body, the senses and the mind.
Naachiketah, son of Vajasravas, was watching his father performing a sacrifice. He saw that the father in the course were giving away barren cows as gifts, and was bringing upon himself ignomity and sin. The young boy was sad and he asked his father as to whom he was going to give his son Nachiketha at a gift. The father was irritated but did not answer the questions the first few times. Finally in sheer anger he shouted that he was giving his son to Yama, the god of death. Taking his fathers word as a holy command, the child went to the abode of Yama and waited there as Yama had gone out on some duty and came back only three days later. When the Yama saw a brahmachari languishing for three days at his doorsteps he was overcome by remorse and after offering the boy the respects due to him and after hearing his story, offered him three boons. With these boons Nachiketa desired to attain knowledge of the life in the mundane world and the nether world and also the blessings of his father who was angry with him. The yama dharma while describing the ways of humans and proper conduct imparts this manthra to Nachiketha.
The aatma or the holder of life cannot be seen in the context of the vedantic jeevatma and paramaatma. Here it is the thing that holds the body and sense alive. In his day to day existence, the individual uses his body as if it is a vehicle. The intellect, the power to see the difference between right and wrong act as the driver, the mind as the reins held by the intellect. The unruly sense organs are the horses and they are raring to charge along the long path ahead and this path is the enjoyment of the sense organs. It is only the person who has the proper co ordination of the body, sense and the mind can be called a good rider travelling in the right path.
In such a short expostulation the entire purpose of jnana and yoga are revealed and such cryptic slokas have been subjected to detailed analysis by Sankara, Ramanuja, Madwa and other great souls.