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rathaṁ pañcāśvam āśu-gam
dvīṣaṁ dvi-cakram ekākṣaṁ
pañca-prastham agād vanam
These three verses explain how the material body of the living entity is under the control of the three qualities of the external energy. The body itself is the chariot, and the living entity is the owner of the body, as explained in Bhagavad-gītā (2.13): dehino ’smin yathā dehe. The owner of the body is called the dehī, and he is situated within this body, specifically within the heart. The living entity is driven by one chariot driver. The chariot itself is made of three guṇas, three qualities of material nature, as confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (18.61): yantrārūḍhāni māyayā. The word yantra means “carriage.” The body is given by material nature, and the driver of that body is Paramātmā, the Supersoul. The living entity is seated within the chariot. This is the actual position.
The living entity is always being influenced by the three qualities — sattva (goodness), rajas (passion) and tamas (ignorance). This is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (7.13). Tribhir guṇa-mayair bhāvaiḥ: the living entity is bewildered by the three qualities of material nature. These three qualities are described in this verse as three flags. By a flag, one can come to know who the owner of the chariot is; similarly, by the influence of the three qualities of material nature, one can easily know the direction in which the chariot is moving. In other words, one who has eyes to see can understand how the body is being driven, influenced by the particular type of quality of material nature. In these three verses the activity of the living entity is described to prove how the body becomes influenced by the quality of ignorance, even when a person wants to be religious. Nārada Muni wanted to prove to King Prācīnabarhiṣat that the King was being influenced by the tamo-guṇa, the quality of ignorance, even though the King was supposed to be very religious.
According to karma-kāṇḍīya, the process of fruitive activities, a person performs various sacrifices directed by the Vedas, and in all those sacrifices animal killing, or experimenting on the life of animals to test the power of Vedic mantras, is enjoined. Animal-killing is certainly conducted under the influence of the mode of ignorance. Even though one may be religiously inclined, animal sacrifice is recommended in the śāstras, not only in the Vedas but even in the modern scriptures of other sects. These animal sacrifices are recommended in the name of religion, but actually animal sacrifice is meant for persons in the mode of ignorance. When such people kill animals, they can at least do so in the name of religion. However, when the religious system is transcendental, like the Vaiṣṇava religion, there is no place for animal sacrifice. Such a transcendental religious system is recommended by Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā (18.66):
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” Because King Prācīnabarhiṣat was engaged in performing various sacrifices in which animals were killed, Nārada Muni pointed out that such sacrifices are influenced by the mode of ignorance. From the very beginning of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.1.2) it is said, dharmaḥ projjhita-kaitavo ’tra: all kinds of religious systems that are involved in cheating are completely kicked out of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. In the bhagavad-dharma, the religion dealing with one’s relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, animal sacrifice is not recommended. In the performance of saṅkīrtana-yajña — Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare — there is no recommendation for animal sacrifices.
In these three verses, King Purañjana’s going to the forest to kill animals is symbolic of the living entity’s being driven by the mode of ignorance and thus engaging in different activities for sense gratification. The material body itself indicates that the living entity is already influenced by the three modes of material nature and that he is driven to enjoy material resources. When the body is influenced by the mode of ignorance, its infection becomes very acute. When it is influenced by the mode of passion, the infection is at the symptomatic stage. However, when the body is influenced by the mode of goodness, the materialistic infection becomes purified. The ritualistic ceremonies recommended in religious systems are certainly on the platform of goodness, but because within this material world even the mode of goodness is sometimes polluted by the other qualities, namely passion and ignorance, a man in goodness is sometimes driven by the influence of ignorance.
It is herein described that King Purañjana once went to the forest to kill animals. This means that he, the living entity, came under the influence of the mode of ignorance. The forest in which King Purañjana engaged in hunting was named Pañca-prastha. The word pañca means “five,” and this indicates the objects of the five senses. The body has five working senses, namely the hands, the legs, the tongue, the rectum and the genitals. By taking full advantage of these working senses, the body enjoys material life. The chariot is driven by five horses, which represent the five sense organs, namely the eyes, ears, nose, skin and tongue. These sense organs are very easily attracted by the sense objects. Consequently, the horses are described as moving swiftly. On the chariot King Purañjana kept two explosive weapons, which may be compared to ahaṅkāra, or false ego. This false ego is typified by two attitudes: “I am this body” (ahantā) and “Everything in my bodily relationships belongs to me” (mamatā).
The two wheels of the chariot may be compared to the two moving facilities, namely sinful life and religious life. The chariot is decorated with three flags, which represent the three modes of material nature. The five kinds of obstacles, or uneven roads, represent the five kinds of air passing within the body. These are prāṇa, apāna, udāna, samāna and vyāna. The body itself is covered by seven coverings, namely skin, muscle, fat, blood, marrow, bone and semen. The living entity is covered by three subtle material elements and five gross material elements. These are actually obstacles placed before the living entity on the path of liberation from material bondage.
The word raśmi, “rope,” in this verse indicates the mind. The word nīḍa is also significant, for nīḍa indicates the nest where a bird takes rest. In this case nīḍa is the heart, where the living entity is situated. The living entity sits in one place only. The causes of his bondage are two, namely lamentation and illusion. In material existence the living entity simply hankers to get something he can never get. Therefore he is in illusion. As a result of being in this illusory situation, the living entity is always lamenting. Thus lamentation and illusion are described herein as dvi-kūbara, the two posts of bondage.
The living entity carries out various desires through five different processes, which indicate the working of the five working senses. The golden ornaments and dress indicate that the living entity is influenced by the quality of rajo-guṇa, passion. One who has a good deal of money or riches is especially driven by the mode of passion. Being influenced by the mode of passion, one desires so many things for enjoyment in this material world. The eleven commanders represent the ten senses and the mind. The mind is always making plans with the ten commanders to enjoy the material world. The forest named Pañca-prastha, where the King went to hunt, is the forest of the five sense objects: form, taste, sound, smell and touch. Thus in these three verses Nārada Muni describes the position of the material body and the encagement of the living entity within it.