तस्य यथाभिनहनं प्रमुच्य प्रब्रूयादेतां दिशं गन्धारा एतां दिशं व्रजेति स ग्रामाद्ग्रामं पृच्छन्पण्डितो मेधावी गन्धारानेवोपसम्पद्येतैवमेवेहाचार्यवान्पुरुषो वेद तस्य तावदेव चिरं यावन्न विमोक्ष्येऽथ सम्पत्स्य इति ॥ ६.१४.२ ॥
tasya yathābhinahanaṃ pramucya prabrūyādetāṃ diśaṃ gandhārā etāṃ diśaṃ vrajeti sa grāmādgrāmaṃ pṛcchanpaṇḍito medhāvī gandhārānevopasampadyetaivamevehācāryavānpuruṣo veda tasya tāvadeva ciraṃ yāvanna vimokṣye’tha sampatsya iti || 6.14.2 ||
2.—And as someone may remove that person’s blindfold and say, ‘Gandhāra is this way; go this way,’ and the intelligent man goes from one village to another, asking his way and relying on the information people give, until he reaches Gandhāra; similarly, a person who gets a teacher attains knowledge. His delay is only as long as he is not free of his body. After that he becomes merged in the Self.
Yathā, as; tasya, his; abhinahanam, blindfold; pramucya, having removed; prabrūyāt, someone says; etām diśam, this way; gandhārāḥ, is the Gandhāra country; etām diśam vraja iti, go this way; saḥ, he; grāmāt grāmam pṛcchan, asking from village to village; paṇḍitaḥ medhāvī, the enlightened person who gets knowledge [of what direction to go in]; gandhārān eva upasampadyeta, reaches Gandhāra itself; evam eva, in the same way; iha, in this world; puruṣaḥ veda, a person knows; ācāryavān, guided by a teacher; tasya, his; tāvat eva, that long; ciram, delay; yāvat, as long as; na vimokṣye, he is hot free [from the body]; atha sampatsye iti, then he becomes merged in the Self.
The question being considered here is, if I am ignorant how will my ignorance be removed? It can be removed through the instructions of a teacher. But he must be a competent teacher. Can a blind person lead another blind person? No. There is sure to be a disaster if they try.
In this verse the Upaniṣad gives an example of a person led blindfolded into a forest and left there. We are like that person. We are blind, ignorant, and we are unhappy and suffer because of our ignorance. This world of attachment is like a dense forest. Though it is self-created, we do not know the way out. We need someone to help us—someone who knows the way. We need a good teacher. Śaṅkara says the word medhāvī means one who is capable of understanding. You may have a good teacher, and you may have been given instructions, but you have to use your intelligence also.
Now suppose you have a good teacher and you have attained Self-knowledge. According to Vedānta, when you attain Self-knowledge you automatically attain liberation. But the Upaniṣad says there is still one snag. What is that snag? Our prārabdha karma. Karma means the results of our actions. If I do something good, I will experience a good result; and if I do something bad, I must suffer. Vedānta says, there are three kinds of karma. One kind is called sañcita karma. It is our karma that has been accumulated from one birth to another. We have done so many things, and all these actions are waiting to bear fruit.
Another kind of karma is called āgāmī karma. While we are experiencing the fruits of our past actions, we are also creating new karma now by our present actions. Some of these actions will bear fruit immediately, but others will take time.
The third kind of karma is called prārabdha karma. It is that which has already started bearing fruit in our present life.
According to Vedānta, if you have attained Self-knowledge, both your sañcita karma and your āgāmī karma are destroyed. Śaṅkara says they are burned in the fire of knowledge (jñānāgni). But your prārabdha karma will continue. It is the momentum. If you are to suffer from cancer or something else, you cannot escape it. You have to wait till your prārabdha karma exhausts itself.
There are two examples of prārabdha karma. One example is: Suppose you are sawing a tree down. You saw it through completely, but it keeps standing there. It does not immediately fall down. Then a little breeze comes and it falls over. Prārabdha is like the tree standing for a while before falling down.
Then there is the example of the arrow that has been shot. Once you shoot an arrow, you cannot call it back. The same is the case with prārabdha karma. It goes on till the force that has put it into motion is expended.
Now, if you have attained Self-knowledge, your actions will not be like those of an ordinary person. Whatever you do from then on is for the good of others. Śaṅkara says a liberated person does nothing out of desire. If you do something out of desire, that action binds you, even if it is something good. Very often a person does something good out of desire for fame, for power, or for some other selfish motive.
A liberated person, according to Śaṅkara, will do nothing that is against the spirit of the scriptures. His actions will always be right. And they will be only for the good of others (lokahitārtham), or for God (Īśvarārtham).