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Shloka

अविद्यायामन्तरे वर्तमानाः स्वयं धीराः पण्डितंमन्यमानाः।
दन्द्रम्यमाणाः परियन्ति मूढा अन्धेनैव नीयमाना यथाऽन्धाः II

Transliteration

Avidyāyāmantare vartamānāḥ svayaṃ dhīrāḥ paṇḍitaṃmanyamānāḥ।
dandramyamāṇāḥ pariyanti mūḍhā andhenaiva nīyamānā yathā'ndhāḥ

Translation

Living in the midst of ignorance and considering themselves intelligent and enlightened, the senseless people go round and round, following crooked course, just like the blind led by the blind.

Understand that the above is a shloka on Spiritual Ignorance.

What is the Source of the above shloka?

Does it have a deeper philosophical meaning ?

  • 1
    I think source of this Shloka can be easily found by (Google) searching. – Paṇḍyā Jun 9 '18 at 17:16
  • However, the answerers are choosing not to include the meaning. – Rubellite Yakṣī Jun 9 '18 at 20:16
  • Once you are being able to locate the verse (which is very easy to do from Google) getting what you're calling a deeper philosophical meaning isn't difficult either. Because, we can with equal ease find a commentory on the verse just like Destroyer did. @UdayKrishna – Rickross Jun 10 '18 at 5:58
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It's from Mundaka Upanishad 1.2.8.

अविद्यायामन्तरे वर्तमानाः स्वयं धीराः पण्डितंमन्यमानाः ।
दन्द्रम्यमाणाः परियन्ति मूढा अन्धेनैव नीयमाना यथाऽन्धाः || ८ ॥

avidyāyāmantare vartamānāḥ svayaṁ dhīrāḥ paṇḍitaṃ manyamānāḥ |
jaṅghanyamānāḥ pariyanti mūḍhā andhenaiva nīyamānā yathāndhāḥ || 8 ||

8.Being in the midst of ignorance and thinking in their own minds that they are intelligent and learned, the ignorant wander, afflicted with troubles, like the blind led by the blind.

Previous verses say actions (Karma) such as sacrifices, oblations when performed without knoweldge (higher Vidya) are considered as inferior and following verses criticize such actions where lower Vidya is included. Mantra 7 says such actions (with lower Vidya) lead to continous decay and death (Samsara). Mantra 8 says those who do such actions without Knowledge are ignorant.

Shankara's commentary:

Moreover, being in the midst of ignorance, i.e., being utterly ignorant and thinking in their own minds “we alone are intelligent and have known all that should be known.” Thus flattering themselves, the ignorant wander much afflicted by old age, sickness and a lot of their troubles, being devoid of vision as the blind in this world, going the way pointed out by persons, themselves blind, fall into ditch and brambles.

  • The OP wants to know philosophical meaning behind the mantra too. You should also post that. Try adding some explanation to the commentary too. – Sarvabhouma Jun 10 '18 at 3:30
  • @Sarvabhouma I missed that in question. Will add. – The Destroyer Jun 10 '18 at 4:57
  • 1
    @Uday Added philosophical meaning. – The Destroyer Jun 10 '18 at 5:14
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Katha Upanishad (associated with Katha Shakha of Krishna Yajurveda):

Prathama Adhyaya, Dvitiya Valli, Pancham Mantra (1.2.5)

अविद्यायामन्तरे वर्तमानाः स्वयं धीराः पण्डितंमन्यमानाः ।
दन्द्रम्यमाणाः परियन्ति मूढा अन्धेनैव नीयमाना यथान्धाः ॥ ५॥

English Translation:

1-II-5. Living in the midst of ignorance and deeming themselves intelligent and enlightened, the ignorant go round and round staggering in crooked paths, like the blind led by the blind.

2nd Valli starts with informing about difference between Shreya and Preya. Shreya means preferable, good or welfare for spiritual progress and approach towards the goal/Moksha whereas Preya means pleasurable which gives material/sensual pleasure. Wise man (who have true knowledge) prefer the preferable while others (due to the ignorance) prefer the pleasurable. That's why Gitapress Hindi translation writes Vidya and Avidya in the brackets to Shreya and Preya respectively.

So, Shreya and Preya equally approach man and who wisely examines and separates both and prefers the former while ignorant selects the later. This Vidya and Avidya are opposed to each other and lead to the different ways. The verse, which we're discussing presently shows the progress or marching of who selects the Preya over Shreya. Those who selects Preya, thinking that this is the right way, satisfies my desires and should be preferred over Shreya, go round and round staggering in crooked paths, like the blind led by the blind. Let's interpret 'blind led by blind'. Here those who have selected Preya are blind because they don't have true knowledge (still thinks that I'm intelligent and what I am selected is the best, Shreya) on what should be preferred, and Preya (Avidya) is also blind since it misleads as mentioned in Mundaka Upanishad (1.2.6) :

I-ii-6: Saying, 'Come, come', uttering pleasing words such as, 'This is your well-earned, virtuous path which leads to heaven', and offering him adoration, the scintillating oblations carry the sacrificer along the rays of the sun.

I-ii-7: Since these eighteen constituents of a sacrifice, on whom the inferior karma has been said to rest, are perishable because of their fragility, therefore those ignorant people who get elated with the idea 'This is (the cause of) bliss', undergo old age and death over again.

Coincidently, the next verse (1.2.8) is already cited by The Destroyer read the next verses which explains the predicament of ignorants.

So, Shreya is preferable, important, auspicious/welfare for the spiritual lord/master of chariot (see Katha 1.3.3) and leads to the supreme goal which is very subtle (1.3.10 and 11 or 1.2.8).

That's why Upanishads recommends us to approach the excellent preceptors:

उत्तिष्ठत जाग्रत प्राप्य वरान्निबोधत ।
क्षुरस्य धारा निशिता दुरत्यया दुर्गं पथस्तत्कवयो वदन्ति ॥ १४॥

1-III-14. Arise, awake, and learn by approaching the exalted ones, for that path is sharp as a razor's edge, impassable, and hard to go by, say the wise.

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