What is the idea of life! What are we expected to do here! Whence have we come and to where will we go? Who we are? What this whole world is about? How has it come and how does it sustain? These are some mind-boggling questions with which any ordinary human being is confronted. He tries to inquire, study and meditate and seeks to find an answer which somehow satisfies him. Thus we see a plethora of views on these simple yet profound questions concerning the very basics of our life. And on the other hand, we see almost entire humanity not giving a damn to these questions and simply carrying on with their lives similar to the way of life lived by animals. These guys get a shock when some near and dear one departs. It seems as if their entire world has turned upside down. They cry, they weep and yet after not even a month passes, they are back to the way they have been living. Showing great discrimination between lauki and karela, between urad dal and moong dal, they carry on with life as usual. Such is the deep mystery of our existence that we live without knowing the very basics of life and not giving a damn about our ignorance.
Let us inquire it from the very start. We all have an idea about ourselves. However, when confronted with simple logical questions, we realize that we are not what we were thinking ourselves to be. We then realize that we all are that singular entity which exists in deep sleep without any connection with body. We also understand that the source of happiness is not in the external objects of the world rather in our own selves which manifests through the absence of mind caused by the contact of senses and desirable sense-objects. Having understood that, one comes across the teaching that just as the entire plurality of dream world was one singular entity that is one’s own mind, similarly the entire plurality of entire waking world is singular unitary object, one’s very own self. With a purified mind, one thus understands the non-difference of the waking world with one’s own self and goes beyond moha and shoka by seeing the non-difference.
However, let us concentrate on the people with impure minds i.e. we all, who have the access to this phenomenal teaching and yet who are short of getting the fruit of this teaching. We all, who are still grappling with moha and shoka, who fail to see the unity of world with ourselves. What is the way out for us? How to move ahead? Shastra comes to rescue. It suggests a lot of ways through Vedas, Smritis, Itihasas and Puranas. It mentions basically a code of conduct to live life until the dawn of the knowledge of non-difference of world with our own Self. It classifies actions into Nitya, Naimittika, Kamya and Pratishiddha (known as shastra-vihit-karma) and prescribes the suitable actions for people with corresponding proclivity.
So, the idea is simple. Find out for yourself as to whether you are free of moha – shoka. After all, it is you alone who can assert it correctly as to whether you are free from moha – shoka. If you find yourself to be beyond them, congratulations! If not, follow the shastra-vihit-karma with an attitude of surrender to God. So, you should do charity (dana—which removes lobha), fasting (upawas—which destroys kama) etc just to name a few.
Thus, for an aspirant of Moksha, liberation, the study of Upnishad should go hand-in-hand with the study of Vedas, Smritis, Puranas, Itihasas etc so as to gather knowledge of shastra-vihit-karma. In these times, not all can be practiced. But the idea should be to practice as much shastra-vihit-karma as possible with an attitude of surrender to God so as to get a mind purified enough to realize the non-difference of world with our own Self.