QUESTION: If Consciousness is independent of body, mind or 3 gunas, then why work on purification?
The Upanishads declare that Brahman or consciousness is the ultimate reality. Our true nature is Brahman – eternal, infinite, free from limitations. However, we fail to realize this due to ignorance caused by the impurities of the mind.
The mind is constantly disturbed by rajas (restlessness) and tamas (inertia). This causes it to swing between extremes – at times overly active jumping from one thought to another, at other times dull, clouded and unclear. A mind dominated by rajas and tamas cannot comprehend the subtle truths of Advaita Vedanta. It is too distracted, agitated and lacks the subtlety to discern the oneness of Atman and Brahman.
Therefore, purification of mind is essential. A sattvic (pure, tranquil) mind is necessary to realize the identity of Atman (“I”) and Brahman (the total). When rajas and tamas are subdued, the mind becomes calm, focused and sharp. The turbulences settle down and the veils of ignorance are removed.
In this purified state, the mind becomes like a clean mirror capable of accurately reflecting Brahman. The knowledge imparted by the Guru is clearly grasped without distortion. One is then able to discern the true meaning of mahavakyas like “Tat Tvam Asi” – “You are That”. The oneness of the individual self and final reality becomes evident.
Thus, mental purification leads to sattva guna predominating. This removes the obstacles blocking the vision of oneness. A serene, subtle and sensitive mind alone can properly reflect on the teachings, practice self-inquiry and realize the non-dual, undifferentiated Brahman. This is why mental purification is emphasized in Vedanta before trying to capture the expansive vision of oneness.
Reality is vast, deep and multifaceted. A small mind in this vast reality attempts to fit something so vast, in its small framework. Then, as means of coping and resuming its illusory sense of control — it convinces itself, “I've got it!”.
This is seen even with the highest IQ's, such as within neuroscience, proclaiming, “This grey brain matter, gives birth to consciousness”. Showing a high IQ isn't enough. A pure/clean mind doesn't suffice either. There are many pure minded beings throughout history who reject consciousness as the final reality, and aim for higher lokas (worlds such as heaven).
One also needs humility by acknowledging “I can't see my own blind-spots and thus need help from a guru”. A desire to continuously self-reflect (analyze one's experience). Nurture emotional maturity. Ask the Lord for help.
Look at how many things are needed to capture the multifaceted nature of reality.
While the mind is impure, it's too obsessed with its own notions, which are projected onto reality. It similarly projects onto Consciousness, then proclaims, “I am consciousness, beyond the mind”.
At the same time, it's important to understand, the mind can never and will never be completely pure. Mind is mithya (fluctuating and limited in it's capacity). There's no such thing as perfection at level of mind. Consciousness (Brahman) alone is perfect; that which is ever full, complete and eternal.
Failing to acknowledge this, the other extreme is to spend whole life in purification.
Therefore, a relatively pure mind is required. Or just enough to allow the scriptural teaching to do their intended magic — without having a need to reject what doesn't sound good, and only accept what sounds good.