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One of the greatest mysteries in metaphysics, and therefore in the world, is that human life is a great boon to the individual, and yet it is unreal.

The Hindu philosopher (b. 788 AD) Adi Shankara, author of the Crest-Jewel of Wisdoma true jewel of a book, as it is an excellent manual of spirituality beyond which nothing need be read to prepare for Self-realization - writes:

"For beings a human birth is hard to win . . . hardest of all to win is wisdom . . . This triad that is won by the bright one's favor is hard to gain: humanity, aspiration, and rest in the great spirit."

Later in this same work, discoursing on the individual who is free in life, the author writes: "He whose thought is free from outward objects, through standing ever in the nature of the Eternal, who is as lightly concerned with the enjoyment of sensual things followed by others as a sleeping child, looking on this world as a land beheld in dream, when consciousness comes back . . . (For) this world is like a dream, crowded with loves and hates; in its own time it shines like a reality; but on awakening it becomes unreal."

So human birth is hard to win, and good to attain, yet the world in which we humans play our parts is nothing more than a dream. How can what is unreal be so good?

I do not propose to have the answer to this, the supreme paradox, which runs through all mystical and metaphysical thought. Indeed the belief in the "boon of human birth into a world that is itself unreal" can be traced all the way back to the Vedas, which were composed thousands of years before Christ (and which the same Shankara made copious commentaries upon). Think on it and see what you come up with. If you in all your life are able to devise one original answer to life's greatest mysteries, let it be to this question: How can the unreal have value?

Here is a hint: It could be that humans, with the capacity for reason and reflection, have the ability unique among creatures of the animal kingdom to discern the real from the unreal, and though living in a world dreamlike in its evanescence, it is we humans alone who are capable of identifying the unchanging reality which underlies this phenomenon of changing forms, the Eternal whose nature is existence, consciousness and bliss, and which resides in the heart.

To go from the unreal to the real one needs the mind, and when you experience the real in the silence of your own heart you realize that the mind itself, like the individual imagining himself separate and apart from "others," does not exist. Like a mirror's image, the mind, and with it the body and the individual personality, has no independent reality, being a reflection of the consciousness that alone shines from within.

Thus freedom is won. Think about it until you go beyond thought and see what remains. This is aspiration, and the prize, as our Adi says, is "rest in the great spirit." That is the true boon.


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