Chapter Eleven

An Enlightening Cup of Tea

I RETURNED TO MASTER FWAP’S temple the next day at noon, as he had suggested. Once again Master Fwap met me at the temple door and guided me back to his quarters. We sat on the yak-hair rug in his room as we had the day before. But this time the table between us had a teapot and two empty tea cups on it.

“I have invited you for tea today,” Master Fwap began. “I enjoy drinking tea several times a day. In fact, tea is my favorite drink. Do you like tea?”

I told him I did. He then proceeded to pour us each a steaming cup of hot tea from his teapot. I thought that it might be too hot to drink, but upon tasting it I was pleased to discover that it wasn’t.

“Today I am going to teach you about enlightenment!” Master Fwap announced loudly, as if there were other people in the room whom he wanted to make aware of what he was saying. “But before I do, I would like to answer the question that I know you are just burning to ask me.”

He paused for a moment and sipped his tea. I reflected for a moment. If I had a particular question on my mind that I wanted to ask Master Fwap, I was certainly not conscious of it. However after a few more moments of silence, a question occurred to me.

“Master Fwap,” I began, “I don’t understand any of this. I came to Nepal to snowboard the Himalayas, not to learn about enlightenment and the secret teachings of your Buddhist Order.

“I don’t mean to complain, but are you sure you have the right guy here?”

Master Fwap smiled at me and didn’t say a word. Then he closed his eyes. Several minutes passed and he still didn’t respond to my question. As a matter of fact, the expression on his face was so peaceful, I was afraid that he might have drifted off to sleep.

As I sat on the yak-hair rug in Master Fwap’s small, clean and comfortable room, a very strange thing began to occur. The air in the room began to thicken and turn a beautiful, bright golden color—not all at once, but very gradually.

At first I thought it was “snowing” golden light around Master Fwap. I noticed the phenomenon first around his head; then the golden light seemed to spread all around his body, and finally it filled up the entire room!

Seeing the golden light surrounding Master Fwap’s body, my first thought was that something must have happened to my vision. I rubbed my eyes with both of my hands in an attempt to clear my sight. But it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference. The color of the air around Master Fwap and in the room remained a soft and beautiful gold.

As I watched in amazement, the golden light that was filling the room became even thicker. After a few more minutes, I could barely see Master Fwap at all, even though he was sitting directly across the table from me. Then I felt my entire body beginning to tingle with a prickly heat. It wasn’t an entirely unpleasant sensation, just unusual.

I lost consciousness of the passage of time. Master Fwap and I could have been sitting in his room for five minutes or five hours; I couldn’t tell the difference. I did notice, however, that my mind had become clear, composed and relaxed. In fact I felt very good, probably better than I had ever felt before in my life.

As timeless time passed, another awareness began to overtake me: without any apparent effort on my part, I suddenly understood everything. Not that there was anything in particular to understand; I suddenly just “knew” all about life. I realized that I was one with life, and at the same time a separate and unique part of it.

It was then that I first knew Master Fwap was enlightened. Somehow I could feel inside of his mind—and I knew it was made up of the pure golden light. I also knew, without knowing how I knew, that the golden light in Master Fwap’s mind, and the golden light that was currently filling up his room, was the light of enlightenment.

I could sense that Master Fwap’s mind stretched out endlessly in every direction, throughout all time, space and dimensionality. I had never felt or experienced anything that was so incredibly beautiful before.

Then Master Fwap spoke to me in a soothing tone of voice. He didn’t open his eyes as he spoke.

He talked about enlightenment. As he spoke to me, the waves of golden light continued to emanate from his body in a seemingly endless variety of kaleidoscopic patterns. I noticed at times there was a steady flow of soft golden light coming directly from his body, and at other times it seemed to pulse rhythmically throughout the room, in time with his speech patterns.

“Enlightenment,” he began, “is the complete awareness of life, without any mental modifications. It is happiness, ecstasy and all that is beautiful, perfect and fulfilling in life. Enlightenment,” he continued, “is a perfect state of mind. It is the direct ‘seeing’ of reality.

“The world most people see, which they call life, is really just a dream. Just as the events in a dream have an apparent solidity while you are dreaming them, so also day-to-day life seems solid and real while you are experiencing it. But when a day, an experience, or a feeling has passed, it loses its apparent solidity, just as the events in a dream lose their sense of reality after you have awakened from them.

“The world you experience every day and night of your life is transient; you—the person who experiences all of this, the people you know, have known or will one day know, the feelings and experiences you have had, are having now, or will have one day in the future, all of these things, times, places, people, experiences, understandings, feelings and events, are transient.

“They only last for the blink of an eye, and then they dissolve back into that unknowable and formless eternity from which all things come, and to which all things eventually must return.

“But behind this transient reality that comes and goes so swiftly, there is something else. It is a deeper, more permanent and unchanging reality that we Buddhists call nirvana.

“As I told you yesterday, nirvana is not really a physical place, although sometimes in conversation I talk about it as if it were. It is not really an experience, although sometimes for purposes of explanation and clarification I mention it as if it was.

“Nirvana is the intelligent light that makes us and everything that we experience, from birth to death and from death to rebirth. It is also the same light that makes up everything that is beyond the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

“It is wonderful beyond knowing! It creates all of the transient worlds, and the beings that inhabit them, out of itself. It sustains them, transforms them, and eventually draws them back into itself again.

“And yet, while the beings it creates will experience the pleasures and pains and the successes and failures of existence, it remains aloof from them. It is untouched by their happiness or unhappiness. Nirvana is a state of perpetual bliss and ecstasy, unaffected by the transient ups and downs of its own creations!

“Tantric Buddhist Yoga is a pathway a person can follow to enlightenment. Through the tantric practices you can unite your consciousness with the eternal bliss and ecstasy of nirvana and rise above the limited conditions of pleasure and pain, success and failure, happiness and sorrow, that all of the countless unenlightened beings in creation are slaves to.

“If you want to constantly experience the unalloyed ecstasy of life, you must first break contact with the things that cause you pain. You can accomplish this through the twin Buddhist practices of meditation and mindfulness.

“In meditation, by fully focusing your mind on your chakras, stilling your thoughts, and increasing your kundalini flow, you can rise above your body consciousness and unite your mind with the clear light of nirvana. This establishes a flow of bliss and happiness between your mind and enlightenment.

“With the happiness, ecstasy and power you gain from meditation, you can then gradually remove your mind from the things it has become hooked to that cause it pain. Once you have accomplished this, regardless of what happens to you in your physical life, you will always be happy.

“When you draw your happiness each day from the endless awareness of nirvana,” Master Fwap continued, “you are no longer a slave to fortune. When pleasant experiences come your way, you can enjoy them. But if pain and misfortune befall you, you can rise above them and remain unaffected. The bliss and ecstasy of nirvana will lift you far above the transient sorrows of both life and death.

“Try thinking of it this way,” Master Fwap said. “Above the clouds, the sun is always shining. Today, if it is a cloudy day, we cannot enjoy the sunshine and feel as much of its warmth as we could on a sunny day. But if you and I were to get into a jet plane and fly high above the clouds, there would only be sunshine. It is always sunny above the clouds.

“In much the same way, if you derive your happiness from the events, sensations and other experiences that you have in this physical world, and from the emotions and feelings they generate within your mind and body, you are a slave to the ‘weather’ of events. When things are ‘sunny’ in your life you will be happy. But on ‘cloudy’ days, which we all have in life, you will be sad, depressed and in pain.

“As you know, we cannot control the weather. As a matter of fact, we can hardly predict it. It is the same with day-to-day life. It is very hard to control life even some of the time, let alone most or all of the time, and it is almost impossible to predict life.

“But after you have united your mind with nirvana in deepest meditation, you will always be in an enlightened state of consciousness. Then let the clouds of life come! Let the rain of unhappy and tragic experiences fall, as sometimes it inevitably must, even in the lives of enlightened masters. If your mind has become one with nirvana, through the practice of meditation and mindfulness, you will remain happy at all times.”

“But Master Fwap,” I found myself asking, “how do people who meditate feel during the period of time before they become enlightened? Are they as unhappy and do they still suffer as much as other unenlightened people, or are they better able to deal with what you refer to as the ‘cloudy’ days of human life because they meditate? Do they have to become enlightened before things really improve for them?”

Master Fwap opened his eyes and looked directly at me. “These are good questions!” he laughed. “Naturally it takes quite a bit of time to become enlightened. But it is really not so different from learning any other art: all you need is time, a good teacher, and practice.

“When you first begin to meditate you should not expect too much too soon. The first day you start studying a foreign language you don’t expect to speak it, do you?

“But even after only several weeks of practicing meditation you will begin to have more energy, and be a little bit happier. Gradually, as your meditation practice improves, you will experience even greater happiness and have more internal energy at your disposal. Eventually, as you further improve your meditation practice, you will experience ecstasy and knowledge that is beyond the power of words to describe!

“Each time you meditate, you create a stronger connection with the world of inner light and happiness that exists within you,” Master Fwap explained. “Over the course of many years of practice, that connection will become brighter and more ecstatic. But even from the very beginning of your meditation practice, you will notice that some of the brightness and ecstasy you experience during meditation will enter into your day-to-day life.

“Remember,” Master Fwap said in a mock tone of warning, “as your meditation practice improves from month to month, more and more light and ecstasy will spill over into the moments of your daily life.

“Eventually a time will come when you will always exist, as I do, in a state of continual light.”

“Master Fwap, if all you learn from a master are the secret meditation techniques, why would you need to continue to study with a master once you have learned the techniques from him?” I inquired.

“You will need correction, direction, and most of all you will need your master’s auric empowerment,” Master Fwap quickly explained.

“If you have electricity in the wires of your house,” he continued, “you only have to plug a lamp in to make it work. The current is already there for you to use.

“But if you only have a small hand-powered generator to light a lamp, then you will only have light when you turn the crank of the hand generator. When you stop, the light will fade and go out.

“An enlightened master is a perpetual source of the cosmic light because his mind is always merged with nirvana. If you are a student of an enlightened master, then you can literally tap into his aura—the field of light that comes through him—anywhere and at anytime. All you have to do is meditate on your Buddhist master and the light will come into your mind.

“An enlightened Buddhist master provides his students with auric empowerment. He literally transfers light, power and knowledge into their auras. This empowerment gives his students an extraordinary amount of prana. This increased amount of prana enables them to meditate more deeply, and to accomplish other things in their lives more rapidly and with greater happiness and ease.

“Naturally, this is not the case for most people who meditate,” he continued. “In this whole world, there are actually very few people who study meditation with an enlightened master. That is because there are not very many enlightened masters on the entire earth.

“Most people don’t have enlightened masters,” he said with a slight sigh, as if the fact troubled him, “so they only experience a limited amount of light when they practice meditation. But a person who wants to progress more rapidly and wishes to overcome unhappiness sooner, should try to find an enlightened master. If a person is serious about not just being a little bit happier, and if that person wants to become enlightened and experience infinite happiness, then he or she must study with an enlightened master. No one on this earth attains enlightenment anymore without an enlightened master as a guide … unless, of course, that person was enlightened in many previous incarnations.”

Master Fwap paused and looked directly into my eyes. The golden light was still filling the air between us. I felt my awareness change, and I simultaneously felt a strange tingling sensation at the top of my head. After staring into my eyes for several minutes, he resumed speaking.

“Nirvana, enlightenment, these terms are interchangeable. Call it anything that you want to: its nature is perfect harmony, peace and joy. Unlike the transient days of our lives that constantly come and go, nirvana has always been, is now, and always will be.

“This is the hardest thing in the universe to understand,” he said with a happy laugh. “You must look beyond my words in order to know what I am talking about. You need to experience the reality of light yourself in your own meditation; only then will you really understand how perfect life is. Then, of course, you will be happy forever.”

“But Master Fwap! How can a person be happy in a world in which there is so much injustice and unhappiness? Everyone and everything dies! And there is so much pain and useless suffering in everyone’s lives. How can meditation and enlightenment change all of that?”

“I agree with you,” Master Fwap said warmly. “The world of human experience is very uncertain. Today you will be happy and then tomorrow you will be unhappy. Today you may get what you want and tomorrow you may not. Today you are young and filled with energy, and in the future you will grow old, and may become very tired.

“Only the enlightened are consistently happy, because their happiness is not predicated upon the events and experiences that take place in this world. Instead it is based upon the boundless inner energy they gain from their connection with the world of enlightenment.”


“BEYOND THIS WORLD ARE COUNTLESS dimensions. They stretch on forever! You can travel to them and have experiences in them.

“Some astral dimensions are bright and filled with ecstasy. Advanced cosmic beings live in them. But there are also very dark astral dimensions that are filled with pain and confusion. They are often inhabited by beings that are filled with hate and despair.

“The experiences that you have in astral dimensions are not essentially all that different from the experiences you have here in the physical dimension, in the sense that they are also transient. Some people make the mistake of assuming that it is always better somewhere else. But life is more or less the same wherever you go—because wherever you go, there you are.

“I mention this to you only because so many people seem to confuse the experience of meditation and enlightenment with astral travel. Some people travel to other dimensions in their astral bodies when they meditate. But astral traveling doesn’t bring a person lasting happiness. As a matter of fact, if astral traveling is not done properly, it can be quite dangerous!

“It is an adversarial world outside of the safety of nirvana and enlightenment. In life, all beings need to feed on other beings just in order to exist. Some beings also like to cause others to needlessly suffer, just out of pure maliciousness.

“Just because you go to another dimension doesn’t mean that things will be happier or better there for you. Actually things may be much more difficult.

“There are many different forms of life in the universe,” Master Fwap continued, with a tone of warning in his voice, “and human beings are unaware of most of them. As you know, one small virus can take away your physical life. And as you have also learned, there are dangerous people and situations in life that you need to avoid simply to go on living, let alone to achieve happiness and perfect enlightenment.

“It has taken many years of your life just for you to learn how to successfully negotiate many of the physical dangers of the day-to-day world. Learning to cross a street in traffic, or turning down unacceptable or suspicious invitations from strangers are things you do that you now take for granted. But when you were first born, you didn’t know about these dangers and how to deal with them. You learned about them from your parents, your teachers at school, and through other experiences you have had.

“Human beings only recently discovered that bacteria and viruses exist. I can personally assure you, as a Buddhist monk who has studied the riddles of existence for many, many thousands of incarnations, that there are also many other complex beings and life forms that inhabit other dimensions. They can be very dangerous when encountered, unless, of course, you know how to handle or avoid them.

“The point I am making is that enlightenment is not interdimensional travel!” Master Fwap said in a strong tone. “Enlightenment is the experience of pure light. I have nothing against interdimensional travel; as a matter of fact, I do it frequently. But I learned to do it safely and correctly from my master, Fwaz Shastra-Dup.”

“What is interdimensional travel like?” I asked. Master Fwap had finally brought up a topic that sounded intriguing to me.

“Interdimensional travel is similar to traveling from one country to another,” he replied. “Sometimes it is refreshing and elevating, and sometimes it is tiring and dangerous. But it certainly should not be confused with the experience of nirvana and enlightenment. Unlike the experience of nirvana, traveling to other dimensions will not take you beyond suffering, nor will it help you to experience the limitless ecstasy of creation. As a matter of fact, interdimensional travel has nothing to do with enlightenment at all.

“If you are enlightened you can experience ecstasy in any dimension and at any time!” Master Fwap exclaimed. “Enlightenment is not related to where your physical or astral body may be, or to any experiences that you may be having with them. Enlightenment is beyond dimensionality. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t provide permanent liberation from sorrow. It would only be another transient experience that eventually would culminate in sorrow, as all other human experiences eventually do.

“That is why enlightenment is really worth seeking!” Master Fwap stated emphatically. “It is the only thing that gives you permanent happiness. When you experience the ecstasy, peace and perfection of the endless and formless light of enlightenment, everything is all right. You are happy and free; you know life.

“Once you are enlightened, you can do whatever you want without fear or sorrow. You can choose to have a career or live in a monastery; you can go snowboarding, get married, stay single, be rich and famous or live unknown in a high Himalayan cave. It is up to you.

“When your mind is flooded with the pure light of nirvana, which is happiness itself, you will be delighted with whatever occurs to you.

“But without enlightenment, everything in life is harsh. Sooner or later you see everyone that you love die, unless you die first, of course. This causes you to suffer.

“But when you are enlightened, you see and understand that nothing and no one really dies,” Master Fwap continued. “At the moment of death, a being simply changes forms. When you are enlightened, you know that everything and everyone, including yourself, is eternal.

“Armed with this knowledge, you no longer fear death or feel as much sorrow when those you love die. Once you have personally experienced enlightenment, you will see beyond the ocean of death to the everlasting shores of immortality.

“When you are enlightened and have united your mind with the deepest and most ancient part of the mind of the universe, you are not affected by suffering the way other people are. Naturally, your physical body will still feel pain if you get hurt, but you will not be overwhelmed even by extreme physical pain, because your mind will be filled with light, love and understanding.”

Master Fwap paused and closed his eyes. As he did, the golden light that filled the air between us suddenly became more solid. I couldn’t see Master Fwap, or anything else in the room for that matter. It was as if I had joined Master Fwap in a dimension of solid gold light: nothing seemed to matter to me anymore. My mind had an unbroken continuity with all of creation. I was at peace.

Then Master Fwap spoke to me. It seemed as if his voice came from afar. At first I was only vaguely aware that he was speaking. Then I became fully aware of what he was saying to me.

“Because of your karma from your past lives, you will become enlightened in this lifetime. You have been enlightened in a number of your previous lives. You cannot avoid becoming enlightened. It will come to you when you are twenty-nine.

“But first you must prepare yourself. You must learn to meditate and stop your thoughts. You must overcome all egotism and selfishness by serving others. You must cleanse your mind so that enlightenment will find a happy place to reside there!”

I LISTENED TO WHAT MASTER Fwap said that day about enlightenment. His words touched something very deep within me. I knew, after he had spoken, that what mattered most in life was to be as aware as he was—to be enlightened.

I don’t think I consciously understood most of what he said to me that day. But as he talked, I could sense the light and the wisdom that was behind his words. Somehow I could feel that he was in touch with the most perfect part of existence, and that was enough for me.

His reference to my future didn’t really have much of an effect on me. He was talking about how I had been in past lives that I couldn’t remember, and about what was going to happen to me in a future that hadn’t yet occurred. I heard his words, but I don’t think I particularly believed them, nor did I disbelieve them. Saying I was enlightened in the past and that I would be enlightened again in the future was something for which I simply didn’t have any reference point. It was simply out of my league.

Master Fwap’s reflections upon enlightenment, the visible golden light I had seen around him, and the way it had transported my mind into a world of perfect feelings, emotions and understandings, did affect me quite profoundly that day. Without my knowing how or why, I simply “knew” what he had told me was true.

Master Fwap answered a few more questions I had about enlightenment, and then suddenly it was sunset. Somehow, without my noticing it, the golden light had vanished from the room and the two of us were sitting together in silence. The tea had grown cold.

MASTER FWAP LEFT ME AT the entrance to his temple and I walked back to the hostel along the narrow streets of Kathmandu. As I walked, everything I saw seemed to glow and give off wave-like vibrations of light, not as bright as the light I had witnessed around Master Fwap, but more subtle and subdued.

Looking at the buildings as I passed by them, I could see they were really made up of dancing particles of energy. I now knew that the world wasn’t really as solid as it looked.

Walking along the cold dark streets of Kathmandu, I didn’t feel very physical. Instead, I felt as if I was pure motion, a feeling I have experienced both before and since, when, on rare occasions, I have been snowboarding without any self-consciousness.

I slept well that night and dreamt of snow falling in the Himalayas.