Chapter Twelve

You Are the Board

I DIDN’T SEE MASTER FWAP for the rest of the week. During that time I reflected on our conversations about enlightenment, while I hiked up and snowboarded down ice- and snow-covered Himalayan peaks. Each morning I would hitch a ride to the mountains and climb up a snow-covered pass. Then I would snowboard down the mountain, climb back up, and do it again.

When I had said good-bye to Master Fwap at his temple door, he hadn’t indicated where or when we would meet again, but I knew somehow that we would. I decided to stick to my snowboarding and leave the when and where of our next encounter up to him.

Six days after our parting, I unexpectedly met him again on the top of a mountain. That day I had spent three hours climbing up a particularly gnarly pass in search of perfect snow. After reaching the top of the pass, I had collapsed in a heap of exhaustion.

As I lay on my back in the cold snow, heavily breathing the thin mountain air in and out of my lungs, I closed my eyes and listened to the pounding of my heart. Then, quite unexpectedly, I felt a presence, as if someone was staring at me. I opened my eyes, and much to my amazement, Master Fwap was standing right above me! He was looking down at me with a big “I know something you don’t know” smile on his face.

Noiselessly, he sat down next to me. I lay on top of the snow-covered mountain peak, panting from exhaustion, breathlessly unable to convey my amazement at our unexpected meeting. A few minutes later, after I had finally caught my breath, I voiced my surprise.

“Master Fwap! What are you doing up here? Of all the possible mountains in the Himalayas, how could you have known that I would be on top of this one? When did you get here? Did you follow me up, or were you already here?”

“I have been waiting for you for a little over an hour,” Master Fwap quickly replied. “Since this is a ‘just right’ mountain for this day, and since I have ‘just right’ karma, I knew that you would show up here!”

Before I could interrupt and ask more questions, he continued. “Today I am going to teach you the art of living correctly. To live correctly, naturally you have to act correctly. Living is acting and acting is living. When the two become one, your life will be perfect.

“The Rae Chorze-Fwaz method of learning to live correctly is through the perfection of all your actions. If you can perfect any one thing that you do, then you will experience and know what perfect living is, in that particular action. Once you have accomplished the perfection of one particular action, it will then be relatively easy for you to transfer that knowledge to some other actions you perform, and eventually you will be able to perfect everything you do.

“It really doesn’t matter which action I teach you to perfect first,” he continued. “Any action will do, since the basic principles involved for perfecting any one action are the same for all actions.

“I have decided to teach you to perfect the action that you enjoy most,” he said with a mischievous smile on his face. “I have come up to the top of this peak today to teach you how to go down this mountain on your snowboard perfectly.”

Master Fwap had trapped me and I knew it. While reincarnation and the secret doctrines of a Tantric Buddhist Mystery School didn’t really matter very much to me, snowboarding did. Snowboarding was everything to me. As unlikely as it seemed that Master Fwap could teach me how to snowboard perfectly, I decided right then and there that if he could, I would definitely become his disciple.

I immediately sat up and paid attention. I didn’t want to miss a word he said.

“To do something perfectly, you must not think about what you are doing at all,” he stated in a strong and formal tone. “Your thoughts are what create imperfections in your actions. They alienate you from the true reality of any action you perform.

“Thoughts should have a place in your life, of course, but it should be a very small place. To really know something, in order to see its perfection and to become part of that perfection, you must become the action that you seek to perfect.

“This will not be hard for you to understand if you look at any one of your actions. For example, you go down the mountain riding through the snow on your board. Your progression through the snow depends upon both your skill in using your board and your knowledge of the mountain and its snow. If you know what your board will do on different types of snow, and on different types of terrain, and if you and your board are ‘one,’ you will perform this action of going down the mountain on your snowboard perfectly.”

“But I already know how to do that, Master Fwap! I’m sure there is much more to learn, but so far I have been able to successfully snowboard down every mountain that I have ever tried.”

“Yes, you are accomplished,” Master Fwap responded. “I have been watching you without your knowledge for the past several days. Yes, it is true. You are quite accomplished, but you are still far from perfecting your snowboarding.”

I respected Master Fwap’s thoughts, and I really didn’t mind the idea that he had been spying on me for the past several days—although I wasn’t sure if I believed that he really had been watching me—but I still didn’t see how he could be in a position to teach me how to snowboard perfectly. Since he wasn’t an experienced snowboarder himself, I silently reasoned, how could he possibly know more about snowboarding than I did?

Master Fwap must have been reading my thoughts because he immediately addressed my concerns. “You are wondering how I can show you how to do something perfectly, when you are the expert and I am the novice. There are two reasons: the first is that I am enlightened, and the second is that I know the principles of perfect action.

“Because I am enlightened, I can directly see the essence of anything I choose,” he said with a happy laugh. “I can know its perfection with just a little bit of study. Additionally, since I know the principles of perfect action in other activities, I can transfer those principles to snowboarding or any other activity I choose.

“Let me show you,” he continued. “May I borrow your board?”

I handed Master Fwap my snowboard. I didn’t understand how he was going to use it, since he didn’t have the proper boots. Master Fwap didn’t seem to care. He stepped onto my snowboard and, giving himself a little push in the snow with his right foot to get started, he began his descent down the mountain.

I was sure that once Master Fwap started down the mountain and saw the severity of the slope that lay ahead of him, he would hop off my snowboard. We were on top of a Himalayan mountain. The slope was almost completely vertical. I wasn’t even sure if I could safely make it down this particular mountain. With all the experience I had at my command, if I was unsure about snowboarding down this particular mountain, how could Master Fwap possibly do it and survive? I turned and watched nervously as Master Fwap rode my snowboard over the edge of the peak and began his perilous journey straight down the mountain’s slope!

I kept expecting Master Fwap to hop off the board. But there, already several hundred feet below me, was Master Fwap, riding my snowboard perfectly and gracefully down the mountain, without even the right boots to help him.

I had never seen anything like it in my life! He rode my snowboard as if he had been doing it for years. His form was perfect. I found myself laughing out loud as I watched him masterfully cut in and out of the deep powder.

About halfway down the mountain, Master Fwap took a very high jump and he and my board shot straight off the mountain. At first I thought there was no way he could survive the jump. He had gone straight out over a precipice, and there was nothing but several thousand feet of very thin air between himself and the icy ridge that lay below him.

For a moment he just hung in the air, suspended by the momentum from his jump. I knew that in only a few seconds gravity would change his trajectory, and he would fall to his certain death on the rocky ridge below!

And then the most incredible thing happened. Master Fwap and my board started to rise up in the air and come back up the mountain!

I watched dumbfounded as he flew through the air straight back up to the top of the mountain where I was standing. He was levitating! It was incredible. I didn’t fully believe my eyes until he returned to the summit and was standing right next to me, calmly handing me back my snowboard.

“Master Fwap!” I exclaimed. “How did you do that?”

“It was easy,” he replied with a slight smile. “I simply became one with the board. I became the board. That is how I was able to go down the mountain without falling.”

“Yes, that was amazing,” I admitted, “and your form was perfect. But that’s not what I meant. How did you fly through the air and get back up here? You levitated. How did you do that?”

“Oh, that,” he replied, without any sense of pride or accomplishment in his voice. “A little more complicated to explain, I’m afraid. My master, Fwaz Shastra-Dup, taught me how to do it, but it requires many years of effort to perfect the technique. It was a useful way for Buddhist masters to travel great distances before the invention of the automobile and aircraft. But these days it is much easier to drive a car or to buy a ticket and fly on a plane than it is to learn how to travel that way,” he said with a hearty laugh.

“I am afraid that in the modern world it is no longer worth the effort to learn the technique. But it is impressive when you see it for the first time, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I replied, still dumbfounded by what I had just witnessed.

“Master Fwap, would you teach me how to do that?”

“I could,” he replied, “but as I said before, it takes many years to perfect the technique. It is much easier to travel the modern way. Now I travel mostly by car or plane.”

“But Master Fwap!” I protested. “It would be very useful for snowboarding the Himalayas and other inaccessible mountains. I spend half the day just hiking up the mountain in order to get a fifteen- to twenty-minute ride down!”

“The exercise is good for you,” he responded with a broad smile and another laugh. “And as I said, it is no longer worth the effort involved to learn the technique. But while I won’t teach you how to levitate today, I will show you how to accomplish an action perfectly. I just did all of this to show you that I am qualified to teach you snowboarding. Did I convince you?”

He paused and looked at me seriously for a moment. I didn’t know what to say at first. Then I replied: “But of course you did; I’m convinced. But do I have to shave my head and put on an ochre-colored robe in order to learn from you?”

“No, definitely not!” he exclaimed. “I’m afraid my Buddhist method of dress is not appropriate for a Western student of Tantric Buddhist Yoga.

“It is best for you to dress naturally, the way you currently do, and keep your hair any way you like. I am afraid that the significance of the traditional Buddhist way of appearing would not have a positive effect for you in your Western culture. It would be misunderstood, and you would be laughed at and made fun of.”

“What is the cultural significance of your appearance to someone who grew up here in the Far East, Master Fwap?”

“It is difficult to explain to someone who has not grown up in a Buddhist or Hindu society,” he replied. “Let me just say that the Buddhist manner of dress and appearance creates respect for anyone who is a monk. It is well understood by members of my society that monks or masters are not ordinary persons. They have chosen to do a very difficult thing—to follow the pathway to enlightenment.

“In my culture the brightest and the most adventuresome youths have traditionally taken this path. Here in the Far East, studying yoga is comparable to a mixture of attending one of your best Western universities, like Harvard or Oxford, and of being an intrepid explorer, like one of your astronauts who travels into the faraway, unexplored regions of outer space.

“In the Far East, it is taken for granted that the training of a monk is physically rigorous and academically challenging,” Master Fwap continued to explain. “As a monk, you learn to totally develop your mind, overcome all fears, be spontaneous and creative and most importantly, you learn to be able to go into unknown dimensions of the mind, and successfully return both ennobled and humbled by your journeys into the center of the universe.

“Dressing in the traditional Buddhist way would not transmit respect to you in the West. In the West, Buddhist monks are thought of as oddities. Most Westerners believe we are the remnants of an impoverished Third World society, upholding beliefs that have been outmoded by contemporary science. That is, I am afraid, the stereotypical view of the Far Eastern monk: he has a shaved head, wears an ochre robe, and is no longer relevant to the contemporary world. That is the view as seen through round Western eyes.

“For you, it is better to dress the way you do now and practice your yoga. In your society people are impressed by Ph.D. degrees, money and fame. I recommend that you attain all three and diligently practice your yoga. Then someday, when you teach our ancient practices of yoga to Western youths, you will be respected and admired. Then, because you will be wealthy, famous and have a Ph.D., the young students in the West will listen to what you have to say about Tantric Buddhist Yoga with great interest.”

I didn’t know what to say in response to Master Fwap’s remarks. I hadn’t even decided whether or not I wanted to go to college, let alone get a Ph.D. I also thought that my chances of becoming rich and famous were pretty small, unless snowboarding suddenly became an Olympic sport, and I could endorse athletic products or something. I waited in silence for him to resume our conversation about snowboarding.

“The secret to doing anything perfectly is to practice and to become,” Master Fwap continued. “That is all that there is to it, really. You must practice to learn about something. You must practice to get a feeling, a sense of the range of possibilities and the possible experiences that something can afford you.

“To a certain degree, you have already accomplished this with your board. But what you have not learned so far is how to become and to be. That is the next step in your inner education.

“You still see yourself as being separate from your actions,” Master Fwap explained. “This, however, is untrue. If you could see inwardly through your third eye, the way I can, then you would know that inwardly you are ‘one’ with all things, all actions, all inactions, and all spheres of possible being.

“Nirvana—enlightenment—is all there really is. Its power is everywhere and in everything. Your eyes cannot see it, your ears cannot hear it, your nose cannot smell it, your tongue cannot taste it, your body cannot grasp and feel it, but it is there, nevertheless. Nirvana and enlightenment exist just on the other side of your sensory perceptions and your thoughts.

“To do something perfectly, you must hook yourself to the power of the second attention and nirvana,” Master Fwap said. “Once you can do that, almost nothing is impossible, whether it is levitating, snowboarding perfectly, or being enlightened.

“You come to know all of this through meditating,” he continued. “In meditation, when your thoughts are stopped, you become empty. When you are empty, your mind folds back on itself and you see through the illusions of the material world.

“Things are not always as they appear! The world you see around you appears to be solid. But in reality, as any physicist will tell you, the physical world is made of moving energy. All matter is energy.”

“But Master Fwap!” I protested, “I still don’t understand any of this! How can you break a physical law like you just did when you flew up the mountain?”

Master Fwap laughed in response and grinned at me. “It is because I have the knowledge of the nonphysical dimensions at my disposal. I step in and out of those dimensions, and use them to do things here in this world that would otherwise be impossible.

“The astral dimensions—when you have been properly instructed by a master in how to enter them, leave them, and deal with them—afford you opportunities to have experiences and gain insights into the structural nature of how dimensions are made up and phased together. The astral is the supporting ground for the physical dimension.

“Your understanding of the astral dimensions,” Master Fwap continued in a formal tone, as if he were presenting a paper before a scientific committee, “can help you alter structures in the physical dimensions. It is in and through the medium of the astral dimensions that all of the siddha powers function and work.

“You can move in and through the astral worlds once you have gained control of your subtle body,” he said with tremendous energy. “Remember, the astral worlds are the back corridors of eternity!

“Beyond the astral dimensions are the causal dimensions,” Master Fwap continued. “The causal dimensions are not spatial or time-oriented. They are the planes of light, and they make up the outer limits of nirvana. Your experiences in the causal dimensions will give you the knowledge of time, space, dimensionality and what lies beyond all of these things.

“Remember,” Master Fwap said in summation, “that what I am doing today is simply providing you with a verbal blueprint of how the universe works. At best it is a mere sketch of reality. Since what we are discussing is almost impossible to explain in words, at first my explanations may sound overly theoretical to you. It is like listening to a university professor discuss quantum mechanics. At first it can be confusing, and you may not see what all the theory you are learning has to do with actual physical applications.

“But be aware that a blueprint of a building is only a sketch on paper; it is not the building itself. Yet a blueprint provides a necessary template for construction. And, of course, when the actual building is finished, we throw the blueprint away.

“So in practical terms,” Master Fwap continued, “if you wish to perform snowboarding perfectly, then you must turn it into perfect yoga. This is what I call mindfulness. It is the direct application of Tantric Buddhist teachings to a physical event, a way of doing or accomplishing something, or a way of thinking and viewing something.

“TANTRIC YOGA IS NOT SIMPLY sitting and being absorbed in meditation,” Master Fwap said with sudden emphasis. “While formal meditation is certainly a critical part of Tantric Buddhism, Tantric Yoga is also a process of turning all of the activities and experiences of your daily life into meditation.”

“Master Fwap, please correct me if I am wrong. But what you are saying is that you are going to teach me about enlightenment by showing me how to snowboard perfectly. Is that right?”

“Yes,” he quickly replied, “it is. But to snowboard perfectly, you also must know how to meditate well.”

“So is there an interrelationship between meditation and physical events? Or is meditation just sitting there and spacing out on enlightened bliss?” I inquired.

“Yes and no!” Master Fwap replied, laughing. “Meditation is the ability to be in a state of perfect mind. At the same time, it is the ability to do physical things in a harmonious way; it is a way to remain centered in a physical world that is out of balance.

“In Tantric Buddhism we learn to meditate in two ways. First we learn how to sit and focus on our chakras and stop our thoughts. Then, when the mind is empty, we can travel into the astral dimensions, the causal dimensions, or if we are very advanced in the practice of meditation, we can merge our minds with nirvana itself.

“The second way we learn to meditate in Tantric Buddhism is by practicing mindfulness,” he explained. “Mindfulness is the practice of doing physical things perfectly—in a state of emptiness—in which we become consciously ‘one’ with whatever physical or mental activity we are currently engaged in.

“You will find that as you gain more control in your meditation,” Master Fwap said, “it will be much easier for you to practice mindfulness. You will also find, conversely, that the practice of mindfulness—of doing physical and mental things perfectly—will help you improve your daily meditation practice.

“In practical terms, what all this means,” Master Fwap concluded, “is that when you come to know that you are the board, your snowboarding will be perfect. But as long as you conceive of yourself as being separate from your snowboard, of riding on top of your board, or of directing your board, then this will not be true.

“When you seek to direct your board,” he said, “you are creating an unnecessary conceptual separation between yourself and your snowboard. The result will be that your actions are awkward and imperfect. But if you are the board, then you—the board—will direct yourself perfectly. You—the board—will know best, what it is that you can and cannot do.”

Master Fwap shifted his position slightly on the snow. “Most people make a mistake in life: they think their lives instead of living their lives. They believe that what they do, who they are, and how they do what they do, is something they must think about and choose. This way of approaching life, however, doesn’t create perfect actions. As a matter of fact, this approach to life makes a person very egotistical. People who think their lives instead of living them directly, automatically assume they always know the best way of doing everything.

“But when we come to see that we are the thing that we do,” Master Fwap continued, “then we will be directed by the doing of that thing rather than egotistically attempting to imperfectly direct our own emotions.”

I must have looked somewhat confused because Master Fwap laughed good-naturedly and paused for a moment before resuming his explanation.

“When, for example, you are on your snowboard going down a mountain, you must decide how to direct your board. But whether you are aware of it or not, your board has an inherent knowledge of its own capabilities because it is made up of intelligent energy, just as you are.

“In Tantric Buddhism,” he continued, “we call the inherent knowledge that all animate and inanimate objects possess of themselves, their ‘emptiness.’ It is the Buddhist belief that all things, experiences and people are inherently empty. That is simply a way of saying that all physical and nonphysical things have another side, a side that is not visible to the senses or accessible to the reasoning mind, a side that can only be known and experienced intuitively by emptying one’s own mind of thoughts, judgments and predispositions about life and how it works.

“Normally,” Master Fwap explained, “we only acquaint ourselves with the physical side of something. We come to know it as we choose. But to be honest with you, the physical side of a person, an animal, a plant, a thing or a place is minute in comparison to its nonphysical side.

“Take me, for example!” Master Fwap’s voice resonated. “You can see my physical body with your eyes. But my physical body is nothing in comparison to my nonphysical body.

“My nonphysical body is the part of myself that lives forever. It is ancient and complicated. It has lived through countless lives in both this and in other worlds.

“It knows things and can do things that you cannot possibly imagine. But if you look at me with your eyes, you will only see my physical side, and you may underestimate me!

“When I traveled back up the mountain on your snowboard a few minutes ago, you were very impressed. I did that with my nonphysical body—with my subtle body—with my essential emptiness.

“Try always to remember that when you think about something, you separate yourself from it. But when you are empty—when your mind is tranquil and at peace with the universe, when it has become void of all thought—you become meditation. Then you consciously join with and become part of the power that is in everything around you.

“Everything knows what is best for itself!” Master Fwap exclaimed. “That is what the Sanskrit word ‘dharma’ means. Dharma means the best of all possible actions.”

I must have looked a little bit bewildered again, because he paused and asked me if I understood what he had just explained. I acknowledged my confusion, and then he was silent for several minutes. Then he spoke to me again, at a slower pace.

“Let me sum all of this up for you,” he began. “If we think and try to direct our lives with only our limited, rationalistic thoughts and our sense perceptions, then our actions and our activities will not be perfect. From a Buddhist perspective, it is incorrect to always assume that we know what is best.

“When we take the time to meditate and empty ourselves of thoughts, we immediately connect with the inherent emptiness of our actions and experiences. When we do this, our nonphysical side merges with the nonphysical side of that which we are experiencing.

“Once this has occurred, our actions and experiences will direct us. In other words, we will be guided by the inherent emptiness of the things we choose to interact with.

“One day, when you have learned to meditate well enough, you will come to see that in the state of emptiness, you are the action, not the performer of the action. Remember, always allow the action of an activity or an event to take precedence over your own point of view. This is the Tantric Buddhist way. Allow the emptiness inherent within actions and experiences to guide and shape your choices. Let your actions direct you, the actor, not the other way around.

“Before beginning an activity,” Master Fwap instructed me, “always first empty yourself of thoughts regarding what you are about to do. Then allow the inherent emptiness within what you are about to do to direct you. Instead of your ego directing you and making countless mistakes, allow yourself to be guided by the invisible principles of the universe within your actions. At that time there will be a perfect flow of energy in whatever you choose to do, and there will be a grace and power present in all of your movements. From a Tantric Buddhist perspective, this is perfect action.”

Master Fwap paused again for several minutes, giving me time to reflect on his explanation. Then he spoke again.

“Now you will go on your board down the mountain. But first you must make your mind still. Then allow the emptiness within your board to guide you. Let it become your will. Remember, you are the board! Then your ride down the mountain will be perfect action. Try it.”

I thanked Master Fwap for his discourse on emptiness and perfect action, and got onto my board. “Perfect action,” I thought to myself. Then I closed my eyes and tried to empty my mind of all thought. For some reason it was easy to do on the top of that Himalayan peak. Suddenly I was flooded with energy and I could feel the power—what Master Fwap had been calling the emptiness of the mountain—flowing through me. I had no thoughts and yet I was completely aware.

I opened my eyes and let go to my snowboard. It was me and I was it. I glided down the mountain, cutting back and forth through the granular powder without any conscious effort on my part. It was exactly as Master Fwap had described: my board and the mountain knew better than I did how to interact. I just let them take over and I enjoyed the ride down. It was the most perfect run I had ever made down a mountain.

When I got to the bottom of the mountain, Master Fwap was waiting there for me with an “I told you so” smile on his face. Without talking, the two of us walked down the road together.