Chapter Fourteen

Hierarchical Versus Relational Snowboarding

MASTER FWAP AND I HAD spent most of the late morning and afternoon climbing up a steep, rock-strewn mountain pass. The terrain was difficult but spectacular. We stopped to rest at the top of the pass. I estimated that we were at around eighteen thousand feet. I could barely breathe.

I lay back on the ground listening to my lungs sucking in the cold mountain air and to the loud pounding of my heart. Looking up, I noticed that Master Fwap had assumed a cross-legged position, was sitting up very straight, and had closed his eyes. His breathing was calm and regular. His face was serene. An aura of sparkling golden light surrounded his head and shoulders.

After a few minutes, my breathing began to normalize. A sharp wind had kicked up, bringing a cold chill with it. I sat up and zipped my parka, which I had unzipped only minutes before while climbing because I had felt so hot.

There was hardly any noise to be heard anywhere. The only audible sound was the soft whine of the wind rushing up and down the canyons of snow. Smoky gray storm clouds that had drifted in from the northwest had started to filter out some of the sun’s light and warmth. I was about to ask Master Fwap if he thought a storm was coming when, unexpectedly, he opened his eyes and directed his gaze toward me.

“At this time of year,” Master Fwap began, speaking in a very measured way, “snow showers can come up quite unexpectedly. I shouldn’t worry, though. I know where there is a cave just on the other side of this pass.”

After a few more minutes, we both stood up and started walking down the trail. The scenery that greeted my eyes as we traversed the mountain was breathtaking. Immediately below us, the mountain descended into a deep valley filled with a rhododendron forest. A steamy, smoke-like haze hung over the tops of the huge rhododendrons, almost shielding them from sight. If the fog hadn’t parted momentarily, the valley below me would have been completely obscured by clouds. I thought that this would have been a suitable location for the legendary lost civilization of Shangri-La.

As I looked out beyond the valley, the Himalayas seemed to stretch on forever. Mountains of endless snow melted into each other as far as I could see. The pure whiteness of the scene was occasionally broken by dark mountain crags so windswept that all the snow had been blown off their peaks, revealing the stark black rock beneath.

We descended for about an hour and a half, walking carefully on the slippery, snow-covered ground. About halfway down to the rhododendron forest, we made an abrupt left turn off of the trail we had been walking on, and started walking down a smaller path.

The path wound around the mountain toward the south. After about ten minutes Master Fwap stopped walking and paused, apparently to take his bearings. Then we started walking again.

In a matter of minutes, we came to the mouth of a large cave. The opening was about fifteen feet high. Beyond the mouth of the cave there was only blackness. Master Fwap gestured for me to follow him in, and walking carefully in his footsteps I entered the cave.

After we had walked about thirty steps into the cave, Master Fwap stopped. He told me to turn around and sit down next to him on his right. As soon as I turned around, I could see again. Some of the outside light was reflected back into the cave by snow that had formed in a ledge around the cave’s mouth.

Sitting down, I noticed that we were resting on solid rock. The snow didn’t seem to have drifted very far into the cave. I was surprised by how warm it was inside the cave. I realized that most of the cold I had been feeling prior to entering the cave was not the real air temperature, but was caused by the Himalayan wind chill factor.

We sat in silence for several minutes before Master Fwap spoke to me. Sitting in the cave, I felt a familiar feeling. Usually after a long day of snowboarding, after I have packed up my gear and the sun has begun to set, I look up at the mountains that I have been snowboarding all day long, and I experience an exquisite sense of peace and well-being. I feel relaxed and happy, and nothing else really matters much. That was exactly how I felt while sitting next to Master Fwap in the Himalayan cave that afternoon.

“There are many caves like this one in the Himalayas,” Master Fwap began. “These are the hermitages of the great Buddhist masters of our Order. Members of the Rae Chorze-Fwaz have been meditating in caves like these for thousands of years.

“These caves are places of power. They are located along interdimensional power lines and energy vortexes. Because of the dimensions they intersect with, it is very easy to meditate here and to understand concepts that might otherwise be difficult, if not impossible, to grasp in other locations.

“Many of the universities in your country are similarly placed,” he said in a matter-of-fact way. “They are built on locations that intersect with dimensions of great clarity. Teaching and learning in locations of that type naturally is much easier. If the same university were placed just a few miles away on a different site, without the proper interdimensional openings for clarity and learning, it would be much harder for the students to learn there.

“In life, location is everything. We know a little bit more about this in the Far East than you do in the West!

“Most of the time, when the officers of a Far Eastern corporation find a prospective location for their corporate headquarters,” Master Fwap continued, “they hire a Taoist priest who specializes in interdimensional openings to check out the proposed site. If he feels the location for the corporation is not appropriate—from an energy flow perspective—then he will recommend that the corporation not build there, and the company will choose a new location.

“A great deal of what you would call ‘success’ in a person’s life,” Master Fwap continued, “comes from the ability to choose the right location to do whatever it is that the person wants to do in life. There are ‘just right’ spots for every type of activity, and there are also other spots that will make the same activities difficult, if not impossible, to perform or participate in successfully.

“There are physical locations on the earth where it is easier to meditate, to study, to learn, to make corporate decisions, to fight battles, and to see into other worlds. What gives a physical location a particular type of power are the dimensional lines that run through it.

“Throughout the earth there are lines of power,” Master Fwap continued to explain. “There are many different types of these astral lines and they carry different types of energy along them.

“Think of the earth as being superimposed on a grid of horizontal lines. Dimensional space and locations are superimposed over horizontal grids of light and energy. These grids are points of egress—points that open into other dimensional realities in which there is much more prana available.

“For instance,” Master Fwap asked, “did you know that there are specific energy lines running through the earth that open up to artistic and musical dimensions? If a composer or an artist lives and works in a place that has those types of lines running through it, then it will be much easier for him to create great works of art or music. If the same composer or artist lived and worked in a place without those lines, his work would be much harder, and he probably wouldn’t create much great art at all!

“While most people may not consciously know about energy lines, grid planes, interdimensional vortexes and how all this works, they unconsciously use their intuition, which I call the second attention, to find and use ‘just right’ locations when they need them to achieve success.

“For example, when the site for a great university was originally chosen, the founding fathers often intuitively picked a ‘just right’ spot for learning. Standing in that spot, even if it was only a forest or a meadow at the time, their bodies could ‘feel’ that this would be a good place for students to learn. To be honest with you, people who are successful in life have at least unconsciously learned to use their second attention to choose the ‘just right’ spots they need to do their work in.

“Thousands of years ago, the members of the Rae Chorze-Fwaz roamed the Far East looking for the ‘just right’ places to practice meditation and other psychic arts,” Master Fwap continued. “They discovered many places of enlightenment, places of power, places of healing, places of seeing and places for teaching. Since these were their primary interests, these were the types of places they sought out and discovered.

“This particular cave is a place of seeing,” Master Fwap explained. “It is easy to see other worlds and dimensions from here, and it is also easy to understand complicated occult concepts here. Naturally, once you have understood a difficult metaphysical concept here, that knowledge will accompany you when you leave this cave, in much the same way that you will retain a concept you have learned at school after you have left your school and gone home for the evening.”

At this point, I interrupted Master Fwap. He had aroused my curiosity, as I somehow suspected was his intention.

“Master Fwap,” I asked, after he had paused for a moment, “is there a particular mountain that is better to snowboard on than any other mountain in the world?” I tried to make the tone of my question seem light and conversational, so he wouldn’t suspect how much I really wanted to know the answer. Having traveled with Master Fwap now for some weeks, I had learned that his sense of humor was bigger than the Himalayas, and that if he even half suspected that I wanted to know something badly enough, he would deliberately not tell me, just to drive me crazy.

Master Fwap remained silent for several minutes, considering my question before responding. I assumed that, as usual, he was going to prolong my agony for as long as possible, milking the situation for all it was worth. He surprised me, however, with the directness of his answer.

“Yes,” he began, “there is only one absolutely ‘just right’ mountain for snowboarding in the world, although there are certainly many other mountains that are very good for snowboarding.”

“Where might that mountain be, Master Fwap?” I inquired as nonchalantly as possible, trying as best as I could to mask my rapidly increasing excitement.

“It is not very far from here,” he whispered. “It is a special mountain. Its power is pure and exact. You would find it both the most challenging and enjoyable mountain to snowboard in all of the world.”

“When can we go there?” I asked a little too loudly. I could no longer conceal the excitement in my voice.

“On our last day together I will take you there,” he replied, again in a hushed tone of voice, as if he was imparting a most important secret to me and was concerned that someone else might overhear what he was saying.

“But that is still some time from now, and today we have other things to concern ourselves with,” he quietly said.

“What’s on the agenda for today?” I asked with a sigh, trying my best to conceal my disappointment with the fact that he hadn’t told me the location of the perfect snowboarding mountain. I immediately knew that there was no way I could leave the Himalayas and Master Fwap until I had snowboarded this “perfect” mountain. Master Fwap had masterfully hooked me, and what I found to be most frustrating was that I had baited the hook myself!

“What is the most important aspect of snowboarding?” Master Fwap asked me.

“Balance,” I replied quickly.

“Exactly so!” he exclaimed. While I couldn’t see his face in the semidarkness of the cave, I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was smiling.

“Balance is also the most important aspect of living. I say that it is the most important aspect of living as a way of focusing your attention on balance as a topic.

“Naturally every part of living is important!” he said in a much louder voice, having evidently decided to give up his pretense of secrecy. “But without balance in your life nothing else will work,” he continued. “Just as, in snowboarding, without balance you will fall over, in life, without balance you will never be happy or successful.

“Life is complicated,” Master Fwap explained. “It is only simple on television or in the movies. But for purposes of this discussion, let us say that the goal of life is to be happy. It is the primary motivating force for the vast majority of human beings’ actions and decisions; all other decisions and actions that people make are subordinate to this.

“You choose, from among the experiences that life has to offer you,” he continued, “those which you feel will make you the happiest. It’s important to remember this. In snowboarding, the purpose is to glide down the mountain on your snowboard without falling off. If you lack balance then you won’t be able to do this.

“In life, happiness is achieved through balance. Naturally, the kind of balance I’m discussing is inside of your mind. Certainly it’s a good idea to try and create a happy balance in your physical life too,” he remarked. “But because of the constant uncertainties and the ever-changing circumstances in day-to-day living, it is not always possible to achieve perfect physical balance in all of the activities in your life.

“It is important to try, though. Your efforts to create a balance in the activities in your physical life will maximize your possibilities for achieving happiness.”

“What is inner balance, Master Fwap?” I inquired. “To be honest with you, I really have no idea what you are referring to.”

“I appreciate your honesty. That is why I will give you an honest answer: inner balance is happiness.”

“But wait a minute!” I interjected hastily, “I thought you just said that inner balance creates happiness. Now you are saying that inner balance is happiness. How can it be both? I don’t understand!”

“Have patience, my young friend. Hardly anyone on this entire planet understands this point. That is why we have hiked all the way up to this cave, because here you may gain an understanding of what inner balance and happiness are, and how they can be attained. If we had this conversation elsewhere, I sincerely doubt you would understand very much of what I will explain to you today.”

“But Master Fwap!” I protested. “How is it that only a few people on the entire earth, out of billions and billions of people who inhabit our planet, could understand this? I mean, aren’t there lots of really happy people out there?”

“Not really. The only people who are truly happy all the time, no matter what the circumstances of their lives may be, are enlightened masters. And there are only a few of us still left on this earth.

“But you are right, in a sense,” he continued. “There are certainly many people who do experience happiness from time to time. But their happiness is usually short-lived, because it is dependent upon the outer circumstances of their lives being in accord with the fulfillment of their desires.

“To understand this, you must first know the difference between a hierarchical and a relational mind-set,” Master Fwap explained.

“Master Fwap, not only do I not know the difference between them, but I don’t even know what they are. Would you please explain this to me in snowboarding terms?”

“Yes, of course, I would be most pleased to,” he replied.


“THERE ARE FIVE BASIC WAYS to approach snowboarding, or anything else in your life for that matter,” Master Fwap began. “There are also numerous combination approaches, which blend different elements of these five basic approaches.”

“What are they, Master Fwap?” I inquired.

“The first approach to snowboarding,” he began, “is the instinctive method. This is the least effective of the five. Using this method, you allow your body’s basic cellular instincts to guide you.”

“Which instincts do you mean?” I asked.

“Fear, pleasure and physical balance,” he quickly responded. “You are willing to learn to snowboard, and go through what is necessary to do so, because your body anticipates a pleasurable experience from snowboarding. You use your body’s fear to keep yourself from getting hurt, and you also use your body’s innate sense of balance to stay on your board and negotiate going down the mountains of snow.

“The second method is the passionate approach. In this method, you use your desires to prompt you. In the passionate approach, your ego guides you and your passions empower you. This is the machismo method.”

“So you mean that you do it to show off?” I asked.

“Yes and no,” he replied. “That is certainly an element in this approach, but there is more to it than that. In the passionate method, you are validating your self-image through your conquests and achievements in snowboarding. You will most certainly combine this with the instinctual approach. In your travels, you must have met other snowboarders who employ this method.”

“Sure I have,” I said with a grin. “I call it the jock syndrome. Those guys snowboard just to prove to themselves, or to other people who are watching them, that they can be radical. It’s very much an image thing. And a lot of them are very good snowboarders, too.”

“Exactly,” Master Fwap replied. “They physically enjoy the feeling of snowboarding, and they use their fear, their sense of balance, and their ego’s self-assertive need to achieve, in order to impress themselves and others. Their passions drive them to accomplish more than the purely instinctual snowboarder does.”

“Right!” I said. “Guys and women like that like to swagger when they walk. They think they are better than other snowboarders are if they can pass them on the downhill. It’s not really a spiritual thing for them, if you know what I mean.”

“Indeed I do,” he responded. “Now, the third approach is the irrational way. It is not really a method at all. It is dominated by anger and uncontrolled aggression. People who use this approach will skip over the preliminary lessons and instruction about how to snowboard, and just do it! They will also probably end up in a hospital, or put someone they run down in the hospital along with them.”

“Right on, Master Fwap!” I agreed heartily. “I hate those dudes! They are completely unfocused! They just grab a board and try going downhill. Every time they fall off they just get angrier. They usually end up quitting or getting themselves or somebody else hurt. They are bad news from start to finish. I don’t even know why they bother.”

“They probably don’t know why they’re snowboarding either,” he said. “But then again, that is how they choose to live their entire lives. They just grab onto anything they see, and with all their anger they try to make it work for themselves. When it doesn’t, they blame it on someone or something else, but never on themselves. They live in a world of hate and blame.”

“I know what you mean, Master Fwap,” I said. “I once saw one of those guys smash a snowboard to pieces when he couldn’t ride it. He kept yelling that the board was no good. But the board was fine; he was his only real problem.”

“Now the two more evolved methods of snowboarding are the hierarchical and the relational methods,” Master Fwap explained. “These two methods of snowboarding represent the Western and Eastern approaches to life and to problem solving. They are mental approaches, as opposed to the physical or emotional approaches of the previous three methods I outlined.

“Both the hierarchical and relational methods,” he continued, “rely on the intelligent uses of structures. The primary difference between the two methods, however, is the way in which people who use them arrange, interrelate and put those structures to use. To understand these two methods, you have to know the difference between Buddhism and Christianity.”

“Why is that, Master Fwap?”

He laughed and said: “It has to do with circles and straight lines. These are respectively the symbols of the Orient and of the West.”

“What do circles and straight lines have to do with snowboarding?” I asked impatiently. I was getting the feeling that Master Fwap was about to launch into another one of his mystical dialogues, and that somehow the answer to my question was going to get buried in one of his metaphorical avalanches.

He chuckled at my impatient tone of voice and then, without losing any of his elegant Buddhist composure, continued with his explanation.

“Hierarchical and relational thinking are both extensions of religious viewpoints,” he said. “While Buddhism is not as strictly practiced as it once was in the East, and Judaism and Christianity are also not practiced as strictly or widely as they once were in the West, the types of thinking that they respectively engendered in the Eastern and Western cultures remain relatively unchanged.

“Hierarchical thinking stems from the Christian belief in the great chain of being. In the Christian religious view, God is at the top of the universe and the devil is at the bottom. Everyone else exists at different levels, according to how divine or undivine they are, in between God and the devil. Dante, along with many other Christian writers, helped make the hierarchical view part of the mainstream of Western thought and philosophy.

“According to this Judeo-Christian hierarchical way of thinking,” Master Fwap continued, “creation began at a specific point in time in the past, and the end of the world will occur at some specific point in time in the future.

“Everything is linear in this mind-set, and time and space occur in straight lines,” he continued. “These two very basic concepts, along with the idea that man is born in a state of corruption and sin and is in need of redemption, created a physical and metaphysical cosmology that influenced the very structure of the Western peoples’ languages, philosophies, methods of thought and analysis, problem solving and, of course, their social value systems.

“In other words, people in the West—unless they are irrational or intuitive—tend to think in straight lines. Let me give you a snowboarding example.

“A hierarchical snowboarder snowboards in a straight line,” Master Fwap explained. “He begins at the top of the mountain and snowboards straight down it. When he reaches the bottom, he stops, and then he ascends the mountain again and repeats the process.”

“But Master Fwap,” I interrupted, “how else can you snowboard down a mountain? You have to go with gravity, unless someone can levitate like you can.”

“Yes,” he replied. “What you say is true. Unless you can levitate, this is most definitely the case. But you interrupted me before I had a chance to finish my explanation.

“As I was saying,” he continued, “a hierarchical snowboarder thinks in a straight line. His method of accessing his snowboarding skills is linear.”

“What does that mean in practical terms?” I asked.

“Why, it means that the data constructs in his mind move fairly slowly, not a good thing for such a fast-moving sport, I would think.”

“Master Fwap!” I said with renewed exasperation. “I don’t have any idea at all what you are talking about! If this cave is supposed to make things more clear, it isn’t working very well. Are you sure we are in the right location?”

“Hmm? Oh yes, thank you, I am quite sure. But you must be patient and let me finish. I am just getting to the practical part.

“You see,” he continued with what I hoped was a sympathetic chuckle for my frustration, “it is hard to imagine thinking in another mode when you have thought in a particular way all of your life. What we are really discussing is how we remember things, how we connect things within our mind, and how we prepare for and anticipate things.

“This is how your mind processes information. It connects ideas and feelings in a particular fashion, and then it sorts them into patterns and matches them. It can do so in and through either a hierarchical, relational, or irrational framework.

“Relational thinking is based on circles,” Master Fwap continued. “That is how Buddhists see the world, as a series of endlessly interconnected circles.

“We don’t believe in God or in the devil, at least not as they are commonly conceived in the eyes of Westerners. We also don’t believe that time is linear. Instead, we believe that God and the devil, good and evil, and all of the pairs of what you would call opposites, exist inside your own mind. And we don’t feel that these things are opposites at all—as a matter of fact, we view them as complementary.

“As Buddhists we believe that time occurs in cycles, that the entire universe is one big circle, and that many smaller circles and cycles are contained within that larger circle.

“Needless to say, both the hierarchical and the relational cosmologies and views of life are slightly off the mark. They are both attempts to define existence in a way it really cannot be defined.

“As an enlightened Buddhist master, I am not concerned with cosmologies,” Master Fwap digressed for a moment, “only with the effect that they have upon the way we think, and the way that we construe data.

“So, to answer your question,” he continued, “a hierarchical snowboarder takes longer to think things through because he must connect all of his thoughts in straight lines. A relational snowboarder can think faster because he thinks in circles—that is, he doesn’t have to go through as many time-consuming thoughts to make relevant connections between the things he thinks about and perceives!”


“FOR EXAMPLE,” MASTER FWAP SAID, “let us say that we have placed a great deal of information along a straight line. Now, if we are at one end of the straight line, and the piece of information we want to get to is all the way at the other end of the straight line, it will be necessary for us to journey all the way through the information that is in between us and the piece of information that we want to access, in order to reach it.

“But suppose we took the same data and arranged it along the circumference of a circle—and then let us further suppose that we sat down in the middle of that circle of data. Now, all of that information would be equidistant from us because it is arranged along the circumference of the circle that we are sitting in the middle of.

“If we want to get to a particular piece of information, we don’t have to go through a lot of useless data to get to it. All we have to do is reach right out to the edge of the circle and grab it! Obviously this is a much quicker and more efficient way of accessing information.

“Take snowboarding, for example. Suppose …”

“Wait a minute, Master Fwap!” I interjected. “You don’t snowboard in circles!” As I made this statement, I felt very proud of myself. I felt that I had found a flaw in his Buddhist logic at long last!

“You are correct,” he replied. “But although you may not snowboard in circles, you can think and perceive from the center of the circle.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked.

“By not thinking at all,” he replied.

“But what good would not thinking do you, Master Fwap? If you weren’t thinking when you were boarding down a mountain, you would probably end up killing yourself, wouldn’t you?”

“Not at all. That is what relational thinking is all about. It is perceiving things from the still center inside of your mind. Normally your thoughts and perceptions are linear. You have to think things out in a long, cumbersome fashion in order to arrive at a proper conclusion.”

“But that’s what deductive and inductive logic are all about!” I protested.

“That’s exactly my point,” he continued, unfazed by my emotional outburst. “Logic is a hierarchical way of thinking; whether it is deductive or inductive is irrelevant. It really boils down to the same thing.”

“What’s that?” I asked hesitantly. I was getting more and more frustrated as he continued his explanation. I still didn’t understand how any of this related to snowboarding.

“I see you’re losing your patience with me again,” he replied. “Well, this isn’t really that hard to understand. Just assume that logical thought and reasoning normally move in a straight line.

“Say, for example,” he continued, “that you are snowboarding down a strange mountain, and suddenly a Buddhist monk appears directly in your path. Logically, thinking in a straight line, he shouldn’t be there at all. What on earth would a Buddhist monk be doing wandering around in the snow on a Himalayan mountain?

“Instead of relationally thinking—with which you would have instantaneously reacted to the situation without logical analysis, and thus would have avoided hitting the monk—you hesitate for a split second because your logic cannot account quickly enough for his unexpected presence on the mountain.

“Now if you were thinking relationally, which would mean that you weren’t thinking at all, your body would react instantly and you would avoid hitting the monk,” Master Fwap continued. “Whether the monk’s being there was logical or illogical wouldn’t be an issue that you would have to think your way through, in order for you to react. You wouldn’t lose that split second it takes to get through your logical analysis of the situation. You wouldn’t hit him, and thus you would avoid all the bad karma that comes from snowboarding over an unsuspecting, enlightened Buddhist monk.”

Master Fwap paused. Even though I could not see his expression in the semidarkness of the cave, I was sure he had a self-satisfied grin on his face.

“Master Fwap, how is what you just described any different from instinctual reflexes? In what way is this relational? Also, isn’t not thinking when you are snowboarding basically the same thing as being unconscious?”


BEFORE ANSWERING MY QUESTION, MASTER Fwap was silent for several minutes. I assumed he was pondering how he was best going to answer my questions, or perhaps he was considering how he could simplify the subtleties of Buddhist wisdom for a rather obtuse American snowboarding fanatic.

“This is not as difficult to understand as it might seem at first to you,” he resumed. “The main problem you are having is that you are being a little too serious … you need to relax your mind and let the luminous energy of this cave help you understand all of this.

“In short, you are paying much too much attention to my words and missing the yogic point that they are directing your mind toward.

“Imagine, if you will for a minute or two, a universe of data—an endless amount of data of all types—that stretches in all directions. While some of this data may be applicable to your immediate needs, most of it, at any given moment, is irrelevant. So the problem you are faced with, in a universe of endless data, is how to eliminate all of the data that is irrelevant or extraneous to your immediate needs, as rapidly and as effortlessly as possible, and instead to quickly find, focus on and employ the data that you do need to solve and fulfill your immediate problems and opportunities.

“One of the great secrets of life that Buddhist monks have learned from their study of meditation,” Master Fwap explained, “is how to eliminate anything extraneous from their minds. If something doesn’t contribute to their happiness and well-being, or to the happiness and well-being of others, they are able to remove it from their thoughts and keep their minds focused on what does matter.

“While you are plummeting down the mountain on your snowboard, your mind normally would be thinking of many different things. You might be remembering something irrelevant, you might be anticipating something unnecessary, or you might be focusing your mind on exactly how you are doing what you are doing. For most people, at any given time, it is usually a mixture of all three of these things.

“The relational way of doing things is to move your mind to a fourth condition, a condition of heightened awareness. In a condition of heightened awareness, you elevate your conscious mind above the stream of extraneous data—out of dimensional time and space, so to speak—and you meld your mind instead with the pure intelligent consciousness of the universe.

“When your mind becomes absorbed in this higher level of intelligent consciousness—which I refer to as the second attention—your mind will automatically access and create new relations with the data that you require, at any given moment of your life. This is the center of the circle of intelligence! In this condition of inner illumination, you will always know exactly the right thing to do or not do, at exactly the right time! Unlike using a hierarchical mind-set, you won’t have to think your way through a great deal of data to understand things. You will simply ‘know.’

“Ultimately, thinking is a very inefficient method of processing data …”

“But Master Fwap!” I almost shouted in sheer frustration, “You’re not making any sense at all! I thought the shortest distance between any two points at any given time was a straight line.”

“Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t,” he calmly replied.

“Well, when isn’t it?!!!” I nearly yelled out at the top of my voice in frustration.

“CONSIDER A ROAD THAT GOES up to the top of a mountain,” he calmly responded. “It winds its way up to the top of the mountain in a series of loops. If you made a road that went straight to the top of a mountain, it would be too steep for vehicles to climb. So, in theory, while the shortest distance between two points may be a straight line, in reality, sometimes a circle, or a series of circles, is shorter.”

I didn’t answer. I could understand now the benefits of the training in Buddhist debate that Master Fwap had received growing up in the monastery. I remained quiet, silently acknowledging his point, and let him continue.

“The issue we are examining,” Master Fwap continued, “is about thinking relationally. As I said before, most people think in straight lines—when they bother to think at all. And naturally, you do understand, my young friend, I am certainly not suggesting that we all give up thinking and return to a purely instinctual way of perceiving things. My point is that there is a much more advanced way of looking at life than you are familiar with; it is a way of perceiving life and data that is much more accurate and enjoyable than the method of logical analysis which you are used to employing.

“Logical analysis,” Master Fwap continued, “is fine for gaining a limited understanding of many things and situations. But the speed, accuracy and range of computations that it offers you—as a way of thinking over and evaluating real time experience and situations—is definitely inferior to relational analysis.

“Let me give you one more example, and perhaps all of this might become more clear to you. Do you have your flashlight with you?”

“Yes, I always carry it in my pack in case it gets dark on the way back from snowboarding.”

“Good, take it out for a moment, turn it on, and point it at the ground in front of us.”

After I had done as he requested, Master Fwap spoke again.

“Now suppose we take a set of numbers … let us arrange them in two rows. Let us arrange the first row like this,” he said as he drew this set of numbers in the snow:

“And suppose we draw a second set of numbers that looks like this,” he said. And he drew a second set of numbers, underneath the first set, that looked something like this:

“Now, logically speaking,” he went on, “the best way to relate these numbers is in a straight line, either from side to side or up and down.” Then Master Fwap drew some lines in the snow between some of the numbers that he had written that looked something like this:

“But suppose we arranged the first group of these numbers in a circle instead,” he said as he made a circle out of the same numbers that looked something like this:

“And now let’s make another circle using the second set of numbers, inside the first circle,” he went on. And then he drew a second series of numbers in a smaller circle, that fit within his first circle, that ended up looking something like this:

“Now, as you can see for yourself,” he continued, “the ways of connecting the numbers are much more direct than before, when I was interconnecting the numbers that I had placed in the two straight lines.” And he proceeded to draw a number of lines connecting the numbers in the two circles that looked something like this:

“You’re right, Master Fwap,” I said. “The lines connecting the numbers in the two circles are much shorter than the length of the lines connecting most of the numbers that are in the two straight rows. But what does this have to do with snowboarding?”

“It is our Buddhist belief,” he replied, “that the human mind, as I once told you, is made up of countless layers—which I have represented with circles. Think of your mind as being similar to an onion.

“An onion is made of hundreds of layers of thin skin. When you take the outermost layer away, another layer is revealed. There is layer after layer, as you peel your way down to the onion’s core.

“Your mind is made of thousands of layers in a similar way,” Master Fwap continued. “That is why I compare it to a series of interconnected circles.”

“But Master Fwap!” I broke in. “How does any of this relate to snowboarding?!!” I was completely exasperated at this point with all of Master Fwap’s metaphysical jargon. I didn’t see how any of what he was saying was at all relevant to answering my question.

“It’s easy,” he said, suppressing a laugh as he spoke. “I will explain it to you. Be patient with me for just a few more moments.”

“OK,” I acquiesced, “but please relate it this time to snowboarding.”

“When you are thinking, you are caught in a straight line,” he began. “In order to get out of the straight line of thought, and reach a point of information that is not in the current straight line of your thoughts, you need to bridge your information gap with additional straight lines of thought.

“For example, let us suppose that you are snowboarding down a mountain. You are engaged in the types of thoughts that you normally think while you are snowboarding. Perhaps you are gauging the snowbank ahead and preparing to turn … when suddenly, and without warning, you see a Buddhist monk standing in the path of your rapidly descending snowboard.

“But if you are not thinking at all,” he continued, “if your mind is absorbed in the second attention, and you are able to make extralogical connections within your mind with immediacy, then you will react smoothly to this unexpected occurrence and avoid hitting the poor unsuspecting Buddhist monk with your snowboard. If you are thinking in straight lines however—as you were when you first met me—then you would hit the monk, just as you did.

“You hit me,” Master Fwap continued, bringing me back mentally and emotionally to a moment I would rather have forgotten, “because your mind couldn’t draw a rapid enough series of relations between your snowboarding down a mountain, and a Buddhist monk you unexpectedly found standing in the path of your oncoming snowboard!

“Now consider this as an example from real life, not from theoretical life!” he declared. “Buddhists, you see, are the ultimate realists. We like theories, but only if they have realistic applications to actual day-to-day, or lifetime-to-lifetime circumstances.

“In day-to-day life,” he said, “you are constantly dealing with the unknown. Yes, there will be a certain amount of repetition in most people’s lives. For example, you may go to school each day at approximately the same time and follow the same route.

“But one day, something may occur on your way to school that was quite unexpected, something that you could not have anticipated would ever possibly occur at precisely that moment. Perhaps a car swerves out of control and suddenly bears down on you, or perhaps the most beautiful girl you have ever seen suddenly walks past you.

“If you were thinking logically, in straight lines, at the time, you would probably not react quickly and correctly to what was happening to you during that unexpected moment. Employing the hierarchical Western system of thought, you would need to analyze, consider, and evaluate before you could act! But in real life, not in theory, by the time you had done so, you would have probably missed your chance to avoid disaster or seize an unexpected opportunity.

“The most successful people in the world are those who think relationally,” Master Fwap continued. “Of course they can use hierarchical logical analysis too, when it is beneficial for them to do so. But most highly effective and successful people don’t rely on hierarchical logical analysis for most of their problem-solving; instead they solve problems relationally with the assistance of their second attention.

“Most highly successful people live in a state of creative and happy emptiness. Unlike average people who become overly absorbed in what they are thinking about, dealing with currently, anticipating or remembering, individuals who think relationally—from the center of the circle of consciousness—can see opportunities that other people overlook, and simultaneously create rapid relations that enable them to quickly and successfully seize these opportunities and avoid disasters.

“To sum it all up in overly simplistic terms,” Master Fwap said tersely, “success in life primarily depends on two things: timing, and a person’s ability to create rapid and accurate relations within one’s own mind.”

“But wait a second, Master Fwap. How does thinking relationally affect my walking past the most beautiful girl I have ever seen?”

“If you were thinking logically,” he replied with a laugh, “you would probably not react properly or quickly enough to meet and impress her. Logically, if she was the most beautiful woman you had ever seen, you would be so overwhelmed by her beauty that you wouldn’t react quickly enough, and you would miss the opportunity to introduce yourself to her.

“Or you would react logically. You might like to meet her, but remember you are on your way to school. You might not have enough time to meet her without being late to class.

“Also, how would you react?” he inquired rhetorically. “Using logic, you could only rely on your past experiences, those that are in your current memory, to draw information from, on how to approach her. You would have to quickly think of a way to create a logical relationship between yourself and what you were going to say to her. But by the time you got all of this constructed in your mind, chances are she would be long gone!”

“But Master Fwap,” I stammered, “I don’t see how thinking relationally, or not thinking at all, or whatever it is you are trying to explain to me, would help me to meet and impress her.”

“It is easier than you realize, but you must think relationally to understand what I am talking about,” he replied with a soft chuckle.

“As I said before,” he continued, “the mind is like an onion; it is made up of countless layers. The layers closest to the surface of your conscious awareness are the storehouse of your memories and experiences from your current lifetime. But beneath those layers are deeper layers that contain your past-life experiences, and deeper still there are layers that access the pure intelligence of the universe itself, which I refer to as the second attention.

“When you think relationally, when you have the full awareness of your mind—all of those layers are at your disposal. You can immediately draw information from your past lives or, if the information you want can’t even be found there, you can draw information directly from your second attention.

“Perhaps you have had many past lives in which you knew equally beautiful women,” Master Fwap said seductively. “You could draw information about the best way to react and speak to her from your past-life memories. And if you think relationally, via the second attention, you could access that information instantly.

“From the center of the circle, you can instantly find whatever it is you need to know,” Master Fwap explained, “in order to react properly to any situation. Trust me, this is true!”

“Master Fwap, how can this be?”

“There are two ways of doing things in life,” Master Fwap replied. “One way is to do things in and through structures; the other way is to do things by going outside of structures.

“Doing things in and through structures,” he continued, “is what most people do. If you want to build a house, for example, you decide what type of house you want to build, choose a site for it, create a blueprint, and then build your house following the blueprint.

“But there is another way to build a house—the Tantric Buddhist way. You first let the site select you. Then you go there and allow the site’s power to show you what type of house should be built there, and then you build it.”

“So what does that have to do with the second attention?” I was starting to get confused by Master Fwap’s explanation, and I wanted him to clear up my lack of understanding before he went any further.

“Well,” Master Fwap said in a bright and happy tone, “I suppose it has everything to do with the second attention. That’s my point.”

“But Master Fwap!” I protested, “what is the second attention?”

“The second attention is the magical side of life,” he calmly replied. “There are two sides to existence, the side you see and the side you don’t. The side that you see is the first attention, and the side you don’t see is the second attention.”

Master Fwap paused, and looked at me. In the dim light of the cave I could vaguely make out enough of his facial expression to tell that he was very proud of what he had just said, even though I didn’t know why.

“The second attention,” he continued, “is beyond structures. By structures I mean the dimensions of time, space and mind. The second attention is a field of endless light that exists just beyond our grasp. It is the home of what human beings call magic and miracles.”

“I still don’t understand what it is,” I complained.

“Oh yes you do,” he remarked casually. “You use the second attention whenever you go snowboarding; that is why you are able to do it so well.

“Most people don’t believe in the second attention,” he factually stated. “They have never experienced it, even though it surrounds them and the world they live in, all of the time.

“The second attention is the power of life!” he declared. “It exists within every atom of the universe; it is the power behind perception and all things which you perceive.

“You see, my young friend,” Master Fwap was suddenly more gentle, as if he was explaining something very complicated to a small child. “There are many unseen miracles of life. The very existence of the universe is a miracle. The fact that we live and are aware is a miracle. The fact that we die and are reborn is a miracle.

“These things cannot be understood by the thinking and calculating portions of our mind. We can examine aspects of these miracles with those parts of our mind, but we can never truly understand them.

“The second attention is an essence,” he continued. “It exists whether we are aware of it or not. Through the practice of short-path Tantric Buddhist Yoga, we learn to become a bridge between the power of the second attention—the world of magic—and the dimensionality of the first attention, which is, of course, the day-to-day world we normally live in.

“Through meditation and other Tantric practices we learn to tap into the magical side of creation. This is the invisible side of life that underlies and supports all of the universes.

“The second attention is ancient and powerful!” he said abruptly. “It doesn’t care for our puny reason. It can do things that are unimaginable—as a matter of fact, it does them all the time! And when you allow its power to pulse through you, then you and your life become the vehicle of some of its magic.”

“So, Master Fwap, what does all of this have to do with yoga and enlightenment?”

“It is easy,” he replied. “Normally it takes many incarnations of yogic practice for people to make major structural changes in their vibratory patterns and in the universes they have the ability to incarnate in. But when the power of the second attention is released into the practice of yoga, or anything for that matter, the miracle power of the universe enters into it, allowing things that would normally take place at a much slower pace to occur much faster. It even makes some things happen that would otherwise be totally impossible.”

“So then why doesn’t everyone who practices Buddhism use the second attention?” I asked.

“They do,” he replied. “Whenever they meditate or focus on the worlds of enlightenment and the higher dimensions inside their minds, that is exactly what they are doing! But most Buddhists only touch the second attention lightly. It empowers them and gives them a better life, and that is enough for them. But that is not the case for all Buddhists,” he laughed. “Some of us want to surf the inner Himalayas, you know.”

“What do you mean by that, Master Fwap?”

“Most Buddhists, and most people for that matter, are easily satisfied, and I assure you there is nothing wrong with that. But some of us are drawn to more … it is our karma. We want to go further into enlightenment and deeper into ecstasy; we want to merge with and become the totality of enlightenment! We want to transcend the self as soon as possible.

“So those people who want to attain enlightenment as quickly as possible practice Tantric Buddhism because Tantric Buddhism is the fastest path for attaining enlightenment; it’s really that simple.”

“But what does that have to do with me surfing the Himalayas?” I inquired suspiciously.

“Let me just say,” Master Fwap replied with a mock tone of chastisement, “that you, like a Tantric Buddhist, are a person who seeks peak experiences. Most people your age wouldn’t need to leave their native country, where there are plenty of high mountains to go snowboarding on, and travel all the way to the Himalayas to snowboard. But you needed to. It is part of your karma, because you are the way that you are.”

“Is that wrong, Master Fwap? Am I being greedy?”

“No, not at all. It is simply how you work. People who seek enlightenment rapidly on the Tantric short path, as I did, and someone like yourself, who wants to snowboard the highest and most majestic mountains in the world, are not being greedy. It is simply what their karma draws them to.

“The important thing, from a yogic point of view,” he continued, “is not to become egotistical. If a person who follows the Tantric short path to enlightenment feels ‘spiritually superior’ to someone who is following a more gradual path to enlightenment, then that person is making a great mistake, and is missing the entire point of the practice of yoga.

“Practicing yoga,” Master Fwap continued, “teaches us that we are all the same. We may have different external tendencies from other people we know, and we may also have different awareness levels, but inwardly we are all one.

“When you feel that you are superior to someone else, you lack compassion. Compassion is a word Buddhists use to express the realization that even though we may differ greatly in evolution, appearance, talents or intelligence from other beings in the universe, we are all equally valuable in the eyes of eternity. This is wisdom.

“When you feel superior to someone else,” he continued, “whether it’s on the pathway to enlightenment, in the sport of snowboarding, in business or in any other aspect of your life, you cut yourself off from the inner light of enlightenment. You no longer feel happy. Instead you are alone with your judgments, with your egotism, and with your limited self.

“To reach the unlimited ecstatic self within us, we must overcome all feelings of both superiority and inferiority. Feelings of inferiority are simply another manifestation of the ego in disguise.

“I’m not asking you to be falsely humble and to avoid success, or to not do the things that you enjoy,” Master Fwap said with a hearty laugh. “That is not the Tantric way.

“Simply realize that we all have different karmas,” he explained. “Some people have developed aspects of themselves, specific talents and abilities in this or in other lives, in ways that others have not. See and enjoy the differences and accomplishments of others.

“Enjoy your own struggles and successes too. If you want to be happy, avoid falling into the trap of egotism about what you do and who you perceive yourself to be, and don’t be threatened or feel jealous of someone else because they can do something that you can’t, or because they have something that you don’t.

“Remember, we are all made up equally of the intelligent light of enlightenment! That light chooses to express itself uniquely through each one of us in its own mysterious and special fashion, for reasons that cannot be known here.”

“But Master Fwap,” I asked, “isn’t there a difference between desire and doing what is right? If I just do whatever it is that I am drawn to, that won’t make me happy, will it?”

“You are correct. There is certainly a difference between desire and karma,” he replied. “Not that there’s anything wrong with experiencing desires,” he continued. “Remember desires are just another way that the universe expresses its love of itself, in and through us.

“Karma is the level of your awareness—what you are drawn toward in life,” he explained. “It won’t go away until your level of awareness changes. It is like the earth circling the sun: as long as the sun’s gravitational field is stronger than the earth’s, the earth has to circle the sun.

“Your awareness, which is your karma, is what hooks you to things,” Master Fwap explained. “That is not the same as desire. Desire is a short-term pull toward an object, experience, or some other aspect of life. Desire fades with time, sometimes even in minutes or within seconds of its fulfillment. Very few desires last for more than a few years, let alone for an entire incarnation.

“So when you are inexplicably pulled toward something, an experience, or someone, and that pull won’t go away, that is how you can know that it is your karma, not simply another transient desire. And if it is an especially strong pull that won’t go away, then it is probably from your past lives. And if you don’t follow your karma, if you try to avoid it and run away from whatever your karma happens to be, you will never be happy or at peace with yourself, no matter what you do or achieve in this or in any other world.”

“So what does all of this have to do with relational thinking, Master Fwap?”

“Your mind has the ability to perceive both relationally and logically,” he answered happily. “Both methods of perception are good and serve different purposes. The problem is that most people are taught to perceive things in only one way—logically. They never develop their innate ability to perceive things from the center of the circle. Now do you understand?”

“I think so, Master Fwap,” I said, somewhat hesitantly.

“Good, then please give me an example,” he said with a big laugh.

I paused for a minute to collect my thoughts. Sitting in silence, while I was trying to put together everything that Master Fwap had just said, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t at all cold. I was just about to comment on the cave’s surprising warmth, when I remembered that Master Fwap was patiently waiting for my answer to his question.

“Master Fwap, you are saying that the universe is one big mind. Am I right?”

“Exactly!” he replied.

“And all of us are part of that big mind, and it is also a part of us.”

“Yes,” he agreed, “please continue… ”

“Well, relationally speaking, when I suspend my thoughts I go into the second attention, and in my second attention I see the universe differently, from what you refer to as the center of the circle of perception. From there I can draw from my current and past-life knowledge, or directly from the second attention, which is the essential knowing of the universe.

“So, if I was snowboarding down a mountain and a Buddhist monk suddenly appeared in front of me, instead of panicking and losing it like I did when I surfed you, I could flow with the experience. To do this I would simply accept the fact that you were there, as if it were an everyday occurrence—not freak out—and deal with it from a deeper level of awareness. Is that right?”

“You’ve got it!” he said, and clapped his hands together in applause.

We sat in the cave for a little while longer. Master Fwap told me that I needed time for my new understanding of relational thinking to sink in before we left the cave’s helpful energy.

SITTING IN SILENCE IN THE cave, next to Master Fwap, a variety of different sensations passed through my body and mind. At times I felt as if all the universe was part of me, and at other times I felt that I was a small part of it.

After some time, we left the cave of seeing, and journeyed down the winding mountain trail until we reached the rhododendron forest below. After walking through the forest for about an hour, we entered a valley in which there was a small hermitage run by some Buddhist monks who were friends of Master Fwap’s.

We spent the next several days at the monastery with Master Fwap’s monk friends, and I have never been so happy before or since. But that’s another story for another chapter.