Chapter Two

How I Met Master Fwap

AFTER CLIMBING STEADILY UP THE steep trail for more than three hours, I finally reached the mountain’s summit. Unlike the mountains in the United States that I was used to snowboarding, the Himalayas had no chair lifts or rapid trams to ride up to the tops of the mountains. Standing on the crest of my first Himalayan mountain, drenched in perspiration from my ascent, I looked down over the snow-covered slopes below me.

As I gazed out over the distant horizon, I suddenly realized that I was on top of a mountain that was twice as high as any I had ever snowboarded before. Standing there, listening to the sound of the wind, I secretly hoped that the mountain I was on was not particularly prone to avalanches.

I had brought the longer of my two snowboards with me that day. While slightly less maneuverable than my short board, my long board was faster and better suited to deep powder.

After removing my day pack from my back, I unzipped it and pulled out my snowboarding boots. Then I rapidly unlaced and took off my hiking boots. After slipping on my snowboarding boots, I placed my hiking boots back inside my day pack, zipped it back up and reshouldered it. Finally, I placed my goggles over my eyes, mounted my snowboard and prepared to snowsurf down my first Himalayan peak.

The ride down was fantastic! I shot through the deep powder like a bullet. Near the end of my run, the terrain began to flatten out and I started to slow down. It was right then and there that I surfed my first Buddhist monk!

He seemed to have come from nowhere. At first I thought I was dreaming again. But there, not twenty feet in front of my rapidly descending snowboard, stood a short Buddhist monk in a saffron-colored robe!

Unlike the monk that had been in my dream the night before, however, the monk that was now standing right in front of my rapidly descending snowboard did not magically keep the same distance ahead of me. Instead, even though I cut left, hard and fast, to avoid hitting him, I plowed right into him! The force of our collision sent the two of us tumbling onto the snow-covered ground.

Fortunately for the bald-headed monk, I wasn’t moving very fast when I snowboarded him. Unfortunately for me, after we had both stopped rolling in the snow and gotten back up onto our feet again, it was more than evident from the expression on the monk’s face that he was really pissed off!

I walked over to apologize to the monk and to see if he was all right. While he clearly wasn’t very happy with having just been snowboarded, he otherwise seemed fine. I glanced at his face, and much to my surprise, I recognized him. He was the same monk that I had seen in my dream the night before!

I stared at him silently, not knowing what to say or how to say it. I suddenly wished that I had taken a crash course in Nepali just prior to hitting him. After several more moments had passed, I broke the uncomfortable silence that was rapidly settling in between us. Even though I assumed he wouldn’t understand a word I said to him, I apologized in English to the short, bald-headed monk, who was still brushing snow from his robe. I felt an apology of some kind, even if it was in the wrong language, would be better than no apology at all.

Judging from the intensity of the expression on his face, he seemed to be listening very seriously to what I was saying to him. After I finished my apology, his face seemed to relax, and he no longer looked quite as upset.

I wanted to tell the monk about seeing him in my dream, but in addition to my inability to speak Nepali, somehow it didn’t seem like quite the right moment to strike up a casual conversation with him.

Several more moments of silence passed as we both stared at each other. Then the monk, whose face was still covered with flecks of snow from his recent close encounter with a snowboarding American young adult, spoke to me—not in the singsong Nepali that I would have expected from him, but in perfectly graceful, although slightly accented English.

“Our meeting was fated and your karma caused it to happen,” he began. “An apology for what was inevitable is totally unnecessary. Also, as you can see for yourself, I am unhurt. You look like you took much more of a tumble than I did, young man.”

“I saw you in a dream I had last night!” I blurted out.

“That was not a dream,” he replied. “It was real.”

“But how can that be? Dreams aren’t real, are they?” I asked.

“Oh but they are, my young friend, they are! Come, come! Get the board that you flew down from the mountain on and walk with me back to Kathmandu. We will talk as we walk. Come now—we must hurry along. The sun will soon be setting, and then it will be too cold out here even for one of Buddha’s monks!”

As he spoke, I thought of the long walk that lay ahead of me back to the hostel in Kathmandu, and suddenly I realized that I was extremely tired. As if he had been reading my mind, the bald-headed monk said, “I am sure we will not have to walk too far along this road before someone who is driving to Kathmandu will come along and give us a lift. There are certain advantages, my young friend, to being one of Buddha’s monks!”

He smiled at me and proceeded to introduce himself. “My name is Master Fwap Sam-Dup. I am the last master of the Rae Chorze-Fwaz School of Tantric Mysticism and Buddhist Enlightenment. You can call me Master Fwap if you like.”

After introducing himself, he quickly and gracefully bowed to me. He then asked me what my name was.

I introduced myself to the aged monk, after which I bowed back to him, awkwardly and self-consciously. His eyes twinkled as he watched me, and I could tell he was secretly amused by the complete lack of savoir faire that I exhibited in my bow to him.

Exchanging my snowboarding boots for my hiking boots, I shouldered my day pack and strapped my long board onto my back. Then the two of us walked down the remainder of the snow-covered mountain slope, until we reached the gravel road below.