Chapter Three

The Road to Kathmandu

WE WALKED DOWN THE REST of the slope without speaking. The only audible sound was the continuous crunch-crunch-crunching of my hiking boots on the frozen snow. When we finally reached the road I had to sit down and rest for a few minutes; I was both physically and mentally exhausted from the altitude, the excitement of having just snowboarded my first Himalayan mountain, and the incredulity of walking down a mountain next to a short, bald-headed Buddhist monk, whom I had met the night before in a dream, and surfed today!

While I was sitting on the snow-covered ground, trying as best I could to pull myself together, Master Fwap began to softly sing a Buddhist chant. The sound of his voice soothed me. After listening to him sing for a few minutes, I felt refreshed and relaxed. I stood up, and then Master Fwap and I began walking down the road to Kathmandu together.

While I was walking along the road next to Master Fwap, I had the opportunity to examine him more closely. He was approximately five-feet, two inches tall. He was very thin; he couldn’t have weighed more than one hundred and twenty-five pounds. From my six-foot-three-inch vantage point, I had an excellent view of his neatly shaved round head.

His face, like so many of the Nepalese people, was gently wrinkled from a lifetime of exposure to bright sunlight and extreme high altitude. But even though his skin was marked with many small fine lines of age, it didn’t seem old and worn. In fact, his skin had a healthy and youthful glow.

I guessed that Master Fwap was about seventy years old. His eyes were hazel-colored, although they seemed to change hue according to his mood. When he smiled—which was quite frequently—he revealed a perfect set of pearly white teeth.

His saffron-colored monk’s robe looked ancient. In places, its color was uneven and faded from extended exposure to the sun. He wore small boots with high stockings and walked with a graceful agility. I had some difficulty keeping up with him as we walked along the road to Kathmandu together.

It was his eyes that kept catching my attention as we walked. They sparkled with an inner power and intelligence I had never witnessed in anyone else before. Walking next to Master Fwap, I had the strange and haunting feeling that I had always known him. For some unknown reason, it didn’t seem to be at all unusual or out of place for the two of us to be out walking together in the winter snow, down a Himalayan road, on a late January afternoon.

“I sensed that we would be bumping into each other soon,” he laughed, “although I must admit I didn’t know that today would be the day. My own master, Fwaz Shastra-Dup, foretold of our meeting many long years ago. He said that one day I would run into a tall Western youth on this very mountain. I must admit though, at the time, I didn’t take his comments quite this literally!” he said with a hearty laugh.

“If you don’t mind,” he continued, “I will tell you a little bit about myself as we walk. Then tomorrow, if you like, you can come to the temple where I live and visit me. It is on the western side of Kathmandu, on the outskirts of town, in the foothills.”

AS WE WALKED ALONG THE road to Kathmandu, Master Fwap began to tell me about his life. He said that he had been born in a small village in eastern Tibet. As a child he had shown an early aptitude for Buddhism, and so—as was the custom in Tibet at that time—on his tenth birthday his parents admitted him to the local monastery to study Buddhist Yoga and to become a monk.

Master Fwap told me he had spent many happy years growing up in the monastery. The senior monks taught him the Buddhist scriptures, meditation, astrology and Tibetan medicine, while he practiced Buddhist debate and martial arts with some of the younger monks.

Master Fwap said that although the senior monks who taught and resided in his monastery were very knowledgeable about meditation and Buddhist Yoga, unfortunately none of them were “enlightened.” At the age of nineteen, when he had learned all he felt he could from the senior monks, he decided to leave the monastery and search for an enlightened Buddhist master of his own. Master Fwap explained to me that to become enlightened, it was necessary to first find and study with an enlightened Buddhist master.

“I knew that only a fully enlightened Buddhist Yoga master, who had the full power of enlightenment at his disposal,” Master Fwap explained, “would be able to show me how to attain enlightenment and reach nirvana in this very lifetime.”

In his search for a fully enlightened master of his own, the young Master Fwap traveled and roamed for many years throughout Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, China and India. In his travels he had met many Buddhist Yoga masters, some of whom could perform miracles!

I asked Master Fwap if he would tell me about some of the miracles he had seen the Buddhist masters perform. He told me he had met Buddhist masters who could levitate, heal the sick, become invisible at will, fill the night sky with white and colored light, open interdimensional doorways, and do many other incredible things. He said the unusual powers these masters possessed that enabled them to perform these miracles were called “siddhas.” He explained that the masters he had met gained their siddha powers from many years of meditation upon their “chakras.”

At that point, I interrupted Master Fwap’s narration and asked him if he would explain to me what chakras were. He told me that chakras are mystical energy centers that exist within the human aura. He said every living being has an aura, a field of psychic energy that surrounds and protects its physical body from negative psychic energies. He explained that the aura is the body’s “psychic immune system.”

Master Fwap further explained that tremendous occult power resides in a person’s chakras, and that siddha masters draw upon that power during their meditation practices, store it within themselves, and later use it to perform miracles.

From a Buddhist point of view, Master Fwap said, having siddha powers and being a siddha master was indeed a great yogic accomplishment, but it was not the same as being enlightened. He remarked that many people commonly confuse siddha masters, who have the power to perform miracles through the activation of their chakras, with enlightened masters, who can enter into a deep meditative state of emptiness (which he referred to as “samadhi”).

Master Fwap told me that, while he had been very impressed by the siddha masters he had met, by the powers they wielded and by the miracles that they could perform, he hadn’t really felt that any of them were truly “enlightened.”

I then asked Master Fwap—after first admitting to him that I had absolutely no idea what enlightenment was, or why anyone would want to seek it—how he could tell if a Buddhist master was really “enlightened” in the first place.

Master Fwap responded that, in his opinion, there were two conditions that would indicate whether or not a Buddhist master was truly enlightened. The first condition was that the master’s aura would turn a beautiful bright golden color when he meditated.

“Do you mean to say that you can actually see golden light surrounding an enlightened master’s body, Master Fwap?” I asked him with some incredulity.

“Oh yes, most definitely!” he said, as he nodded his head in affirmation. “Almost anyone can see the golden light in an enlightened master’s aura when the master meditates, unless, of course, the person is very blocked up psychically.”

Master Fwap elaborated, saying that sometimes you can see other colors in addition to gold in an enlightened master’s aura, and at very special moments, you can simultaneously see many colors in a master’s aura. He referred to this multicolored effect as a master’s “rainbow hue.”

Master Fwap went on to say that the second characteristic that would indicate whether or not a master was truly enlightened was his sense of humor. He remarked that an enlightened Buddhist master would always have a totally outrageous sense of humor, because life, when viewed through the eyes of enlightenment, was incredibly funny!

This surprised me. I guess I had always imagined somehow that Buddhist masters would be very stoical. Master Fwap informed me that while there are indeed as many sides to enlightenment as there are ways to achieve it, the experience of enlightenment always imparts a light and playful sense to both a master’s teachings and personality.

Master Fwap went on to explain that sitting in front of an enlightened master while he is meditating is like being in the middle of an energy storm. “At times,” he said, “your entire body tingles with ecstasy as you feel the waves of psychic energy that emanate from the master’s aura touching your own body.”

After his brief discussion about enlightenment, Master Fwap resumed his story about his search for an enlightened Buddhist master of his own. He told me that in all of his travels throughout the Orient, he had never encountered a master who fulfilled both of the necessary qualifications for enlightenment. He also said that while he had met a few very funny masters in his travels, none of them had emanated waves of golden light when they meditated.

I ASKED MASTER FWAP IF he had studied with any of the siddha masters he had met in his travels, and if so, had he learned how to do any miracles? To be honest, I was much more interested in hearing about the siddha masters and the miracles they performed than I was in learning about emptiness and enlightenment.

Master Fwap responded by saying that spiritual knowledge, which he called “enlightened awareness,” is of much greater importance than the ability to perform a few miracles.

“Spiritual knowledge is the experience of enlightenment and requires an understanding of the innermost workings of the Enlightenment Cycle,” Master Fwap began.

“Spiritual knowledge is the awareness of the eternal side of things: the eternal side of ourselves, of others, and of the worlds that exist both within and outside of us.

“The attainment of enlightenment makes you happy forever!” he exclaimed joyously. “It frees you from the mental and emotional pains that unenlightened human beings experience every day. When you are enlightened, you live in a condition of ecstasy, brightness and joy all of the time.

“The only reality that exists for most people,” Master Fwap continued, “is the world that greets their physical eyes and other senses every day. They believe that this world,” he said, moving his arm in a large, sweeping gesture that encompassed the entire valley we were walking through, “is all there is to life.

“The world that you see around you appears to be physical. It is filled with mountains, snow, plants, animals and people. It is ruled by time and the laws that govern matter and energy.

“It is a world in which we experience pleasure and pain, loss and gain, birth and death, happiness and sorrow.

“Naturally, since most people are only aware of their physical natures and of the physical side of their lives, their happiness is extremely limited. When their physical lives are pleasant, when the events and circumstances in daily living turn out as they had wished or hoped, they will usually be happy for a short while. But when the events and circumstances in their lives don’t turn out as they had hoped or wished, most often they experience a great deal of sorrow, unhappiness and pain.

“As I’m sure you know by now, based on your own experiences in life, most people aren’t really very happy. Beyond their surface appearances—the smiles that they wear for the rest of the world to look at—most people are soul-sick. The vast majority of people who populate our planet live lives of quiet desperation that are all too often quite harsh and painful—lives in which events and circumstances usually don’t turn out the way they had hoped or planned.

“Most human beings are completely out of touch with their spiritual nature,” Master Fwap stated in a factual tone of voice, “and with the inner dimensions that exist within themselves. They don’t realize each person has a soul—an inner core of light and intelligence as vast as the ten thousand worlds—whose true nature is emptiness, ecstasy and happiness.”

“But Master Fwap!” I quickly interjected, “Lots of people know they have a soul. They teach people about that in church.”

“Yes,” he replied. “Some people do know they have a soul. But just because, at one time or another, a priest or a monk told them they have a soul, doesn’t mean they have personally experienced their own soul, or know how to get to it and bring its power, beauty, happiness and enlightenment into daily life.

“Human beings are soul-sick because they are cut off from the ecstasy of creation! Enlightenment, which is the pure experience of the soul’s light, is not simply an intellectual understanding one gains about living; it is a direct and powerful entrance into, and experience of, the most ancient, knowledgeable and eternal part of ourselves.

“We are luminous beings!” Master Fwap exclaimed. “Beneath our transient physical bodies, we are made of intelligent light. One’s own body of light—which I refer to as the soul—is the most real part of oneself because it lives forever. It doesn’t die and decay along with the physical body after death. At the end of each of our lifetimes, it transmigrates—through the process of reincarnation—into a new body that is just in the process of being born. Then the soul begins the cycle of living all over again in a new incarnation!

“Beyond this world, the world we experience each day with our minds and our senses,” he continued, “are countless other worlds and dimensions. In deep meditation, when your thoughts have become silent, and your emotions are calm and at peace, you can travel into and experience the inner worlds and dimensions of light and perfection, and even experience nirvana itself.

“There is no experience in this or any other world, whether it is in a physical or astral dimension, that can compare to the experience of enlightenment and nirvana. It is the highest ecstasy. There is nothing more.”

Master Fwap became silent. Talking about enlightenment and nirvana seemed to have transported him to another plane. Walking next to him, I had the peculiar feeling that he was not entirely in his body. He seemed to have gone far away, to a very private place that I couldn’t quite see or reach.

After walking next to me in silence for several minutes, he began to speak again in a very quiet voice: “The world that human beings have made for themselves is rampant with poverty, disease, famine and death. It is filled with war and war’s alarms.

“Even when people manage, through luck, or through effort, to attain everything in life that they desire, their happiness is usually shallow and short-lived. Most successful people are surprised to find out that the attainment of their goals doesn’t necessarily bring them the happiness and joy they assumed would accompany their successes. And even the lucky ones, who do manage to become happy by attaining their goals, live each day with the constant fear of losing whatever it is they may have gained.

“Even the rich aren’t often happy. Their wealth is at best only a temporary distraction. It doesn’t make them immune to emotional and mental suffering, or to disease and death. They too must deal with loneliness, the deaths of loved ones, and the frustrations and boredom of old age. The rich may have more material goods and benefits than the poor, but most often they tend to lead spiritually impoverished lives.

“Time holds the final claim check for everything we gain or attain in this lifetime!” Master Fwap stated emphatically. “All of our possessions, along with the people and feelings we love, are at best only loaned to us for a very short time by eternity.

“If you live for a very long while, you will have to watch your friends and loved ones die, your body age and lose its beauty and vigor, and your mental capacities fade. All of your physical accomplishments, no matter how important and significant they might have seemed to you at one time, will be relegated to the past.

“At the end of your life you will probably end up in an old-age home, or in a back room in one of your children’s houses, left only with a handful of fading memories and a body racked with great pain and suffering.

“Unless you have gained the happiness and ecstasy that comes from the practice of meditation, the inevitable destruction of everything that you have loved and worked for will cause you to be very sad and lonely during the final days of your life here on this earth.”

“But Master Fwap, how can enlightenment change any of that?” I asked. “Just because you are enlightened doesn’t mean you aren’t going to die, or that you will be protected from bad experiences in life, does it?”

Master Fwap smiled at me and laughed. “No,” he said, “enlightenment won’t enable you to live forever in your current physical body, nor will it prevent all physical misfortunes from befalling you—although it will certainly help you avoid a great many of them,” he replied.

“Then what good is it?” I asked.

“Enlightenment makes you happy!” Master Fwap responded with a broad smile. “It is the experience of ecstasy beyond anything you can possibly imagine. Knowledge of the Enlightenment Cycle—of the ways that the inner dimensions and nirvana work—gives you an entirely new perspective on everything. It lifts you far above the transient sorrows, pains, pleasures and joys that the unenlightened masses experience each and every day of their lives.”


IT WAS GETTING COLDER AND so far no cars or trucks had passed us. I zipped my down parka up all the way. After walking down the road for a few more minutes, I broke the silence that had settled in between us; I asked Master Fwap if he could give me a “brief” definition of enlightenment. He laughed so hard that his whole body shook. Then, to the best of my recollection, this is what he said.

“Enlightenment is the complete awareness of life, without any mental modifications. It is the experience of everything—every dimensional plane, world and reality. It occurs when your mind merges with nirvana, with what we Tibetans call the Dharma-Käya—the clear light of reality—which is the highest plane of transcendental wisdom and perfect understanding.

“Beyond this world, and beyond all other worlds,” he continued, “there is an all-perfect light. It is pure intelligence, ecstasy, peace and happiness! It is the light that shines beyond darkness, time, space and dimensionality. In that all-perfect light there is no pain, suffering or limitation of any kind.

“Enlightenment is the experience of that endless and perfect light. There isn’t, however, any way that the experience of enlightenment can be conveyed in words. The closest you can come to knowing what it is like, without being enlightened yourself, of course, is to meditate with an enlightened master.

“However,” Master Fwap continued, “while I may not be able to describe to you exactly what enlightenment is like, I can tell you that it is wonderful beyond understanding. The experience of enlightenment frees your mind from painful and limited states of awareness. It is ecstasy, peace and happiness beyond measure!”

After Master Fwap explained to me why he couldn’t describe what enlightenment was like, he resumed his narrative about his search for an enlightened master of his own. He told me that after many years of fruitless traveling and searching, he had inwardly resolved that if he hadn’t met his master by the time he was twenty-nine, he was going to call off his search and instead find a nice Tibetan woman to settle down with.

But, as fate would have it, on the afternoon of his twenty-ninth birthday, on his way into town to look for a date, he at long last met his master.

The narration of Master Fwap’s meeting with his master was interrupted when some long-haired, blond, Swedish mountain climbers picked us up and gave us a ride back to Kathmandu in an old army truck. Along the way they talked with Master Fwap about how much they wanted to visit Tibet, where the borders were then closed to tourists by the Chinese Communists. Master Fwap rode in silence, listening to what they had to say, or meditating (it was hard to tell which), until we pulled up in front of the hostel.

Before we parted that day, Master Fwap gave me directions to the temple where he lived. He suggested that I visit him the next day around noon. I didn’t know what to say to him. I had come to Nepal to surf the Himalayas, not to spend my time talking about enlightenment with a Buddhist monk. I thanked him very much for his invitation and also for telling me a little bit about his life, and I apologized again for having snowboarded him. But in the back of my mind I knew I wouldn’t take him up on his offer to visit him the next day.

I hopped out of the truck and thanked the Swedish driver and his friends for giving me a ride back into town. They said they were going to drive Master Fwap back to his temple. They laughingly told me it would be very bad karma not to.