The Handbook for Enlightenment

The next day I awakened to a freezing dawn. I got out of bed and hastily put on my clothes and down parka. I was very hungry.

The candles I had left lit when I had fallen asleep had burned themselves out, and the only light in the room was the faint, cold gray light of dawn that filtered in through some makeshift windows covered with old plastic.

After leaving my room, I proceeded to make my way down the hall. Entering the meditation room, I saw Master Fwap and the Oracle sitting in front of the altar engaged in meditation.

Moving as silently as I could, I walked up behind them, sat down, assumed a cross-legged position, and tried to meditate with them.

It was easy at first. My mind was completely at rest and I didn’t think at all. Then I began to feel hungry. No matter how hard I tried to make my mind quiet and continue to meditate, I kept picturing every type of breakfast food imaginable. I thought of scrambled eggs and buttered toast, pancakes dripping with syrup, hash browns, orange juice, milk, coffee, cereal, and even Pop-Tarts. Then my stomach began to growl.

It was awful. The high ceilings of the stone meditation room amplified the gurgling sounds of my stomach. Here I was in the presence of two aged Buddhist monks who were engaged in deep meditation, visualizing American breakfast foods.

Master Fwap and the Oracle then began giggling, and what started out as chuckles quickly progressed to howls of laughter. They both turned and looked at me with tears in their eyes. I was really embarrassed, to say the least.

Simultaneously they became silent and stared at me. As they stared I began to feel a pleasantly warm tingling sensation that filled my body and numbed my senses. My mind became quiet. All thoughts of food and hunger vanished, and I found myself closing my eyes, stopping my thoughts, and effortlessly meditating again.

When I reopened my eyes, Master Fwap and the Oracle were touching their heads to the cold stone floor, signaling that their morning meditation period had ended. I did my best to emulate their bows, touching the stone floor with my forehead. While I still didn’t understand the purpose of all of the bowing that everyone did in Nepal, I figured it was polite to go along with it. Then Master Fwap and the Oracle stood up, stretched, and told me it was time to go to the kitchen for something to eat.

We all walked down a dark and narrow corridor to the back of the Oracle’s temple, where we entered a small room that contained an old wooden table, several chairs, and a fireplace. The Oracle proceeded to light a small fire in the fireplace and then hung an old metal kettle on a hook over the flames. Master Fwap disappeared into a small pantry and quickly returned with bread, butter, and cheese. When the tea was ready, the three of us sat down at the table together.

The Oracle poured the tea while Master Fwap gave us each large portions of bread, cheese, and butter on some worn out china plates. All of this was done in complete silence. The only sounds to be heard were the first songbirds of morning and Master Fwap’s quiet humming.

After eating in silence for several minutes, Master Fwap began: “Today you will go to Kathmandu. It is a long journey. When you become tired, sit and rest, and read a little from the book I gave you last night. It will refresh you and renew your strength.

“The young woman you will meet tonight in Kathmandu is someone you have known in many of your past lives. You two have been very close before, as I am sure you will be again.” A sudden grin appeared on his face as he said this, and then both he and the crazy Oracle began to weep again with laughter.

“Once you have become close,” he said while trying to suppress his grin, “come to my monastery. The Oracle and I will be waiting for you there. Then the three of us will begin our journey to the Annapurna range, where we will help you to solve the riddle of the missing dimensions.”

I thanked both the Oracle and Master Fwap for their hospitality. The Oracle then laughed, jumped up from his chair, and without warning leaped effortlessly onto the top of the table. He swiftly raised both of his arms toward the ceiling and started taking in a series of very intense deep breaths. I was dumbfounded by both his antics and the effortlessness of his jump.

As an extreme snowboarder, I knew a lot about jumping, and I didn’t understand how the Oracle could move the way he just had. But before I could give the matter more thought, he lowered both of his arms, aimed his outstretched palms at me, and made a loud blowing sound.

It was as if I were hit by a lightning bolt. Everything in my visual field went white, and I was knocked off my chair and onto the cold stone floor beneath me. I tried getting back up, but my muscles wouldn’t work. All I could do was to lie on my back and listen to Master Fwap’s and the Oracle’s crazy peels of laughter. After several minutes the white light faded and the room came back to normal. I was able to sit up again. Master Fwap and the Oracle were still chuckling at my expense, and I immediately decided that this had all gotten too weird for me. Somehow I managed to get up on to my feet and leave the room as rapidly as possible.

I ran back to my room, got my snowboard and backpack, and was about to leave when I remembered the book. Turning back to the bed, I grabbed The Handbook for Enlightenment, stuffed it into my backpack, and left the room.

After leaving the temple, I started down the hill toward the rock and gravel road. As I walked down the grassy hill toward the road that led to Kathmandu, I ventured a quick backward glance over my shoulder at the Oracle’s temple. Master Fwap and the crazy Oracle were standing at the temple’s front door, still laughing and waving farewell to me. I waved back and rapidly walked down to the road.

I spent the next several hours jogging. Whatever the Oracle had done to me in the kitchen had filled me with energy. I was literally running up and down seventeen- and eighteen-thousand-foot passes as if I were Superman.

After about three hours, I suddenly became very tired. I had reached the top of a particularly gnarly snow- and ice-covered pass, when I suddenly felt that if I didn’t sit down and rest immediately, I would pass out.

Unshouldering my backpack and snowboard, I lay down. I was dizzy with waves of exhaustion. It was then that I noticed that my clothes were completely soaked through with perspiration.

I wasn’t so sure that the Superman empowerment, or whatever it was that the Oracle had done that had charged me up with so much energy in the kitchen, was such a good idea.

Then I remembered Master Fwap’s advice about the book the Oracle had given me. I fished around inside my backpack until I found it. Looking at it in the clear light of day, it seemed less impressive than it had by candlelight in the Oracle’s monastery the evening before. I opened the book to the first page and began to read.