7.  The getaway ‘gateway’

book_cover-_revised_june_5

On reaching back at the hotel, a dazed but composed Dave sat in the lobby for a while, watching the huge stone fireplace crackle, casting a golden light on the library nearby… he reflected upon this latest incident, and all the incongruous pieces- a monk who was different from the others in the monastery, a 600 year old secret, a strange celestial configuration, and him in the middle of all of it…

 Just when he was expecting clarity in his quest for the Messenger, yet another mystery presented itself…

After a brief thought, he gathered that there was nothing better than to get a local perspective about this legend- so he took his guide aside and casually asked him about the monastery of the disappearing lama, taking care not to appear overtly suspicious or excited.

“Oh that?!” The guide seemed surprised. Not many asked him about a remote monastery, which was hardly a tourist draw. “It’s a beautiful but small, 600 year old monastery, about 150 miles off Lhasa, near Xigaze. Built at an altitude of 14,000 feet, it is quite remote to be a popular tourist spot.”

“Did you say Lhasa? You mean, Tibet?!” Dave seemed slightly taken aback. “I thought this was somewhere close by.”

“Well, sir, actually it is not that far away from here-about 150 miles, through the ancient silk route; via the Tsomgo lake, and then into Tibet via the historic Nathula pass-just about a five hour drive.”

“Nathula Pass...”Dave played out in his head. 

Via the pass? Hmn…And I do have a valid visa…Well, it seems we are back in business!

“So tell me more about the monastery.” Dave queried further, realizing that this visit actually seemed feasible, as implausible the context seemed. He wanted to understand what was so special about this place.

“Nothing much to see except an ornately maintained pagoda & 72 intricately made prayer wheels, strangely of varying heights- some say this has a celestial configuration, though most believe it to be nothing more than yet another intriguing tale. The story also has it that the founding Lama was quite an astronomical scholar, hence he built these on some principles of astronomy.”

“What celestial configuration?”

“Forget it, sir. Different monks have different versions, so most likely just another yarn spun- you see, in a mystical land, you will find many such mythical stories.” He smiled.

“However, since the monastery is not that far away from Changu lake and Nathu La pass, some curious tourist do venture till there, fascinated by the legend. En route, with a slight detour, they also get to see another mystical lake, Khecheopalri- a body of water that supposedly doesn’t have any leaves floating, even though it is in the middle of a forest. For the adventurous tourists, serves well- multiple mystical & historic sites in a single trip- makes sense from a time & economy perspective.” 

“What legend?” Dave asked, again trying to seem casual.

“I see you are bitten by the bug.” the guide smiled. “The legend, sir, is the kind of stuff that tourists find equally fascinating and incomprehensible-it says that about 300 years ago, a new grand lama was appointed on a special day. This Lama supposedly developed special powers, including the ability to levitate, thanks to years of meditation, Yoga & mastery in tantric sciences. That’s why he is also called the flying Lama.”

“Flying Lama?”

“Yes sir, the ability to raise one’s kundalini to counteract gravity-supposed to come only to the evolved...”

“Kundalini?”

“Simply put, the latent energy present in human beings, residing at the base of the spine.”

“And…?”

“Then, on another special day, 12 years after he was appointed, the flying lama went to the forest surrounding the monastery, & disappeared- supposedly at mid day.”

“Disappeared as in?”

“Disappeared… vanished…That’s why the monastery is also called the monastery of the disappearing Lama. The other Lamas & monks searched long & hard, but in vain. 

Then the matter was then brought to the attention of the Chogyal king of Sikkim, who had the whole forest searched by the royal guards, for over a week-200 guards searched every & corner of the forest, but not a trace was found- no body, not bones, not even shreds of cloth. Finally, just as it was assumed that the Lama was dead, either killed by a wild animal, or having fallen off one of the steep  cliffs, he supposedly appeared to his favorite disciple- just another ordinary monk, not very high up in the hierarchy of the monastery.”

“Appeared?”

“This is in the realms of myths & legends, Mr. Jones-so no one really knows what this ‘appearance’ means- some interpret it as an apparition, some as a ghost, some as spirit, and some as just a hoax...However, as per the legend, on appearing to this disciple, the Grand Lama supposedly told a secret- a promise to appear around the chosen day, to guide those with a pure heart:

‘When long & dark is the night,

Fleeting is the light,

The pure one shall experience higher guidance

In the eye of the storm, guided by providence…’

 

“Jeez!” Dave muttered under his breath, now understanding who it was who appeared to him...
 

The ‘flying lama’ had appeared to him around the chosen day? To guide those with a pure heart.. His dream & journey now placed him at the centre of a myth about a 300 year old Lama...Not as an observer, but a participant!

“What?” a surprised guide asked. 

“No, nothing. The whole thing sounds so surreal, that’s all…” Dave tried to not look shocked.

“Ah yes, to the western mind, all this sounds, well…illogical… unscientific…irrational…Yes, that’s the word-irrational. But there are many mysteries in our world, which cannot be explained, Mr. Jones.” He smiled, his eastern grounding coming to the fore.

Tell me about mysteries & unexplained phenomenon, Dave bit his lips...

 

The guide continued the story. “Most of the other Lamas & monks at that time were skeptical about this claim, and they actually expelled this disciple for spreading rumors & canards-they felt that if the Grand Lama had to communicate about his reincarnation, he would give signals to the higher ranking monks, not some lowly initiate in the hierarchy.

However, a select few did believe in this story, and secretly concurred with the monk-they felt it was the Lama’s prerogative to appear to whoever he felt was of ‘pure heart’…To this day, a select, special group of lamas consider this day holy, & revere it. They also believe that a special soul of ‘pure heart’ was destined to come here, and the Lama would manifest himself to this soul…”

Special soul of pure heart..? Dave wondered if he indeed fitted the bill...

 

“Has anybody seen this Lama after that?”

“Many locals & tourists have attempted to see the lama, but without success. After all, the legend has it that the lama appears to only those with whom he wants to share something.. You cannot seek the Lama.. He seeks the ones of ‘pure heart…”

After some more polite conversation, Dave thanked the guide and wished him good night. But instead of retiring to his room, he sat in the stepped lawns of the resort... 

On one side was sheer darkness, with the moonlight scarcely revealing the silhouettes of the grand mountains, while on the other were the lights of the town, shimmering like stars in an unblemished sky…Darkness & shadows one side, twinkling light on the other…and Dave in between…

Metaphorically and literally…

 

In a few hours from now, these very silhouettes would be awash in the hues of orange & golden, revealing their full glory… Similarly, maybe some glorious secrets lay just beyond the silhouettes in his life too…

 

                       ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 


Year 2000: December 21st

winter solstice (when long & dark is the night, fleeting is the light…)

 

Dave reached the monastery by about 10 am, well in time for the mid-day phenomenon. And the path till here had been predictably mysterious…

 

Deep into the night before, Dave finally woke up from his fitful sleep in the lawn, and groggily walked across to the duty manager, requesting him to inform the guide that he would skip the next day’s group tour…

“Actually sir, today’s tour.” The manager corrected him, politely glancing at his watch. It was 3 am…

“Whatever…” Dave ignored his warped sense of time. “And please arrange a car for me at 5 am today, to drive me to the Monastery of the flying Lama, near Xigaze.”

The duty manager tried to ignore the sarcasm and be courteous. “But sir, it is very late to contact the travel desk now, and all available cars have already been booked. I can only contact the travel desk at 7 am at the earliest, which means that at best a vehicle can reach you by 8 am- and you are talking about Xigaze, which is beyond Nathu La pass too, so I would need to arrange a vehicle with due border permit.”

“Don’t worry…” Dave winked at him. “There will be a cancellation, and a car will be available before 5!!  Just make sure to wake me up at 4:30-not that I’ll get much sleep anyways...” He said, turning back before the bewildered manager could protest. And surely enough, there was a vehicle waiting for him at 5 am! 

What, where, how, didn’t matter now- all that mattered was to reach the monastery…

 

                                         *********************************

 


The five hour long drive was beautiful, taking him through some of the most pristine & scenic parts of the Himalaya in Sikkim, and beyond it, to the mystical land of Tibet, via the oldest trade route between India & China- the silk route... Along the way, with a small detour, he got an opportunity to witness the ‘miracle’ of lake Khecheopalri- situated in a dense forest, it was part of the ‘Demazong’, a valley of rice often referred to as the land of hidden treasures…Surrounded by a dense tree cover & foliage on all sides, it’s very presence exuded divinity...
 

Holy water, Dave thought, as he remembered the various legends around this concept- the Ganges, the holy spring in Mecca, parts of the Nile.. holy water which nourished life, healed, blessed.. 

Water, which was so central to human life & imagination..and holy water, so fundamental to the human soul…

Then he noticed why the Lake was considered holy-inspite of the trees all around it shedding leaves, there was supposedly not a trace of a leaf floating on its blessed waters... blessing of the vanishing Lama, some said.. Today, it seemed, the lake was blessing him….

After coming back on the trail, he first crossed the frozen Changu lake at an altitude of 12,500 feet-a sight to behold, with Yaks gliding on the lake as if they were on terra firma.

A short drive away, through the full glory of the Himalayas, he arrived at the Indo-China border- the Nathu La pass, at an altitude of 14,000 feet. The weather was freezing cold, but fortunately, the rising morning sun cast its rays & warmth on the mountain trail, allowing the early travelers a free passage. Dave was at the border post prior to 7 am, and before the weather could turn inclement, his vehicle was cruising inside Tibet, driving northwards towards Xigaze….

 

                                                     *********************************

 


Xigaze, or Shigatse, was the second largest city in the Tibetan Autonomous region, the administrative centre of Xigaze county. It’s landmark was the Shigatze Dzong, a miniature version of the Potala palace in Lhasa, the seat of the Dalai Lama before the Chinese invasion. If Lhasa, the capital, was the Dalai Lama’s domain, Xigaze was the traditional seat of the Panchem Lama, the second highest ranking Lama in Gelugpa Buddhism. 

Dave’s quest, however, was for neither the glorious Potala Palace, or the historical Samdrubtse Dzong, but the nondescript monastery of the flying Lama. After referring to the map a couple of times, his car clambered onto the rocky path to the Monastery…

Rocky path, he smiled at the play of words…literally yes, it was a rocky road to his destination… figuratively though, time would tell... With the weather not playing truant fortunately, he was at the monastery by 11 am, well in time before the supposed noon phenomenon…

 

                                                   *********************************

 


Dave noticed that the monastery itself was as simple & modest as could be- no signs of grandeur, no intricate architecture or exotic artwork; Nothing to suggest anything out of the ordinary-Except the central pagoda & the 72 prayer wheels, precisely arranged along the East-West axis…

To the untrained eye, there was nothing special about the pagoda & the prayer wheels too- all monasteries had it, several more elaborate & grander- But what set it apart was its configuration & the resultant astronomical significance- an ancient, closely guarded secret.. 

The pagoda was of moderate height, but the 36 prayer wheels on either side varied in height, from twice as tall as the pagoda at the farthest ends, to very short, just next to the pagoda… almost as if the whole thing was graded...

An ancient sundial, and a precise one at that, Dave smiled… not to mention the secret of the shadows… Which happened only once in 12 years…


Today was that day!

 

Dave spent some time casually browsing around, not to appear overly suspicious or strange.. but there was a heightened sense of anticipation- Till now, one clue had led to another, each propelling him farther & farther into the realms of the unknown, the surreal.. is this where it would all culminate? Would he finally find the Messenger here? 

After a while, he finally did as instructed, going along with the prayer wheels, rotating them, praying... even then, nobody seemed to notice much. After all, he was just another of those curious foreign tourists.

Initially, the shadow moved normally from one prayer wheel to another in a sequence, at regular intervals- at each wheel, the shadow lasted for roughly ten minutes, as the monks prayed accordingly… 

From sunrise, it moved from 1st to 35th wheel till almost noon-and just before sun came overhead in sky, the shadow reached 36th wheel, which was normal...

But instead of disappearing at noon, and then reappearing at 37th wheel on the other side of pagoda, the shadow remained static at 36th wheel, not moving forward, even though the sun crossed over to the other side…

This was the strange celestial phenomenon referred to by the mysterious monk, not fully understood even by the resident monks!

 

 

Amazed at what he was witnessing, the image of the monk flashed in his head, as if guiding him further: ‘Even though shadow not move at all, you keep praying..Know that 36th prayer wheel is special, but only to those with pure heart.. this wheel blessed by Lama himself, so that on this one day, sun send special energies...


And 36th wheel retain special solar energy within, amplifying it-therefore, shadow not move forward…’

For what seemed like a long time, the shadow was standstill.. And then after an hour, the shadow moved northwards, instead of eastwards…into a forest at the edge of the complex…

Again, the vision of the monk appeared: “After exactly an hour, shadow finally move…not towards the next prayer wheel, but towards north…to forest north of monastery. Follow shadow as it guide you into forest… Allow higher energy to guide you, keeping negative emotions away...No skepticism & anxiety…Inside forest too, shadow move as it guide you, till it stop at a point... Once you reach this point, connect your disk to this player…After that, you will be guided…and find gateway…” 

Keeping bouts of incredulity at bay and continuing to mutter his prayer, Dave followed the shadow into the forest…Just a few hundred meters before the edge, the forest sloped down into a valley, after which the shadow disappeared suddenly, abruptly…

 

As Dave vaguely wondered about what exactly was happening, a special celestial phenomenon was playing itself out at this very moment- the shadow had a special significance, being the shadow of the sun on a day when it was up for the shortest period in the year- THE WINTER SOLSTICE!

 

And here today, this shadow followed a rather strange path…

 

*********************************

 

Once in the forest, it was time to connect the disk to the player-as soon as he did that, he began to hear, or rather feel, ‘spatial sounds’…

 

First came the deep chants of ‘Aum’, vibrations so powerful that it shook him at his very core.. Aaa… Uuuu…mmmmmmm…the amplitude rising with each chant …

As Dave began ‘vibrating’, literally shaking, he felt another high energy- that of ‘Allahu Allahu’…as the tempo & pitched increased, he started spontaneously whirling, arms outstretched, much like a Sufi in a trance…

For a while, it was La ilaha Illallah…

Along came the mystical Gregorian chants- sounds from afar, sounds of the universe.. In his whirling state, Dave could feel himself reaching ‘out’... expanding.. as if the whirling was ‘throwing’ him out from within’…

 

As the trance intensified, Dave started ‘sensing’ swirling images of stars & galaxies along with these spatial sounds.. The whole experience seemed like a 4-dimensional (or maybe more) rendition of the Universe…

A merging of senses… synaethesia…

 

Along with these visions, the colors & images, both within & outside, became more radiant, surrounded by white-amber hues…The sounds became more expanded.. it was almost as if there were an energy storm all around him, with him in the eye of the stormwitnessing the storm….

Then, Dave felt a strange sensation at the base of his spine, as if heat was moving up the spine-starting as warmth, the heat intensified, literally becoming hot as it reached the base of the skull...

Dave’s breathing became lighter & lighter, and his eyes rolled up, focusing on the ‘brightness’ in the ‘gap between the eyes’…As the ‘strange sensation’ & heat (as Dave would later call it later, in the absence of any other adjective) reached the top of the crown, the white light between his eyes became exponentially bright…

All this while, Dave continued to whirl, arms spread outwards, the trance intensifying, the vibrations of the sounds merging with his energy centers…

And then, as if completing the ‘circuit’, the heat radiated outwards from his hands & crown in all directions... The Universe & Dave were now in a divine communion, an exchange that he would understand later...

 

For a few minutes, this energy flow continued, leaving Dave in utter bliss & a feeling of expansion…and then, it got too much for him…

 

In a flash, Dave passed out!

 

 

copyright 2010 Malikkhan Kotadia. All rights reserved.

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