The Holy One sat cross-legged in the middle of the Inner Enclosure, immobile while his spirit soared above the highest of the Himalayan peaks. Below him, the temple drums boomed their hypnotic beat, carried along on the gentle, thin winds that were a constant companion at this altitude.
Inside the Lamasery, the Precious One appeared to be near death but in reality, was in a state resembling suspended animation. His breathing had dropped to a mere one breath a minute, his heart put in a lethargic thump now and then and his body temperature was at a level that would form frost in most noses.
The ability to place the body in such a state while the soul departed for parts unknown isn’t a skill that can be learned overnight. Tripping the light fantastic in another astral plane requires tremendous faith and dedication and can be perfected only after intensive study of techniques learned over thousands of years.
Lama-hood was open to only a few, and only one of their number became the Holiest of Holies. It was an unbelievably difficult existence when measured against Western standards, particularly because few understood the mystery and complexity of Tibet and its people. To Tibetans, outsiders were light years behind in their understanding of the universe and all its many wonders. Preoccupation with comfort, wealth, power, status and other meaningless diversions prevented them from ever experiencing, or even comprehending the true nature of the spirit.
The sanctuary was lit only by candles. Wisps of coloured smoke wafted upwards and combined with the incense to fill the halls with a smorgasbord of odours from the dried leaves and petals of rare plants which grew only among the treacherous slopes of the higher ranges. These were collected at great risk, dried and blended to produce scents that caressed only the nostrils of the Holy One. All others were forbidden to enter the sacred chamber unless invited by the Lama’s present incarnation.
His room contained only the essential items necessary to meet his meagre needs during his journeys. In addition to the candles and incense, the only things required were a pot of hot buttered tea, a supply of tsampa, a staple made from roasted barley, a bowl of scented water for washing, a silk cushion and a telephone, which, although it represented an intrusion of Western convenience, added a certain flair to the otherwise austere surroundings. It also enabled him to work from the comfortable and familiar environment in which he preferred to dwell.
It was in this room that the Holy One communed with God. He spent long hours practising levitation and making himself invisible so that he might enhance his daily existence when he returned from his trips. Such was the life of a Lama.
At this moment, he was looking down on the snow covered peak of Nanga Parbat in India, fifth highest mountain in the world. He enjoyed soaring over these peaks which only a handful of men had ever seen, and then only after months of arduous training and life-endangering climbs up glaciers and sheer rock faces.
Sometimes he would go into space, casually looking in through the windows of space shuttles and examining orbiting satellites. Other times he plunged to the deepest depths of the oceans to behold wonders never experienced by mere landlocked mortals. The universe was his playground and he was as unencumbered by the limitations of a physical body as air was by a sieve.
He was watching the snows swirl around the peak when a distant ringing noise interrupted his reverie. Sometimes he ignored the phone completely, but this time he sensed there was some urgency involved. Rather than get an answering machine to handle the load when he was away, he preferred the personal touch and since only the most sincere were ever given his number, there was a certain amount of pre-screening built into the system.
Back in his body now, he adjusted his robe, glanced around to make sure the tea and tsampa were within reach, cleared his throat and picked up the receiver.