Archive for the ‘Enlightenment’ Category

An honourable death

(continued from the post “Sunrise on Mt Fuji”)


The morning weather the next day, turned out true to forecast. Hiroyuki and I set off for what he called his final journey, after bidding farewell to a teary-eyed Yoshie.

On the way, I looked up some facts about Mt. Fuji on my browser.


There were many different perspectives

– the highest mountain in Japan (at 12,395 ft or 3,777 m)

– a sacred pilgrimage;

– a trekking paradise ( around 300,000 people trek up the mountain in a year);

– a steep heap of lava with the occasional rock here and there

– the best sunrise in the whole world

– a dangerous climb (multiple travel warnings posted on the net by rescue guides);

– an experience of both summer and winter in the same day





I guess, different people experience the mountain differently; But one thing they all agree on is – the experience changes them forever.

There are 4 major trails leading to the summit. Most people start their trek not from the foothills, but from the 5th station, at about 2300m. I bought a thick leather jacket and climbing shoes at the wayside shops. Like the other trekkers, we were sent off with walking sticks and Japanese cheers of “Come back safely”.

We chose the Kawaguchiko (Fujiyoshida) Trail to reach the summit. It was off-peak season, so there was not the usual rush you would expect for a famous trekking trail like this. It was hot, when we set off from the 5th station, around noon.

Even though he was in his 60’s, Hiroyuki was much physically fitter than I was, and he had to slow down many times, to allow me to catch up with him.

After we broke through the tree line, we were walking in the midst of clouds. Soon, the climb became steeper and the air thinner. Finally, after my walk, climb, crawl of nearly 6 hours, we camped at the 8th station in a mountain hut. It was more like a dorm room, and we shared lodgings with fellow travelers of all countries and ages. The dinner of hot miso soup, vegetables and ramen noodles was very welcoming.

I slept like a baby after that.


The lodge owner woke us up at 3:30 am. We began the final climb to the summit. Apparently, the sun rises at 4:30 am during the summer, but in the season we were climbing, forecast was for a 5:00ish sunrise.

We walked the final hour to the summit. He selected a secluded spot, far away from the usual tourist gatherings. We sat down and looked out at the horizon. In a few minutes, the early hint of dawn appeared.

Hiroyuki realized his time had come. He placed a framed photo of the Teacher against a rock, lit a stick of incense and removed his sword. He kneeled and bowed to me, but I was hardly paying him any attention.

It was time.

“Sit down Hiroyuki”, I said in a firm voice.

He hesitated, not knowing whether to obey me.

“Throw away your sword and sit down.”

A range of emotions swept his face. He looked out to the horizon. Streaks of light were already beginning to emerge.

“If you end it this way, you will have to begin again at the foothills in your next birth.”

He was trying to signal and gesture to the horizon, his face displaying irritation.

“Don’t worry. The Sun will not rise, Hiroyuki till you obey me.”

He laughed.

But in a few minutes, his expression turned to shock

For the clouds had risen up gently to cover our view of the horizon.

“I am here to finish your lesson. If you respect your Teacher, you will listen to me and not to your confused mind.”

He was convinced. Now.

He threw away the sword, clasped his hands in a mark of respect.

I got up and faced him.

“I will guide you now to an honorable death, Hiroyuki. But I need to stay connected with your mind. Will you permit me?”

His eyes opened wide, but he nodded.

“Have you practiced the 3 stages that your Teacher taught you?”

He nodded vigorously.

“Lets begin”, I said.

With the clouds enveloping us, we began, in unison; moving together through the various asanas first, and then the calming of the sense organs, the loops of breathing and the withdrawal from the senses.

He had practiced well. I was the one who was rusty. But my objective was not to show off my half-baked Yoga skills in Japan. Rather, it was to connect with deeper layers of Hiroyuki’s experience. Performing the 3 stages in unison with him, helped me bond; with his permission of course.

We remained seated, an hour later; Relaxing; eyes closed; in the cold mountain air; I began to view the lake of his mind; I was not interested in seeing its contents; Snake could do that; I was interested in its state; whether distracted or attentive or dense or one-pointed etc;

Not a perfect view, but enough to help, if needed.

The clouds began to drift away.

“Now Hiroyuki, listen carefully.

Thus far, the stages involved your attention; your effort, your practice.

But the final journey involves awakening.

It is not a small step; but a huge leap.

Ask for the grace of your Teacher; the one for whom you were ready to die.”


The Sun began to show its crown in the horizon.

“Open your eyes, Hiroyuki. And see nothing but what is in front of you. ”

(source: Fumi Yamazaki on Flickr)


Hiroyuki calmly opened his eyes; We looked at the crown of the sun together.

With him, you will see the sunrise.

“Now, awaken in your consciousness, the one that you call ‘I’. It is time to invite it; It cannot be seen; It is not an object; It can only be recognized at the right moment; when the lake of the mind is clear.”

He nodded, his mind focused on the sunrise

“Now, sustain your attention on the sunrise.”

He did. I was paying attention to his experiences; the colourings had thinned down remarkably; the ripples were still there; lashing away; beliefs, memories, fears –fighting to keep Hiroyuki alive.

I breathed into them, calming them down; reducing their power to disturb his concentration.

In half an hour or so, his level of concentration became sustained.

Then dropped.

His mind showed confusion.

I changed tack.

“What sees what your eyes see? What hears what your ears hear? What enjoys the things you enjoy? Pay attention.”

With the lake of the mind clearing, Hiroyuki tried to search for the “Subject”; bring it forward to be recognized.

A puzzled look broke on his face, as he tried to label it, name it, explain it.

I spoke with a firm voice. “Do not be swayed, Hiroyuki. The ‘I’ is not an object. Keep your attention on the sunrise; uninterrupted; like oil flowing from a jug; not a moment’s break.”

I think that hit the mark. His awareness of the sunrise heightened to an incredibly strong state.


( source: Fumi Yamazaki on Flickr)


Awareness. Of the Sun within.

Then you will see the sun rise.

The shift to the last stage happened within an hour.

The barriers began to crumple; he was freely letting go of all things that entered his field of awareness; except the sunrise.

He began to dissolve in the experience; wholeheartedly; without any resistance from his mind; in total surrender;

And tears started to flow down his face; his face beamed with joy.

His eyes were half-closed, but his concentration on the sunrise was extremely refined; he had hit the zone; like a singer merging with the song; or a painter in the art; uninterrupted; dissolved.

His mouth began to move, as if to express in words what he was experiencing;

“Say it Hiroyuki. Your voice is not yours.”

And he did.

“I AM the sunrise”, he said, unaware that he was actually speaking aloud.


(source: Fumi Yamazaki on Flickr)


His heart burst in happiness.

Then, you will know the sunrise.

He had done it.

I allowed myself to relax.

Big mistake!

As Hiroyuki’s contemplation deepened, the heat began to increase. I could feel it. After all, it was the Sun that he was contemplating, not a bottle or a piece of wood.

Then it became worse.

He began to identify with the light; cling to it.

Oh no!

I had no choice. Rather, I knew of no other way.

Resuming my connection with him, I willed that I receive the heat.

In the next few minutes, as I applied my will, it felt like a blast from a furnace.

Soon, I was in flames. Not like that Ghost-rider guy in the movies,

but on the inside.

The heat engulfed every cell of my body.

I removed my jacket and shirt to cool down. But no respite.

I opened my eyes to check if all this drama around him had disturbed Hiroyuki’s concentration. It hadn’t. Good.

I was beginning to lose consciousness.. I couldn’t hold on any longer.

But Hiroyuki was still immersed in the field of bliss. He hadn’t crossed over.

He could have remained in this state for as long as his awareness continued unwavering.

Again, I knew only one way to help him.

As I began to lose consciousness, I summoned every last ounce of physical strength to shout at him;

But even as the sound left my mouth, there was a sudden surge of energy, amplifying the shout;



Well…make that sound 10000 point size text, Red, Bold, italics, underlined.

That’s probably how loud it sounded for Hiroyuki.

In that shout, his train of identification got cut,

And the stream of experiences, till that moment,

in the life that he called “Hiroyuki” – just collapsed

Leaving nothing behind.

And then you will die.

That which had been calling itself Hiroyuki died.

The death of the ‘ego-self’.

At sunrise; In Japanese – “Goraikō” – “honorable arrival of light

The most honorable death for a man.

His job was done.

His destiny fulfilled on that day; the Teacher’s words had come true.

And then he returned; as the stream resumed;

As the same person? Or a different one? Matters not.

He turned his attention to me

To share his amazement

But I was in no state to celebrate.

He called out my name, in concern.

To me, his voice sounded a long distance away.

I had passed out.



Voices; like from a tunnel; as I was carried down the hill; by some official-looking rescue guides; couldn’t see their faces. They had me all wrapped up;

I was still burning inside; I tried to ask for a glass of water

But couldn’t speak

I had lost my voice. Like…literally. Must be that shout!

Darkness again; hmm..no; more like semi-consciousness

Then I heard his voice…in the mind…Snake!

I think he saves on telephone bills this way.

Felt happy now; in his presence

UM: Greetings, O acclaimed Yoga Master.

Snake: You idiot.

UM: ???

Snake: Why did you try such a dangerous stunt? You could have got fried out there.

UM: Oh, that? I couldn’t help it. He wasn’t trained to handle the heat. Besides, I knew I could count on you, if there was real danger. I felt your presence with me. Thanks.

Snake: Wouldn’t have missed it for anything J. Anyway, well done. I am impressed.

UM: whew..it was just one close call after another.

Snake: only because you bunked my classes on Samyama. Speaking of close calls… how’s your throat? Have you lost your voice?

UM: Its not hurting, just sore..my voice is raspy; but no permanent damage. It will return.

Snake: Glad to hear that. The ending caught me unawares. You guided him to the summit of Yoga; but then used a Zen shout to sever Hiroyuki’s identification with his ego self. That was innovative.

UM: I care more about my friends than the methods.

Snake: But I care about you. So don’t go around giving repeat performances.

UM: Yes, Boss! Anyway, it was all his efforts that bore fruit for him. Hiroyuki had practiced and prepared well. All I did was push him over the edge.

Snake: The story is already spreading at the ashram.

UM: Already? How?

Snake: There is a fan club for you there, you didn’t know? A bunch of students regularly follow your progress using clairvoyance (Remote viewing).

UM: Geez..There is no privacy from you guys. What am I, some sort of 24 hr channel?

Snake…Lol…Why not? You keep showing them exotic locations. You are a rebel. They like that about you. They are running around now sharing a new SunBeam folktale.

UM: Yeah, yeah. What is it this time? Sunbeam breathed clouds, blocked the Sun from rising, roared with the voice of Mt Fuji and made the volcano erupt?

Snake:. :-) ….something like that, yeah.

UM: These guys have no other job.

Snake: :-)…You are breathing too hard; slow down

UM: Really? Can’t make out.

Snake: Pay attention. The air is very thin out there; high altitude; you will hyperventilate.

I tried hard; but couldn’t sense anything; I gave up

Snake: I didn’t say ‘try harder’; I said ‘relax’; don’t take huge mouthfuls of air

I wasn’t even aware I was breathing through my mouth.

After a while, I don’t know how long, I felt comfortable. We must have probably reached a lower altitude; I could see a line of trees.

UM: Good. Better now. The next time I see the Teacher, I’m going to give him a yelling. What a nasty trick to play on poor Hiroyuki.

Snake: It had its own logic, however distorted it may be…

UM: Yeah? FYI… I logically analyzed the message, but it drove me nuts. It was only when I contemplated it that it revealed its essence.

Snake: Poor boy…how could you think logically, when you were busy getting enchanted by Yoshie’s charms? :-p

UM: Hey….

Snake: Perhaps I should tell Lavender. She’d be mighty mad; Probably send some thunderbolts your way.

UM: Oh, please!!

Snake: Now get up. Lazy bum; Enough of trying to avoid the walk downhill.

UM: Next time.

Snake: As the Japanese say, ‘Only a fool would climb Mt Fuji twice’

UM: Good advice.

Snake: Now you are thinking clearly. Get up.

UM: Hello, I am injured. Give me a break.

Snake: Nonsense.

I opened my eyes.



It was late evening when we returned. The journey back home was uneventful. We were both silent, for different reasons. I had lost my voice and therefore was unable to keep up my chatter. Hiroyuki had his own reason to be silent; though he had regained his voice, he was looking at everything around him as if for the first time in his life – with joy and awe.

A surprised Yoshie greeted us along with their friends, neighbors and relatives. They listened in amazement as Hiroyuki narrated his final journey to the summit; in bits and pieces.

A few believed him; Many didn’t.

But that was not the point.

What was to be a gathering to mourn became a reason to celebrate.

The garden came alive with the sounds of laughter, songs and prayers.

In the middle of the celebrations, I saw Hiroyuki go for a walk by himself. He signaled to me to join him if I wished.

I followed him.

We stepped out to walk in the garden. The air was crisp and clear. The sound of the celebrations reached us faintly.

“How do you feel, Hiroyuki?” I asked, a glass of cold water in hand. My voice was croaky and I could hardly speak audibly.

“For long, I desired a voice to speak what I feel. Now that I have a voice, there is nothing to say.”

My heart warmed to him.

“Use it well”, I wished him.

“I have only one wish now; that whatever I speak from now on, should help people taste silence.”

“A great wish; may it come true”, I said.

He then turned his attention to me.

“And what about you? What kind of man have you become? What kind of man would risk his life for a stranger?”

“A friend”, I answered, awkwardly.

He shook his head, amused.

“And what do you wish to do from now?” I asked him.

“I have seen the summit. But I couldn’t remain there. Now I wish to resume from the foothills. Please give me a guidance.”

“You are already graced by what was revealed to you. That and that alone will be your teacher from now on. Depend on none other. Your Teacher now is both within and without.”

He closed his eyes and absorbed my message.

“Now, go join them”, I said, looking in the direction of the house party. “The world awaits your new life. But I must leave.”

“Stay with us for a few days, friend; and then continue your travels”

I accepted.

He held my hand. “Never stop what you are doing”, he said.

“I won’t”, I smiled and we bowed to each other.

After he left, I stood there, in silence, enjoying the Full moon and its reflection in the lake.




It was Yoshie, accompanied by a bunch of neighborhood schoolgirls.

“She was searching everywhere. She wants to be with you”, said one of them and giggled.

She shooed them and then they all ran away.

She looked me in the eyes.

The enchantment resumed.

“My father said you will be staying a while. That’s good. I never got to show you the beauty of our town.”

“There is more?”, I asked in a whisper, coming closer to her ear.

That was the only way I could make my voice heard.

So, don’t let your imagination run wild.

We walked together in the gardens, by the lake, with the cherry blossoms and moonlight for company.


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