Past meets present
The next morning Zeus and Richard took their time getting ready and having breakfast. They drove back over to the bar. The place was vacant except for Cetan who was exactly where they left them. Zeus and Richard picked up the still inebriated man and carried him to the pickup. He stunk something fierce and they dropped him into the bed.
They drove down the street to a gas station and Zeus put a hose on Cetan. He sprang to life screaming like he was stabbed. After he focused his eyes, Cetan somehow recognized them. “You got the money?” Zeus reached into his pocket and flashed some bills.
Cetan climbed into the back seat, “I show you, let’s go.” Zeus looked at Richard and shrugged. Cetan pointed the way through the city to a modern road. The road and railway followed the Duilongqu River that they drove on for two hours. As they neared the Kailas Range, Cetan pointed them straight into the mountains.
They made it three slow miles off road, dodging glacial drop stones strewn at random. Then the terrain became much more severe. The mountains were near to vertical, the ground was littered with varying sizes of boulders, and water rushed downhill wherever it could find a path.
Ahead two mountain tributaries met, just beyond the reach of their mountain mothers. The left tributary funneled into a narrow slit in the earth, the glacier and the river having slashed through it like a sword. The ravine opening looked no larger than a few feet.
The right fork looked like a smooth confluence with a wide breath, and was mostly snow and ice free. The left conduit flowed awkwardly moving first southwest then hooking sharply to the North West. Cetan brought them to some low ground just on the left fork. He pointed to a patch of ice and dirt dug up. Zeus surveyed the area, finding a weather beaten leather boot. He handed it to Richard to inspect and baggie, then stashing it in his pack.
Zeus pulled out a stack of bills and handed Cetan his cut. Then Zeus produced another even larger stack. Zeus points at the right fork, “What’s up that way?”
Cetan greedily eyes the bills, “It go straight through, nothing there I been through once.”
Zeus ran his thumb across the top of the bills so Cetan could hear them all. “And what about this one?”
Cetan retracted for a moment as if money could not buy the answer. He muffled out, “No one go there, it no go through.” Zeus read Cetan’s body language, he was fidgeting and his whole demeanor changed. Zeus knew there was more to this story.
In an authoritative voice Zeus said, “What else.”
The words trigger something in the back of Cetan’s mind. Probably from when the People’s Armed Police Force had interrogated most Tibetans. Cetan gave the answer right up. “These mountains haunted. He lives here.”
Zeus and Richard were confused. “Who is “He”?”
Cetan angled his fingers down from his mouth. Then he raised his arm over his head, then spread his arms as wide two men. “Big teeth, long hair, big claws.”
Zeus leaned into his ear. “He is telling the truth, he is scarred shitless.” Then aloud for all Zeus asked, “Cetan you have seen it?”
Cetan nodded and pointed to the right fork, “When I walk through there, they throw rocks at me, they howl, they chase you.”
“We need a guide to take them up this one,” Zeus pointed to the left. Then he dropped his hiking pack on the ground. He dug into the bottom of his bag and pulled out 5 bars of gold each weighing a troy pound, about $72,000, more money than Cetan would see in his entire lifetime.
Cetan looked torn. Fear gripped him, while greed drove him. Zeus packed the bars back up. “You get it all after we hike the valley.” Cetan slowly nodded with new found confidence. Zeus and Richard changed into heavy alpine smart gear that was overnighted in. The suits were covered in solar absorbent cells, along with a kinetic energy battery in their hiking bags, each suit produced as much electricity as a car; making them temperature controlled, able to charge flashlights, and phones. And they power oxygen scrubbers that recycle oxygen exhaled in your breath and concentrate air from the atmosphere so you have a constant supply.
He led them into the valley picking their way through the rock strewn landscape along the steep side of the river. After being completely non-functional the night before Cetan was performing just fine. He followed the river and accompanying valley across a few hundred feet of flood plain. It was easy walking for five minutes untilthey reached the narrow gap of earth.
The opening was about thirty feet across, positioned equidistant between the two mountains. The channel was cut sharply into the bedrock and looked like landslides piled on top. The water level was low but still fast running through a channel in the center of the gorge. It kept narrowing until it was just feet across.
There was a narrow ledge about a foot wide running inches above the water. Zeus stepped onto it. He shuffled forward a few feet and screamed above the rushing water. “NO TURNING BACK!” He pressed on, Richard followed and Cetan brought up the rear. After fifty yards the channel widened into a horseshoe waterfall.
A light spray kicked up shrouding the entire area. An occasional ray of light would penetrate to the small pool at the base. The water was calm here and they were able to easily explore the area. Zeus found a suitable location and began hammering pitons into the wall. One foot at a time, Zeus hammered a ladder into the rock fifty feet to the top.
At the top they could see the true scale of the valley. The high ridges flanking it and the landslides near the mouth sealed the valley off. The river was just inches deep spread over an area as wide as a football field. On either side of the river wild grains had taken root. The valley continued sweeping upward towards the peaks and mountain glaciers.
Cetan pointed to where the glacier used to end and how each summer it retreated further up the mountains, failing to reclaim its conquered land. They hiked for two miles on a gradual incline, snow and ice becoming more abundant with every step.
Richard saw Zeus kneel down near the water’s edge. They were staring down at an animal track about a foot and a half long by half a foot wide. When Cetan saw it, he stopped looking down and began spinning in circles searching for something.
Richard grabbed him and stared him in the face, “What is it?”
“It is the ghost of the mountains, the snow beast, the Yeti.” Richard rejoined Zeus with his camera and took several pictures including some with Zeus’ hand inside the track.
When Zeus stood, he took the entirety of the area in. Unlike Cetan, Zeus slowly panned, carefully taking in the landscape 360 degrees. “It’s fresh, few hours old.” They continued on, Zeus taking up the rear pushing Cetan forward and guarding their backs.
After another mile the phantom produced itself. A bone chilling howl echoed down the valley. Cetan pointed to the far ridge. A brown and white scraggy haired beast skulked along the ridge. Even from this distance the mythical, romanticized creature looked nothing like the TV shows depictions.
It had long shaggy hair of varying lengths and color. Predominantly white, it also had grey and brown mixed in. Zeus gave Richard a shove in the back, “It’s no risk to us at this distance, if it gets closer we can deal with it.” Richard reluctantly took the lead watching the ridge line for a second appearance. He tripped more times than he could count. As they moved through the valley Zeus slowed his pace, slipping back from Cetan and Richard.
Then he vanished. Richard didn’t even notice with his eyes transfixed on the nearby slopes. The weather began to turn and a light snow began to fall. That’s when Richard saw the creature duck behind some rocks a hundred yards in front of them.
Richard stopped dead in his tracks and Cetan crashed into him putting them both on the ground. As they regained their feet, Richard turned to look for Zeus. “ZEUS! ZEUS!” He heard a thump with a splash of water and turned to see rocks being hurled at them. They dodged and ducked a few more projectiles then it stopped. Richard expected a charge from the front but it came from their rear.
From behind a boulder the size of a car a creature came running and screaming. Cetan and Richard froze with fear. The creature was closing fast when a dark object appeared in the air. It came down upon the creature knocking it to the ground. Zeus rolled the creature onto its back, placed his knee in its chest, a foot on his arm and a knife to its neck.
Zeus screamed at Richard to get out of his trance, “DISARM HIM, DISARM HIM!” Richard ran over grabbed its arms pulling metal claws with leather straps from its hands. The creature fought wildly. Zeus took the blade and began digging it into the creature’s neck just enough to draw blood.
Self-preservation kicked in and the creature subdued. Zeus leaned in and pulled the hood back revealing a man’s face. It was a thick coat of yak’s hair with gigantic boots. The man was yelling in a Tibetic language. “Cetan, translate.”
“He keeps repeating, “Death is not feared by one who has lived wisely.”
Zeus slowly withdrew the blade, “Tell him, love ceases hatred.” Cetan translated it to the man. The man stopped resisting and Zeus eased his weight off of him. The man began asking questions through Cetan. “He asks how long you have studied the Buddha.”
Zeus helped the man to his feet and patted him down for other weapons while he answered. “Men who practice war must study peace.” The man nodded after the translation. Zeus found a stone with a flat top and sat down on it. He broke out some sandwiches and a small kettle to make tea. He made a fire and a cup for everyone before continuing questioning the man.
Zeus introduced everyone, and the man introduced himself as Dorjee. Cetan then relayed the story and how they suspect the German expedition found something here on the Tibetan plateau. Dorjee remained completely silent. When Zeus finished, Dorjee stood and began waving his hands. He was walking away before Zeus could put out the fire.
They followed him up river, they elevation remained low as the peaks swelled in size. They were about eight miles into the valley when Dorjee stopped. He pointed up to a gap in the mountain. Hidden in the shadow of the mountain, a multilevel monastery was carved into the rock. The alpine glacier pressed on the top of the monastery like a cap.
It towered above the valley by thousands of feet. It looked like the Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan, except much more hidden and isolated. Dorjee led them under the monastery where they began a free climb. The first few thousand feet came easy then the cliff was vertical. Dorjee was undaunted. He led them to a metal basket lying on the ground. A cable connected it to something high above.
Dorjee climbed into the basket and motioned for someone to sit opposite him. Zeus took up the offer and sat down, wanting to be the first to make the ascent and ensure all was clear up above. Forty minutes later, Dorjee returned alone in the basket. One by one, they made the ascent to the top until they were all together again, congregating in a small, but level area.
Dorjee had gone into the monastery to announce their arrival. He came back out and rushed them into the main courtyard. The yard was filled with monks of all ages all staring at them with skeptical eyes.
An old monk walked up to them and removed his hood. His face and head were badly scarred. Cetan translated for him, “What do you seek?”
Richard stepped forward to respond, “We seek knowledge, and we seek truth.”
“There are two mistakes one can make on the road to truth; not going all the way and not starting. Are you willing to take this all the way?”
Richard gave a resounding, “Yes” loud enough for the entire court yard to hear. The old monk did not need a translation to understand his word. He walked over to Richard and placed a hand on his cheek. When he touched his face he said a soft prayer, then turned and walked away.
Another monk walked over and spoke impeccable English. “Hello, Mr. Zeus, Mr. Chosset. Welcome to Khalama, I will be your host Kunchen.” They shook hands and began walking into the compound.
Kunchen told them the story that the old, burnt yogi passed on to him. “In 1939, a group of armed men came here, they destroyed everything, they killed everyone and they stole the sacred objects. It was by the merciful hand of the gods that master yogi was spared.” Kunchen showed them some of the still damaged sections of the monastery, where explosives tore apart structure and fire left its scars.
Kunchen invited them to have dinner with the monks a basic meal of white rice and soy bean. The monks had adopted a new philosophy towards their diets. They would go through a cycle of fasting, then a temporary vegetarian diet, culminating in a day of meat consumption. Then to purge themselves they would go back to fasting.
After dinner they were led to a small room at the upper most reaches of the monastery. Kunchen sat the three outsiders on individual cots along the wall, then a steady succession of monks entered the room. They stripped down to their sarongs taking a seat on a thick floor carpet just far enough apart so they would not touch each other. The walls were also lined with a thick red carpet. The ceiling was left exposed along with a single opening down a dark hallway. Cold air flowed into the room making the temperature below freezing.
The monks looked unaffected by the cold. They chanted in unison reverberating every structure on the mountain side. When they stopped they entered a deep meditation. It was an amazing ritual to witness. The three of them were all affected by it. Zeus was meditating along with the monks, Cetan looked asleep, while Richard continued to observe.
After half an hour Richard was beginning to wonder what this ritual would reveal to them. That’s when he realized he was sweating. The room temperature had sky rocketed. The monks were radiating heat from their bodies.
A few more minutes Richard heard water running. He carefully stood making sure not to disturb anyone. He lifted one of the wall coverings revealing a narrow channel funneling water. The sound of the water continued to grow as did the temperature in the room.
Hours past and the three visitors made themselves comfortable for the night. The occasional chanting of the monks created calming air that numbed Richard to sleep. In his sleep Richard had visions of the Bhagavad Gita. Richard saw the battlefield of the Kurukshetra War. Arrows and rock projectiles crisscrossed in the sky. Soldiers carrying spears, swords and shields marched on each other as armed chariots and elephants clashed. The last thing Richard saw was Arjuna and Krishna riding across the battlefield in a spectacular golden chariot.
Richard awoke to Kunchen bent over him. He was wiping a cool cloth across his forehead. The room was filled with a warm fog. When Richard went to sit up Kunchen placed a hand on his chest. There was an aroma in the fog that invigorated his nostrils. Kunchen whispered to Richard, “It effects everyone differently take a moment for your mind to get used to it. They are almost ready for the next step of the ceremony.”
Kunchen woke Cetan and Zeus making sure they also remained calm and didn’t rush before they were capable. They slowly roused and watched as the ceremony began to stir to life. The monks each stood in turn and exited the room down the dark hallway.
When they had all exited, they followed. Down the passage they entered a similar room except there was a slightly raised platform at the front. The younger monks took seats on the floor as older ones cleared the remaining ice. They all chanted together rhythmically, changing tone every so often. The room acoustics amplified the sound adding to the surreal effect.
Kunchen ushered them behind the platform and showed them a wall filled from floor to ceiling with Sanskrit writing, which he read for them. “The family Pandava and their allies meet the Kaurava and their allies at the battle of Kurukshetra. Arjuna one of the five Pandava princes looks over the battlefield with his charioteer who is Krishna in disguise, contemplating whether he should attack his relatives the Kaurava princes, and his friends and teachers. Krishna tells Arjuna that above all else he must perform his duties as a prince. He owes it to his subjects and soldiers to fight valiantly in battle. To encourage Arjuna further Krishna takes on multi armed form and says, “Now I become Death the destroyer of worlds.””
“Arjuna joins the battle which leaves all 100 of the Kaurava princes dead. The Pandava princes take rule of the kingdom and remain in power until Lord Krishna departed the mortal world. The Pandava princes saw this as a sign and retired from their rule. They embarked on a journey heading into the mountains, climbing towards the summit, and the heavens. The arduous journey claimed the life of Arjuna and all of the other princes except Yudhishthira, the most virtuous of the Pandava. Yudhishthira and a faithful dog which was the god Yama in disguise reached heaven and here they remained.”
Zeus waited for Kunchen to finish before he began his questioning of the passage. “What do you mean, ‘Here they remained?’”
Kunchen spread his arms out palms up to the ceiling, “This is where Yudhishthira journeyed to. This is where he brought Arjuna’s chariot.”
Kunchen turned to each of them, “If truth and knowledge is what you seek the road must be taken all the way.” He then waved his hand toward a darkened corridor. Zeus and Richard stepped toward it but Cetan remained back. Kunchen placed a hand on his shoulder, “Each of them must walk their own path.” Kunchen pointed him back to the room they came from.
Zeus and Richard slowly made their way down the hall with Kunchen bringing up the rear. It was pitch black and the harmonic chanting of the monks amplified in the narrow passage. They felt their way by running their hands along the wall, traveling close to fifty yards on a slight uphill grade before it opened to a room.
Kunchen was standing behind them, “Enter the room and sit.” They did as told. Kunchen’s voice came out of the darkness, “When you are ready the path will be shown to you.” His footsteps were barely audible as they faded back down the corridor.
In the darkness Zeus sat cross legged and began meditating. The deprivation of his senses was numbing. Richard scanned in every direction searching for a sliver of light. He focused his ears but all he could hear was his own breathing. Zeus was controlling his breathing drawing the faintest of breath.
Richard felt like a prisoner even though he was there under his own free will. He lay on his back and spread out across the floor. Then he finally let go of his senses. He closed his eyes and released himself of the reality he was in.
Richard envisioned the ceiling of the room as the cosmos, the stars and the galaxies spinning in harmonious unison. He watched billions of years pass by in an instant. He saw stars and planets live, die and from their ashes others born.
Then Richard witnessed the death of the universe, it happened in an instant it seemed so inglorious. To watch all that was and ever will be come to an end and strangely it did not affect him. The darkness was shrouded in darkness. Then out of the nothing appeared the Bodhi tree with Buddha sitting under it.
He looked on as he meditated finding enlightenment. He envied the Buddha for finding it and that’s when Richard finally understood. He had to let go of his envy, he had to let go of everything. The universe became simplified down to the single truth of dualism. It was life and death, the infiniteness of the cosmos and the finite aspects of the body, the limitless abilities of the mind and the limited rigors of the brain, Richard realized that their lives were completely dominated by this. This mind set had to be abandoned, the dualism driven out for the one truth, that there was no duality. There was nothing and everything at once.
As Richard reached this revelation he felt his body warm. Through his eyelids he could see a bright light. He opened them slowly and the entire room was washed in light. His eyes took a moment to adjust. The room was larger than he had thought, measuring at least twenty feet squared. Zeus was already examining things around the room.
Richard joined him at a small pedestal. On it sat several small figurines. Zeus was delicately analyzing one. It was about seven inches tall, and wore a Nemes headdress. The paint looked like it had just dried. The headdress was blue and gold, the man’s face beneath it bore vivid eye makeup and a long braided beard.
Richard picked up a small figure of a cat and held it close to his eyes. If there was any doubt to where the figurine was produced the wall behind the pedestal was covered in Egyptian hieroglyphs. The next pedestal had a jade mask and panther with the wall behind it covered in either Mayan or Olmec glyphs.
Another pedestal had a Sumerian Sphinx carving. It portrayed a man’s bearded head on a lion’s body with wings. Behind it an ancient form of cuneiform decorated the wall. There were several more pedestals with their accompanied writings though Richard did not recognize them.
Kunchen appeared behind them. They turned to him and Zeus asked “What is this place?”
Kunchen spread his arms out, “This is where the world came together.”
Richard asked, “How exactly did the world come together?” Kunchen walked over to a section of Sanskrit and pointed to a symbol above the text. It looked like a bell. Richard looked around the room and it was above all the texts.
“Buddhists have been honoring this form for centuries. They have built stupas a type of holy shrine not knowing exactly why. The reason is the holy vehicle, Arjuna’s chariot. It connected people’s worlds apart. For centuries the Lama’s traveled the world sharing knowledge between different cultures. As the world aged and society delved deeper into itself and into the darkness it was decided to segregate from it. They stopped passing on the knowledge of the chariot relegating it to a relic to be part of ritualized worship. It remained that way until the evil ones came and took the chariots.”
Zeus waited for Kunchen to finish, “How did the chariot work?”
Kunchen pointed to the wall again, “It’s not entirely clear, it just says that Krishna would descend from heaven upon the chariot.”
Richard walked over to the Egyptian hieroglyphs looking it over up and down, “Has anyone deciphered the texts?”
Kunchen shook his head, “The story passed down is that there are other holy chariots. Each culture had its own story of how the chariots came to be. This is they holiest shrine, and the words on the wall are just that, words. There meaning has little consequence on our beliefs. Here in Khalama we have combined Bon, Hinduism, and Buddhism to form our own belief system. The first line of the Sanskrit reads, “The sun will rise, time fly’s, the world lives and dies. Teach what you have learned and learn what others teach, for knowledge is the guiding light in the darkness.”
Zeus and Richard walked around the room reexamining the wall texts. Each had a distinctive break separating the opening line from the main text. It was the holy grail of Rosetta stones. Through thousands of years they could hear the voices of dead languages calling to them. Richard had to have evidence of this, “Kunchen may I photograph the room?”
Kunchen glared at Richard with hard eyes. “You may photograph the text but you cannot ever reveal this place. You are both bound by Lord Krishna to honor the sanctity of Khalama.”
When Richard finished photographing the walls, Kunchen led them back to the main hall. They began to thank their host but Kunchen gestured for them to follow him. In the main complex he led them to what looked like dormitories. He opened a door to a small room that contained several large pillows on the floor and an ancient man.
He looked like no one else in Khalama. His skin was paler, his face more oval than round, and his eyes were a distinct blue. Kunchen motioned for them to enter. “This is our Elder. He took a vow of silence and seclusion.” At first Richard thought the man was asleep but as they drew closer he could see his pupils were trying to focus on their faces.
They continued to widen until Zeus came within an arm’s reach of him. The old man reached out and grabbed ahold of Zeus’ arm pulling him towards him. The old man summoned a strength that none of them thought he could possess. He began whispering something to Zeus, as Kunchen and Richard looked on. Zeus’ expression changed from surprise to shock. After a moment he released Zeus and faded back into his meditative state.
Though they had more questions than answers Khalama had given them all its secrets. They went to collect Cetan who was meditating with a group of monks.
Cetan stood and vigorously shook they hands. “I thank you for bringing me here. I am going to stay to find my path. Can you find my brother and give him the gold? He has a family to provide for. And let him know I will be back in a few weeks to say goodbye.”
Zeus and Richard said they goodbyes. As they scaled down the mountain, his thirsty curiosity had to be quenched. “What did the old man tell you?”
Zeus smirked, “He said, “Man nennt mich Max.”
Richard shouted, “He spoke German?” Zeus nodded. “Do you think he is Max Kueble part of the expedition?”
Zeus shrugged, “I assume he was because he asked for forgiveness, and asked if I could make amends for him.”
Zeus arranged a charter flight out of Lhasa. They settled into the posh leather chairs and after getting some drinks and food from the flight attendant. Richard waited for her to return to the front of the cabin before speaking. “Do you think they actually had some kind of flying machine?”
Zeus responded with military precision, “If they use Occam’s Razor the most likely scenario would be they accumulated the items in recent times and faked the inscriptions. But I doubt these pious monks would have lied to us. Scenario two, the monks were lied two and have unknowingly perpetuated that lie starting from sometime in the not so distant past.”
“You are forgetting something, why would the Nazi’s come all the way to one of the most inaccessible places to retrieve faked artifacts?”
“The Nazi’s sent expeditions all over the globe hunting for relics,” responded Zeus.
“You think there would be a meeting of top level Nazi’s for fake artifacts. Whatever they found, it was more than just planted relics and must have been of some significance.”
Zeus sighed and leaned back into his chair. “You got me there. Unless of course the Nazi’s were fooled by fake artifacts too.”
“I don’t think that’s that case. The Nazi’s treasured their prize and the monks revered the chariots of the gods.”
Zeus quipped back, “I hope you’re not proposing that extraterrestrials were behind this.”
Richard gazed out the window looking down upon the looming snowcapped giants below. “Homo Sapiens have been walking the planet for at least 200,000 years. People physiologically and genetically no different from you or me. People that have the same mental capacity to think, problem solve and most importantly dream.Of those 200,000 years there is recorded history of about 5,000 years. So for 97.5% of the time modern humans have been around we know very little of their lives and culture. Rain forest tribes have been using healing methods for ages that modern science is just learning about. What sounds more likely that we have learned more in the past 5,000 years or that we have forgotten more from the previous 195,000? Too often people want to search for supernatural answers instead of giving credit where it is due. Our ancestors didn’t hide huddled inside caves hoping that a new day would come; they set out beyond the horizon. They sailed across treacherous seas, encountered dangerous animals, braved the elements, populated almost every corner of the globe with no more than animals skins covering their bodies, sharpened stones to protect them and fire to warm them.”
Zeus was overwhelmingly satisfied with the answer, “Points taken.” Zeus reclined his chair and settled in.
Richard looked at him for something more, “So what’s our next step?”
“Now we sleep.”