Not long ago, a journal appeared in one of the ashrams. It was left by a traveler who stayed one night in one of the primitive rooms but disappeared the next day. Nobody saw him board a bus for a return to civilization, but the journal remained in the ashram for months until a novice pilgrim arrived and stayed with the yogi who was its custodian. The yogi placed the journal next to the plate upon which he had served dinner to the novice on his way up the river. As the novice looked at the journal, which was gold with a smudge on the lower front cover, the yogi slipped back into his room and returned to his chants. With the drone of the secret sounds in the background, the novice pulled a candle closer to him and opened the cover of the journal.
The storyteller stopped his narrative and looked at each of his listeners. The sun had set and the candles took on the quality of stars in the night sky. His listeners had settled into their sleeping bags, not as a preparation for sleep, for they were still propped against the walls, but as a part of a process in their consciousness that merged more deeply with the mystery wrapped inside the storyteller’s words. When the sound of the voice ceased, their eyes projected their awareness back into the room. The lawyer and the student glanced at each other across the dim light arising out of the flames.
The storyteller allowed the pause to linger until he knew that all the listeners had found the same state of collective awareness. When the eyes of the student and lawyer had returned to the room, he reached into his bag and pulled out a small volume. For a few seconds he rubbed the book so that his hands made a quiet, dry sound, which cleared any remaining thoughts of the world that were flowing through his listeners’ minds. He leaned closer to the flames and began to read. His voice was quiet, his breath only a vibrant whisper.
The early part the traveler’s journal contained familiar travel stories, which the writer had intended to show friends back home, some of whom he addressed by name. After all, they had told him, he was living an adventure, following a passion, escaping the relentless routine that reared up with every sunrise. They had been both envious and unnerved as they watched his intent unfold.
The listeners learned that the man who wrote it was a teacher on summer vacation, who had traveled to India after having had a dream. He described the dream as a foreshadowing of events in his daily life that would push aside all the commitments he had made to his school and to his wife. In the dream, he was standing outside during the middle of a hurricane. As he looked up into the fierce night sky, he felt an awareness which he attributed to a consciousness within the storm, whose winds were battering his condo, throwing trees into the streets and on top of houses, and tossing cars into living rooms.
Despite the vividness of these dream images, what he awoke to was a longing that seems to have been transmitted to him by the consciousness he had felt within the storm. Within a few weeks, his travel plans had been laid out.
The time covered in the journal was almost three months. He had traveled through northern India, visiting for two weeks the capital of the Tibetan government in exile in McCleod Ganj, a village just up the mountainside from Dharamsala. He saw a long-life puja performed by the Dali Lama dedicated to one of the sick lamas in his ashram. Next he had traveled by bus for days, stopping at British hill stations built during the raj, eventually moving into the foothills of the Himalayas that led to the sacred temples visited by pilgrims and tourists. He toured ashrams and temples in Riskikesh then visited the many temples in Uttarkashi, which was a day’s bus ride higher into the mountains. As the bus swayed on the primitive road on the steep mountain side, it was hard for him not to imagine the bus dropping thousands of feet over the side into oblivion. It had happened before.
The farther the novice read into the journal, the clearer it became why this mysterious man had left it by the river. Although the descriptions of the early parts of his journey had their own fascination, including discussions with people he had met, his discomfort with the food, his fears about sickness, and the grandeur of the mountains, of which he wrote almost daily, gradually he shifted his attention to his dream life and the lingering feelings that carried over from them into his daily thinking. Even his handwriting changed.