As a seeker of spiritual enlightenment, I travelled to Dharamshala (a city in Kangra district in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh).
I was assured that the person to meet was the legendary 24-hour lama.
A Buddhist monk who had gone without sleep for several years, he had achieved this remarkable feat by the simple technique of meditating instead of sleeping.
He must be a wise person, I thought as I set off for a 5-hour trek to a remote monastery where their 24-hour man resided. I hoped that since he had so much time on his hands, maybe he would grant me an audience.
Six hours later, I was ushered into a Spartan cell, where sat the man who had not dreamed in years. I was astounded by the Buddha-like tranquility he seemed to emanate. I felt humbled in the presence of this sublime being.
The friendly English-speaking monk, who had found him for me, whispered, "Make your offering, maybe the Lama will give you your blessing."
I decided I'd make a dash for wisdom and ask a question, instead of a blessing. The monk whispered into my ear, "What question would you like to ask?"
"How do I best progress spiritually?"
More whisperings in a dark, exotic language... My translator friend announced, "The Lama says, don't leave on Saturday." The 24-hour lama nodded in my direction and then carried on beaming.
I was furious! A 5-hour trek, a rucksack full of goodies to take as offerings - and now a 5-hour walk back down a treacherous Himalayan trail.
I was in a reflective mood: maybe I'd expected too much. What did I want from him? Instant enlightenment? Some wisdom would've been nice, but "Don't leave on Saturday"?!
Maybe this was some kind of Zen Buddhist paradox within this mundane phase that contained some great gem of wisdom, but dammit! He was a Tibetan Buddhist!
On Sunday morning, waiting at the coach station for the bus that would take an arduous, 10-hour journey down the vast mountain, my travelling companion stormed up to me and furiously exclaimed, "Bloody great! A 3-hour delay! I just chatted with that policeman over there... he reckons Saturday's coach had crashed with 14 people dead... The road's blocked with rescue vehicles... Good thing we didn't leave yesterday, like we wanted."
I was in a state of shock. My mind raced back to the beaming Buddha. I was filled with wonderment and joy. He had given me the perfect answer to my question.
Had I left Saturday, there would have been no more spiritual progression.
The mundane answer to my oh-so-important question was stunning in its magnificence.