Many trips around the solar merry-go-round ago, when I was a younger man with a somewhat more sensible name, I decided to do what many young chaps do before knuckling down and earning themselves a living. I went on a trip to the Indian sub-continent to engage in what might by some be called a 'spiritual journey' and by others called 'getting drunk and stoned in a very cheap and very hot place'.
Although I do admit to partaking in various forms of intoxicant, I also visited many so-called 'gurus'. At the time they seemed very appealing to a young lad who had only ever known Western philosophy and religion. There was a mystery and a grandeur to these new ways of looking at life, and soon I became hooked on the idea of achieving 'enlightenment'.
I wandered from place to place mingling with the local people and picking up tips about where to find those who were purported to have great spiritual knowledge. Each guru I visited had me hooked for a while, they were all extremely charismatic and persuasive in their unique ways, and each one insisted that I must engage in a particular form of spiritual practice. I diligently did as they said and each time it initially seemed as though I was making some kind of progress. But each time the initial euphoria faded, like a teenage infatuation, and I became disillusioned and moved on, still searching earnestly for 'The One' who would finally make it all clear for me.
Then as I entered into my fourth month of back-packing, I found myself approaching a village called Sopsokha in Bhutan. At the side of the road sat a man dressed in a greyish brown gho. His dark rugged skin matched the mountainous landscape of the region. I was immediately struck by his extraordinary stillness. It seemed to draw me towards him. He made not the slightest movement until I was immediately in front of him.
"English?" I was suprised to hear him say.
"I am Scottish, actually. Andrew Anderson is my name. A pleasure to meet you sir."
"How goes your search?" he replied without divulging his name in return. His English seemed remarkable, with only a hint of an accent. He looked directly into my eyes and it was like being pierced. I quickly had to look away.
"My search?" I feigned misunderstanding.
"Yes, your search Mister Anderson. How is it going so far? You are a long way from the glens."
I guessed he must have seen many like me before and so I gave up pretending and recounted to him a summary not dissimilar to the one at the beginning of this tale.
"I can help you," he said with an air of immense authority. "But you must do exactly as I say. You must throw away all doubt before we begin. My methods may seem strange to you, and if you are in any doubt then I suggest that you keep on walking."
This was not like anything I had experienced before. I felt so certain. Here was a man totally alone. All of the other gurus I had visited had ashrams and people at their feet, elaborate dress, statues and symbols .... and now here was this simple man, utterly intriguing and compelling without any effort.
"Well?" he said, raising his eyebrows very slightly.
"Yes. I trust you!" I answered eagerly.
"You must question nothing until I am done with you. Understand?"
"Come!" he ordered, rising to his feet in one seemingly effortless movement. He led me futher along the road where several humble dwellings were set wide apart along side the rice fields. We entered one of these and he beckoned me to sit down on a stone bench topped with blankets. A small wood fire burned in one corner of the room creating a smokey atmosphere. In front of it lay a ragged-looking brown and black dog. It raised its head lazily as we entered and gave a little tail wag before resuming its dog's life endeavours.
The man, whose name I had not yet learned, stood in front of me. He once again looked me directly in the eye and spoke with an air of calm authority.
"You will stay with me for two weeks. In that time you can help out on the farm if you so wish, although that is not compulsory. Choden here will show you the sights if you care to walk with him. I will provide you with a meal twice a day. It should be sufficient provided you do not exert yourself too much on the mountain or in the field."
"You are most generous.... " I began to say but he cut me off.
"Just one thing that you MUST do during this time."
"Yes? What is it?" I asked with eager anticipation. There was something about this man. I was sure that he knew a great secret.
"You must give up farting," he said without the slightest mirth in his voice.
"What?" I asked.
"Be quiet!" he said sternly. "You do as I say, or get out!" Now his serenity was suddenly replaced by breathtaking fiery anger and I did not dare say another word.
"There is the door!" he pointed over to the arch through which we had entered. "You doubt me? Be gone."
"No, no, I ..... I am sorry....."
His anger immediately vanished and I was once again struck by the very sudden stillness that seemed to surround him. It was like the noise from striking a cymbal being played backwards on an album track I could not remember.
And so I spent two weeks getting to know Ugen, his wife Pema and their dog Choden. I helped out on the farm and with some household chores. Chopping wood and carrying water! Ha ha! I was actually doing that! The small family home had a very simple yet incredible atmosphere. This was what the word 'home' must have been invented for. The depth of love for everything that they did was plain to see in Pema and Ugen, and at the same time there was a wonderful current of laughter underlying everything.
Ugen woke me early every morning and we left the house and went for a short walk.
"How is your task going?" he asked me every day, and whenever he did so, a tide of guilt arose in me as I caught his piercing glance.
"Have you given up, yet? Have you mastered it?" he would ask.
"Not yet, Ugen. It is hard. Maybe I am not used to the food."
"Nonsense!" he would say with another astonishing flash of anger. "You must try harder! Do not come to me with your excuses!"
And so towards the end of the two weeks I had begun to be a little economical with the truth, and as it seemed that Ugen was very pleased with my progress, I carried on with the little white lies.
At the end of my second week in their wonderful home, Pema prepared a special meal in my honour. I felt more and more guilty as the mealtime approached, as I knew that really I had made no progress at all with Ugen's unusual spiritual practice, and yet I had led him to believe that I had mastered the task he had set for me.
Finally the time came and we sat in solemn silence as Pema placed our meals in front of us. Candles burned, creating a dancing light in the room.
"Tell my wife, Mister Anderson" Ugen broke the silence. "Tell Pema the good news." The guilt was almost unbearable now.
"Well, I ....."
"Why so hesitant, Andrew? This is a wonderful moment. You are on the verge of a great breakthrough!"
"I know .... it is just."
"What is it, Mister Anderson? Is there something that you have not been telling me?"
It was no use. I could not keep it up any longer.
"I tried. Really I did. Please do not be angry with me. I really tried but ...."
"I just could not do it!" I looked down to the floor in shame.
There was a deadly silence in the room for what seemed like several minutes. Then Ugen got to his feet and wandered over towards a stool which was at the side of the room. He put one foot up onto the stool and raised his fists in front of his chest.
Then Ugen let out one of the loudest and most musical farts I have ever had the dubious pleasure of hearing.
"Aaaaaah, RIPPER!!" he exclaimed jubilantly. "How many points for that, Pema?"
"At least a nine!" answered Pema and they both began to laugh heartily.
"Come on Mister Anderson," Pema said. "Your turn!"
I was wide eyed and shocked as they both watched me with obvious glee in their faces.
"Come on, Andy! It's a nine to beat!" Ugen joined in.
Once I got over the shock, I began to giggle and sure enough I had been grimly holding in a belter for the entire evening up until that point.
"You can use the stool if you want," said Ugen and he beckoned me over. For some reason I heard Kenny Rogers singing Coward of the County in my head. 'Twenty years of crawling were bottled up inside him ....'
I put my right foot on the stool and let out what can only be described as a world championship standard bottom burp. It was so loud that it woke the dog, who took one sniff of the air and quickly ran outside.
"High five chest bump, Mister Anderson!" Ugen laughed. "That is a ten for sure!!"
We high fived and then fell into an embrace, joined quickly by Pema. I was crying with laughter and love. It really was the most wonderful gift, never to be forgotten - given not by any self-styled guru, but by two genuine Masters of Effortless Joy.
The Happy Cow website and all articles on it are created entirely voluntarily and free of charge. However, if you feel that anything on the site has been of value to you, you may wish to make a voluntary contribution to the upkeep of the site. Click on the 'Donate' button below.
If you have an inspiring tale or some interesting philosophy to share with us, please feel free to e-mail your ideas to