MDSAP: The Medical Device Single Audit Program

6 minute read.
The Medical Device Single Audit Program (MDSAP) allows medical device companies to sell products in multiple countries with one audit. This article summarizes the MDSAP and helps your company prepare for it.
If you’re confident in your knowledge of MDSAP, consider taking a quiz to see if you’re prepared for MDSAP.
After you understand MDSAP, if you’d like to have fun learning how to improve your Quality System, consider reading “Van Halen, brown M&M’s, & the quality system audits”
Medical devices are regulated by governments in order to protect patient safety. For example, when the United States discovered that 44% of medical device recalls could be attributed to design flaws, the FDA began enforcing design controls.
Companies must comply with the regulatory requirements of each country in which they sell medical devices. Participating countries will accept MDSAP in lieu of individual audits. These countries, and their regulatory agencies, are:
MDSAP is a standardized way of auditing, ensuring repeatable audits regardless of the auditor. It doesn’t add any new regulations; it standardizes the audit process to emphasize risk-driven processes, which was already required by ISO 13485.
Currently, MDSAP is voluntary. Beginning in January 2019, Canada will require MDSAP. There are only a few circumstances in which this deadline can be extended.
Before continuing, it’s important to emphasize that MDSAP was driven by industry input, and is considered both practical and beneficial by the International Medical Device Regulators Forum, which archives the respected work of the Global Harmonization Task Force.
Most participants believe that MDSAP audits represent an improvement over previous audits. More importantly, MDSAP can increase patient safety while improving company efficiency.
Does MDSAP add requirements to existing quality systems? Why or why not?
Previously, each country required an audit.
MDSAP allows one audit to be used for all participating countries. A company only needs to comply with countries in which they intend to sell products.
Previously, auditors were encouraged to review a company’s quality system as process but were allowed to audit components independently.
MDSAP audits are conducted as a “process,” ensuring each part of a quality system links to other parts for a seamless flow of information. This must be a close-loop process; the outputs of each process become the inputs of another process, with information cycling through a review by senior management to ensure continuous improvement of the entire system.
The most common links are Risk Management and Purchasing procedures; all decisions must be based on reducing Risk to a patient, and documented to provide evidence for auditors and metrics for management review.
Image thanks to Australia’s TGA
Previously, noncompliances were graded as “minor” or “major.”
MDSAP noncompliances are graded from 1 to 5 based on the potential impact to a patient, frequency of occurrences, and whether or not products were shipped with the noncompliance.
What is a “closed-loop process,” and how does it apply to a quality system for continuous improvement?
How do you make, and document, risk-driven decisions about suppliers?
Consider checking your understanding in these fun, but informative, articles:
MDSAP auditors grade companies using a list of approximately 92 “tasks,” provided in seven chapters of the MDSAP audit model. The tasks capture all clauses of ISO 13485:2016, plus country-specific requirements.
Audits are conducted through Auditing Organizations (AO) that are approved by Regulatory Authorities (RA) of participating countries. I list some AO’s at the end of this article.
An AO will conduct an initial audit, perform surveillance audits, then re-certify a company every three years. An initial audit begins with a review of documents before an on-site visit; subsequent audits are document reviews unless there’s a reason to conduct a special audit.
What are MDSAP “tasks?”
Noncompliance for each MDSAP task is graded from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most adverse. Grading has two steps.
STEP 1: start with a score based on two factors:
Potential impact to a patient, either indirect or direct, which corresponds with clauses in ISO 13485
Clauses 4.1 through 6.3 are indirect, = 1 point
Clauses 6.4 through 8.5.3 are direct, = 3 points
Frequency of occurrence, increasing a score +1 if the noncompliance was reported in any two previous MDSAP audits. (A “repeat” is defined between different audits, not within the same audit.)

Scoring matrix via Australia’s TGA
STEP 2: apply an escalation score, if applicable.
+1 if a process isn’t documented (vs. being inaccurate or incomplete)+1 if the company shipped a non-conforming product
The final MDSAP score for each task is the combination of Step 1 and Step 2 scores, but with a maximum score of “5.” Audit results will include the following information:
Step 1 scoreFinal scoreThe ISO clause, or country-specific addition, out of complianceExamples of company documents out of compliance
Audit reporting formats, plus a standard grading system, allow regulatory agencies to know exactly what happened during the audit. This also allows companies a clear, unambiguous path to correct non-compliances.
Auditing Organizations report a score of “5” or three scores of “4” to Regulatory Authorities within five business days. Otherwise, AO’s have 90 days to submit their report to all participating countries.
Look at Step 1 scoring. If you were preparing for an audit, which ISO 13485 clauses would you focus on, initially, if you did not have a lot of time? In other words, which clauses are “bang for your buck?”
Determine if MDSAP matches your company’s business needs

Do you sell, or plan to sell, in participating countries?Canada will require MDSAP in January 2019; how does this affect your business?Does your company still use ISO 13485:2003? If so, this may be a good time to transition to the 2016 version and incorporate MDSAP.
Determine your MDSAP readiness

Understand MDSAP audit “tasks” and “grading.”

Follow the MDSAP audit modeltasks; begin by looking for obvious grades of “5” or “4” by focusing on ISO 13485:2016 clauses 6.4 – 8.5.3, which have “direct” impact and higher grade penalties.

Complete an assessment of all tasks, ensuring your procedures for risk management and purchasing are linked between parts of your quality system.

Consider if consultants could help you train your company or assist preparing for MDSAPSchedule an audit with an Auditing Organization soon; there are only a few AO’s, so their schedules may be busy.

An overview of the MDSAP won’t answer every question. Examples include how companies respond to noncompliances, how internal audits are utilized, etc.
But there are no surprises with the MDSAP. To paraphrase The Buddha, there are no secrets “hidden in the closed fist of a regulatory agency.” All documents used by Auditing Organizations are available, for free, online.
If you have the MDSAP audit model, are you fully prepared for what an auditor will ask? Why or why not?
Five countries are participating: USA, Japan, Australia, Brazil, CanadaCanada will require MDSAP by January 2019

Uses existing requirements. Differences from previous audits include:

One audit recognized by participating countries rather than individual auditsRequires links between parts of a quality system, emphasizing risk and purchasing procedures, rather than focusing on specific partsNoncompliances are graded 1-5 rather than “major” or “minor”
Test your understanding by taking this MDSAP quiz.
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Backpacking in Buddha’s Birthplace

5 minute read.
The Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal, 2,600 years ago. Today, Buddhism is the world’s 4th largest religion. I traveled to Lumbini to see what the Buddha’s life would have been like when he was known as Prince Siddhartha Gautama.
I arrived in Lumbini by bus after hiking over the Himalaya Mountains and completing a walking safari in the jungle. I had lost 15 pounds, and was enjoying as much street food as possible. My favorite samosas from Nepal and India came from a street-side restaurant in Lumbini. It was operated by a friendly family that taught me their recipes, which included loving what you do.

Their restaurant had rustic infrastructure, like most of Nepal. They used a hand-pump for water, which is where they washed dishes throughout the day.
For breakfast, I’d have coffee with milk, made by hand with an ancient espresso machine, and two samosas stuffed with curried vegetables, for 30 Rupees (30 cents U.S.).
I’d take a bag of samosas to share as I walked to a park dedicated to the birth of the Buddha. It’s almost two miles across, with hiking trails and dozens of monasteries, built by Asian countries to support their citizens in pilgrimages to Lumbini. Meditation centers are available for drop-in sessions or 10-day retreats, all for free.

The Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha Gautama. His birthsite is enclosed in a modern building to protect the 3,000+ year old temple and rock carvings inside. His mother bathed in the nearby pond, and in the background you can see a Pillar of Asoka from 283 B.C. Asoka was an Indian emperor who embraced Buddha’s teachings of nonviolence, placing stone edicts at sites of the Buddha’s life and throughout his kingdom.
The park is centered around a man-made river and reflecting pond. On one side was an eternal-flame, dedicated by dozens of countries as a symbol of peace and unity. On the other end was a peace-pagoda built by Japan for the benefit of all.

Most Asian countries have built monasteries or pilgrim rest-houses throughout the park, which is a fun way to see different styles of architecture side-by-side. China and Japan have simple structures, Thailand and Korea have elaborate temples.

I walked around the park each day, enjoying the simple signs along the path, which is a metaphor for what the Buddha taught.

I spoke with many monks, most of whom were pilgrims to the site from other countries. It’s rare to see a caucasian tourist (that’s a euphemism for “white guy”) so I stood out. They were anxious to learn from me, share their knowledge, and take “selfies” with me. But, I told them, the Buddha taught there’s “no self-ie,” so we took photos of each other.

Monks are funny. By that I mean they have good humor. Generally speaking, monks are joyful, without ego or “self.” That helped me make friends, because it would take a joyful monk to laugh at my puns:


I hired a motorcycle driver to explore the surrounding area, including lesser-known archeology sites. I was interested in how Siddhartha lived before he became known as the Buddha. The walled city and his childhood palace were 30 miles away, almost unvisited today. Another site marks where, at age 37, he returned to his family as the Buddha. The ruins included Hindu symbology; Buddha was born Hindu, similar to how Jesus was born Jewish.
If you think the rock figure looks familiar, you’re probably right. The Hindu god Shiva is represented by one of the world’s oldest symbols, a phallus. It’s inside of the feminine equivalent, meant to show unity.
Over time, the meaning behind symbols was lost. Religious doctrine focused on a caste-system based on hope for happiness in a future life rather than the unity of all humans in the present. The Buddha renounced the caste system, leaving his palace to understand how to use intellect to obtain peace on earth rather than hoping for happiness in an afterlife. He walked out of his kingdom’s eastern gate, which is still there, marked by the foundations of his city and prayer-flags from Buddhist pilgrims. It was unsurprisingly unremarkable.

Surrounding villages
I imagine that life in the villages around these historic sites hasn’t changed much. There were no cars, commerce and social life centered around markets, women dug through mud to find fish and crustaceans for protein, and families maintained the same line of work for generations.

Life in poverty
People were smiling, kind, and generous with what little they had. For example, the family that made samosas had been feeding a homeless youth who had nowhere to go because Nepal doesn’t have social services. The kid was always smiling, happily wandering in the dirt street with an old soda bottle he used for drinking water and as a toy. He was approximately 11 years old. No one knew for sure, and no one knew his name, because he couldn’t speak. He was mentally delayed at the level of a 4 year old, and probably had been abandoned by his family when they realized he wouldn’t contribute to household income. Nepal is poor; if a child can’t work, the entire family goes hungry supporting him.
People shared what they could with the boy, but did not show affection. This was mostly for his benefit: if they can’t sustain affection, it’s false-hope and cruel to inflict on the kid. This was also for their benefit: by not becoming attached, they minimize their guilt of not doing more.
Over the next week, the kid would rush to me for a hug and we’d go walking to buy fresh fruit. He was dirty from sleeping in the street, but well-fed by the family restaurants. Eating fried samosas every day is unhealthy, so I bought fresh fruit for us, hoping he’d learn to enjoy it. Fresh fruit is more expensive than samosas, so I gave the restaurant money to add fruit to the kid’s diet after I was left.
I had avoided saying goodbye before leaving, but the kid saw me and came running down the street. My bus drove off before he reached us, and I could see him standing in the dirt road, waving his soda-bottle. I had only known him for a week, but I cried during the twenty minute ride to India’s border, and am crying as I type this. My tears are for the millions like him that go unloved because we’re too busy with things that aren’t important. I include myself in that; I could have changed that kid’s life, but chose not to.
Food cost ~ 50 cents per day, less than $200 per year. Money isn’t the biggest challenge, it’s the infrastructure to administer it, checks and balances against exploitation, and daily love that stems from compassion.
When we hear about people suffering we become upset or worry, but do not do anything. We do not even wish them happiness. We may say the words, but we do not feel compassion, or that compassion is temporary without becoming part of our lives. We experience suffering without ending the suffering of others.
The Buddha taught that selfless compassion leads to our happiness; that’s a start to providing sustainable futures for everyone on Earth, and follows the teachings of every world religion. The first words of the Old Testament taught the importance of social justice for the poor, which is emphasized by every book of the Old Testament used by Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Six hundred years later, Jesus said to serve the poor because it is better to give than to receive. One day we’ll listen, regardless of which religion we claim to follow. At the very least, we can strive to feel compassion for the suffering of others, which leads to our own happiness, and provides the mental clarity to make decisions beneficial to everyone.
(This blog is a work-in-progress; check back or subscribe for bundles of updates a few times per year. Or, subscribe on LinkedIn for more traditional blogs on international regulations in healthcare applied to corporations selling medical devices internationally, equitable education, and my goal to provide more opportunities for Corporate Social Responsibility)
Be well, and live peacefully.

A walking safari in Nepal’s jungle

6 minute read.
When you walk through a jungle, remember four things:
If you’re charged by a rhino, climb the nearest tree. If there are no trees, run in a zig-zag pattern and drop your backpack or a piece of clothing; rhinos have poor eyesight and use their sense of smell when charging.If you encounter a sloth-bear, stay still and don’t startle it. Gather in a group and bang sticks on the ground.If you cross paths with a tiger, maintain eye contact and back away, slowly.If charged by a wild elephant, run and pray.
That’s the training we received before hiking into the jungle for three days, where we stayed in villages surrounded by fences to keep out wildlife. Nepal’s national parks are some of the few places in the world where you can go on a walking safari. It’s a rare opportunity to get up-close with endangered species in their natural environment.
During Nepal’s civil war, their army, which guards national parks, was pulled away to fight for ten years, allowing poachers to decimate already-endangered animals. National parks are vital to the future of endangered species; approximately 300 of the world’s remaining 3,000 one-horned rhinoceroses are protected in Nepal’s Chitwan National Park.
Getting there
This was part of a multi-month backpacking trip through Nepal and India, where I arrived in Kathmandu without plans, hiked across the Himalaya Mountains and explored the kingdom of Mustang. After resting a few days, I took a bus from the foothills of the Himalayas to the jungles of Nepal.
To be affordable, public buses in Nepal allow people to sit on each others’ laps, stand, or cram several people into seats designed for two people. Buses are small; I’m taller than average Nepali people, and I had to pull my knees towards my chest to fit into the seat. It’s uncomfortable, especially for a six-hour ride across bumpy mountain roads. To have fun, I let kids play with my camera. In poor areas of the world, people in tourists’ photos have rarely seen a photo of themselves or used a camera; many of the photos in my blog were taken by kids I met while backpacking.
Welcome to the jungle
The town near Chitwan National Park, Sauraha, is separated from the park by a river. The people of Sauraha use Elephants like people in the rural United States use tractors, working in fields and riding into town.

Shop owners share old produce with the elephants: their trunks can lift 750 lbs using 150,000 muscles, yet tickle your hand when they’re sniffing for an apple.

There are few roads or infrastructure in this part of Nepal, and villages inside the national park are isolated and rustic. There are few roads, and during the rainy season roads become impassable even to jeeps, but elephants live here naturally and can cross rivers that jeeps can not. They carry wood to cook food, and products to trade in town. And, they’re safer than walking: each year, people are killed by bears, tigers, rhinos, and wild-elephants.

The villages were sheltered from development because, until recently, there was malaria in the area. Then, the civil war kept development away. Now, the lack of roads, schools, and hospitals keeps the area isolated, except for tourists coming through with much-needed money. A popular activity is touring the jungle on the backs of elephants. They’re intelligent, social animals, known to show compassion and mourn their dead. They resist being chained and made to carry people, and the methods used to keep them domesticated is inhumane. So, as much as I enjoy them, we could not justify supporting a decadent use of elephants. We hiked into the jungle, enjoying elephants in a more natural setting.
Canoe & hike

We left town in a canoe, early in the morning when a thick fog blocked view of shore. We could hear monkeys howling in trees, birds singing from shore, and crocodiles splashing in the water. Over the next three days, we alternated between wading through rivers and hiring dugout canoes for deep sections where crocodiles may be unseen; the week before we arrived, a soldier disappeared while on patrol, presumably killed by a crocodile.

At night, we’d sleep in villages that were surrounded by rustic fences to keep out wildlife. Both guides were born in the area, became trained in conservation, and now earn their living preserving wildlife and wilderness. To make this a sustainable social business requires tourists willing to make the journey.

Most of our time was spent hiking to and from villages, observing wildlife along the way. We saw seven one-horned rhinos, which is a treat because there are only 3,000 remaining in the world today. They’re known to “Charge!” when startled, especially when protecting young rhinos. The rest of the time, they’re content sitting in water, eating and farting between naps.
To me, this sounds like a wonderful world: everyone eats, swims, farts, and naps; don’t be aggressive, except to protect your children from harm.

We had a scary experience with one rhino, after we startled one while hiking through high grass. This one photo was taken just before we all ran, including our guides, after ensuring we were safe.
Nepal requires two guides for walking safaris, one in the front and one in the read, watching all directions and keeping count of tourists. One of our guides had scars on his arm from a sloth bear attack.
Guides are usually from local villages, and are well-educated about animal conservation. They are there to help tourists have authentic experiences; we protect what we cherish, and we cherish what we experience positively.

Seeing tigers require being still. Each morning, we’d sit silently for four hours, observing trails that led to watering holes. Mostly, we only saw wild hogs, which are intelligent enough to realize that they’re cute and we’re mostly harmless.

Back in town
Over the three days, I had become friends with our guide. Back in town, I stayed with his family, in a hut overlooking the river. He insisted on buying beers: a Nepali beer is 350 Rupees ($3.50 U.S.), he earned $15/day as a tour guide, which required a year of school. His family and I grilled food, played music, and discussed what to do about balancing nature conservation with infrastructure development and people’s need for employment. He chooses to not take tourists on elephants, even though that’s more lucrative. He also knows that every road helps villages have access to modern health and education, but takes away land from wildlife; all threats to humans stem from us encroaching on land used by these animals for thousands of years before we started building roads there.
Ultimately, animals will be saved when humans preserve their land; we can’t expect rural people to preserve land at the expense of their own well-being, especially when faced by decadence in other areas of the world. The future of conservation may require sustainable tourism based on socially-responsible businesses, and democracies where people choose where tax funding goes.
Nepal is new to democracy. The civil war ended recently, and they had their second elections, which I witnessed when backpacking in the Himalayas. Everyone hopes for the same, and when we help them have equitable health and education they can help preserve nature for all of us.
We didn’t solve the world’s problems, but had fun and enjoyed cold beers while playing music and grilling food over an open fire. Alcohol is detrimental to inflammation in our bodies (I have chronic inflammation), and can become a problem for many people, but at that moment, sharing a beer was the best choice I could have made. The day before, I had been charged by a one-horned rhinoceros and saved by the guy buying me a beer.

I travel by backpack to get to know people who live drastically different lives than we do. I believe this allows me to better appreciate my home in San Diego, California, which makes me happy. When you’re happy, you want to share, which is I work towards equitable education and healthcare for others.
The future
Preserving these beautiful animals requires people like you and me making it financially feasible for villagers to earn a living sustaining their wilderness. We can do this through responsible tourism, supporting animal-welfare organizations, and encouraging global programs that assist local entrepreneurs in creating sustainable businesses.
Learn more:
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I entered the kingdom of Mustang illegally

6 minute read.
After hiking across the Himalaya Mountains, I entered the kingdom of Mustang. I had learned a few Nepali phrases; how to meditate effectively; and how to be mindful in each moment. I would spend the next two weeks hiking through Mustang and down another side of the Himalayas.

The previous blog ended on a sunset; this blog begins a few days later.
The sunset had lenticular clouds, so knew they’re be rain/sleet/snow soon. I chose to continue hiking because I felt strong after summiting Throlong La Pass, and my mind was clear after the helicopter rescue and experiencing a higher level of mindfulness. For the next day, rain and hail pummeled me as I walked the high-plains leading towards China.
The first town I came upon was Kagbeni, on a river that flowed from China and through the kingdom of Mustang. It had been trading center for centuries, and it’s 1,200 residents seemed more Tibetan than Nepali.

Kagbeni was built as a medieval city; I felt like a kid exploring the maze of streets that were barely wide enough for two people, and was shared by livestock kept inside city walls.
A 600 year-old statue at one of the gates to warn-off invaders let me know that 600 years ago the people of Kagbeni had a sense of humor. (Zoom in if you don’t see why.)

Young monks at the Kago Chode Monastery huddled around fires to stay warm during the sleet and rain. They were learning Buddhism, but also digital awareness, environmental sustainability, and social-entrepreneurship. Modern science was becoming common in Tibetan monasteries, probably influenced by the Dalai Lama’s 50+ year message of peace through compassion and wisdom, and wisdom includes embracing the fact of global warming and risks of population growth.
60-million year old fossils

The river brought fossils from the tops of Himalayan Mountains. I searched through the riverbed for fossils, only finding ones too big and heavy to justify carrying in my backpack. A monk realized what I was doing, gave me a small seashell he had found, and told me it was “good luck.”

People in this region considered fossils to be bones of deities, or gifts from gods. It’s easy to understand why, and that’s almost more believable than the truth: the highest mountain on earth was previously the bottom of an ocean floor, pushed up by giant plates floating on molten iron, carrying seashells 5 miles above earth, and preserving them for 60 million years until rains wash them down a river.
I’m OK simply saying they’re good luck.

Across the river from Kagbeni was a small village, part of the kingdom of Mustang and off-limits to tourists without special permits and licensed guides. I thought I had the special permit; when I realized otherwise, I was already a few days into Mustang and decided to keep going. When life provides an opportunity to enter a forbidden kingdom, take it.

The trail hugged cliffs of a massive valley, and was swept with strong winds from the mountains. You could see for dozens of miles. The mountains were so massive that views wouldn’t change. After hours of hiking into the wind I’d see the same view, and for a moment believe I hadn’t moved.

Villages in Mustang blended into the cliffs and were almost invisible. Inside each village was like stepping back in time: farming done by hand or by animals, no electricity, wood or dung stoves, villagers butchering yaks and sharing the meat immediately. Houses stored wood for long winters on their roofs, and decorated homes with animal skulls for good-luck.

Like most people in Nepal, the people of Mustang were kind and seemed genuinely happy. Tourism is rare here, and guest houses rustic. Part of the reason tourism is restricted is the lack of services and supplies; tourism can destroy a local ecosystem by using more firewood than is sustainable and or using electricity for non-essential purposes. And, we’re accustomed to frequent hot showers, which is difficult to sustain based on heating from firewood. Government agencies had been trying to make Mustang “tourist friendly,” including adding wood-stoves that simultaneously provided warmth, cooked food, and heated water.
As I got closer to China, I discovered a road being built with modern equipment. China was financing a road connecting it to India, going through the Himalayas of Nepal. I saw the road being built through a region of ancient cave monasteries, damaging some and sending debris into the river. That loss is saddening, but the road will allow the people of this region to experience trade, tourism, electricity, healthcare, and education.

Snow blocked my path at higher elevations, so I turned around and retraced my steps until I returned to Kagbeni. I learned that the road I saw was also being built from the other direction, connecting India to Mustang, and had almost reached Kagbeni. The road will eventually connect India to China; combined, their populations are 1 out of 3 people on Earth. In addition to bringing modern life to millions of people in poverty, an overland trade route between the world’s two most populous countries will have global impact.
Yak Hamburgers
Tourism has quickly adapted to the new roads. Back in Kagbeni, I met tourists who had flown to a nearby airport and hired a driver for a day to see the views. These types of tourists are called “flashpackers,” typically former backpackers but with more money than time. I met them at a “Yak Donalds.”

Nepal honors Hindu traditions of not harming cows, so hamburgers were made from local yaks. Their “Happy Meal” included locally grown potatoes and wild sea buckthorn juice.
I’m mostly vegetarian, eating meat only 1-2 times a month because it causes inflammation, harms our environment, and is usually cruel to animals. But, it builds tissue and a strong immune system with amino acids unavailable in most vegetarian proteins. I had been hiking for almost a month and my muscles screamed for rest and rebuilding. Besides, I couldn’t resist trying a yak burger at YakDonald’s.

I continued hiking down the Himalaya Mountains. Towns along the way felt isolated; they were rarely visited by backpackers now that a road and airport was available on this side of the mountains. I followed a route documented 160 years ago by a Japanese traveler who had also crossed through Mustang illegally, at a time when there weren’t YakDonalds and smart-phone translator apps.
Hot springs

As I dropped elevation, trees and forests opened up. It was the opposite of my experience starting at lower elevations, so I knew what to expect. I looked forward to fresh produce and warm days, discovering both at a town called Tatopani, which means “hot water” (Tato = hot, pani = water). Tatopani has natural hot springs and fields of fresh fruits for home-squeezed juice when you take breaks from soaking in outdoor hot springs, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and adjacent to roaring waterfalls.
I do not have the words to describe how AMAZING it feels to soak in hot springs and eat fresh fruit after hiking through snow and sleet for weeks. Even better was feeling I had nowhere to be and a long time to get there.

The most common local food was lentils and rice with curried vegetables, called “dal bhat.” Dal bhat usually comes with something pickled and crispy bread adds texture. Mountain guides swear by the energy, saying, “Dhal Bat power lasts 24 hour!”
Dal bhat is healthy, filling, and locally-sourced for only 150 Rupees ($1.50 U.S.). Here’s a good Dhal Bat recipe from a Tibetan food-blogger.

The last stop on this trek was Nepal’s second-largest city, Pokhara, which is becoming an international destination for outdoor adventures. The roads and airport are changing the types of tourists from backpackers to flash-packers, people who have more money than time and would like to go somewhere remote, quickly. Pokhara has families exposing their kids to other cultures, kayaking on the lake, and paragliding in the surrounding mountains.

Pokhara’s economy is geared towards tourists, and many businesses try to support the underserved classes through sustainable social entrepreneurship. I received massages by Seeing Hands, staffed and managed by blind massage therapists who live communally. I took a few days to get massages, read books, and relax while consuming calories to regain the weight I had lost.
I boarded a bus to the Nepal lowlands, to begin hiking in jungles.
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I hiked across the Himalaya Mountains

11 minute read.
It took 28-days to hike over the Himalaya Mountains. This blog describes people I met, life in the Himalayas, altitude sickness (and rescues), and methods I used to develop mindfulness. It began in the town of Besisahar and ended in Beni Bazar.

This was part of a longer backpacking trip through Nepal and India, where I arrived in Kathmandu, learned basic Nepali phrases, then traveled through both countries without plans, adapting each day based on people I met and lessons I learned.
PLEASE NOTE: this is an older post, written immediately after arriving home. I’m keeping it here because of links to it, but I’ve rewritten it in another article it to be more genuine. Not that this one isnt’ genuine, it’s just more “factual” rather than personal – I was new to blogging, especially about personal topics. I don’t fully understand what happened to my mind in the briefest of moments after crossing the Himalayas; it was positive, but complex and due to changes in neural connections and consequently my perspective. I suggest using the “search” feature or seeing highlighted blogs to understand that better, for example the article “You get what you give in Varanasis India” that I wrote after a few months of practicing writing more genuine, personallized articles. I’ll probably keep working on more and hope you check back or subscribe for updates every 6-12 months.
Also, a lot happened on this hiking that I can’t begin to summarize in one, two, or a dozen articles – these 28 days of hiking could be a book separate from the 2.5 month trip through Nepal and India.
Added August 2018
I’ve traveled this way for 30 years, flying into one country and out of another, and this trip was a milestone of having visited 1 out of 4 countries in the world. This trip was different because I had a goal to hike without pain medications, developing mindfulness instead. Doctors at the Veterans Health Administration had prescribed pain medications to me for over nine years to postpone surgeries that have low probabilities of relieving pain. The pain meds treated symptoms, but my mind was sluggish and it was difficult to make wise choices for long-term health. In this blog, I share a few techniques I used to develop mindfulness, hopefully helping someone else find alternatives to opioid pain medications or surgery.
The trail

I flew into Kathmandu, learned basic Nepali phrases, and decided to hike across the Himalaya Mountains as part of a longer trip through Nepal and India.
I took a bus from Kathmandu to the village of Besisahar, being dropped where the dirt road ended and a hiking trail began. I had a backpack with two months worth of clothes. I carried a day’s worth of food and water, a few books, a camera, and a Frisbee.

This was the foothills of the Himalayas, an area with thick forests and steep canyons carved by rivers. The trail cut into the sides of mountains, crossing rivers with suspension bridges swinging hundreds of feet in the air. Two people could not pass on the narrow bridges, so we’d coordinate who went first. Goats, cows, and buffalo used the bridges; I gave right-of-way to anything with horns, and played with anything that was cute.

Sleeping & eating
I carried a day’s worth of food an water, knowing I’d find more on the trail. The trail goes through villages, passing people’s front doors. Most families offer simple beds and dinners to travelers. Their ancestors had done the same thing to Tibetan traders for generations.

Clean water was available at filter-stations, installed by the government of New Zealand, which trained villagers to maintain them. This type of investment is called a “sustainable social business,” providing the infrastructure for local entrepreneurs to earn a profit while benefiting people and the planet. Sustainability is the triple bottom line: People, Planet, Profit.

Most villages don’t have schools. Some do, and nearby villagers walk the trail for hours to reach them. There are not medical services. Poverty is common, and the area was recovering from a recent civil war that killed 19,000 people and displaced 200,000. Foreign aid doesn’t reach them. Despite these challenges, the Himalayan people are kind, industrious, hard-working, and peaceful. Himalayan people say, “what is there to do?” as a way to be present in the moment and only worry about what is within their control.

Part of what’s in everyone’s control is our kindness towards others. Nepali culture encourages compassion, shown by how kids would run into the street to greet me when I approached a village. They’d clasp their hands, bow, and say “Namaste,” the Hindu word for “I see the divine in you.” I’d clasp my hands, bow, and wait to feel the sentiment before returning the word, “Namaste.”
Feeling compassion and speaking truthfully makes everyone happier. Imagine if our culture encouraged pausing to seek compassion for a person before saying, truthfully, “I hope you’re well.”
The poorest backpacker is wealthier than these kids can imagine, and many share treats. A consequence is a that kids start seeing backpackers, most of whom are caucasian (white), as sources of things rather than as people. They don’t say Namaste, they shout, “Money! Chocolate! Sweet!” You can’t see the divine in each other with a hierarchical relationship, so I gave the most valuable thing I have, time.

Many Himalayan families had been in travelers’ photos, but had never used a camera or seen their own picture. I lent my camera to kids, letting them learn by playing with it. They’d take photos of their parents, show them, and try again with new button combinations. In return, they’d teach me Nepali words for what they saw. This is co-learning, a powerful tool for connecting with students.
Kids took many of these photos, letting us see the world through their eyes.


I was hiking uphill each day, gaining 400-500 meters of elevation. Each night got colder; before going to bed, I’d huddle around kitchen fires, learning to cook Himalayan food while talking with families.

Most guest houses were people’s homes, and they juggled family duties while preparing our dinners. One host, Narme Llama, was a third-generation Tibetan with newborn twins. He had a warm smile, had learned four languages, and helped take care of his new daughters while running his business.
I arrived at the end of season without tourists, so a bed was free. A meal cooked over their wood stove was 200 Rupees ($2 U.S.). Ginger tea was 60 Rupees. They saved money to send their older daughter to boarding school in the nearest city, two-days away, for $15/month. They were lucky to save $2 per month, which would have to support them in old age. There were no schools nearby, and all jobs were physical labor that didn’t need an education, but Narme-Llama valued education. He realized their government wouldn’t build roads, schools, or hospitals in rural areas, but was grateful for his family and the values installed by his grandfather that helped make their exile from Tibet and independence in the Himalayas peaceful, despite being viewed as unwelcome refugees. Images of Buddha were on the walls; the Buddha taught how to seek your own happiness, because no one else can do that for you.

Sometimes a guesthouse would have other backpackers, or travelers with a guide, and we’d share time around a fire learning different perspectives on the world.
Some travelers had smart-phones with translation apps and solar-chargers, allowing us to communicate with almost anyone. Even tiny villages had WiFi; people couldn’t get toilet paper, but could browse the internet. Our world could be moving towards a global democracy, where people solve problems rather than politicians, or we could could be moving towards replacing democracy with “dataism.” (Read “Homo Deus.”) Wherever we’re going, 7.6 billion people using smart-phones will get us there faster.

I hiked uphill 4 to 8 hours per day. Trees became rare, and snow-capped mountains became common. Tibetan prayer-flags highlighted mountains I’d eventually cross.

At higher elevations, people from poor castes walk downhill to collect firewood each day, walking back uphill to sell it. Tourists use more firewood than the local ecosystem can resupply; to balance this, the government agency overseeing this area has encouraged gas stoves. The alternative was burning yak-dung, which isn’t as smelly as you’d imagine, but I wouldn’t try it at home.
Mules resupply villages with gas tanks and food that can’t be grown in high elevations.

Every few days I’d walk into a town, which is larger than a village and serves as a trading center. Towns had comfortable guest houses and supplies for backpackers, such as Snickers candy bars.
In the town of Manang, we had to wait four days because all guest-houses in the region were full of people from Kathmandu, who had traveled to vote in the national election. In Nepal, people must vote in the town they’re registered, usually where their ancestors were born. This was Nepal’s second election; their democracy was new, and followed a ten-year civil war that had divided the people between the poor and wealthy.

Nepali soldiers patrolled the streets of Manang, enforcing a curfew with guns rather than logic. Nepal uses their soldiers as defense, police, and national park protection. Until the civil war, they were the only people with guns, and without checks-and-balances they abuse their power in rural areas. I believe this will change now that Nepal has a democracy; I’ve never had a gun pointed at me in a country with a functional democracy.

The curfew didn’t affect our stay in Manang because there was nothing to do at night, especially when temperatures were below freezing. We’d walk up and down the street then return to our guesthouse to get warm around a yak-dung fire.
The guesthouse where we stayed was decorated for what the owners imagined a typical traveler would enjoy. Their home look like a rustic version of a 1970’s television sitcom; for some reason, they assumed that a typical traveler expected a Tiki bar.
The family had locally-made rice wine, which is served warm. We’d place cups of wine on the stove to keep both us and the wine warm.

We spoke with local families about the election. Most people didn’t understand the differences between political ideologies, they simply hoped for a better life. The communist party overwhelmingly won elections in rural areas. In cities, the status-quo remained. Their new democracy would share government decisions between parties. Regardless of this year’s outcome, it’s a step towards more people having a voice in their future. They celebrated with parties in the street.

After the elections, I started hiking through remote areas. My head hurt from spinal injuries, my hips hurt from arthritis and inflammation, and the screws in my ankle caused the bones to throb with pain. But I did not experience worry, anxiety, stress, or suffering. I walked silently, concentrating on being mindful.

You see more wildlife when walking silently. Some, like this yak, are not subtle. Others are easily missed; there are at least four mountain goats in this photo:

And at least two in this photo:

Mindfulness is being an observer of your mind and body’s interactions. Mindfulness begins with an intention to be more aware of each moment and how we choose our thoughts and actions. For many people, that’s enough to change their lives. But, people with chronic pain are constantly distracted by signals between their body and mind, so mindfulness requires concentration and practice, like a sport or academic subject that seems difficult at first.
To practice mindful meditation while walking:
Be aware of each moment, but do not become attached to it.Be aware of discomfort, but become detached from it.Be aware of pain, but do not suffer.
Mindfulness is difficult while hiking, especially at high altitudes and with a heavy backpack. Many people practice with 10-minute sessions of meditation, observing thoughts and feelings come and go, then apply the same concentration while walking.
Many people do not get altitude sickness. I’m not one of them.
This photo was taken from the window of a shelter, where I stayed for three nights to recover.

For almost a week, I had been hiking at over 3,400 meters (~11,000 feet), gaining 300-500 meters each day. I had a headache and craved oxygen. My body fought two needs: deep breaths to get oxygen vs. tightening my windpipe to keep out the cold, dry air. I have asthma, and my breath “wheezed” on steep sections of the trail.
When you’re emotionally detached from discomfort, you’re able to differentiate between transient discomfort and symptoms of altitude sickness. At 4,880 metres (16,010 ft, ~ 3 miles) I realized that my headaches and dizziness were signs of trouble, so I descended to a shelter at 4,540 meters.

I stayed in a small room with one window that allowed cold wind into the room. I laid awake for hours, trying to stay warm as ice formed in my water bottle. It was -17 degrees by 2am. My heart was pounding at 124 beats per minute, more than twice my normal resting rate. Every muscle in my body was tense, sending blood to vital organs. I couldn’t descend; in daylight, it was six hours down a narrow and dangerous trail to the next shelter. I concentrated on relaxing until my jaw unclenched, which led to my teeth chattering at 124 beats per minute. I had prefered a clenched jaw.
By sunrise, my pulse was down to 80 beats per minute. I didn’t move that day, and by that evening my pulse was ~ 60 beats per minute, still more than my normal resting rate, but reasonable considering I was 3 miles high.

I acclimated by hiking to higher elevations during the day, descending to sleep at night. On one of these hikes, I found an emergency satellite phone. Three years prior, almost 400 people were trapped at this location by a surprise snowstorm; 42 died, and 175 suffered frostbite. I was not reassured by the satellite phone, which was made from a coffee can and something that looked like the dish-drying rack by my sink at home.
Hiking at high altitude requires focus for each step. Your body is tired from lack of oxygen, and your mind wants to be somewhere else. Hiking above 17,000 feet can require 10 to 15 seconds of focus per step.

I had been focused on each step for six hours when I saw a tea shop.
A cheerful entrepreneur had brought gas stoves and tea to a shelter at 17,900 feet. I paid $1.50 for a cup of hot tea; I would have paid a hundred.
Over the next few hours, his hut saved someone’s life.

I reached the summit, sat down, then got up as I realized something was wrong with one of the four other people. She was suffering severe altitude sickness. Her eyes were rolled back into her head, her breathing was in brief gasps, and her pulse was more than 150 beats per minute. She was in shock, and it was likely that pressure was building insider her brain.
None of us spoke the same language; we carried her into the tea hut while her guide was trying a satellite phone to call help. Over the next few hours, we kept her warm in the tea shop while preparing a helicopter landing zone. We carried her and her bags onto the helicopter, which would prioritize getting her to a lower elevation, and then to a hospital.

The helicopter cost $10,000. It was a private service, and the patient’s guide received a commission for calling it. The tea shop entrepreneur made $1.50. Three years ago, when the storm trapped 500 people here, local people dug through snow without concern for how they would get paid. There’s no right or wrong, just facts. Mindfulness is being aware of facts, but differing judgement until those facts are necessary to make a decision.
When the helicopter left, I was alone again. I started walking down the other side of the pass.
I had been so focused on the rescue that I hadn’t felt pain or symptoms of altitude sickness. I started to notice the pain again. Descending steep trails is harder on your joints than hiking uphill, and my head and joints screamed with pain. People become addicted to temporary relief from pain, either from medications or work, so more doctors are recommending mindfulness to reduce suffering.
I practiced mindful meditation with each step. When I had descended enough to reduce the effects of altitude sickness, I stopped to eat a Snickers candy bar. It was the first food I could hold down in 24 hours; at that moment was the most delicious thing I had ever eaten. In the time it took for my teeth to break through a peanut, all discomfort faded. I had no thoughts, just awareness. The sky was brighter, the air cleaner, rocks more beautiful than before I began taking that bite. All that needed to be done was done. I was seeing things how they really are. This experience lasted for a month, and, to a lesser extent, remains now that I’m home.
Pairs of neurons in my brain had become detached, separating physical pain from mental suffering, allowing me to see more clearly. A month later, I’d learn more about this phenomenon from experts on meditation and neuroscience at a conference on “Mind and Modern Science.” At the conference, the Dalai Lama emphasized that understanding how our minds work allows us to make wiser choices that benefit ourselves and others. I had read research about this, and had heard testimonials from other people, but to experience it for oneself removes all doubt.
I walked downhill for a few more hours, found a guest house, and enjoyed the sunset. Two days later, I started hiking off-the-beaten-path.

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Or, jump forward two weeks:

I arrived in Kathmandu without plans

4 minute read.
Two hours before arriving in Kathmandu, I opened a guidebook for the first time. I was flying into Nepal and would depart from India. My plan was to not have plans, adapting each day based on people I met and lessons I learned.
I’ve traveled this way for 30 years: fly into one country, out of another, hiking across borders and meeting people along the way. This trip marked my having traveled through 1 out of 4 countries on Earth. Most have been what we call “third world” countries, providing insights into healthcare, education, and sustainability on our shared planet.
Introduction to Kathmandu
I learned that Nepal was recovering from an earthquake. 9,000 people had died; this was after a ten-year civil war killed 19,000 and displaced 200,000. That explained my cheap plane ticket.
In Kathmandu, workers repaired buildings while people enjoyed their city’s safe-zones. Only some of Kathmandu’s earthquake repair work was in”child-labor free zones.” That’s as bad as it sounds, is a problem in developing countries, and part of why I’m expanding my work in healthcare and education to include global equity. This blog is a step towards that direction.

Sleeping in a monastery

Monks at Benchen Monastery operate a guesthouse, using revenue to fund a free health-clinic that treats 60 to 80 people per day. My room was more comfortable than many hotels in Kathmandu, and cost 600 Rupees ($6 U.S.) I’d explore the city each day, and read or chat with monks at night.
Benchen functions like a sustainable social business, benefiting society by being profitable enough to sustain themselves. Sustainable businesses are vital to the people of Nepal, who lack social services and equitable education because of a poor government. Benchen Monastery is one of the few places in Kathmandu with trash and recycling bins, and they operate a small vegetarian cafe to provide healthy food at a price most people can afford; breakfast cost 80 Rupees.

I could walk from the monastery to explore the old city, where workers pushed supplies through narrow streets that weaved between temples. People rotated prayer-wheels as they walked around the temples, an ancient ritual that helps be mindful of the moment.

The caste system

People dedicated to spirituality sat near temples while street-workers sewed strands of flowers all day. People on their way to or from work purchased strands of flowers to leave as temple offerings. All three groups were doing their duty, which had been dictated by their social caste.

In the caste system, you do the work your father did, who did the work of his father. Your children will do your work.
You can not marry outside of your caste. Your name includes the work you can do; I’d be Jason Ian Partin-Engineer. (Not really; if I did my family’s work, I’d be Jason Ian Partin-Prisoner.)
The caste system has been Hindu doctrine for almost 4,000 years, and was Nepali law until recently. Millions of people are hoping to change the lingering effects of a caste system. This isn’t unique to Hinduism; in the United States, we’re hoping to overcome the lingering effects of slavery.
Many Nepali workers wore hats with the “OBEY” logo, which led me to thinking about Hope, Happiness, & Socio-Economics. A change for global equity must go beyond “giving jobs” and provide long-term sustainability, especially in a world where almost all jobs will soon be obsolete. The future of education will have to evolve from job training to innovation and personal happiness.
Helping kids overcome the effects of unjust socio-economics requires equitable education. “Equitable” means to give a bit more to people who start with less, and to ensure that education techniques are personalized for the unique needs of each student.
Today, success requires skills in communication and innovation; in the near-future, success will require skills entrepreneurship. In Kathmandu, I helped students develop communication skills and techniques for entrepreneurship using collaborative-learning and design-thinking.

Guidelines for co-learning are:
Be their equalCreate a culture where everyone helps each otherMonitor and guide everyone’s progress
Guidelines for design thinking are:
Empathize with your customerPrototype an ideaTest your idea with customersImprove your ideaRepeat
The kids taught me Nepali phrases; I helped them develop public-speaking skills through sleight-of-hand magic. Seriously! Learning magic helps overcome fear of failure; you have fun, practice in front of people, and improve based on what you learn. Designing new magic tricks uses design-thinking, which is a step towards innovation and entrepreneurship. Looking up new techniques uses internet search skills, and performing increases communication skills. Plus, it’s fun.

Street-artists practiced their craft on modern buildings in the newer parts of Kathmandu. Art was painted; political graffiti was stenciled; messages were hashtags.
GKC is a Nepali orthopedic surgeon who advocates equitable healthcare and education. He provides free healthcare to rural villages and has become a symbol for the people in Nepal who believe that inequity must stop. When GKC was asked his top three priorities, he only gave two: service to patients, and service to students.

Last day

I chatted with monks or read books from the monastery’s library every night. On my last day, I hiked to The Monkey Temple, which had overlooked the city of Kathmandu for thousands of years, to relax by reading.
I had decided to leave Kathmandu the next morning; I’d attempt to hike over the Himalaya Mountains. My doctors have prescribed pain medications to postpone surgery. I decided to stop taking them, feeling they numbed my mind without solving the cause of suffering, and had been practicing using mindfulness instead of medication.
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I posted this blog in February, 2018, a week before my friend and rock-climbing partner, John Seroki, died in an airplane crash. He was an engineer and orthopedic surgeon who worked with Doctors Without Borders to provide free healthcare in developing countries, including Nepal. We miss you, John.

John, ahead of me on the trail to Bear Creek Spire, Eastern Sierra Mountains.

Books I read while backpacking in Nepal & India

6 minute read.
This is an older copy. The new version is here.

any backpackers carry a Kindle but I prefer to carry a book. Books provide a tactile sensation that a Kindle does not, and I enjoy discovering new books while traveling.
Guest-houses in Nepal and India often have book-exchanges, stocked with books carried by backpackers from all over the world. There’s usually a common-area where travelers chat or discuss the books we’re reading. The photo here is the stack of books I returned to a library in a Tibetan monastery. Not all books are serious: look at the blue book barely visible on the back shelf, it’s by Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’ll mention that again soon…
I bought several books in India from Depak, who for over 30 years had operated a book cart between the Tibetan University and a holy pilgrim site for several religions: Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism. Deepak sold books for ~ $2, which expensive for India, where salaries are commonly $1/day.

Deepak has sustained his business by choosing books valuable to his customers. He knows which books are valuable to his customers because he learns from them. For 30 years, he has discussed books, religion, and philosophy with scholars, pilgrims, professors, and travelers. His ethos is Truth Prevails.
We discussed books and life for two weeks. Before I departed, he invited me to meet his family and gave me a Buddha statue he had painted, hoping I could find space in my backpack. Today, that statue is on my bookshelf at home.
After a fun fact, I’ll summarize books I read on this trip.
A Fun Fact

If you look at the book-exchange photo, one of the authors is Douglas Adams, who wrote “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” about budget-backpacking in space using an electronic book similar to a Kindle e-reader.
The e-guide to the Galaxy, which is similar to a Kindle version of a travel guide to backpacking in remote countries, gives practical advice to travelers: “Don’t Panic.”

The photo below is Elon Musk’s convertible sports car, floating in space, looking at Earth. He had launched it into space the day I started writing this blog, and, if you look closely, the dashboard quotes the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s advice, “Don’t Panic.”

I still enjoy this fact, especially while writing about finding a copy of the Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Nepal. Life if fascinating.
Books I read on this trip
“The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.”
I run around looking for the Friend
My life is almost over,
but I’m still asleep!
When it happens, if it happens,
that I meet the Friend,
will I get the lost years back?

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.
I read Siddhartha in one sitting. During the final chapter, I realized I had been crying.
Possible author Lao-Tsu, translation by Gia-Fu Feng,‎ Jane English,‎ & Toinette Lippe
The Tao Te Ching was composed ~ 600 B.C., the same time as teachings of Confucius, The Buddha, and first authors of the Bible.
When there is no desire, all things are at peace.
Lao-Tsu is also known by Laozi; I’m lousy at remembering that.
The History of Hinduism
Many versions and authors
Hinduism originated from a belief that there’s one god and that god is indescribable.
Many translations
The Upanishads are Hindu texts from ~ 3,500 years ago.
As the rivers flowing east and west
Merge in the sea and become one with it,
Forgetting they were separate rivers,
So do all creatures lose their separateness
When they merge at last into pure Being.
There is nothing that does not come from him.
Of everything he is the inmost Self.
He is the truth; he is the Self supreme.
You are that Shvetaketu, you are that.
The Buddha used the Hindu concept dukkha, which is approximately translated to “suffering” from obvious causes such as death, disease, and sadness but includes includes worry, anger, disappointment, impatience, judgement, or any unrest of the mind. Dukkha is anything other than experiencing a moment for what it is. My paraphrasing of the Buddha’s final words is:
“All I’ve taught is that there is dukkha, the cause of dukkha is desire, the end of dukkha is eliminating desire, and the way to end dukkha is the middle way.
All things created by the mind are impermanent. Practice your aim with diligence.”
Sudata’s biography: Born in Germany, defected from the Nazi army in WWII, wandered internationally to avoid prosecution, became a Buddhist monk, died peacefully.
Dance, Lalla, with nothing on
but air. Sing, Lalla,
wearing the sky.
Look at this glowing day! What clothes
could be so beautiful, or
more sacred?
Translation by Edward J. Thomas
In Hindi, Bhagavad Gita means “The Song of our Lord.” It is to Hinduism what the New Testament is to Christianity.
Translation by Meera Uberoi
The Mahabharata is to Hinduism what the Old Testament is to Christianity, Islam, & Judaism.
When we hear about people suffering we become upset or worry, but do not do anything. We do not even wish them happiness. We may say the words, but we do not feel compassion, or that compassion is temporary without becoming part of our lives. We experience suffering without ending the suffering of others.
Elie wrote Night, Dawn, & Day after surviving the Nazi holocaust. He writes vigorously, yet kindly.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Einstein unlearned conditioned beliefs about time; he saw things how they really are.
Everything slides along curved space; we perceive this as gravity.
Mass bends space; the more mass, the more space bends.
Time is not uniform; it curves with space.
What we called ‘space’ we now know as space-time.
The center of the earth is younger than the surface because of gravity. We’re aging faster than satellites that are farther from Earth’s center of gravity but also moving faster and E=mc>2.
Our smart-phone’s location uses satellites, which require space-time calculations. We can measure relativity using atomic clocks on tall buildings.
Many people can quote relativity, few truly understand it.
Humankind can see black holes by detecting Hawking radiation.
Stephen Hawking explains Classic & Quantum Physics using a vocabulary of a few hundred words. He wrote these books in his wheelchair, selecting letters and words from a computer screen by twitching his cheek.
Meet Balram Halwai. The White Tiger: Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer.
After 18 years of starting and stopping this book, I came within 40 pages of finishing it. Other people have been more persistent: 100 Years of Solitude has more than 600,000 ratings and 22,000 reviews on
The Buddha said, “Let a wise man watch his thinking. The mind moves with extreme subtlety and is not noticed. It seizes whatever it desires. To watch the mind is conducive to happiness.”
We appreciate life when we embrace its impermanence.
Buddhist teachings can seem confusing; some say “go right,” others say “go left.” They are coming from the center.
“In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.”
Richard J. Herrnstein & Charles Murray
Data supports their claims, and they don’t claim more than data reveals.
A modern version could analyzes actions, which aren’t less debatable than intelligence. The internet tracks our actions, and our actions have consequences that affect ourselves and others.
Many authors, edited by Steven Fraser
A lot of people have opinions about The Bell Curve.
I believe many people are reacting emotionally to a problem that our future will address statistically: how to measure, and improve, social equity in a world that will have 9 Billion people by 2050.
Many authors: owners are Maureen & Tony Wheeler
I carried both books, in my backpack, for months, including hiking over the Himalaya mountains with a heavy backpack, and would carry them again.
Interesting, to me
I read “Bird of Passage” in a guest house where the authors had stayed 17 years prior. I realized this as I read how much they enjoyed the owner’s cooking, while watching the same owner prepare our dinner.

The guest-house owner in the photo was a catalyst for me attending the first international conference on “Mind and Modern Science,” attended by the Dalai Lama. At that conference, I saw the Dalai Lama offer respect to Samdhong Rinpoche, the author of a book I summarized in this blog. I did not know that when I discovered his book on Tibetan Meditation.
I taught physics, study religious philosophy, and enjoy American wild-west movies: In the Himalaya Mountains, I stayed at guest house because it was decorated with physics posters, Buddhist art, and Clint Eastwood western-movie posters (in Dutch). It was the home of a Dutch physicist and his wife of twenty years, a Nepali Buddhist, and a reason I read several physics books on this trip.
Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and Walpola Sri Rahula (when quoting the Buddha) use the words “relativity, space, and time” to describe concepts. Hawking and Rahula use the word “annihilation” when discussing something that ceases to exist in physical form. In other books by Einstein and Hawking they uses phrases that originated with the Buddha, 2,600 years ago. That had bothered me for years; I wouldn’t understand the root source until six months after returning from this trip and reading Einstein’s later essays and biography (I’m editing my original post with this information in August 2018, soon after reading Einstein’s essays). Einstein was influenced by the philosopher Schopenhauer who developed theories similar to Buddha’s, and Einstein would later discuss Buddha’s insights and compare them to his way of thinking. Einstein obviously influenced other physicists which may be why the words and way of speaking propagate. Plus, I believe the Buddha “saw” physics of the universe but didn’t have the words to describe them 2,600 years ago. He was too far ahead of his time, described things as best he could but admitted that words are limiting. The more I study what we know of his original words the more clear it becomes to me that he understood the conservation of matter, elements, atoms, and probably more. He created the phrase “conditioned genesis” to describe all phenomenon but only in the context of removing suffering from all humans. Today, we are just beginning to understand that all matter is a form of conditioned genesis, of particles being created and annihilated in a continuous process. As I understand more of what the Buddha taught and quantum physics I see more behind Deepak’s ethos of Truth Prevails.
I published this blog in February 2018. In March 2018, Stephen Hawking died at age 76, more than 50 years older than expected.
“I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first”
“My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.”
He was able to train with astronauts in zero-gravity simulators. I’m happy every time I imagine the joy he must have experienced. Rest in Peace Professor Hawking.

Time is valuable. Write concisely.

30-second read.
Time is valuable. Write concisely, and read what is in your best interest.
Sixty-three words that could change the world are:
Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.
A link to this blog is

I’m backpacking in Nepal & India, offline until late January, 2018

I’ll be off-line until late January, 2018.This is my email auto-response while backpacking in Nepal and India. There’s no reason to read it, unless you’d like to learn more about this area of the world.
6 minute read.
I’ll arrive in Kathmandu. I don’t have plans. No hotel, no itinerary, no objective. I’ll depart from India, a couple of months later.
To prepare for not having plans, I’ve been studying the history and culture of Nepal and northern India. The topics ranged from prehistory, to Buddhism, to modern challenges of being a nuclear-capable country with 1.3 Billion people.
This is the perfect time to share Bob Seger’s 1974 song, “I’m Going To Kathmandu!”

I think I’m going to Katmandu That’s really, really where I’m going to If I ever get out of here That’s what I’m gonna do K-k-k-k-k-k Katmandu
I think that’s really where I’m going to If I ever get out of here I’m going to Katmandu
I got no kick against the west coast Warner brothers are such good hosts I raise my whiskey glass and give them a toast I’m sure they know it’s true I got no rap against the southern states Every time I’ve been there it’s been great But now I’m leaving and I can’t be late And to myself be true
That’s why I’m going to Katmandu Up to the mountain’s where I’m going to And if I ever get out of here That’s what I’m gonna do Aw, k-k-k-k-k-k Katmandu Really, really where I’m going to If I ever get out of here I’m going to Katmandu
Oh Take it…
Buddhism is the world’s 4th-largest religion. It’s attributed to a person known as The Buddha.
The Buddha, originally known as Siddhartha Gautama, was born 2,500 years ago, approximately 500 BC. He was a prince, with a luxurious life, a family, and a son. Siddhartha Gautama led a sheltered life until he left his palace and saw four people:
After seeing these four people, Siddhartha left his life of luxury to seek the nature of suffering. He spent six years as a recluse, deprived of worldly pleasures, then meditated on the Truth and discovered the Middle Way to inner-peace and enlightenment.
The Buddha never claimed to be anything other than a human. Like other spiritual leaders throughout history, he used parables so that different people could hear something to which they relate. His teachings weren’t written down until approximately 100 years after his death, after Buddhism had developed variations.
I researched the sources of what the Buddha taught. The most shared belief is that, for 45 years, he taught other people how to extinguish suffering to obtain inner-peace.
“Suffering” is an incomplete translation of the word he used, “duhhka.” Duhhka is suffering from physical pain and sickness, loss of loved ones, and death; but duhhka also includes anxiety, stress, or becoming attached to things that make us happy but are impermanent therefore make our happiness impermanent. Freedom from duhhka allows unconditional inner-peace.
For 45 years, the Buddha taught others how to achieve enlightenment by eliminating dukkha. On his deathbed, he reiterated the core of his teachings by saying (I’m paraphrasing) “I’ve taught that there is duhhka, there is a cause of dukkha, there can be an end of dukkha, and the path to end dukkha.”
The path to end dukkha includes having compassion for others and being mindful of oneself.
If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend reading “What the Buddha Taught,” by Walpola Rahula.

In ~ 230 BC, a king named Ashoka became emperor of most of India through traditional methods of conflict resolution that persist today: war, aggression, death, dogma, and suffering. When Ashoka understood teachings of the Buddha, he changed his kingdom to practice non-violence, compassion, and tolerance. Ashoka inscribed his peaceful intentions, known as The Edicts of Ashoka, on rocks and stone structures throughout India.

In present times, Ashoka University, and the Ashoka Foundation, advocate peaceful, social innovation to address global challenges.
I taught at an “Ashoka-U” before I had heard of Ashoka. Ashoka-U are universities that receive funding to build upon their foundations of Social Innovation. I designed and led engineering classes at The University of San Diego, a Catholic University, whose “Mission and Values” includes service to the poor. Some of my classes were held in inner-city middle schools and homeless communities. We had fun helping others, and learned practical engineering skills.
The Upanishads originated in northern India approximately 600-800 BC, a few hundred years before The Buddha taught in that region. To me, the Upanishads sound like poems that facilitate sharing knowledge between a teacher and student.

The Upanishads described a higher class of person who could understand the wisdom of the Upanishads; The Buddha differed in that he knew anyone could obtain enlightenment by eliminating dukkha. Common themes between what the Buddha taught and the Upanishads include non-violence, temperance, self-restraint, truthfulness, charity, non-hypocrisy, and compassion.
Many people get stuck on words, unable to see deeper concepts. The Upanishads, the Buddha, and Jesus all shared a common parable, that people who focus on words are like “the blind leading the blind.” If we look deeper than the words, all religious teachings let us see that we’re part of something greater, whether that greater thing is God, Nature, Physics, or The Tao.
In that perspective, please appreciate one of the oldest Upanishads:
As the rivers flowing east and west
Merge in the sea and become one with it,
Forgetting they were separate rivers,
So do all creatures lose their separateness
When they merge at last into pure Being.
There is nothing that does not come from him.
Of everything he is the inmost Self.
He is the truth; he is the Self supreme.
You are that Shvetaketu, you are that.

Nepal is famous for the Himalaya mountains. They’re big. Really big.

View of K2, one of the mountains in the Himalayas
The Himalayas include 50 mountains taller than 7,200 meters, which is approximately 4.5 miles high.
Like I said, they’re really big. Because of tectonic plate action, they’re still growing.
The most famous Himalayan mountain, Mount Everest, is 8,848 meters, or 5.5 miles, high. It attracts tourists from all over the world who hire guides to carry food and oxygen up the mountain for several weeks, at a cost of up to $100,000 including permits.
There are challenges with these mountains becoming tourist destinations. Trash litters trails, and over 200 corpses remain in the high trails as evidence of the risk humans face at these altitudes.
There are effects and consequences to having a region depend on tourism from wealthy foreigners. Just like happiness from temporary conditions eventually leads to dukkha, an economy that depends on external conditions is also impermanent. I’ll be aware of this when choosing where I spend my money.
Less-known trekking routes follow centuries-old walking paths that are still used for trading between villages. By trekking these routes, independently, tourists meet local people and spread tourism dollars throughout the country, rather than concentrating it with tour agencies.
Trekking for weeks at a time requires safety precautions.
I usually travel with a Frisbee. It provides more safety than weapons. I’ve witnessed combat, riots, and family reunions; I’ve never seen a bad situation escalated by throwing a Frisbee.

One of my favorite flying-discs is from “Life is Good.” They donate 10% of profits to

I’ll sample street-food and working-class restaurants as often as possible. I try to experience what average people in different countries enjoy, like a “middle path” of culinary travel.
Indian food is too diverse to summarize, but it’s characterized by flavorful spices (not always “hot” spicy) and often associated with vegetarian cooking. Many recipes have been used for thousands of years, and modern science understands that the combinations of ingredients are synergistic for a healthy lifestyle, especially for vegetarians.
Friends and I cooked our favorite Indian dishes, labeled in the photo below:

Indian food and spices are healthy, especially with ingredients like garlic, turmeric, tamarind, etc. has plenty of Indian recipes.
1.3 Billion people live in India. They are trying to feed, educate, and sustain 1 out of every 7 people on Earth.
Hundreds of languages or dialects spoken, and they have some of the world’s poorest and most densely packed cities. There’s too much going on to summarize, and the history is long and complex compared to what most of us (in the West) have experienced.
If you’d like to learn more, the BBC provides overviews:
I used BBC as a reference source, sarcastically, because of England’s history of meddling in the region. Most famously, Mahatma Gandhi led a non-violent revolt against the British that led to India’s independence. He won the Nobel Prize for Peace, and was assassinated.
Gandhi would have been influenced by the Upanishads.

India independently developed space travel and nuclear missiles, meaning they use different technology than most of the western world that shared or collaborated on this science. India borders Pakistan, which also has nuclear weapons, and the two are notoriously unfriendly towards each other, having had military confrontations at their border.

Image from CNN news, 1998, one year after India first developed nuclear technology.
New Delihi has problems with smog. The Chief Minister of New Delhi called it a “gas chamber.” Their smog is 30 times safety limits of the World Health Organization. As I’m writing this, an airline canceled flights to New Delhi because of the smog.
I’ll be okay; I’ll have a Frisbee.
India has challenges that reflect what’s happening globally. China has a similar population, and similar challenges. Combined, these populations are approximately 30% of all humans, almost 1 out of every 3 people on Earth.
The population is growing, and we share the same oceans, atmosphere, and resources.
I’ll be back in late January.