"Along the mighty crescent of mountains that runs from Pakistan to Nepal there are snow-clad peaks that beckon to mountaineers and pilgrims from every country on the face of the earth — men and women who want to test their endurance, to push their capacity to the utmost. On these high peaks, above twenty thousand feet, a physical curtain falls, and most ordinary human beings can live only for a few hours. Yet there are always a few — dauntless, determined, daring — who are prepared to make this most difficult, dangerous ascent.

"I like to think of the Buddha, who was born in the far north of India in the shadow of these holy mountains, as a daring mountain guide, a spiritual sherpa who draws people who are not content to follow the petty, private urges of life. The vast multitude, those who live out their entire lives on the dusty plains, have been conditioned to content themselves with trifling satisfactions which they can hardly question. But in every country there are a few men and women who are prepared for the tremendous adventure that the Buddha places before us. They are tired of living in the valley of the shadow of death, and they find the pursuit of pleasure not wicked but boring. The pursuit of money is not just greedy, it's dull. These spiritual climbers have the same spirit as the British mountaineer George Mallory who, when he was asked why he climbed Mount Everest, gave the perfect answer: 'Because it is there.'

"The Buddha really likes such tough, daring people, and his teaching is meant for heroes like these. This is neither morality nor philosophy; it is simply that if we follow the Buddha's way there will be challenges from beginning to end. At no time will we be able to sit back and say, 'I am done.'

"So to the first quality required on the spiritual path, earnestness, the Buddha now adds a second: courage. By cultivating these two qualities all of us can go a long, long way — but first we must understand what the Buddha means by courage. Here courage means, first of all, endurance, which is just the opposite of what is often depicted as courage in movies and on television. For the Buddha, to be angry or revengeful is not courageous; it shows utter bankruptcy of courage. Today it's almost taken for granted that if you are not angry you are not strong; you are not tough. We have been brainwashed not to see bravery as it really is. It's a topsy-turvy world we live in, one in which we associate mere physical bravado with toughness and courage."