The world we live in is not perfect. It has its good side, but then it is also laden with problems and suffering, war and strife, poverty and sickness. Perhaps with an intent to escape the suffering, or to make it a better place to live in, mankind dreamt up of utopian worlds where only bliss, fulfilment, wellbeing and prosperity exist. Some such include the lost city of Atlantis, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Egyptian city of Zerzura. Amongst them is Shambhala, a paradise often mentioned in the ancient Hindu and Buddhist scriptures.

Believed to be hidden somewhere in the Himalayas, the mythical kingdom of Shambhala is considered an abode of peace, tranquillity, and happiness, by Hindus and Buddhists alike. For the Hindus, Shambhala is where Lord Vishnu’s tenth avatar (Kalki) would be born to usher the world into the new age. For the Buddhists, on the other hand, Shambhala is a pure land—the celestial realm of the Bodhisattva. In fact, the city supposedly resembles an eight-petalled lotus blossom (signifying the Eightfold path of the Buddhism tenet) and it is said to have inspired the Kalachakra Tantra—a branch of Buddhist esoteric practices.

According to Vimalaprabha, an 11th Century Tibetan commentary on the Kalachakra Tantra, the Shambhala kingdom has an outer and an inner realm. The outer realm refers to the physical kingdom of Shambhala. The capital of Shambhala, Kalapa, has a sandalwood park and mandala to its south, Manasa Lake to its East, and a White Lotus Lake to its West, and is home to several supreme beings with supernatural powers. So, Shambhala is often referred to as the ‘Land of the Living Gods’. The inner realm of Shambhala, on the other hand, has more to do with integrating our body and mind through rigorous meditation and thereby allowing a free flow of energy at the Chakra level. Easy as it might sound, this process involves undergoing a complete spiritual transformation at a karmic level. It involves breaking our energy barriers on our astral nerves that limit our awareness. Certainly, not all of us can achieve this. For this reason, Shambhala is also called the “Land of the Worthy Ones”.

With an elusive outer realm and a hard-to-achieve inner realm, Shambhala is said to connect the physical with the metaphysical. Not surprisingly then, its location, too, remains unidentified on the map thus far. Writes author and scholar of comparative religion and mythology, Edwin Bernbaum in his book The Way to Shambhala, “As the traveller draws near the kingdom, their directions become increasingly mystical and difficult to correlate with the physical world. At least one lama has written that the vagueness of these books is deliberate and intended to keep Shambhala concealed from the barbarians who will take over the world.”


Interestingly, even the Kalachakra Tantra prophesises that one day, the barbarians will indeed come after the forbidden paradise. The prophecy goes that mankind’s moral code will gradually deteriorate—the ideology of materialism will reign, greed will take over, and ignorance will rise. Man will thereby create for himself, a dog-eat-dog world and become barbaric. But, when man’s ignorance reaches the tipping point, the king of Shambhala will emerge with his powerful army to vanquish the dark forces and guide the world into the Golden Age.

The legends surrounding Shambhala have intrigued several adventurers and drawn them to explore the icy Himalayas in search of the mythical kingdom. One amongst them was a Russian traveller Nicholas Roerich. In the book The wizard: sorcery through the ages, historian Alan Baker mentions the expedition conducted by Roerich and his team. An excerpt from the book goes: “Roerich had just built a white stupa (or shrine), dedicated to Shambhala. The shrine was consecrated in August, with the ceremony witnessed by a number of invited lamas. Two days later, the party watched as a large black bird wheeled through the sky above them. This, however, was not what astonished them, for far beyond the black bird, high up in the cloudless sky, they clearly saw a golden spheroidal object moving from the Altai Mountains to the north at tremendous speed. Veering sharply to the south-west, the golden sphere disappeared rapidly beyond the Humboldt Mountains.” According to a Tibetan lama who was with Roerich at the time, the sighting of the golden sphere was a good omen, a sign from the kingdom of Shambhala.

Did Roerich really see a golden orb, or was he lucid dreaming in an altered state of consciousness? We may never know for sure. But Roerich’s detailed account is hard to overlook. It leaves us wondering if there really is a Shambala kingdom or at least a mysterious force in the mountains that defies human understanding. Perhaps with time, we will find out. Until then, we can perceive Shambhala as the 14thDalai Lama once put it: “Shambhala is not an ordinary country: Although those with special affiliation may actually be able to go there through their karmic connection, nevertheless it is not a physical place that we can actually find. We can only say that it is a pure land, a pure land in the human realm. And unless one has the merit and the actual karmic association, one cannot actually arrive there.”


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