History of the Search for Shambhala Part 2

About the history of the search for the hidden kingdom of Shambhala, a place of perfection in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.



The prophecy of Shambhala states that each of its kings will rule for 100 years. There will be 32 in all, and as their reigns pass, conditions in the outside world will deteriorate. Men will become more warlike and pursue power for its own sake, and an ideology of materialism will spread over the earth. When the "barbarians" who follow this ideology are united under an evil king and think there is nothing left to conquer, the mists will lift to reveal the icy mountains of Shambhala. The barbarians will attack Shambhala with a huge army equipped with terrible weapons. Then the 32nd king of Shambhala, Rudra Cakrin, will lead a mighty host against the invaders. In a last great battle, the evil king and his followers will be destroyed.

By definition Shambhala is hidden. It is thought to exist somewhere between the Gobi Desert and the Himalayas, but it is protected by a psychic barrier so that no one can find the kingdom who is not meant to. Tibetan lamas spend a great deal of their lives in spiritual development before attempting the journey to Shambhala. Those who try to get there who are not wanted are swallowed by crevasses or caught in avalanches. People and animals tremble at its borders as if bombarded by invisible rays. There are guidebooks to Shambhala, but they describe the route in terms so vague that only those already initiated into the teachings of the Kalacakra can understand them.

Clues for the Hunt

The first known Western reference to Shambhala comes from two Catholic missionaries who left Europe in the 17th century to convert the Tibetans and Chinese. They were looking for a way to China through Tibet from India and heard about a land called Xembala. Thinking it was China, they headed in its direction and did not discover their mistake until they reached the major monastery for lamas interested in Shambhala. About 1627 they mentioned the kingdom in their letters home. But the spiritualist Elena Petrovna Blavatsky was the first to present Shambhala seriously to the public eye in the West. She believed that she received secret teachings from spiritual masters living somewhere beyond the Himalayas, and that the highest of these masters was from Shambhala. The followers of the Theosophical Society, which she and Henry Steel Olcott founded in 1875, familiarized the public with their notion that the society's secret doctrines came from Shambhala, which they considered the world's spiritual center.

Strange sightings in the area where Shambhala is thought to be seem to provide evidence of its existence. Tibetans believe that the land is guarded by beings with superhuman powers. In the early 1900s an article in an Indian newspaper, the Statesman, told of a British major who, camping in the Himalayas, saw a very tall, lightly clad man with long hair. Apparently noticing that he was being watched, the man leaped down the vertical slope and disappeared. To the major's astonishment, the Tibetans with whom he was camping showed no surprise at his story; they calmly explained that he had seen one of the snowmen who guard the sacred land.

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