The mythical kingdom of Shambhala is a fascinating mystery, as it conjures up images of profound eastern meditation, as well as a sense of heaven on earth. But is Shambhala a real place, and if it is, where exactly is Shambhala located?
The kingdom of Shambhala is located either between the Himalaya Mountains of Tibet and the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, or between Tibet and the Kashmir region of Pakistan, depending on who you ask. Others say that Shambhala is a state of being, rather than an actual physical place.
Shambhala is described as a spiritual kingdom, only accessible to people who have a pure heart. All citizens of Shambhala have achieved enlightenment, and are free of suffering and aging. It has a gentle climate, magnificent mountains, forests, and rivers, abundant fruit trees, and beautiful temples. Written about in Buddhist texts called the Kalachakra, as well as in Hindu texts called the Paranas, Shambhala is presented in the form of a prophecy.
Many explorers have searched for it, and while some have even claimed to have found it, no solid evidence has been presented to support the claims. In the 1920s a group of Russian Theosophists embarked on an expedition which lasted several years. They believed that there was an entrance to Shambhala in the mountains of Siberia.
In the 1930s, the Nazis were in search of Shambhala, and sent numerous expeditions to Tibet. In 1938 and 1939, an official expedition was invited by the Tibetan government to attend their New Year celebrations. The Nazis were also in search of another legendary kingdom called Agartha, they believed to be located underground.
What Does Shambhala Mean?
The Kingdom of Shambhala is described in the Hindu Puranas, which is a large body of literature written in Sanskrit that discusses cosmology and mythology. In particular, the Kalachakra Tantra describes Shambhala. Also, the ancient writings of the Zhang Zhung, a culture native to Tibet that predates Tibetan Buddhism, describe Shambhala.
The Zhang Zhung culture was a kingdom in Tibet that practiced a religion called Bon. When Buddhism spread to Tibet in the 7th century, the indigenous beliefs of the region blended with the Buddhist philosophies, becoming what is now known as Tibetan Buddhism.
According to the Hindu and Zhang Zhung writings, the legendary kingdom of Shambhala is part of a prophecy. It says that the entire world will become overrun by darkness, chaos, and materialism. Once there is nowhere else for the darkness to attack, the kingdom of Shambhala will emerge amongst the mountains. The dark forces that have overrun the world will turn on Shambhala, which will be led by a great king. The darkness will be no match for the might of Shambhala, which will vanquish the darkness, and usher in a new golden age.
Shambhala is known by many other names, including sometimes Shamballa, the Forbidden Land, Land of Radiant Spirits, and Land of Wonders, and the Place of Silence. In Hinduism it is called Aryavartha, which means Land of the Worthy Ones. The Chinese and Russians also have alternative names for the kingdom.
The Kings of Shambhala
According to legend, Shambhala is ruled by a lineage of kings, who rule from the capital of Kalapa. One of the most important kings, named Suchandra, sought teachings from Buddha. He wanted to know how to walk the path of enlightenment as taught by Buddha, while at the same time live his life as a king, including the responsibilities and pleasures that come with it. The Buddha gave the king teachings called the Kalachakra Root Tantra. When the king received these teachings, it led to the entire kingdom becoming enlightened.
The Final Incarnation of Vishnu and Satya Yuga
Another part of the legend of Shambhala, is that it is the birthplace of Kalki, the final incarnation of Vishnu. In Hinduism, Vishnu is one of the main gods, who incarnates from time to time on earth in various forms, which are called avatars. Kalki is the tenth and final incarnation of Vishnu, and when Kalki is born, it marks the beginning of Sayta Yuga, the golden age in the Yuga cycles. Read more about the Yuga cycles here.
Is Shambhala a Real Place?
According to the Kalachakra, Shambhala is a physical region, as well as a state of being in which we can access through the resolution of our karma, and the attainment of enlightenment. Many consider Shambhala to be a fictional place, because of the lack of evidence to support its existence. Another school of thought suggests that it is a real place, but that it exists in an ethereal realm beyond normal human perception.
Shambhala and the Theosophists
Shambhala is discussed by the Theosophists, who refer to it in regards to other planes of existence. Helena Blavatsky, who cofounded the movement and had deep ties to Tibet, being guided by a group of Ascended Masters based in the Himalayan mountains, only makes brief mention of Shambhala. However, other Theosophists have written on Shambhala at further length. Read more about Blavatsky and Tibet here.
In particular, Alice Bailey (1880 – 1949) a prolific Theosophic writer who coined the phrase New Age, wrote about Shambhala. She claimed her knowledge of the subject was received telepathically by a teacher whom she called “the Tibetan”. She described Shambhala as being led by a higher being named Sanat Kumura, the head of an organization called The Great White Brotherhood, who oversee planet Earth.
Shambhala and the Astral Plane
Bailey described Shambhala as being located on the astral plane. The astral plane is a concept that is discussed in many Classical and Eastern philosophies, and refers to another plane of existence, beyond the physical plane in which we live our day-to-day experiences in. Through meditation and practice, a person can leave their body and travel on the astral plane, which consists of pure spirit. Amongst Tibetan Buddhist monks, a long tradition of practicing astral travel exists.
Shambhala exists in the astral plane, but on the border of our physical reality. It functions as an intermediary dimension between the two worlds, and because of its close proximity, has a great impact on our physical plane. Its purpose is to guide the spiritual growth of our world.
Is Shambhala the Same as Shangri-La?
The phrase Shangri-La comes from a book by English author James Hilton, who described a kingdom in the mountains of Tibet. Written in 1933, the book is called Lost Horizon, and describes the citizens of Shangri-La as having superhuman longevity. The book was very popular, and made into a movie. Hilton’s fictitious Shangri-La kingdom was inspired by the legends of Shambhala, as described in the Hindu Paranas.
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