On Shambhala


Mysteries of the Kingdom of Shambhala

Shambhala, which is a Sanskrit word meaning “place of peace” or “place of silence”, is a mythical paradise spoken of in ancient texts, including the Kalachakra Tantra and the ancient scriptures of the Zhang Zhung culture which predated Tibetan Buddhism in western Tibet. According to legend, it is a land where only the pure of heart can live, a place where love and wisdom reigns and where people are immune to suffering, want or old age.

Shambhala is said to be the land of a thousand names. It has been called the Forbidden Land, the Land of White Waters, Land of Radiant Spirits, Land of Living Fire, Land of the Living Gods and Land of Wonders. The Hindus call it Aryavartha (‘The Land of the Worthy Ones); the Chinese know it as Hsi Tien, the Western Paradise of Hsi Wang Mu; and to the Russian Old Believers, it is known as Belovoyde.  But throughout Asia, it is best known by its Sanskrit name, Shambhala, Shamballa, or Shangri-la.


Shambhala is described as a land of paradise. Photo credit: Naughty Dog-Uncharted

The legend of Shambhala is said to date back thousands of years, and reference to the mythical land can be found in various ancient texts. The Bön scriptures speak of a closely related land called Olmolungring. Hindu texts such as Vishnu Purana mention Shambhala as the birth place of Kalki, the final incarnation of Vishnu who will usher in a new Golden Age. The Buddhist myth of Shambhala is an adaptation of the earlier Hindu myth. However, the text in which Shambhala is first discussed extensively is the Kalachakra.

The Kalachakra refers to a complex and advanced esoteric teaching and practice in Tibetan Buddhism. Shakyamuni Buddha is said to have taught the Kalachakra on request of King Suchandra of Shambhala.

As with many concepts in the Kalachakra, the idea of Shambhala is said to have outer, inner, and alternative meanings. The outer meaning understands Shambhala to exist as a physical place, although only individuals with the appropriate karma can reach it and experience it as such. The inner and alternative meanings refer to more subtle understandings of what Shambhala represents in terms of one’s own body and mind (inner), and during meditative practice (alternative). These two types of symbolic explanations are generally passed on orally from teacher to student.

As the 14th Dalai Lama noted during the 1985 Kalachakra initiation in Bodhgaya, 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.

Buddhist depiction of Shambhala from Sera Monastery

A Buddhist depiction of Shambhala from Sera Monastery (private collection). Image source.

The Prophecy of Shambhala

The concept of Shambhala plays an important role in Tibetan religious teachings, and has particular relevance in Tibetan mythology about the future.  The Kalachakra prophesies the gradual deterioration of mankind as the ideology of materialism spreads 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 snowy mountains of Shambhala. The barbarians will attack Shambhala with a huge army equipped with terrible weapons. Then the king of Shambhala will emerge from Shambhala with a huge army to vanquish “dark forces” and usher in a worldwide Golden Age.

Though the Kālachakra prophesies a future war, this appears in conflict with the vows of Buddhist teachings that prohibit violence. This has led some theologians to interpret the war symbolically – the Kālachakra is not advocating violence against people but rather refers to the inner battle of the religious practitioner against inner demonic tendencies.

Shambhala’s hidden location

Over many centuries, numerous explorers and seekers of spiritual wisdom have embarked on expeditions and quests in search of the mythical paradise of Shambhala, and while many have claimed to have been there, no one has yet provided any evidence of its existence or been able to pinpoint its physical location on a map, however most references place Shambhala in the mountainous regions of Eurasia.

Ancient Zhang Zhung texts identify Shambhala with the Sutlej Valley in Punjab or Himachal Pradesh, India. Mongolians identify Shambhala with certain valleys of southern Siberia. In Altai folklore, Mount Belukha is believed to be the gateway to Shambhala. Modern Buddhist scholars seem to conclude that Shambhala is located in the higher reaches of the Himalayas in what is now called the Dhauladhar Mountains around Mcleodganj.  Some legends say that the entrance to Shambhala is hidden inside a remote, abandoned monastery in Tibet, and guarded by beings known as the Shambhala Guardians.

Himalayan Mountains

According to Buddhist traditions, Shambhala is located in the Himalayan Mountains. Photo source: Wikipedia.

For some, the fact that Shambhala has never been found has a very simple explanation – many believe that Shambhala lies on the very edge of physical reality, as a bridge connecting this world to one beyond it.

While many disregard Shambhala as the fanciful subject of myth and legend, for others, a belief in Shambhala stirs an inner yearning to one day find this utopian kingdom.

Featured image: An artist’s depiction of Shambhala. Photo credit:  Naughty Dog-Uncharted

By April Holloway

– See more at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-asia/mysteries-kingdom-shambhala-001529#sthash.mQh4txMF.dpuf

On Opening the Compassionate Heart

Pursuing the Awakening Warrior

Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of compassion, holding a piece of lapis lazuli at his heart representing the quality of Bodhichitta.

30th June 2012

By Rob Preece –  Wake Up World

In a world where sickness of heart is a cultural normality, it’s a long road to the heart of the Bodhisattva

When some of my Tibetan teachers first began to visit the West and teach Westerners, they were surprised or perhaps even shocked by something they experienced in us. When they described it in their own terms, they called it sok lung, a damage or blockage of the primary life supporting “energy-wind” or lung (in Sanskrit: prana ) within the heart chakra. What they recognized in this was that something about our way of life in the West was putting a kind of pressure in the heart that led to a deep yet subtle level of pain and depression of the energy there. One of the ways this manifests is in subtle yet deep insecurity and anxiety.

If we translate this into a more Western, psychological language, what we begin to understand is that there is something about the stresses and pressures we grow up with in the West that has a dramatic impact upon this very subtle energy in the heart. One of the most significant aspects of this problem is that we experience a much more accentuated sense of insecurity and alienation in the West because of the very nature of our culture and its expectations on us from a very early age. From early in our life we are more likely to experience separation from the mother and a far greater expectation to be independent and self-reliant. We grow up into a world that then demands that we survive and become an individual in an extremely competitive environment where the pressure to succeed is endemic. If we add to this the absence of a supportive sense of community and the often dysfunctional nature of the nuclear family, insecurity, anxiety and fear become a root emotional drive.

Is it any wonder that this alienation has an impact on the heart and the energy of the heart? The consequence is that we experience deep-rooted wounding to our sense of self, and our ego-identity is built on shaky ground from the very beginning.  It was this wounded sense of self that my Tibetan teachers recognized and as a result were at first somewhat at a loss as to how to address it in us. What becomes particularly problematic is that with the degree of wounding we have in the west it has become normal to be self-preoccupied and solely oriented to personal gain and personal gratification at the expense of others. Our culture seems to see the ruthless attainment of one’s own needs in a competitive world as something of an accolade. In the cutthroat political and corporate world being able to achieve and satisfy one’s own aspirations for power and status at the expense of others’ is encouraged. Our sickness of the heart has become a cultural normality.

From a Tibetan Buddhist point of view this wounding to the heart causes a contraction and closing around the heart chakra that cuts us off from a deep essential quality that is innate within us all. This is a quality of mind known in Sanskrit as Chitta. Chitta is often translated as mind, heart or essence and is a quality of mind that dwells in the heart chakra. But this is not our ordinary worldly conceptual mind, it is a deep quality of mind that is essentially clear, peaceful and pervaded by a natural compassion and loving kindness. Indeed it is our ordinary mind with its emotional entanglements and wounds that obscures this essential heart mind.

In the Tantric tradition this essential nature of mind is also known as clear-light mind and has a number of significant characteristics, one of which is its innate clarity and emptiness and the other is a potent innate vitality that brings with it a felt quality of joy, happiness and bliss. Our problem, if we like to see it as such, is that while this natural quality has never been defiled, it is, however, obscured by our gross ordinary mind and its emotional proliferations. As a result it is largely inaccessible to us. It has been described as being like a golden statue wrapped in filthy rags. From a Buddhist point of view if we are able to gradually clear these obscurations, then what naturally manifests is what could be called bodhichitta or the awakening mind or heart.

Our innate heart potential is the deep vitality of our mind’s natural, undefiled and clear nature. So long as we are still caught up in our primary wounds of the heart it is going to be extremely difficult to begin to awaken qualities such as compassion and loving-kindness. If I have deep-rooted feelings of low self-worth, lack of self-acceptance, feeling I am not good enough and so on, then these close the heart leading to Sok lung.

It is very easy to speak of opening the heart and having spiritual ideals of love and compassion, but if we have not addressed our essential wounding these will just be a kind of veneer of spiritual correctness burying deep wounds. To open the heart we must first begin to heal our sense of self. To do this we need to develop compassion and acceptance towards ourselves with all of our failings as well as gifts and qualities. The contraction around the heart then begins to soften, and the innate energy within the heart starts to awaken.  This may not always be comfortable because as we soften the contraction in the energy around the heart we re-awaken our wounds, but as we go deeper we can begin to feel the natural chitta that lies in the heart.

The term bodhichitta, which is often translated as the “awakening mind,” emerges from an opening of the heart and brings a deep compassion for the suffering of all beings. It also awakens a powerful quality of intention that is willing to dedicate life to the welfare of others. Bodhichitta is sometimes called the “great will,” but this is not the will of the ego but a deeper intention that requires that we surrender to the process of awakening to the state of wholeness or Buddhahood for the sake of all beings. It is like the shift from “I will” to “thy will be done.” While this “awakening mind” lies at the heart of Buddhist life it is something that emerges only when we have begun to heal our own wounds so that there is the fertile ground for its growth. Once present, as a quality of the heart, it will underlie everything we do in life, like a steady flowing river moving us towards the ocean of full awakening. It will then be natural to wish to dedicate our life to the welfare of others and indeed to the planet that so unconditionally supports us. Bodhichitta is the heart of the Bodhisattva, often translated as “the awakening warrior,” one who with courage engages with the journey of life to transform adversity into the path of awakening for the welfare of others.

About the Author

Rob Preece, author most recently of The Courage to Feel (Snow Lion, 2009) is a psychotherapist, spiritual mentor, leader of Tibetan mediation retreats, and an initiated Granicero (weather work) in the Nahua tradition.

from:    http://wakeup-world.com/2012/06/30/pursuing-the-awakening-warrior/

Alexandra David-Neel in Tibet

The Amazing Tibetan Adventures of Alexandra David-Neel

n 1965 Lawrence Durrell, on assignment from a popular woman’s magazine, interviewed the 96-year-old Alexandra David-Neel at her home in Digne, in the south of France. Famous for her earlier adventures in India, China and Tibet, and the books recording these, Alexandra is best known for her daring journey to Lhasa over the Trans-Himalayas in midwinter 1924. Accompanied by her adopted son Lama Yongden, she was disguised as a beggar/pilgrim and eluded soldiers, brigands and officials of the British Empire. David-Neel became the first European woman to reach Tibet’s forbidden capital, and she remains the most accurate, extensive source on the arcane Buddhist practices of a nearly vanished world. Durrell called her “the most astonishing woman of our time.”

When we interviewed the renowned novelist in a Greek neighborhood in the South Bronx, while researching our biography, “The Secret Lives of Alexandra David-Neel,” he fondly recalled her eternally youthful air. Although worn down by the hardship of her travels, Alexandra kept a radiance that had drawn countless admirers, including generals and heads of state. She was born Alexandrine Marie David (a distant relation of the artist David) in Paris in 1868 to a left-leaning father, a publisher and a puritanical mother. Alexandra began her career as a lovely opera singer, complimented by Massenet. When her voice broke, she became a strongly feminist writer, while her interest in Eastern philosophy matured. In 1904 she married Philip Neel, manager of the French railways in Tunisia. It was a marriage of convenience for both parties, and Alexandra soon took off for India. Her one significant love affair, with Sidkeong Tulku, the young, handsome, reforming Maharaja of Sikkim, ended tragically when he died in pain, poisoned, in 1914.

Alexandra, for solace and enlightenment, turned to the Gomchen of Lachen, the Hermetic master of a small monastery in a mountain village near the Tibetan border. Stout and ugly, the locals believed he could fly through the air, kill men by a glance and command demons. But the British authorities respected him, and with this wizard Alexandra seemed to magically learn Tibetan. His occult knowledge formed the basis of her “Magic and Mystery in Tibet,” translated round the world. The practices the Gomchen taught her — such as tumo, breathing to create heat to ward off the piercing cold of the snows — permitted David-Neel to succeed on her journey via unexplored country to Tibet’s capital. Her “My Journey to Lhasa,” published in New York, London and Paris in 1927, became an instant classic of travel and adventure.

Above Lachen was the Gomchen’s cave, at 12,000 feet, where he spent most of his time in meditation. Along with her adopted son, 15-year-old Lama Yongden, Alexandra took up residence in a nearby, sparsely furnished cave, to which she adjoined her tent, cooking utensils and her bathing tub. She agreed to become the Gomchen’s disciple and promised him obedience. For the next two years, in cave, tent or cell, she studied tantric Buddhism with the Gomchen by conversation, reading texts, practice and telepathy. The Gomchen and Alexandra would sit together in silence, focused on the imagined aspects of a deity — perhaps Vajrapani, the protector — their goal being an entirely unified mental state. Afterward the Gomchen would quiz his pupil, who became sufficiently adept that in her trek to Lhasa she could receive messages “written on the wind.”

Alexandra became adept at tumo breathing, involving meditation on the fire within. For a final exam she bathed in a mountain stream on a moonlit night, then sat naked, meditating until dawn. She caught a cold, but tumo would save her life on the journey to Lhasa. First, she visited the Panchen Lama, second in the hierarchy to the Dalai Lama, at Shigatse, Tibet, crossing the forbidden border. She was impressed by the Panchen’s erudition, and she realized that in Tibet she was coming in contact with a wise, civilized people. In contrast, the British Political Officer, Sir Charles Bell, despite being a Tibet enthusiast, had Alexandra expelled from both Tibet and Sikkim.

Undaunted, Alexandra headed for Kum Bum monastery in Eastern Tibet via China. The Manchu dynasty had collapsed, China was in turmoil, but Alexandra pushed on past brigands and warlords and immersed herself in the monastic life and the study of rare manuscripts at Kum Bum. She observed the practices of Bon, an ancient faith, and she engaged in some of their occult practices. In August 1922, with the help of another learned British official, Sir George Pereira, Alexandra began her zigzag journey to Lhasa. Alexandra was 55 when, along with Yongden, she defeated the fierce Himalayan winter and rugged terrain to achieve her goal.

The epic story of Alexandra and Yongden’s reaching Lhasa is too incredible to summarize here. Victorious, Alexandra descended to India, flaunted her triumph before British officials, and sailed for France. She made her home at Digne at the foot of the Basses-Alpes, which she joked were “Himalayas for pygmies.” She stocked her villa Samten Dzong (fortress of meditation) with a collection of tankas, masks, prayer rugs, manuscripts and photos — a miniature Tibet. She even brought home a necklace of gold coins, a gift from Sidkeong. She had refused to spend even one, no matter how desperate her need.

to read more, go to:   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barbara-foster/alexanda-david-neel-adventures_b_1082451.html?ref=religion