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.
Shambhala, the mythical abode of peace, tranquillity, and happiness
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.”