Shambala is a common mythical paradise that is constantly talked about in ancient texts, including Kalachakra Tantra, and the ancient scriptures such as of Zhang Zhung culture which spread Tibetan Buddhism in western Tibet. The word has a Sanskrit root, which means “place of peace” or “place of silence”. Legend has it that only people with a pure heart can live in the place, where love and wisdom are the rulers, and where people are insusceptible to sufferings or griefs.
It is also known as “The Land of Thousand Names”, as many names are labeled to this place. Some of which are: the Forbidden land, the Land of White Waters, Land of Radiant Spirits, Land of Wonders, Land of the Living Gods, Land of the Living Fire. It’s called Aryavartha, the Land of the Worthy Ones, by Hindu; it is called Hsi Tien, the Western Paradise of Hsi Wang Mu, by the Chinese; it is called Belovoyde by the Russian Old Believers. The most common name is Shambala, or Shamballa, or Shangri-La.
The legend comes from the reference in various ancient texts that backs to thousands of years. There is a reference in Bon scriptures which talks about a land that’s quite similar and is known as Olmolungring. In Hindu texts, Shambala is said to be the birthplace of Kalki, the final Avatar of Lord Vishnu that will show the way to the new era.
शम्भलग्राममुख्यस्य ब्राह्मणस्य महात्मन: ।
भवने विष्णुयशस: कल्कि: प्रादुर्भविष्यति II
Lord Kalki will be born in the home of Shambhala’s most eminent Brahmana, the great soul Vishnuyasha.S.B 12.2.18
The adaptation in Buddhist philosophy about Shambala comes from the Hindu texts. The first text where Shambala is discussed extensively is in Kalachakra.
In Tibetan Buddhism, Kalachakra is a complex and advanced esoteric teaching, and it is said that Shakyamuni Buddha taught Kalachakra upon the request of King Suchandra of Shambala.
Just like any other mythical concept, the idea has outer, inner and alternative meanings too. The outer meaning is thought of as a physical place where only the people with the right karma can reach and experience; the inner and alternative meanings are thought of more as the state of one’s own body and mind (inner) and the meditative practice (alternative).
During the 1985 Kalachakra initiation in Bodhgaya, Dalai Lama the 14th noted Shambala to not be 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, pure land in the human realm. And unless one has the merit and the actual karmic association, one cannot actually arrive there.”
It has a vital role in Tibetan religious teachings and also has particular relevance in Tibetan mythology regarding the future. The prophecies state that as humans are gradually degraded with the idea of materialism flowing throughout and when all the barbarians who follow the ideology under the evil king and there is nothing left for him to conquer, then the mists will lift to show the snowy mountains of Shambhala. These barbarians will supposedly attack Shambhala, and it is then when King of Shambala will emerge with his army and destroy all the dark forces and guide us through the Golden Age throughout the world.
The prophecy indicates a future of war, which is contrary to Buddhist teaching practices. Some argue that the war is more our own inner battle against our own demonic tendencies.
The Hidden Location of Shambala
In the past century, many have taken the journey to get to this mythical paradise of peace. Many claims that they have reached paradise, but they have not been able to give a pinpoint location on the map. Even so, many have placed it across the mountainous region of Eurasia.
The texts say otherwise. The ancient Zhang Zhung text places Shambala at the Sutlej Valley in Himachal Pradesh in India.
The Mongolian texts identify it with some valleys in southern Siberia. According to Altai folklore, Shambala can be reached through the gateway, which is said to be Mount Belukha in Siberia.
Buddhist scholars even conclude that they are in the Himalayan regions of the Dhauladhar Mountains around Mcleodganj and somewhere at Makalu-Barun region in Nepal.
The Tibetan legends have it that there is an abandoned monastery in Tibet which leads to Shambala and that is guarded by Shambala Guardians.
But the fact still remains that the exact location remains unknown. Many claims that it is because the place lies on the edge of physical reality, and it is more like a bridge to the world beyond.