Shambhala has many names as well as a long history among the Tibetan and Indian peoples. Today it is revered as a Buddhist Pure Land – a place that is as much spiritual and mystic as it is geographic. In the West, Shambhala has become known as Shangri-La, a utopian paradise of peace and tranquility. For Buddhists and those seeking spiritual transformation, it is something much more.
In Sanskrit, Shambhala means “place of silence or peace.” It is a land of paradise that is spoke of in many ancient texts, some of which predate Tibetan Buddhism. According to myth, Shambhala can only be entered by those who are pure of heart. There is no suffering and the land is ruled by love, wisdom, and peace. In Shambhala, there is no old age, there is no lack or want, there is only beauty and enlightenment.
In Bon scriptures (the religion of Tibet directly prior to Tibetan Buddhism), references to this magical land can be found many thousands of years ago. They describe a land called “Olmolungring,” If you look at Hindi texts, Shambhala is known at the birthplace of the final incarnation of Vishnu. Many believe this incarnation, Kalki, will bring in a new Golden Age of humanity.
History shows us that the Buddhist concept of Shambhala is an adaptation from the Hindu myth of Kalki, but it is the Kalachakra texts which first discuss this land in detail. This ancient text is a teaching on the “cycles of time.” There are three parts to all cycles: external, internal, and alternative. Everything that is discussed in the Kalachakra is discussed in terms of these three areas, including Shambhala.
Externally, Shambhala is a physical place where only those with certain karma can ever reach. It is not a place you can find on a map or ever arrive at – it is a Buddhist Pure Land in the human realm.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama described it best during the 1985 Kalachakra teachings,
“… 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.”
The inner and alternative meanings deal with an individuals mind and body. Shambhala can be thought of as achieving inner peace and silence. A “place” arrived at through meditation. Equanimity within, and the beauty and happiness to be found in this state, are what Shambhala symbolizes.
For those on a spiritual journey of transformation, Shambhala is an important symbol. Kalachakra practice, or any Buddhist practice, is about the internal work of releasing attachments, confusions, desires, etc. It’s the inner work of releasing negative karma that has built up over lifetimes, of stopping the cycle of karma, and reaching an inner place of peace. Of discovering our true nature – the clear light of mind.
This is Shambala. This is the practice and the way of true inner transformation.