A “Mighty Heavenly Domain”: The Legendary Kingdom of Shambhala

High in the Himalyas is one of the supposed locations of Shambhala. (Image source: Public Domain)

For millennia people have heard that somewhere around Tibet there exists a utopian kingdom of peace and harmony known as Shambhala. Quite literally, Shambhala is a Sanskirt word which means “place of peace” or “place of silence”. 1

According to legend, Shambhala is a kingdom where an advanced civilisation of people lived in perfect peace. In this kingdom, technology reached such a supremacy that people neither suffered nor felt old age – they had uncovered the secrets of immortality. Shambhala was a veritable heaven on Earth. For this reason, it was said that the kingdom could only be found by the select who have attained spiritual enlightenment in the ways of Buddhism. 2

Many have taken the descriptions of Shambhala to be a metaphorical heaven for those who follow the ways of Buddhism. However, many believe that it was – and perhaps still is – a real place.

Over the centuries explorers and those seeking spiritual enlightenment have sought out Shambhala. Some have claimed success, alleging to have been there.

Ancient Tibetan texts locate Shambhala in the Punjab province of northern India. Mongolian folklore places Shambhala in the southern valleys of Siberia. There are even legends of an ancient, forgotten Buddhist temple in the Himalayas that houses the entrance to the divine kingdom. More modern Buddhist scholars believe that Shambhala exists in the highest reaches of the mountain range. 3

This Mongolian illustration dates to the 18th century. It depicts the 25 kings of Shambhala surrounding a meditation deity. (Image source: Public Domain)

Shambhala, Agartha and a hollow Earth

Some theories as to the location of Shambhala state that it does not exist on the surface of the Earth. Rather, it is proposed that the kingdom exists below – deep underground in the Earth’s core.

Until recently, many Westerners referred to Shambhala by a different name – Agartha. While some state that the two place names are not to be confused, others have argued that Shambhala and Agartha are one and the same.

In the early twentieth century, the Polish explorer and university professor, Ferdynand Antoni Ossendowski provided a detailed report of the mythical world. During his travels across Asia, he often heard mention of an advanced kingdom under the Earth. In his 1922 book, Beasts, Men and Gods, he recalled a story told to him by Prince Chultun Beyli and a Buddhist lama.

“More than sixty thousand years ago a Holyman disappeared with a whole tribe of people under the ground and never appeared again on the surface of the earth. Many people, however, have since visited this kingdom […] Yet, no one knows where this place is. One says Afghanistan, others India. All the people there are protected against Evil and crimes do not exist within its [boundaries]. Science has there developed calmly and nothing is threatened with destruction […] This kingdom is Agharti. It extends throughout all the subterranean passages of the whole world. I heard a learned Lama of China relating to Bogdo Khan that all the subterranean caves of America are inhabited by the ancient people who have disappeared underground. Traces of them are still found on the surface of the land. […] You know that in the two greatest oceans of the east and the west there were formerly two continents. They disappeared under the water but their people went into the subterranean kingdom. In underground caves there exists a peculiar light which affords growth to the grains and vegetables and long life without disease to the people.” 4

Has anyone found Shambhala?

Over the centuries, many daring explorers have sought out the legendary kingdom.

One report is said to come from Admiral Richard Byrd, a high ranking officer in the United States Navy who received a medal of honour and was the first man to fly over the South Pole. It is said that he journeyed to Shambhala after discovering an opening to the centre of the Earth in the North Pole. According to Byrd, the Earth is hollow, and shelters within it extensive waterways, green vegetation and an advanced race of beings. 5

Nicholas Roerich and the search for Shambhala

In the 1920s, several expeditions were made in Asia searching for Shambhala. They were led by Nicholas Roerich, a Russian-born artist, archaeologist and philosopher who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his attempts to preserve art and architecture during times of war in the early twentieth century. During his expeditions, he documented many accounts that seemed to corroborate Ossendowiski’s testimonies that such a “mighty heavenly domain” existed.

In addition to gathering testimonies, Roerich himself experienced something bizarre. As he was camping in Shargol Valley near the Mongolian border, he and his son witnessed a golden, spherical object in the sky. In other words, they both witnessed what in the modern day is called a UFO. To the Buddhist lamas at the time, however, the object was not a mystery. The golden sphere was a sign of Shambhala, sent to tell the Russian archaeologist that his expedition was blessed by the lords of the enigmatic kingdom. 6

Strangely, that area of the world is still a hotspot for reports of UFOs. In fact, flying saucers are a common sighting in and around the locations where Shambhala is supposedly thought to be. 7 It is thought by some that such flying machines are the advanced technology of the people of Shambhala.

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Barring the testimonies of Western explorers seeking Shambhala, the divine kingdom is actively spoken of. To Buddhist lamas in particular, Shambhala is real, in both a physical and a spiritual sense. Certainly, Lamas train for many years for the explicit purpose of journeying to Shambhala. In 1985, the fourteenth Dalai Lama offered his thoughts on the mythical kingdom during the Kalachakra initiation in Bodhgaya.

“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.” 8

With descriptions such as this one, perhaps the “pure” and divine land of Shambhala is indeed real, and the reason we do not have many accounts of it is because no one wishes to return once they have found it.

The prophecy of Shambhala

As for whether or not Shambhala is a real place, there is hope of clarification in the future.

Many Buddhists believe that the secrets of Shambhala will be revealed in time. It is prophesied that when all the world is corrupted by materialism, and united under an evil king, Shambhala will reveal itself. After a war, the mystical kingdom will cleanse the Earth of barbarism. Certainly, Hindu texts which mention Shambhala, such as the Vishnu Purana, describe it as the birth place of Kalki – the final incarnation of Vishnu who will usher in a new Golden Age. The year for this occurrence is hotly debated, some say 2424, and others suspect a date as early as 2029. 9

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