In Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Shambhala
(or Shambala) is a mystical kingdom hidden somewhere beyond the snow
peaks of the Himalayas. It is mentioned in various ancient texts
including the Kalachakra and the ancient texts of the Zhang Zhung
culture which pre-dated Tibetan Buddhism in western Tibet. The Bon
scriptures speak of a closely-related land called Olmolungring.
the Buddhist Kalachakra Teachings
The Wheel of Time
Buddha prophesized that all who received
the Kalachakra empowerment would take rebirth in its mandala of
The Kingdom of Shambhala takes a central place in the Kalachakra
teachings. Shambhala (Tib. bde ’byung) is a Sanskrit term meaning
place of peace/tranquility/happiness. Shakyamuni Buddha is said to
have taught the Kalachakra tantra on request of King Suchandra, also
the teachings are said to be preserved there. Shambhala is said to
be a society where all the inhabitants are enlightened, centered
around a capital city called Kalapa. War and injustice are said to
be unknown there, and it is said to be peopled by beautiful women
and men dwelling in magnificent abodes.
Shambhala is ruled over by the Kulika or Kalki (Tib.
Ridgen) King, a
benevolent monarch who upholds the integrity of the Kalachakra
tantra. Religious scholars believe that this figure developed out of
the myth of the Hindu conqueror Kalki, a similar personage. The
Kalachakra prophesizes that when the world declines into war and
greed, and all is lost, the twenty fifty Kalika king will emerge
from Shambhala with a huge army to vanquish the corrupt world rulers
and usher in a worldwide Golden Age. Some scholars put this date at
As with many concepts in Vajrayana Buddhism, the idea of Shambhala
is said to have an ’outer,’ ’inner,’ and ’secret’ meaning. 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. There are various ideas about where this
society is located, but it is often placed in central Asia, north of
Tibet. The inner and secret meanings refer to more subtle
understandings of what Shambhala represents, and are generally
passed on orally.
Fascination with Shambhala
During the nineteenth century, Theosophical Society founder H.P.
Blavatsky alluded to the Shambhala myth, giving it currency for
Western occult enthusiasts. Later esoteric writers further
emphasized and elaborated on the concept of a hidden land inhabited
by a hidden mystic brotherhood whose members labor for the good of
The myths of Shambhala were part of the inspiration for the tale of
Shangri-La told in the popular book Lost Horizon, and thus some
people even refer to Shambhala improperly as if it were a
Shangri-La. Shambhala’s location and nature remains a subject of
much dispute, and several traditions have arisen as to where it is,
or will be, including those that emphasize it as a non-physical
realm that one can approach only through the mind.
Ancient Zhang Zhung texts identify Shambhala with the
in Himachal Pradesh. Mongolians identify Shambala with certain
valleys of southern Siberia. Beginning in the 1960s, various occult
writers have sought to explain the evil of Nazism by suggesting
Adolf Hitler tapped into the malevolent forces of Shambhala when he
sent Ahnenerbe researchers to Tibet to measure Tibetan skulls as
part of his master race justifications. Also known that Josef Stalin
organized an expedition to find Shambala.
Madame Blavatsky, who claimed to be in contact with a Great White
Lodge of Himalayan Adepts, mentions Shambhala in several places
without giving it especially great emphasis. (The Mahatmas, we are
told, are also active around Shigatse and Luxor.) Blavatsky’s
Shambhala, like the headquarters of the Great White Lodge, is a
physical location on our earth, albeit one which can only be
penetrated by a worthy aspirant.
In Buddhism, the
swastika is oriented horizontally
Later esoteric writers like
Alice Bailey (the Arcane School) and the
Roerichs (Agni Yoga) do emphasize Shambhala. Bailey transformed it
into a kind of extradimensional or spiritual reality. The Roerichs
see its existence as both spiritual and physical.
Related "hidden land" speculations
surrounding the underground kingdom of Agartha led some early
twentieth-century occultists to view Shambhala as a source of rather
negative manipulation by an evil (or amoral) conspiracy.
Nevertheless, the predominant theme is one of light and hope, as
evidenced by James Redfield’s and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s
respective books by that name.
In Neo-Nazi mysticism, Shambhala is sometimes supposed to be the
place to which Adolf Hitler fled after the fall of the Third Reich.
Hitler was known to have an interest in the myth of Shambhala and in
"eastern mysticism" generally, from which he appropriated the