Is there really a hidden galaxy of minds living in seclusion in an inaccessible part of Asia, or is it merely a myth? Shambhala, the "Hidden Kingdom," is thought of in Tibet as a community where perfect and semiperfect beings live and are guiding the evolution of humankind. Shambhala is considered to be the source of the Kalacakra, which is the highest and most esoteric branch of Tibetan mysticism. The Buddha preached the teachings of the Kalacakra to an assembly of holy men in southern India. Afterwards, the teachings remained hidden for 1,000 years until an Indian yogi-scholar went in search of Shambhala and was initiated into the teachings by a holy man he met along the way. The Kalacakra then remained in India until it made its way to Tibet in 1026. Since then the concept of Shambhala has been widely known in Tibet, and Tibetans have been studying the Kalacakra for the least 900 years, learning its science, practicing its meditation, and using its system of astrology to guide their lives. As one Tibetan lama put it, how could Shambhala be the source of something which has affected so many areas of Tibetan life for so long and yet not exist?
Tibetan religious texts describe the physical makeup of the hidden land in detail. It is thought to look like and eight-petaled lotus blossom because it is made up of eight regions, each surrounded by a ring of mountains. In the center of the innermost ring lies Kalapa, the capital, and the king’s palace, which is composed of gold, diamonds, coral, and precious gems. The capital is surrounded by mountains made of ice, which shine with a crystalline light. The technology of Shambhala is supposed to be highly advanced; the palace contains special skylights made of lenses which serve as high-powered telescopes to study extraterrestrial life, and for hundreds of years Shambhala’s inhabitants have been using aircraft and cars that shuttle through a network of underground tunnels. On the way to enlightenment, Shambhalans acquire such powers a clairvoyance, the ability to move at great speeds, and the ability to materialize and disappear at will.
The prophecy of Shambhala states that each of its kings will rule for 100 years. There will be 32 in all, and as their reigns pass, conditions in the outside world will deteriorate. Men will become more warlike and pursue power for its own sake, and an ideology of materialism will spread over the earth. When the "barbarians" who follow this ideology are united under an evil king and think there is nothing left to conquer, the mists will lift to reveal the icy mountains of Shambhala. The barbarians will attack Shambhala with a huge army equipped with terrible weapons. Then the 32nd king of Shambhala, Rudra Cakrin, will lead a mighty host against the invaders. In a last great battle, the evil king and his followers will be destroyed.
By definition Shambhala is hidden. It is thought to exist somewhere between the Gobi Desert and the Himalayas, but it is protected by a psychic barrier so that no one can find the kingdom who is not meant to. Tibetan lamas spend a great deal of their lives in spiritual development before attempting the journey to Shambhala. Those who try to get there who are not wanted are swallowed by crevasses or caught in avalanches. People and animals tremble at its borders as if bombarded by invisible rays. There are guidebooks to Shambhala, but they describe the route in terms so vague that only those already initiated into the teachings of the Kalacakra can understand them.
Strange sightings in the area where Shambhala is thought to be seem to provide evidence of its existence. Tibetans believe that the land is guarded by beings with superhuman powers. In the early 1900s an article in an Indian newspaper, the Statesman, told of a British major who, camping in the Himalayas, saw a very tall, lightly clad man with long hair. Apparently, noticing that he was being watched, the man leaped down the vertical slope and disappeared. To the major’s astonishment, the Tibetans with whom he was camping showed no surprise at his story; they calmly explained that he had seen one of the snowmen who guard the sacred land.
A more detailed account of these "snowmen" guardians was given by Alexandra David-Neel, an explorer who spent 14 years in Tibet. While traveling through the Himalayas she saw a man moving with extraordinary speed and described him as follows: "I could clearly see his perfectly calm impassive face and wide-open eyes with their gaze fixed on some invisible distant object situated somewhere high up in space. The man did not run. He seemed to life himself from the ground, proceeding by leaps. It looked as if he had been endowed with the elasticity of a ball, and rebounded each time his feet touched the ground. His steps had the regularity of a pendulum."
While people (especially Tibetan lamas) have been searching for Shambhala for centuries, those who seek the kingdom often never return, either because they have found the hidden country and have remained there or because they have been destroyed in the attempt. Tibetan texts containing what appear to be historical facts about Shambhala, such as the names and dates of its kings and records of corresponding events occurring in the outside world, give Tibetans additional reason for believing that the kingdom exists. Recent events that seem to correspond to the predictions of the mythic kingdom add strength to their belief. The disintegration of Buddhism in Tibet and the growth of materialism throughout the world, coupled with the wars and turmoil of the 20th century, all fit in with the prophecy of Shambhala.