Shambhala: Opening to a Subtle History
From a materialistic viewpoint, it is difficult to understand that the subtle universes are just as real as the one we experience with our physical bodies. Equally real are the entities living in those universes, who can also manifest even here, in our world.
However, some contemporary psychological studies suggest that in the past, human perception was different than it commonly is now. Our range of awareness once included these subtle realities: parallel worlds, subtle entities, gods and goddesses.
Through the Middle Ages, there was still a perception of nature spirits in the West, but in time this faded away. Yet, it is not the reality of these dimensions that was lost, but our openness to them. It is much as the German poet Goethe said: “The world of the gods and hidden spirits of nature is not dead, your hearts are dead.”
One such subtle dimension is Shambhala, a spiritual realm that invisibly directs and supports the evolution of human beings throughout history.
To understand the role of Shambhala, we must step outside a materialistic understanding of time and space.
Shambhala and Tibet
Even as the awareness of subtle dimensions declined in the West, the people of Tibet maintained and cultivated this capacity.
For Tibetans before the Chinese occupation, divinities were just as real as beings from the physical plane. Among these, the dakinis (feminine entities who often have an initiating role for spiritual aspirants) have a special place.
Tibet is a vast, wild, and mysterious land, deeply marked by direct spiritual connection with the world of Shambhala, the enlightened realm which to this day exerts a guiding influence on our planet.
Undoubtedly, there are many secret places, hidden caves, unexplored valleys, and passes in Tibet. The Tibetan tradition abounds in stories of spiritual texts hidden by the ancient masters in such inaccessible areas, as well as legends of great yogis meditating in places with an extraordinary energetic and spiritual charge.
In this landscape, it is not hard to see why many people assume the location of Shambhala to be somewhere in Tibet, even though there is also a hypothesis that Shambhala could be in the Himalayas or Mongolia.
Could Shambhala even exist in this physical plane? Maybe so, if it were a small community of sages, or an isolated spiritual center, such as a monastery—but the traditional descriptions of Shambhala speak of a vast land, inhabited by millions of wise beings.
A Realm beyond Physicality
In these legends, the land of Shambhala is like paradise: welcoming, blessed with a mild climate and abundant fruit trees. We cannot say the same about the Tibetan plateau, the peaks of the Himalayas, or the deserts of Mongolia.
So it appears that although there is a close connection between Tibet in our dimension and the realm of Shambhala, this divine kingdom is not physically located there, or anywhere on our planet as we perceive it.
The fact that it is not located in this physical universe is no reason to discourage those who are inspired to contact Shambhala and receive guidance from the beings there.
Its location in the ethereal plane does not make it less real, and for the sincere spiritual seeker endowed with aspiration and tenacity, the gates of Shambhala are always open.
“If there’s a will, there’s a way.” Spiritual tradition insists that there are several gates to the world of Shambhala in the physical plane, some of them located in Tibet.
Shambhala exists in the ethereal plane, not in the physical world, but this fact does not make it any less real.
Beyond the Conventional Understanding of History
Just as recognizing the existence of Shambhala expands our understanding of reality beyond the physical, it also opens us to a different perception of time and human history.
In the Eastern tradition, history is longer and more complex than what is taught in the West.
If mainstream history recognizes at most a few hundred thousand years of human existence, the perspective of spirituality is almost disturbingly vast, impossible to grasp with a typical mind.
For instance, the religious treatise The Blue Annals, written in the fifteenth century and first translated by George Roerich in 1949, begins with an evocation of the Sakyas, the kinsmen of Lord Buddha.
It mentions that after the last destruction of the universe, previous to our cosmic cycle, another creation occurred. During the first period of this cycle, human lifetimes lasted millions of years.
The Cycle of Four Yugas
The Hindu tradition divides the life of the Universe and planet Earth into precisely calculated cycles of evolution, referring to both universal and human evolution.
Each cycle lasts more than four million years. After a certain number of cycles, humanity disappears, only to manifest again later, according to divine will.
An evolutionary cycle begins with an interval of spiritual flourishing (Satya Yuga, or the Golden Age) followed by a slow spiritual decline.
Passing through two intermediary ages, Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga (the Silver Age and Copper Age, respectively), humanity reaches the so-called Dark Age, Kali Yuga, a period characterized by sharp spiritual decline.
During this Dark Age, moral and spiritual values decline, and the predominant view is materialism. We are in this phase of the cycle, as is almost all recorded history.
Nonetheless, some authentic spiritual traditions still keep records from the Bronze Age, when people could contact the gods and had access to parallel spiritual universes.
The Mayan tradition divides planetary evolution into cosmic cycles as well, and states that the end of each cycle is marked by a catastrophe.
We can find the same solar cycles in the Iranian tradition as well as in many other cultures.
How is it possible that all these global traditions are so alike? Most likely, they were all inspired by the same source, and they assert similar things simply because this is the reality we live in.
From Kali Yuga to the Golden Age
During Satya Yuga, most people incarnated on Earth could contact Shambhala and receive guidance from it, and even had direct access.
Through the process of humanity’s spiritual decay, the possibility of contacting this spiritual realm has diminished. Becoming the privilege of some communities, during Kali Yuga it has gradually turned into a great mystery, reserved for the chosen few.
According to the laws of cyclic evolution, after Kali Yuga follows Satya Yuga, the Golden Age of humanity. This passage from the Dark Age to the Golden Age, from ignorance to spiritual light, brings the return of authentic spiritual and divine values. This process can’t be easy or fastbecause it requires the disappearance of all ignorance.
All spiritual traditions and prophecies place our time at the end of Kali Yuga. Therefore, we are living during a time of great change preceding the Golden Age.
The process of passing from Kali Yuga to Satya Yuga occurs through the people incarnated during this interval.
The prophetic texts of the great spiritual traditions are very precise. They assert that this time period is essential for the future spiritual development of humanity and for how we will pass into the Golden Age.
Shambhala Supports Humanity’s Evolution
The role of Shambhala is to govern planetary evolution and help the people incarnated on Earth during each cycle. It makes sense then that its manifestation varies according to the stage of the cycle of the Yugas.
As a comparison, think of the difference between a kindergarten teacher, a high school teacher, and a university professor.
We shouldn’t imagine that humanity will not need spiritual guidance in Satya Yuga. Just as any person who has not yet attained ultimate spiritual freedom needs direction and guidance, human beings will still need the assistance of Shambhala to evolve.
Shambhala is like a guardian angel sustaining and supporting its protégés on their spiritual path.
Shambhala is not an angelic realm, but this analogy helps us better understand the role and importance of this spiritual realm for our evolution. We may even say that just as God has granted every person a guardian angel, He has also granted our planet this spiritual realm for support and assistance on the difficult path of spiritual transformation.
Find out more about Shambhala in our series of Satsangs with Sahajananda.