Kingdom of Shambhala

The semester has about four weeks left. From my engineering days, I remember this time as crunch time. I don’t have any final exams, but I do have several papers that coming due. Next Monday I have to turn in a paper on the Shambhala training level one that I went to last weekend. But it’s pretty straightforward: five to seven pages with specific questions to answer.

The first question is What is the kingdom of Shambhala and how is its story relevant for us today?

Here’s my answer:

Shambhala is a mythical kingdom located in the Himalayan Mountains. The exact location of Shambhala has been lost. Some people believe the Kingdom still exists in Tibet, but directions to it are coded in a poetic language.

Other people believe the kingdom disappeared from the Earth to a celestial realm when everyone became Enlightened. According to this legend, the Rigden Kings of Shambhala still watch over earthly affairs and will return to save humanity from destruction.

I’m not saying I believe all this. But I’m not saying I don’t. What does it mean to believe anyhow?

I’m not saying I believe Sauron tricked the Elves, Dwarves, and Men into creating magic rings so he could rule them all, and in the darkness bind them. But I’m not saying I don’t. Check out a blog entry by Jason Pettus about the truth and meaning of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth and other myths.

I’m going to refer to the Kingdom of Shambhala in present tense because it’s more meaningful (and fun) that way.

The legend is that the kingdom was founded by King Dawa Sangpo who recieved advanced tantric teachings (Kalacakra Tantra) from Shakyamuni Buddha. All of the people of Shambhala, not just the rulers, practice meditation and follow the Buddhist path of loving kindness and concern for all beings.

In the Kingdom of Shambhala every persons concern is the good of society. The motivation is to benefit other people, not to satisfy greed or desire. But Shambhala is not uniform Utopian society where everyone thinks and acts the same. In the Kingdom of Shambhala there are power dynamics and conflict. But within the context of conflict the concern is for the good of all society.

When Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche taught about the Kingdom of Shambhala he did so under the name Dorje Dradul of Mukpo, his birth name, his non-religious name. He did this to put emphasis on the non-religious nature of the teaching. In Sacred Path of the Warrior he says:

Over the past seven years, I have been presenting a series of Shambhala teachings ? that use the image of the Shambhala kingdom to represent the ideal of secular enlightenment, that is the possibility of uplifting our personal existence and that of others without the help of any religious outlook. (emphasis mine)

The story of Shambhala is relevant today because it offers a metaphor for society, for how a society might exist, in a secular context. The model brings the power of spiritual community to a secular society which consists of many various religous and non-religious beliefs.

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