Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Search for Shambhala

In a previous post I alluded to my long-standing interest in utopian societies. Over the years this interest inexplicably led me to the legend of Shambhala, also more commonly known as Shangri-La.

I stole the following two definitions from Wikipedia; it had a fairly accurate description of the “place”"

Shambhala 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 of Shambhala; the teachings are also said to be preserved there. Shambhala is believed to be a society where all the inhabitants are enlightened, centered on a capital city called Kalapa.

In Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Shambhala (also spelled Shambala or Shamballa) is a mystical kingdom hidden somewhere beyond the snowpeaks 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 Bön scriptures speak of a closely-related land called Olmolungring.

What is it about Utopia’s and “myths about perfection” that inspire us? Franklin D. Roosevelt named his hidden retreat “Shambhala”. Even the Third Reich, as well as a few modern-day lunatics adopted the ancient “hollow-earth” theory as a means of proving both the validity and secret location of Shambhala (the theory promotes the pseudoscience ideal that the earth is a hollow shell with an interior sun and similar existence within; believers accept that there are at least four entry points to this difficult to reach interior society – these four points are the two poles and two well-hidden locations within the Himalayas and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky).

The 1933 novel, Lost Horizon by James Hilton probably did more to engage me in the legend, than anything else. I believe it was Hilton that actually changed the common name from Shambhala to Shangri-La. I suppose a universal pursuit of the “location” is no different than the search for the Garden of Eden or on-going interest in the Seven Wonders of the World. I know that I have always been intrigued with the idea of the giant mirror used in the Lighthouse of Alexandria; as well as the potential splendor of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Maybe what truly fascinates me is the concept that these initial searches for knowledge could be so fruitful. In essence, these types of legends (and in some cases, subsequent findings) teach us that humanity has always wanted to philosophically improve upon its own existence.

I seem to be constantly imbued with new ideas for stories or novels; rather than writing, I then try to take these notions and form them into narrative paintings. I’ve had theories about Shambhala bouncing around in my mind for years; maybe it will eventually encompass a future series of works. – DN

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You should read for your enjoyment this short and unfinished novel: Mount Analogue by Renee’ Dumal. If you like adventuring for a unimaginable goal. "You cannot stay on the summit forever, you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. What one can no longer see, one can at least still know." ---Renee Dumal "Mount Analogue