Thursday, 8 September 2011


Shiva, Parvati and Ganesh
Hmmm... this is a post I forgot to write. I'm going to write it now. The picture is of Mount Kailash, or Gang Rinpoche, as the Tibetans call it. It's a mountain in Tibet, sacred to Tibetan Buddhists, Tibetan Bonpos and Indian Hindus. I remember I met a man in Spiti Valley on the Tibetan border in India, who proudly announced that he had gone to Kailash on  a donkey! Well, this is the residence of Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati. This is the shining jewel of Tibet. Is it Shambhala? No. Not that I know of. So where is Shambhala? Is it a place? Is it state of mind? Both, possibly. A hidden land behind the snow mountains in the North. It could be behind or beyond the Kunlun Mountains, between Mongolia and China. Others say it's in the Altai Mountains in Mongolia. Mongolians used to sing songs about Shambhala,  bout how the King of Shambhala, Rigden Japo and the warriors of Shambhala would come out and spread the light, when the going got really tough in the world. Like right now. So where are they? Are they coming soon? Nicholas Roerich, the amazing ethnographer, painter and writer from Russia, wrote a lot about Shambhala in a book called, of course, Shambhala. He writes in a poetic kind of way about his travels through MOngolia and Tibet, about how one heard stories on the way about the smell of exquisite incense, suddenly appearing out of nowhere in the middle of the desert. About travelling lamas sitting around the fire with his thanka (Tibetan icon painting) of Shambhala on a banner, recounting something. 'He counts the innumerable army of Shambhala. 'He speaks about the unconquerable weapons of these legions.. behind them follows the happiness and prosperity of the countries.' A message for our times? We could do with a bit of help, right? Could it be that there really is a hidden city called Shambhala, where the great sages of all times are just waiting for the right time to come out and do something about what is going on in this world? Or is that a way of just lumping the responsibililty onto something, somewhere fantastical, where imagined benign beings will eventually do all the work we as a human race have failed to do?

Well, I can't get Shambhala out of my head. The whole my my book, 'Pema and the Yak' was, through the wonderful Lama O, a search for Shambhala. From Dharmsala to Spiti Valley, to Ladakh. I asked every lama along the way about Shambhala, and I was always told not to take it literally.

But Tibet is riddled with 'be-lung'. These are hidden, concealed lands. The great Padmasambhava revealed hidden lands. Such as Sikkim. This was once a 'be-lung'. Many Tibetan lamas used these concealed lands to escape from the Chinese in 1959. Only those with realisation could access them. But Namkha Drimed Rinpoche entered these hidden lands on his way out of Tibet in 1959, as did many others. Hidden lands and hilly lands. Hollow lands. We have the same thing here, ourselves. The stray sod lands. The ones we enter and get lost in. A land we are tricked into entering. Like Patrick Kavanagh recounts in the Green Fool.

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