Story of Shambhala

Though the story of the mythic land Shambhala as related from the Kālachakra Tantra is well known, I thought to recount a portion of the legend here. What follows is an edited excerpt taken from my translation of the introduction to the Kālachakra empowerment, as it was conferred in Italy a few weeks ago.[1]

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Bestowal of the Kālachakra:

The Buddha Shakyamuni taught this [Kālachakra] system on the 15th day of the black-star month [2nd month according to Kālachakra astrology] at the great and glorious Danyakataka Stupa in South India. At that time, he was surrounded by an unfathomable retinue of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, dakas and dakinis, the 12 great gods and other gods, as well as countless assemblies of naga serpents, yasksha spirits and elemental spirits.

[...] In the northern kingdom of Shambhala, having reached the age of 99, was the emanation of Vajrapani, the Dharma King Suchandra. In a city with the human population of ten million and ninety six, amidst an unfathomable fortunate age, he used his magical powers to transport himself by wheel... then appearing in front of the stupa, King Suchandra made his request.

Inside the stupa, within the space the size of a vase -- was the speech mandala of phenomena's expanse as the base, in the center was the mandala of the vajra expanse, and above was the actual manifestation of the mandala of the glorious lunar mansion. Within this perfect vessel, both the worldly and trans-worldly empowerments were conferred and the the Kālachakra Tantra was delivered...

Prophecy in Shambhala:

King Suchandra then brought these tantras [the Kālachakra as well as others taught on that occasion] back to Shambhala where he later composed an explanatory commentary on the root tantra of the Kalachakra... The root tantra was then taught twice a year in Shambhala’s Malaya Pleasure Grove where a magical display of the enlightened body, speech, and mind mandala of the Kālachakra made of variegated precious jewels was raised 4oo cubits high. This is the Kālachakra palace temple in the capital city of Kalapa.

[Including Suchandra, there were 7 Dharma Kings of Shambhala from the time of the reception of the tantra, and they each reigned for 100 years...] After this period, the son of the Dharma King Sureshana was the first kalkin. He was an emanation of Manjugosha, King Yashas -– who taught the dharma for 100 years. During midnight on his 100th year, he understood the prophesy from the root tantra:

[King Yashas said,] I think that it is time for the 35,000,000 rishi minorities of Brahmin descent who live throughout the 96 districts in the land of Shambhala to now be tamed through the fortune of mantra. If these [rishis] are not subdued, then in the future, I know that their descendants will inevitably become barbarians. However, if they proceed along the path of mantra now, everyone within the 96 districts [of Shambhala] will enter onto the path of mantra. Even through intimidation or expulsion, I know how to retain these rishis.

Later, in the Kālachakra palace temple within the Malaya Pleasure Grove during the 15th day of the 2nd Tibetan month, all of the rishis of the 6 ranks arrived in the district of [the rishi leader] Suryaratha. Then, during the following month, on the 15th day of the black-star month [King Yashas said,] "I will teach the vajrayana to all of you." He then asked Suryaratha to describe to him the different habits that his people enjoyed.

All of the rishis then heard what he said, and they thought: "Some of us eat out of a skull-cup, some of us eat cow meat. All of us rishis enjoy different experiences. To engage in the vajrayana, we will have to abandon what we like and we will each share the same enjoyments." So, all of the rishis were in disagreement and felt displeased, some even collapsed...

Then, King Yashas thought: "All of these rishis are not in agreement about entering the vajrayana."

He then said to them, "I will bestow the empowerment of the Kālachakra so that you can enter this mandala. However, if you don’t listen to me, you can’t stay in these 96 districts [of Shambhala] but instead need to flee elsewhere. If you don’t leave to another land, then after 800 years all of your children and grandchildren will become barbarians. This is when the teachings of the barbarians will be diffused to the 96 districts." As the king said this, the rishis were struck with lightning on their heads.

Suryaratha asked the rishis, "Since we don’t want to enter the vajrayana as King Yashas suggests, isn’t it best that we go to the land of the Aryas [India]?" Likewise, Suryartha then asked this to King Yashas. King Yashas replied, "Yes, you should all quickly leave the land of Shambhala! When you leave, the various ethnicities of the 96 districts will then be able to realize the perfect path." The king then sternly expelled the rishis from the capital city of Kalapa.

They headed in the southern direction for 10 nights, and on the 10th night, they arrived in an enormous dark jungle. They all found it difficult to sleep as they were under the pressure from the blessings [being pressed by King Yashas]. Then through his command to the non-human beings, the non-humans carried the rishis while they were still asleep until they arrived in front of the mandala palace in the Malaya Pleasure Grove where they were awoken. They then saw King Yashas there in the Malaya Pleasure Grove and thought, "How wondrous!" and they said to him, "We have arrived."

The king’s minister Sagaramati then heard what they said, and he replied to all the rishis, "Suryaratha and all of you rishis, you did not make this amazing act happen. For the sake of accepting all of you, this occurred through King Yashas' inconceivable enlightened qualities. Since you are of the same nature as the emanation of the Buddha, please make supplications to the king so that he may confer the empowerment of the Kalachakra."

The rishis then awoken their devotion in the dharma teachings of the vajrayana. The Brahmin rishis along with Suryaratha then made mandala offerings of precious gems, and prostrated with devotion towards King Yashas. They then said, "Even though we have committed the five inexpiable acts, in this one lifetime, may we realize the great symbolic seal – mahamudra – and be showed the way to primordial buddhahood. Please teach us the root tantra as it is condensed into its abbreviated form..."

Then on the 15th day of the black-star month, the ruler Yashas bestowed the empowerment of the primordial Buddha [Kālachakra] for all of the rishi minorities of Brahmin descent for them to enter the mandala of pristine wisdom.

[...] Then, the entire dimension [of Shambhala], and everyone in the 96 districts including the Brahmins, made offerings and embraced the dharma. The four ethnicities who had embraced the outsider [non-Buddhist] philosophical systems then belonged to the numerous ethnicities who embraced the dharma’s definitive expression, as these various minority groups along with their associated retinues became wisdom-holders of the vajrayana. Without delay, the Dharma Kings then took on the name "rigs ldan" meaning, "the one endowed with the family lineage." Having tamed the four ethnic minorities including the Brahmins, the ruler Yashas had harmonized everyone into the one family of the vajrayana, the adamantine vehicle. By unifying [everyone in Shambhala] into one family of [spiritual] relatives, this inaugurated the Kalkin ["rigs ldan"] lineage, the first of the successive 25 to weild the "wheel of force."



1.Bamda Gelek. Dpal dus kyi 'khor lo'i dbang chen bskur ba'i tshul rab tu gsal bar bkod pa skal bzang 'jug ngogs gsang chen rgya chen rgya mtsho. 'Ba' mda' dge legs gsung 'bum, vol. 13. 'Dzam thang.


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Dear Michael,

Thank you for your reference to this blog. As a Nyingmapa, (who has also studied with the Drikung Kagyu) not much about the Jonang tradition is known to me. Thanks to you it will be possible to educate myself a bit more through this blog. It has been a delight to visit, and returning will definitely be on my list.

Tashi Delek,

Jinpa a.k.a. Eleanor