The Shadow of the Dalai Lama – Part II – 11. The Shambhala Myth and the west

© Victor & Victoria Trimondi






The spread of the Shambhala myth and the Kalachakra Tantra in the West has a history of its own. It does definitely not first begin with the expulsion of the lamas from Tibet (in 1959) and their diaspora across the whole world, but rather commences at the beginning of the twentieth century in Russia with the religious political activity of an ethnic Buriat by the name of Agvan Dorjiev.


The Shambhala missionary Agvan Dorjiev

Even in his youth, Agvan Dorjiev (1854–1938), who trained as a monk in Tibet, was already a very promising individual. For this reason he was as a young man entrusted with caring for the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. The duties of the Buriat included among other things the ritual cleansing of the body and bedroom of the god-king, which implies quite an intimate degree of contact. Later he was to be at times the closest political adviser of His Holiness.


Dorjiev was convinced that the union of Tibet with Russia would provide the Highlands with an extremely favorable future, and was likewise able to convince the hierarch upon the Lion Throne of the merits of his political vision for a number of years. He thus advanced to the post of Tibetan envoy in St. Petersburg and at the Russian court. His work in the capital was extremely active and varied. In 1898 he had his first audience with Tsar Nicholas II, which was supposed to be followed by others. The Russian government was opening up with greater tolerance towards the Asian minorities among whom the Buriats were also to be counted, and was attempting to integrate them more into the Empire whilst still respecting their religious and cultural autonomy, instead of missionizing them as they had still done at the outset of the 19th century.


Even as a boy, Nicholas II had been fascinated by Tibet and the “yellow pontiff” from Lhasa. The famous explorer, Nikolai Przhevalsky, introduced the 13-year-old Tsarevitch to the history and geopolitics of Central Asia. Przhevalsky described the Dalai Lama as a „powerful Oriental pope with dominion over some 250 million Asiatic souls” and believed that a Russian influence in Tibet would lead to control of the entire continent and that this must be the first goal of Tsarist foreign policy (Schimmelpennink, 1994, p. 16). Prince Esper Esperovich Ukhtomsky, influential at court and deeply impressed by the Buddhist teachings, also dreamed of a greater Asian Empire under the leadership of the “White Tsars”.


Since the end of the 19th century Buddhism had become a real fashion among the Russian high society, comparable only to what is currently happening in Hollywood, where more and more stars profess to the doctrine of the Dalai Lama. It was considered stylish to appeal to Russia’s Asiatic inheritance and to invoke the Mongolian blood which flowed in the veins of every Russian with emotional phrases. The poet, Vladimir Solovjov declaimed, “Pan-Mongolism — this word: barbaric, yes! Yet a sweet sound” (Block, n.d., p. 247).


Agvan Dorjiev


The mysto-political influences upon the court of the Tsar of the naïve demonic village magician, Rasputin, are common knowledge. Yet the power-political intrigues of an intelligent Asian doctor by the name of Peter Badmajev ought to have been of far greater consequence. Like Dorjiev, whom he knew well, he was a Buriat and originally a Buddhist, but he had then converted to Russian Orthodox. His change of faith was never really bought by those around him, who frequented him above all as a mighty shaman that was “supposed to be initiated into all the secrets of Asia” (Golowin, 1977, p. 219).


Badmajev was head of the most famous private hospital in St. Petersburg. There the cabinet lists for the respective members of government were put together under his direction. R. Fülöp-Miller has vividly described the doctor’s power-political activities: “In the course of time medicine and politics, ministerial appointments and 'lotus essences' became more and more mingled, and a fantastic political magic character arose, which emanated from Badmajev’s sanatorium and determined the fate of all Russia. The miracle-working doctor owed this influence especially to his successful medical-political treatment of the Tsar. ... Badmajev’s mixtures, potions, and powders brewed from mysterious herbs from the steppes served not just to remedy patient’s metabolic disturbances; anyone who took these medicaments ensured himself an important office in the state at the same time” (Fülöp-Miller, 1927, pp. 112, 148). For this “wise and crafty Asian” too, the guiding idea was the establishment of an Asian empire with the “White Tsar” at its helm.


In this overheated pro-Asian climate, Dorjiev believed, probably somewhat rashly, that the Tsar had a genuine personal interest in being initiated into the secrets of Buddhism. The Buriat’s goal was to establish a mchod-yon relationship between Nicholas II and the god-king from Lhasa, that is, Russian state patronage of Lamaism. Hence a trip to Russia by the Dalai Lama was prepared which, however, never eventuated.


Bolshevik Buddhism

One would think that Dorjiev had a compassionate heart for the tragic fate of the Tsarist family. At least, Nicholas II had supported him and the Thirteenth Dalai Lama had even declared the Russian heir to the throne to be a Bodhisattva because a number of attempts to give him a Christian baptism mysteriously failed. At Dorjiev’s behest, pictures of the Romanovs adorned the Buddhist temple in St. Petersburg.


Hence, it is extremely surprising that the Buriat greeted the Russian October Revolution and the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks with great emotion. What stood behind this about-face, a change of attitude or understandable opportunism? More likely the former, then at the outset of the twenties Dorjiev, along with many famous Russian orientalists, was convinced that Communism and Buddhism were compatible. He publicly proclaimed that the teaching of Shakyamuni was an “atheistic religion” and that it would be wrong to describe it as “unscientific”. Men in his immediate neighborhood even went so far as to celebrate the historical Buddha as the original founder of Communism and to glorify Lenin as an incarnation of the Enlightened One. There are reliable rumors that Dorjiev and Lenin had met.


Initially the Bolsheviks appreciated such currying of favor and made use of it to win Buddhist Russians over to their ideas. Already in 1919, the second year of the Revolution, an exhibition of Buddhist art was permitted and encouraged amidst extreme social turmoil. The teachings of Shakyamuni lived through a golden era, lectures about the Sutras were held, numerous Buddhist books were published, contacts were established with Mongolian and Tibetan scholars. Even the ideas of pan-Mongolism were reawakened and people began to dream of blood-filled scenes. In the same year, in his famous poem of hate Die Skythen [The Scythians], Alexander Block prophesied the fall of Europe through the combined assault of the Russians and the Mongolians. In it we can read that


We shall see through the slits of our eyes

How the Huns fight over your flesh,

How your cities collapse

And your horses graze between the ruins.

(Block, n.d., p. 249)


Even the Soviet Union’s highest-ranking cultural official of the time, Anatoli Vassilievich Lunacharski, praised Asia as a pure source of inexhaustible reserves of strength: “We need the Revolution to toss aside the power of the bourgeoisie and the power of rationality at the same time so as to regain the great power of elementary life, so as to dissolve the world in the real music of intense being. We respect and honor Asia as an area which until now draws its life energy from exactly these right sources and which is not poisoned by European reason” (Trotzkij, 1968, p. 55).


Yet the Buddhist, pan-Asian El Dorado of Leningrad transformed itself in 1929 into a hell, as the Stalinist secret service began with a campaign to eradicate all religious currents. Some years later Dorjiev was arrested as a counterrevolutionary and then put on trial for treason and terrorism. On January 29, 1938 the “friend of the Dalai Lama” died in a prison hospital.


The Kalachakra temple in St. Petersburg

There is a simple reason for Dorjiev’s enthusiasm for Russia. He was convinced that the Kalachakra system and the Shambhala myth had their origins in the Empire of the Tsar and would return via it. In 1901 the Buriat had received initiations into the Time Tantra from the Ninth Panchen Lama which were supposed to have been of central significance for his future vision. Ekai Kawaguchi, a Buddhist monk from Japan who visited Tibet at the turn of the last century, claims to have heard of a pamphlet in which Dorjiev wrote “Shambhala was Russia. The Emperor, moreover, was an incarnation of Tsongkhapa, and would sooner or later subdue the whole world and found a gigantic Buddhist empire” (Snelling, 1993, p. 79). Although it is not certain whether the lama really did write this document, it fits in with his religious-political ideas. Additionally, the historians are agreed: “In my opinion,” W.A. Unkrig writes, “the religiously-based purpose of Agvan Dorjiev was the foundation of a Lamaist-oriented kingdom of the Tibetans and Mongols as a theocracy under the Dalai Lama ... [and] under the protection of Tsarist Russia ... In addition, among the Lamaists there existed the religiously grounded hope for help from a ‘Messianic Kingdom’ in the North ... called 'Northern Shambhala’” (quoted by Snelling, 1993, p. 79).


At the center of Dorjiev’s activities in Russia stood the construction of a three-dimensional mandala — the Buddhist temple in St. Petersburg. The shrine was dedicated to the Kalachakra deity. The Dalai Lama’s envoy succeeded in bringing together a respectable number of prominent Russians who approved of and supported the project. The architects came from the West. A painter by the name of Nicholas Roerich, who later became a fanatic propagandist for Kalachakra doctrine, produced the designs for the stained-glass windows. Work commenced in 1909. In the central hall various main gods from the Tibetan pantheon were represented with statues and pictures, including among others Dorjiev’s wrathful initiation deity, Vajrabhairava. Regarding the décor, it is perhaps also of interest that there was a swastika motif which the Bolsheviks knocked out during the Second World War. There was sufficient room for several lamas, who looked after the ritual life, to live on the grounds. Dorjiev had originally intended to triple the staffing and to construct not just a temple but also a whole monastery. This was prevented, however, by the intervention of the Russian Orthodox Church.


The inauguration took place in 1915, an important social event with numerous figures from public life and the official representatives of various Asian countries. The Dalai Lama sent a powerful delegation, “to represent the Buddhist Papacy and assist the Tibetan Envoy Dorjiev” (Snelling, 1993, p. 159). Nicholas II had already viewed the Kalachakra temple privately together with members of his family several days before the official occasion.


Agvan Dorzhiev in the Kalachakra temple of St. Petersburg


Officially, the shrine was declared to be a place for the needs of the Buriat and Kalmyk minorities in the capital. With regard to its occult functions it was undoubtedly a tantric mandala with which the Kalachakra system was to be transplanted into the West. Then, as we have already explained, from the lamas’ traditional point of view founding a temple is seen as an act of spiritual occupation of a territory. The legends about the construction of first Buddhist monastery (Samye) on Tibetan soil show that it is a matter of a symbolic deed with which the victory of Buddhism over the native gods (or demons) is celebrated. Such sacred buildings as the Kalachakra temple in St. Petersburg are cosmograms which are — in their own way of seeing things — employed by the lamas as magic seals in order to spiritually subjugate countries and peoples. It is in this sense that the Italian, Fosco Maraini, has also described the monasteries in his poetic travelogue about Tibet as “factories of a holy technology or laboratories of spiritual science” (Maraini, 1952, p. 172). In our opinion this approximates very closely the Lamaist self-concept. Perhaps it is also the reason why the Bolsheviks later housed an evolutionary technology laboratory in the confiscated Kalachakra shrine of St. Petersburg and performed genetic experiments before the eyes of the tantric terror gods.


The temple was first returned to the Buddhists in June 1991. In the same year, a few days before his own death, the English expert on Buddhism, John Snelling, completed his biography of the god-king’s Buriat envoy. In it he poses the following possibility: “Who knows then but what I call Dorjiev's Shambhala Project for a great Buddhist confederation stretching from Tibet to Siberia, but now with connections across to Western Europe and even internationally, may well become a very real possibility” (Snelling, 1993, xii). Here, Snelling can only mean the explosive spread of Tantric Buddhism across the whole world.


If we take account of the changes that time brings with it, then today the Kalachakra temple in Petersburg would be comparable with the Tibet House in New York. Both institutions function(ed) as semi-occult centers outwardly disguised as cultural institutions. In both instances the spread of the Kalachakra idea is/was central as well. But there is also a much closer connection: Robert Alexander Farrar Thurman, the founder and current leader of the Tibet House, went to Dharamsala at the beginning of the sixties. There he was ordained by the Dalai Lama in person. Subsequently, the Kalmyk, Geshe Wangyal (1901-1983), was appointed to teach the American, who today proclaims that he shall experience the Buddhization of the USA in this lifetime. Thurman thus received his tantric initiations from Wangyal.


This guru lineage establishes a direct connection to Agvan Dorjiev. Namely, that as a 19-year-old novice Lama Wangyal accompanied the Buriat to St. Petersburg and was initiated by him. Thus, Robert Thurman’s “line guru” is, via Wangyal, the old master Dorjiev. Dorjiev — Wangyal — Thurman form a chain of initiations. From a tantric viewpoint the spirit of the master live on in the figure of the pupil. It can thus be assumed that as Dorjiev’s “successor” Thurman represents an emanation of the extremely aggressive protective deity, Vajrabhairava, who had incarnated himself in the Buriat. At any rate, Thurman has to be associated with Dorjiev’s global Shambhala utopia. His close interconnection with the Kalachakra Tantra is additionally a result of his spending several months in Dharamsala under the supervision of Namgyal monks, who are specialized in the time doctrine.


Madame Blavatsky and the Shambhala myth


Yet, as the real pioneering deed in the spread of the Shambhala myth in the West we have to present the life and work of a woman. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–1891), the influential founder of Theosophy, possibly contributed more to the globalization of a warlike Buddhism than she was aware of. The noble-born Russian is supposed to have already been a gifted medium as a child. After an adventurous life (among other things she worked as a rider in a circus) her spiritual career as such began in the 1870s in the USA. At first she tried her hand at all kinds of spiritualist séances. Then she wrote her first occult book, later world famous, Isis Unveiled (first published in 1875). As the title reveals, at this stage she oriented herself to secret Egyptian teachings. There is almost no trace of Buddhist thought to be found in this work. In 1879 together with her most loyal follower, Colonel Henry Steele Olcott, Blavatsky made a journey to Bombay and to the teachings of Buddha Gautama. There too, the doctrine of the “great White Brotherhood of Tibet” and the mysterious spiritual masters who determine the fate of humanity was invented, or rather, in Blavatsky’s terms, “received” from the higher realms.


Tibet, which, her own claims to the contrary, she had probably never visited, was a grand obsession for the occultist. She liked to describe her own facial characteristics as “Kalmyk-Buddhist-Tatar”. Even though her esoteric system is syncretized out of all religions, since her work on the Secret Doctrine Tibetan/Tantric Buddhism takes pride of place among them.


A detailed comparison of the later work of the Theosophist with the Shambhala myth and the Kalachakra Tantra would reveal astounding similarities. Admittedly she only knew the Time Tantra from the brief comments of the first western Tibetologist, the Hungarian, Csoma de Körös, but her writings are permeated by the same spirit which also animates the “Highest Tantra of all”. The mystic Secret Book of Dzyan, which the Russian claimed to have “received” from a Tibetan master and which she wrote her Secret Doctrine as a commentary upon, is central to her doctrine. It is supposed to be the first volume of the 21 Books of Kiu te, in which all the esoteric doctrines of our universe are encoded according to Blavatsky. What are we dealing with here? The historian David Reigle suspects that by the mysterious Books of Kiu te she means the tantra section of the Tibetan Tanjur and Kanjur, the officially codified Tibetan collections of Buddhist doctrinal writings, about which only little was known at the time. But this is not certain. There is also supposed to be a Tibetan tradition which claims that the Books of Kiu te were all to be found in the kingdom of Shambhala (Reigle, 1983, p. 3). Following such opinions Madame Blavatsky’s secret directions would have been drawn directly from the kingdom.


In her philosophy the ADI BUDDHA system is of central importance, and likewise the fivefold group of the Dhyani (or meditation) Buddhas and the glorification of Amitabha as the supreme god of light, whom she compares with the “Ancient of Days” of the Jewish Cabala. Astutely, she recognizes the Chinese goddess Guanyin as the “genius of water” (Spierenburg, 1991, p. 13). But as “mother, wife, and daughter” she is subordinate to the “First Word”, the Tibetan fire god Avalokiteshvara. The result is — as in the Kalachakra Tantra — an obsessive solar and fire cult. Her fire worship exhibits an original development in the principal deity of our age, Fohat by name. Among other things he is said to emanate in all forms of electricity.


Madame Blavatsky was not informed about the sexual magic practices in the tantras. She herself supported sexual abstinence as “occult hygiene of mind and body” (Meade, 1987, p. 398). She claimed to be a virgin all her life, but a report from her doctors reveals this was not the truth. “To Hades with the sex love!”, she cursed, “It is a beastly appetite that should be starved into submission” (Symonds, 1959, p. 64). When the sexes first appeared — we learn from the Secret Book of Dzyan — they brought disaster to the world. The decline into the material began with a sexual indiscretion of the gods: “They took wives fair to look upon. Wives from the mindless, the narrow-headed. … Then the third eye acted no longer” (Blavatsky, 1888, vol. 2, p. 13).


Blavatsky was probably convinced that her female body was being borrowed by a male Tibetan yogi. At any rate her closest co-worker, Henry Steele Olcott, who so admired her works that he could not believe they could be the work of a woman, suspected this. Hence, thinking of Madame, he asked an Indian guru, “But can the atman [higher self] of a yogi be transferred into the body of a woman?”. The Indian replied, “He can clothe his soul in her physical form with as much ease as he can put on a woman's dress. In every physical aspect and relation he would then be like a woman; internally he would remain himself” (Symonds, 1959, p. 142). As in the Kalachakra Tantra, androgyny is also considered the supreme goal along the path to enlightenment in Theosophy. The gods are simultaneously “male-female”. Their bisexuality is concentrated in the figure of Avalokiteshvara, the cosmic Adam.


Through her equation of the ADI BUDDHA with the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara Madame Blavatsky clears the way for a cosmologization of the latter’s earthly embodiment, the Dalai Lama. For her, the Bodhisattva is “the powerful and all-seeing”, the “savior of humanity” and we learn that as “the most perfect Buddha” he will incarnate in the Dalai Lama or the Panchen Lama in order to redeem the whole world (Blavatsky, 1888, vol. 2, p. 178).


As in the Shambhala myth, the Russian presumes that a secret world government exists, whose members, the Mahatmas, were brought together in an esoteric society in the 14th century by the founder of the Gelugpa order, Tsongkhapa. The “White Brotherhood”, as this secret federation is known, still exists in Tibet, even if hidden from view, and influences the fate of humanity. It consists of superhumans who watch over the evolution of the citizens of the earth.


Likewise, the catastrophic destruction of the old eon and the creation of a new paradisiacal realm are part of the Theosophical world view. Here, Blavatsky quotes the same Indian source from which the Kalachakra Tantra is also nourished, the Vishnu Purana. There it says of the doomsday ruler that, “He ... shall descend on Earth as an outstanding Brahman from Shambhala ... endowed with the eight superhuman faculties. Through his irresistible power he will ... destroy all whose hearts have been relinquished to evil. He will re-establish righteousness on earth” (Blavatsky, 1888, vol. 1, p. 378).


Of course, the Russian was able to read much into the Tibetan Buddhist doctrine, since in her time only a few of the original texts had been translated into a western language. But it is definitely wrong to dismiss her numerous theses as pure fantasy, as her speculative world brings her closer to the imagination and occult ambience of Lamaism than some philologically accurate translations of Sanskrit writings. With an unerring instinct and a visionary mastery she discovered many of the ideas and forces which are at work in the tantric teachings. In that she attained these insights more through intuition and mediumism than through scientific research, she can be regarded as the semi-aware instrument of a Buddhist-Tibetan world conquest. At any rate, of all the western “believers in Tibet” she contributed the most to the spread of the idea of the Land of Snows as a unfathomable mystery. Without the occult veil which Madame Blavatsky cast over Tibet and its clergy, Tantric Buddhism would only be half as attractive in the West. The Fourteenth Dalai Lama is also aware of the great importance of such female allies and has hence frequently praised Blavatsky’s pioneering work.


Nicholas Roerich and the Kalachakra Tantra

A further two individuals who won the most respect for the Shambhala myth in the West before the flight of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, were also Russians, Nicholas Roerich (1874–1947) and his wife Helena Ivanovna (1879–1955). Roerich was a lifelong painter, influenced by the late art nouveau movement. He believed himself to be a reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci. Via his paintings, of which the majority featured Asian subjects, especially the mountainous landscapes of the Himalayas, he attempted to spread his religious message. He became interested in the ideas of Theosophy very early on; his wife translated Madame Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine into Russian. The occultist led him to Buddhism, which was as we have said en vogue in the society of St. Petersburg at the time. We have already briefly encountered him as a designer of Agvan Dorjiev’s Kalachakra temple. He was a close friend of the Buriat. In contrast, he hated Albert Grünwedel and regarded his work with deep mistrust. Between the years of 1924 and 1928 he wandered throughout Central Asia in search of the kingdom of  Shambhala and subsequently published a travel diary.


In 1929 he began a very successful international action, the Roerich Banner of Peace and the Peace Pact, in which warring nations were supposed to commit themselves to protecting each other’s cultural assets from destruction. In the White House in 1935 the Roerich Pact was signed by 21 nations in the presence of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The migrant Russian succeeded in gaining constant access to circles of government, especially since the American agricultural minister, Henry Wallace, had adopted him as his guru. In 1947 the painter died in the Himalayan foothills of northern India.


With great zeal his wife continued her husband’s religious work up until the nineteen-fifties. Helena Ivanovna had from the outset actively participated in the formation of her husband’s ideas. Above all it is to her that we owe the numerous writings about Agni Yoga, the core of their mutual teachings. Roerich saw her as something like his shakti, and openly admitted to her contribution to the development of his vision. He said in one statement that in his understanding of the world “the duty of the woman [is] to lead her male partner to the highest and most beautiful, and then to inspire him to open himself up to the higher world of the spirit and to import both valuable and beautiful aspects and ethical and social ones into life” (Augustat, 1993, p. 50). In his otherwise Indian Buddhist doctrinal system there was a revering of the “mother the world” that probably came from the Russian Orthodox Church.


Roerich first learned about the Kalachakra Tantra from Agvan Dorjiev during his work on the temple in St. Petersburg. Later, in Darjeeling, he had contact to the lama Ngawang Kalzang, who was also the teacher of the German, Lama Govinda, and was well versed in the time teachings. It is, however, most unlikely that Roerich received specific initiations from him or others, as his statements about the Kalachakra Tantra do not display a great deal of expertise. Perhaps it was precisely because of this that he saw in it the “happy news “ of the new eon to come. He thus took up exactly the opposite position to his contemporary and acquaintance, Albert Grünwedel, who fanatically denounced the supreme Buddhist doctrinal system as a work of the devil. “Kalachakra”, Roerich wrote, “is the doctrine which is attributed to the numerous rulers of Shambhala. ... But in reality this doctrine is the great revelation brought to humankind ... by the lords of fire, the sons of reason who are and were the lords of Shambhala” (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, pp. 79, 81).


According to Roerich, the “fiery doctrine was covered in dust “ up until the twentieth century. (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 122). But now the time had come in which it would spread all over the world. As far as their essential core was concerned, all other religions were supposed to be included in the Time Tantra already: “There are now so many teachers — so different and so hostile to one another; and nonetheless so many speak of the One, and the Kalachakra expresses this One”, the Russian has a Tibetan lama say. “One of your priests once asked me: Are the Cabala and Shambhala not parts of the one teaching? He asked: Is the great Moses not a initiate of the same doctrine and a servant of its laws?” (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 78).


Agni yoga

For Roerich and his wife the Time Tantra contains a sparkling fire philosophy: „This Teaching of Kalachakra, this utilization of the primary energy, has been called the Teaching of Fire. The Hindu peoples know the great Agni — ancient teaching though it be, it shall be the new teaching for the New Era. We must think of the future; and in the teaching of Kalachakra we know there lies all the material  which may be applied for greatest use. […] Kalachakra is the Teaching ascribed to the various Lords of Shambhala […] But in reality this Teaching is the Great Revelation brought to humanity at the dawn of its conscious evolution in the third race of the fourth cycle of Earth by the Lords of Fire, the Sons of reason who were an are the Lords of Shambhala” (Reigle, 1986, p. 38). The interpretation which the Russian couple give to the Kalachakra Tantra in their numerous publications may be described without any exaggeration as a “pyromaniac obsession”. For them, fire becomes an autocratic primary substance that dissolves all in its flames. It functions as the sole creative universal principle. All the other elements, out of the various admixtures of which the variety of  life arises, disappear in the flaming process of creation: “Do not seek the creative fire in the inertia of earth, in the seething waves of water, in the storms of the air (H. I. Roerich, 1980, vol. I, p. 5). Keep away from the other “elements” as “they do not love fire” (H. I. Roerich, 1980, vol. I, p. 7). Only the “fiery world” brings blessing. Everyone carries the “sparks of the fiery world in their hearts” (H. I. Roerich, 1980, vol. II, p. 8). This announces itself through “fiery signs”. “Rainbow flames” confirm the endeavors of the spirit. But only after a “baptism of fire” do all the righteous proceed with “flaming hearts” to the “empire of the fiery world” in which there are no shadows. They are welcomed by “fire angels”. “The luminosity of every part of the fiery world generates an everlasting radiance” (H. I. Roerich, 1980, vol. II, p. 8). The “song of fire sounds like the music of the spheres” (H. I. Roerich, 1980, vol. II, p. 8). At the center of this world lies the “supreme fire”. Since the small and the large cosmos are one, the “fiery chakras” of the individual humans correspond to “the fiery structures of space” (H. I. Roerich, 1980, vol. I, p. 240).


This fire cult is supposed to be ancient and in the dim and distant past its shrines already stood in the Himalayas: „Beyond the Kanchenjunga are old menhirs of the great sun cult. Beyond the Kanchenjunga is the birthplace of the sacred Swastika, sign of fire. Now in the day of Agni Yoga, the element of fire is again entering the spirit.” (N. Roerich, 1985, p. 36, 37). Madame Blavatsky’s above-mentioned god of electricity, Fohat, is also highly honored by the Roerichs.


The Roerichs’ fiery philosophy is put into practice through a particular sacred system which is called Agni Yoga. We were unable to determine the degree to which it follows the traditions of the already described Sadanga Yoga, practiced in the Kalachakra Tantra. Agni Yoga gives the impression that is conducted more ethically and with feelings than technically and with method. Admittedly the Roerich texts also talk of an unchaining of the kundalini (fire serpent), but nowhere is there discussion of sexual practices. In contrast -the philosophy of the two Russians requires strict abstinence and is antagonistic to everything erotic.


In 1920 the first Agni Yoga group was founded by the married couple. The teachings, we learn, come from the East , indeed direct from the mythical kingdom: „And Asia when she speaks the Blessed Shambhala, about Agni Yoga, about the Teaching of Flame, knows that the holy spirit of flame can unite the human hearts in a resplendent evolution” (N. Roerich, 1985, p. 294). Agni Yoga is supposed to join the great world religions together and serve as a common basis for them.


With great regret the Roerichs discover that the people do not listen to the “fiery tongues” that speak to them and want to initiate them into the secrets of the flames. They appropriated only the external appearances of the force of fire, like electricity, and otherwise feared the element. Yet the “space fire demands revelation” and whoever closes out its voice will perish in the flames (H. I. Roerich, 1980, p. 30).


Even if it is predicted in the cosmic plan, the destruction of all dark and ignorant powers does not happen by itself. It needs to be accelerated by the forces of good. It is a matter of victory and defeat, of heroic courage and sacrificial death. Here is the moment in which the figure of the Shambhala warriors steps into the plan and battles with the inexorably advancing Evil which wants to extinguish Holy Flame: “They shall come — the extinguishers; they shall come — the destroyers; they shall come — the powers of darkness. Corrosion that has already begun cannot be checked” (H. I. Roerich, 1980, vol. I, p. 124).



We hear from Helena Ivanova Roerich that “the term Shambhala truly is inseparably linked to fiery apparitions” (H. I. Roerich, 1980, vol. I, p. 26). “Fire signs introduce the epoch of Shambhala”, writes her spouse (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 29). It is not surprising that the Russian visionaries imagined the temple of Shambhala as an “alchemic laboratory”, then a fire oven, the athanor, also stood at the heart of the hermetic art, as western alchemy was known.


The couple consider Shambhala, the “city of happiness”, to be the “geographic residence or workplace of the brotherhood and seat of the interplanetary government in the trans-Himalaya” (Augustat, 1993, p. 153). In an official fundamental declaration of the two it says: “The brotherhood is the spiritual union of highly developed entities from other planets or hierarchs, which as a cosmic institution is responsible to a higher institution for the entire evolution of the planet Earth. The interplanetary government consists of cosmic offices, which are occupied by the hierarch depending on the task and the age” (Augustat, 1993, p. 149). The Mahatmas, as these hierarchs are called in reference to Madame Blavatsky, have practical political power interests and are in direct contact with certain heads of state of our world, even if the ordinary mortals have no inkling of this.


Then it is impossible for normal humans to discover the main lodge of the secret society: “How can one find the way to our laboratories? Without being called no-one will get to us”, Roerich proclaims (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 9). From there the Mahatmas coordinate an army of in part paid agents, who operate here on Earth in the name of the hidden kingdom. In the meantime the whole planet is covered by a net of members, assistants, contacts, and spies of the “international government” who are only waiting for the sign from their command center in Shambhala in order to step into the light and reveal themselves to humanity.


Likewise, the activities and resolutions of the “invisible international government” are all but impenetrable for an outsider. There is a law which states that each earthly nation will only be visited and “warned” by an envoy from Shambhala once in a century. An exception was probably made during the French Revolution, then “hierarchs” like the Comte de Saint Germain for example were extremely active at this troubled time. Sadly he died in the year 1784 “as a result of the undisciplined thinking of one of his assistants”. (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 117). The dissolute life of his sadhaka (pupil), Cagliostro, was probably to blame for his not being able to participate in the great events of 1789 (the storming of the Bastille).


According to Roerich the members of the government of Shambhala have the ability to telepathically penetrate into the consciousness of the citizens of Earth without them realizing where particular ideas come from: “Like arrows the transmissions of the community bore into the brains of humanity” (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 10). Sometimes this takes place using apparatuses especially constructed for this purpose. But they are not permitted to openly reveal their amazing magical abilities: “Who can exist without food? Who can get by without sleep? Who is immune to heat and cold? Who can heal wounds? Truly only one who has studied Kalachakra” (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 77).


Tableau of N. Roerich: Rudra Chakrin (Rigden Djapo), the king of Shambhala,

crusading against mlecca people, the enemies of Buddhism. Detail (Zanabazar Art

Museum, Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia) Rudra Chakrin is eating the heart of his enemy.


For the Russian couple all the interventions of the governing yogi caste have just one goal, to prepare for the coming of the future Buddha Maitreya Morya or Rigden-jyepo, who shall then make all important decisions. According to the Roerichs both names are synonyms for the Rudra Chakrin, the “wrathful wheel turner” and doomsday ruler of the Kalachakra Tantra. We thus await a fairytale oriental despot who cares about his subjects: “Just like a diamond the light shines from the tower of Shambhala. He is there — Rigden-jyepo, untiring, ever watchful for the sake of humanity. His eyes never close. In his magic mirror he sees everything which happens on Earth. And the power of his thoughts penetrates through to the distant countries. ... His immeasurable riches lay waiting to help all the needy who offer to serve the cause of uprightness” (Augustat, 1993, p. 11).


In passing, this doomsday emperor from Shambhala also reveals himself to be the western king of the Holy Grail, who holds the Holy Stone in his hands and who emigrated to Tibet under cover centuries ago. He is returning now, messengers announce him. True Knights of the Holy Grail are already incarnated on Earth, unrecognized . The followers of the Roerichs even believe that their master himself protected the grail for a time and then returned it to Shambhala on his trip to Asia (Augustat, 1993, p. 114).


Apocalypse now

"Why do clouds gather when the Stone [the Grail] becomes dull? If the Stone becomes heavy, blood shall be spilled”, we learn mysteriously (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 88). Behind this secret of the grail lies the apodictic statement known from almost all religions that total war, indeed the destruction of the world, is necessary in order to attain paradise. It is essential because in a good dualist cliché the “brotherhood of Good” is always counterposed by the “brotherhood of Evil”. The “sons of darkness” have succeeded in severing humanity’s connection to the “higher world”, the “bright hierarchy”. The forces of the depths lurk everywhere. Extreme caution is required since an ordinary mortal can barely distinguish the Evil from the Good, and further, “the brotherhood of Evil attempts to imitate the Good’s method of action” (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 126).


The final battle between Light and Darkness is — the Roerichs say- presaged in the prophecies of the ancestors and the writings of the wise and must therefore take place. When natural disasters and crimes begin to pile up on Earth, the warriors from Shambhala will appear. At the head of their army stands the Buddha Maitreya Morya, who “ [combats] the prince of darkness himself. This struggle primarily takes place in the subtle spheres, whereas here [on earth] the ruler of Shambhala operates through his earthly warriors. He himself can only be seen under the most exceptional circumstances and would never appear in a crowd or among the curious. His appearance in fiery form would be disastrous for everybody and everything since his aura is loaded with energies of immense strength” (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 152). It could be thought that this concerned an atomic bomb. At any rate the battle will be conducted with a fire and explosive power which allows of comparison only to the atomic detonations in Hiroshima and Nagasaki:


Fiery the battle

with blazing torches,

Blood red the arrows

against the shining shield

(Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 110)


Thus the armies of Shambhala storm forth. „Space is filled with fire. The lightning of the Kalki avatar [Rudra Chakrin] — the preordained Maitreya — flashes upon the” (N. Roerich, 1985, p. 76). Even if Kalki also goes by the epithet of “Lord of Compassion”, with his enemies he knows no mercy. Accompanied by Gesar, the mythic war hero of the Tibetans, he will storm forward mounted on a “white horse” and with a “comet-like, fiery sword” in his hand. Iron snakes will consume outer space with fire and frenzy (N. Roerich, 1988 p. 12). “The Lord”, we read, “ strikes the people with fire. The same fiery element presides over the Day of Judgment. The purification of evil is performed by fire. Misfortunes are accompanied by fires” (H. I. Roerich, 1980, vol. I, 46).


Those who fight for Shambhala are the precursors of a new race who take control of the universe after Armageddon, after the “wheat has been separated from the chaff” (Augustat,1993, p. 98). That is, to put it plainly, after all the inferior races have been eradicated in a holocaust.


Distribution in the west

As far as the fate of Tibet is concerned, the prophecies that Roerich made at the end of the twenties have in fact been fulfilled: „We must accept it simply, as it is: the fact that the true teaching shall leave Tibet”, he has a lama announce, „and shall again appear in the South. In all countries, the covenants of Buddha shall be manifested. Really, great things are coming.” (N. Roerich, 1985, p. 3) In 1959 the Fourteenth Dalai Lama fled to India in the south and from this point in time onwards Tibetan Buddhism began to be spread all around the world.


Roerich and his wife saw themselves as agents of Shambhala who were supposed to make contact with those governing our world in order to warn them. They could at any rate appeal to a meeting with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Their followers, however, believe that they were higher up in the hierarchy and that they were incarnated Mahatmas from the kingdom.


In the meantime the Roerich cult is most popular in Eastern Europe, where even before the fall of Communism it had penetrated the highest circles of government. The former Bulgarian Minister for Culture, Ludmilla Shiffkova, daughter of the Communist head of state Todor Shiffkov, was almost fanatically obsessed with the Agni master’s philosophy, so that she planned to introduce his teachings as part of the official school curriculum. For a whole year, cultural policy was conducted under the motto “N. K. Roerich — A cultural world citizen”, and she also organized several overseas exhibitions including works by her spiritual model as well.


Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife also supported numerous Roerich initiatives. In Russia, the renaissance of the visionary painter was heralded for years in advance in elaborate symposia and exhibitions, in order to then fully blossom in the post-Communist era. In Alma Ata in October 1992, a major ecumenical event was organized by the international Roerich groups under the patronage of the president of Kazakhstan, at the geographical gateway, so to speak, behind which the land of Shambhala is widely believed to have once lain. The Fourteenth Dalai Lama hesitated as to whether he ought to visit the Congress before deciding for scheduling reasons to send a telegram of greeting and a high-ranking representative.


The “Shambhala warrior” Chögyam Trungpa

In 1975 the Tibetan, Chögyam Trungpa (1940–1987), gathered several of his western pupils around himself and began to initiate them into a special spiritual discipline which he referred to as “Shambhala Training”. As a thirteen-month-old infant the Rinpoche from the Tibetan province of Kham was recognized as the tenth reincarnation of the Trungpa and accepted into the Kagyupa order. In 1959 he had to flee from the Chinese. In 1963 he traveled to England and studied western philosophy and comparative religion at Oxford. Like no other Tibetan lama of his time, he understood how to make his own contribution to western civilization and culture. As a brilliant rhetorician, poet, and exotic free spirit he soon found numerous enthusiastic listeners and followers. In 1967 he founded the first European tantric monastery in Scotland. He gave it the name and the ground-plan of Samye Ling — in remembrance of the inaugural Tibetan shrine of the same name that Padmasambhava erected at the end of the 8th century despite resistance from countless demons.


In the opinion of Trungpa’s followers the demonic resistance was enormous in Scotland too: In 1969 the young lama was the victim of a serious car accident which left him with a permanent limp. There is an ambiguous anecdote about this unfortunate event. Trungpa had reached a fork in the road in his car — to the right the road led in the direction of his monastery, the road to the left to the house in which his future wife lived. But he continued to drive straight ahead, plowing right into a shop selling magic and joke articles. Nevertheless, his meteoric rise had begun. In 1970 he went to the United States.


Trungpa’s charming and initially anarchic manner, his humor and loyalty, his lack of respect and his laugh magnetically attracted many young people from the sixties generation. They believed that here the sweet but dangerous mixture of the exotic, social critique, free love, mind-expanding drugs, spirituality, political activism and self-discovery, which they had tasted in the revolutionary years of their youth, could be rediscovered. Trungpa’s friendship with the radical beatnik poet Allan Ginsberg and other well-known American poets further enhanced his image as a “wild boy” from the roof of world. Even the first monastery he founded, Samye Ling, was renowned for the permissive “spiritual” parties which were held there and for the liberal sex and drug consumption.


But such excesses are only one side of things. Via the tantric law of inversion Trungpa intended to ultimately transform all this abandon (his own and that of his pupils) into discipline, goodness, and enlightened consciousness. The success of the guru was boundless. Many thousands cam to him as pilgrims. All over America and Europe spiritual centers (dharmadhatus) were created. The Naropa Institute (near Denver, Colorado) was established as a private university, where alongside various Buddhist disciplines fine arts could also be studied.


The Shambhala warrior

Trungpa had told one of his pupils that during deep meditation he was able to espy Shambhala. He also said he had obtained the teachings for the “Shambhala training” directly from the kingdom. The program consists of five levels: 1. The art of being human; 2. Birth of the warrior; 3. Warrior in the world; 4. Awakened heart; 5. Open sky: The big bang. Anyone who had completed all the stages was considered a perfect “Shambhala warrior”. As a spiritual hero he is freed from the repulsiveness which the military trade otherwise implies. His characteristics are kindness, an open heart, dignity, elegance, precision, modesty, attentiveness, fearlessness, equanimity, concentration, and confidence of victory. To be a warrior, one of Trungpa’s pupils writes, irrespective of whether as a man or a woman, means to live honestly, also in regard to fear, doubt, depression, and aggression which comes from outside. To be a warrior does not mean to conduct wars. Rather, to be a warrior means to have the courage to completely fathom oneself (Hayward, 1997, p. 11). This subjectification of the warrior ethos brings with it that the weapons employed first of all represent purely psycho-physical states: controlled breathing, the strict stance, walking upright, clear sight.


The first basic demand of the training is, as in every tantric practice, a state of „egolessness”. This is of great importance in the Shambhala teachings, writes Trungpa. It is impossible to be a warrior if you have not experienced egolessness. Without egolessness, your consciousness is always filled with your ego, your personal plans and intentions (Hayward, 1997, p. 247). Hence the individual ego is not changed through the exercises, rather the pupil tries solely to create an inner emptiness. Through this he allows himself to be transformed into a vessel into which the cult figures of the Tibetan pantheon can flow. According to Trungpa these are called dralas. Translated literally, that means “to climb out over the enemy” or in an further sense, energy, line of force, or “gods”.


The “empty” pupils thus become occupied by tantric deities. As potential “warriors” they naturally attract all possible forms of eager to fight dharmapalas (tutelary gods). Thus a wrathful Tibetan “protector of the faith” steps in to replace the sadhaka and his previous western identity. This personal transformation takes place through a ritual which in Trungpa’s Shambhala tradition is known as “calling the gods”. The supernatural beings are summoned with spells and burning incense. When the thick, sweet-smelling white smoke ascends, the pupils sing a long incantation, which summons the dralas. At the end of the song the warrior pupils circle the smoke in a clockwise direction and constantly emit the victory call of the warrior (Hayward, 1997, p. 275). This latter is “Lha Gyelo — victory to the gods” — the same call which the Dalai Lama cried out as he crossed the Tibetan border on his flight in 1959.


Trungpa was even more fascinated by the ancient national hero, Gesar, whose barbaric daredevilry we have already sketched in detail, than he was by the dharmapalas. The guru recommended the atavistic war hero to his followers as an example to imitate. Time and again he proudly indicated that his family belonged to the belligerent nomadic tribe of the “Mukpo”, from whose ranks Gesar also came. For this reason he ennobled his pupils as the “Mukpo family” and thus proclaimed them to be comrades-in-arms of Gesar. The latter — said Trungpa — would return from Shambhala, “leading an army to conquer the forces of darkness in the world” (Trungpa, 1986, p. 7).


But Trungpa did not just summon up Tibetan dharmapalas and heroes with his magic, rather he also invoked the deceased spirits of an international, on closer examination extremely problematic, warrior caste: the Japanese samurai, the North American plains Indians, the Jewish King David, and the British King Arthur with his round table — all archetypal leading figures who believed that justice could only be achieved with a sword in the hand, who were all absolutely ruthless in creating peace. These “holy warriors” always stood opposed to the “barbarians” of another religion who had to be exterminated. The non-dualist world view which many of the original Buddhist texts so forcefully demand is completely cancelled out in the mythic histories of these warlike models.


Trungpa led his courses under the name of “Dorje Dradul” which means “invincible warrior”. Completely in accord with an atavistic fighter tradition only beasts of prey were accepted as totem animals for his pupils: the snow lion, the tiger, the dragon. Dorje Dradul was especially enthusiastic about the mythic sun bird, the garuda, about its fiery redness, wildness, and its piercing cry commanding the cessation of thought like a lightning bolt (Hayward, 197, p. 251). Garuda is the sun bird par excellence, and since time immemorial the followers of the warrior caste have also been worshippers of  the sun. Thus in the center of Trungpa’s Shambhala mission a solar cult is fostered. But it is not the natural sun which lights up all, but rather the “Great Eastern Sun” which rises at the beginning of a new world era when the Shambhala warriors seize power over the world. It sinks as a mighty cult symbol into the hearts of his pupils: “So, we begin to appreciate the Great Eastern Sun, not as something outside from us, like the sun in the sky, but as the Great Eastern Sun in our head and shoulders, in our face, our hair, our lips, our chest” (Trungpa, 1986, p. 39). Why of all people it was the chairman of the Communist Party of China, Mao Zedong, who was worshipped by the Red Guard as the Great Eastern Sun is a topic to which we shall return.

The basic ideology of the Shambhala program divides the world into two visions: Great Eastern Sun, which corresponds to enlightenment in the Buddhist path, and setting sun, which corresponds to samsara. [...] Great Eastern Sun is cheering up; setting sun is complaining and criticizing. Great Eastern sun ist elegant und rich; setting sun is sloppy and poor. To paraphrase George Orwell: “Great Eastern Sun good, setting sun bad.” (Butterfield, 1994, p. 96).

From anarchy to despotism

Trungpa played brilliantly with the interchangeability of reality and non-reality, even regarding his own person, he was especially a master of the tantric law of inversion. He thus simply declared his excessive alcoholism and his sexual cravings to be the practicing of the tantra path. Whether alcohol is a poison or a medicine depends on one’s own attentiveness. Conscious drinking — that is when the drinker remains self-aware — changes the effect of the alcohol. Here the system is steeled through attentiveness. Alcohol becomes an intelligent protective mechanism. But it has a destructive effect if one abandons oneself to comfort (Hayward, 1997, pp. 306–307). Yet Dorje Dradul was not free of the aggressive moods which normally occur in heavy alcoholics. He thus spread fear and horror through his frequent angry outbursts. But his pupils forgave him everything, proclaimed him a “holy fool” and praised his excesses as the expression of a “crazy wisdom”. They often attempted to emulate his alcoholism: I think there is a message for us in his drinking, Dennis Ann Roberts believed, “I know his drinking has certainly encouraged all of us to drink more” (Boucher, 1985, p. 243). Another pupil enthusiastically wrote: “He's great. I love the fact that he works on his problems the way he does. He doesn't hide it. He drinks, and it's almost killed him. So he is working on it. I find that great” (Boucher, 1985, p. 243).


Similar reasons are offered for his sexual escapades. In 1970 he abandoned his vow of celibacy and married a young British aristocrat. His bride is said to have been thirteen years old in 1969 (Tibetan Review, August 1987, p. 21). In addition he had a considerable number of yoginis, who were obviously uninformed about the andocentric manipulations of Tantrism. There was admittedly a minor rebellion among the female followers when the Karmapa insisted on talking only with the men during his visit to a Trungpa center, but essentially the western karma mudras occupied by Tibetan deities behaved loyally towards their lord and master. A lot of women have been consorts of Rinpoche — one of them tells that “The Tibetans are into passion, they think sexuality is an essential energy to work with. You don't reject it. So it's a whole other perception of sexuality anyway” (Boucher, 1985, p. 244).


Such affirmations of tantric practice by the female pupils are definitely not exceptions and they most clearly testify to the charisma which the tantra master projects. Thus we learn from another of Trungpa’s lovers, “My first meeting with him was a real turn-off. I mean, I didn't want a guru who did things like that. The irony was that I had left my other Tibetan Buddhist teacher partly because he was coming on to me. And I just couldn't handle it. And Rinpoche is very much into alcohol and having girl friends. Now it makes total sense to me” (Boucher, 1985, p. 241).


Chögyam Trungpa has obviously succeeded in keeping his western karma mudras under control. This was much more difficult for the Tibetan Tantric, Gedun Chöpel, who died in 1951. He left behind an amusing estimation of the “women of the west” from the thirties which shows how much has changed in the meantime: “In general a girl of the west is beautiful, splendorous, and more courageous than others. Her behavior is coarse, and her face is like a man's. There is even hair around her mouth. Fearless and terrifying, she can be tamed only by passion. Able to suck the phallus at the time of play, the girl of the west is known to drink regenerative fluid. She does it even with dogs, bulls and any other animals and with father and son, etc. She goes without hesitation with whoever can give the enjoyment of sex” (Chöpel, 1992, p. 163).


Towards the end of his life, Trungpa the “indestructible warrior” moved further and further away from his Hippie past. As the head of his lineage the Karmapa is said to have not been at all pleased to observe the permissive practices in the “wild” guru’s centers. However, in accordance with the tantric “law of inversion”, after a few years the pendulum swung from anarchy to the other pole of despotism and all at once Trungpa abandoned himself to his fascistoid dreams. His protective troops, Dorje Kasung, initially a kind of bodyguard composed of volunteers was transformed within a short period into a paramilitary unit in khaki uniforms. The guru himself put aside his civilian clothing for a time and appeared in high-ranking military dress as a “Shambhala general”. We do not know whether, alongside the warlike ethos of the tantric tradition, the physical handicap which he sustained in his car accident in England did not also trigger his unusual interest in military things as a counter-reaction. At any rate his “military parades” became a fixed part of the Shambhala training.


On other occasions the former “freak” donned a pinstripe suit with a colorful tie and looked like nothing more than an Asian film gangster. Thus he really did play brilliantly through the ambivalent spectrum completely laid out in the tantric repertoire, from poetic anarchist and flower power dancer to saber-rattling dictator and underworld boss. In 1987 the master warrior died and his body was committed to the flames in Vermont (USA).

“’May I shrivel up instantly and rot,’ we vowed, ‘if I ever discuss these theachings with anyone who has not been initiated into them by a qualified master.’ As if this were not enough, Trungpa told us that if we ever tried to leave Vajrayana, we would suffer unbearable, subtle, continuous anguish, and disasters would pursue us like furies. Heresy had real meaning in this religion, and real consequences. Doubting the dharma or the guru and associating with heretics were causes for downfall. In Tibetan literature, breaking faith with the guru must be atoned by such drastic measures as cutting off your arms and offering it at the door of his cave in hopes that he might take you back.” – “To be part of Trungpa’s inner circle, you had to take a vow never to reveal or even discuss some of the things he did. This personal secrecy is common with gurus, especially in Vajrayana Buddhism. It is also common in the dysfunctional family system of alcoholics and sexual abusers. This inner circle secrecy puts up an almost insurmountable barrier of a healthily skeptical mind.” (Butterfield, 1994, p. 11, 100)  Trungpa’s Shambhala Warriors see: and

The inheritance

The immediate inheritance which Trungpa left behind him was catastrophic. Completely in the spirit of his Tibetan guru, the American, Thomas Rich, who succeeded him under the name of “Vajra Regent Ösel Tendzin”, continued the carefree permissiveness of his master with a tantric justification. However, in 1988 there was a scandal from which the organization has not fully recovered to this day. The “Vajra Regent” had been HIV positive for three years and had infected numerous members with the AIDS virus in the meantime. He died in 1991. Trungpa’s son, Sawang Ösel Rangdroel, then took over the leadership.

“From Vajrayana point of view, passion, aggression, and ignorance, the sources of human suffering, are also the well-spring of enlightenment. Afflictions like AIDS are not merely disasters, but accelrations toward wisdom, and opportunities to wake up. They can be transformed into buddha-mind. Trungpa was a Vajra master who had empowered Tendzin to guide students on this path” (Butterfield, 1994, p. 7).

Even if Trungpa’s Shambhala warriors have forfeited quite a deal of their attractiveness in recent years, thousands still revere the master as the “holy fool” and “indestructible warrior”, who brought the “Eastern sun” to the West. For this reason he is said to also be prayed to in the whole of Asia as a great Bodhisattva and Maha Siddha (Hayward, 1997, p. 319). “For ten years he presented the Shambhala Teachings”, summarizes one of his sadhakas, “In terms of time and history, that seems insignificant; however in that short span he set in motion the powerful force of goodness that can actually change the world” (Trungpa, 1986, p. 157). Only rarely does a “deserter” go public, like P. Marin for example, a strong critic of the Naropa Institute, for whom this western Tibetan Buddhist organization is “a feudal, priestly tradition transplanted to a capitalist setting” (quoted by Bishop, 1993, p. 101).


On the other hand it goes without saying that the Tantric Trungpa time and again draws attention to the fact that the warlike figures he invokes are illusionary reflections of the human ego and that even the Shambhala kings are projections of one’s own consciousness. But if everything really can be reduced to forms of consciousness, then it remains totally unclear why it is time and again the phantoms of a destructive black-and-white mode of thought which are summoned up to serve as examples along the personal initiation path. Wouldn’t it make more sense, indeed be more logical, to directly conjure up those “peace gods” who have surmounted such dualist thought patterns? What is the reason for this glorification of an atavistic warrior caste?


It goes without saying that in Trungpa’s system no-one is entitled to even dream of critically examining the dralas (gods). Although only projections of one’s own consciousness according to the doctrine, they are considered sacrosanct. They are pure, good, and exemplary. Since Trungpa’s Shambhala Training unquestioningly incorporates all of the established tantric deities, the entire martial field of Tibetan Buddhism with its entrenched concept of “the enemy” and its repellant daemonic power is adopted by people who naively and obligingly set out to attain personal enlightenment.


We thus have the impression that the pupils of the tantra masters are exposed to a hypnotic suggestion so as to make them believe that their own spiritual development was the agenda whereas they have long since become the pawns of Tibetan occultism in whose unfathomable net of regulations (tantra means ‘net’) they have become entrapped. Once their personal ambitions have been dissolved into nothingness they can be enslaved as the loyal lackeys of a spiritual power politics which no longer sees the “higher self” in the “universal monarch” but rather a real political “wrathful wheel turner” (Rudra Chakrin) who lays waste to the world with his armies from Shambhala so as to then establish a global Buddhocracy.


Other Western Shambhala visions

James Hilton's novella, Lost Horizon, published in 1933, counts among the best-sellers of the last century. It tells of a monastery in the Land of Snows whose name, Shangri-La, is reminiscent of the kingdom of Shambhala. The term has in the meantime become a synonym for leisure, refinement, and taste, at least in the English-speaking world, and is employed by an Asian luxury hotel chain. The idyll described in the book concerns people who had retreated from the hustle and bustle of the modern world to the Himalayas and now devote themselves to exclusively spiritual enjoyments. It is, however, no Tibetan tulku but rather a Catholic missionary who collects together those tired of civilization in a hidden valley in the Land of Snows so as to share with them a study of the fine arts and an extended lifespan. The “monks” from the West do not even need to do without European bathtubs — otherwise unknown in the Tibet of the thirties. The essence of the Shangri- La myth ultimately consists in the transportation of “real” products of European culture and civilization to the “roof of the world”.


The most recent western attempt at spreading the Tibetan myth is Victoria LePage's book, Shambhala. The author presents the secret kingdom as an overarching mystery school, whose high priests are active as “an invisible, scientific and philosophical society which pursues its studies in the majestic isolation of the Himalayas” (LePage, 1996, p. 13). For LePage Shambhala is the esoteric center of all religions, the secret location from which every significant occult, and hence also religious, current of the world has emanated. Esoteric Buddhism, and likewise the ancient Egyptian priestly schools, the Pythagoreans, Sufism, the Knights Templar, alchemy, the Cabala, Freemasonry, Theosophy — yes even the witches cults — all originated here. Accordingly, the Kalachakra Tantra is the overarching “secret doctrine” from which all other mystery doctrines may be derived (LePage, 1996, p. 8).


The mythic kingdom, which is governed by a sun ruler, is to be found in Central Asia, there where the axis of the world, Mount Meru, is also to be sought. This carefree adoption of Buddhist cosmology does not present the author with any difficulties since the axis mundi is said to only be visible to the initiated. In accordance with the mandala principle her Shambhala has distributed numerous copies of itself all over the world — the Pyramids of Giza, the monastery at Athos, Kailash, the holy mountain. Sites of the Grail like Glastonbury and Rennes le Chateau are such “offshoots” of the hidden imperium — likewise only perceivable through initiated eyes. Together they form the acupuncture points of a cosmic body which corresponds to the mystic body of the Kalachakra master (i.e., taken literally, in the energy body of the Dalai Lama). LePage too, sees a great “mystic clock” in the Time Tantra. The segments of this time machine record the cyclical periods of the course of the world. A “hidden directorate”, a mysterious brotherhood of immortal beings in the Himalayas, ensures that the cosmic hours marked on the clockface are adhered to.


The Fourteenth Dalai Lama and the Shambhala myth

LePage's global monopolization of the entire cultic life of our planet by the Kalachakra Tantra could be regarded as an important step in a worldwide Shambhalization plan of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. Nonetheless, the Kundun deliberately prefers to leave such esoteric speculations (which are in no way at odds with his doctrine) to others, best of all “hobby Buddhists” like the author. So as not to lose political respectability, the Kundun keeps his statements about the Shambhala question enigmatic: “Even for me Shambhala remains a puzzling, even paradox country”, the highest Kalachakra master reassures his listeners (Levenson, 1992, p. 305). All that we hear from him concretely is the statement that “the kingdom of Shambhala does indeed exist, but not in the usual sense” (Dalai Lama Fourteenth, 1993a, p. 307).


Can we expect a total world war in circa 300 years in accordance with the prophecy? His Holiness has no doubts about this either: “That lies in the logic of circulation!” (Levenson, 1992, p. 305). But then he modifies his statement again and speculates about whether the final battle is not to be interpreted as a psychological process within the individual. For dreamers for whom such a psychological interpretation is too dry, however, the Kundun subsequently hints that Shambhala could perhaps concern another planet and the soldiers of the kingdom could be extraterrestrials (Levenson, 1992, p. 305).


He understands how to rapidly switch between various levels of reality like a juggler and thus further enhance the occult ambience which already surrounds the Shambhala myth anyway. „Secrets partly revealed are powerful”, writes Christiaan Klieger, and continues, „The ability of the Dalai Lama to skillfully manipulate a complex of  meaning and to present appropriate segments of this to his people and the world is part of his success as a leader” (Klieger, 1991, p. 76). Ultimately, everything is possible in this deliberate confusion, for example that the Shambhala king in person stands before us in the figure of His Holiness as some worshippers believe, or that Lhasa is the capital of the mythic country of “Kalapa” albeit not visible to mortal eyes. Should the Kundun some day return to Tibet as a savior — some people believe — then the veil would be lifted and the earthly/supernatural kingdom (Shambhala) would reveal itself to the world.


Similar speculations are in fact very popular in the Buddhist scene. On the official (!) homepage of the Kalachakra Tantra the “dharma master”, Khamtrul Rinpoche, explains to his readers that the current Dalai Lama is an incarnation of Kulika Pundarika, the eighth Shambhala king famed as the first commentator on the Time Tantra. But it gets better: “My companion [the goddess Tara, who led him through Shambhala in a dream]", Khamtrul writes, “told me that the last Kulika King will be called Rudra with a wheel, 'the powerful and ferocious king who holds an iron wheel in his hand' ... and he will be none other than His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who will subdue everything evil in the universe” (Khamtrul, HPI 005). Following this revelation, which prophecies the Kundun as the military commander of an apocalyptic army, Rinpoche worries whether the Shambhala army is a match for the modern armaments industry with its missiles and nuclear bombs. Here the kindly Tara comforts and reassures him that no matter what weapons of mass destruction may be produced in our world, a superior counter-weapon would automatically be created by Shambhala’s magic armaments industry (Khamtrul, HPI 005).


In the words of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama “world peace” is supposed to be strengthened with every Kalachakra ritual. He repeats this again and again! But is this really his intention?


With an ironic undertone, the Tibetologist Donald L. Lopez (formerly one of the closest followers of the Kundun), writes in the final section of his book, Prisoners of Shangri-La, that “this peace may have a special meaning, however, for those who take the initiation are planting the seeds to be reborn in their next lifetime in Shambhala, the Buddhist pure land across the mountains dedicated to the preservation of Buddhism. In the year 2245 [?], the army of the king will sweep out of Shambhala and defeat the barbarians in a Buddhist Armageddon,[!] restoring Buddhism to India and to the world and ushering in a reign of peace” (Lopez, 1998, p. 207).


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