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Truth of the Shambhala war (Quotes from Red Shambhala of Prof. Andrei Znamenski)

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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 First of all, I need to outline at least briefly what Shambhala means. It was a prophecy that emerged in the world of Tibetan Buddhism between the 900s and 1100s CE, centered on a legend about a pure and happy kingdom located somewhere in the north; the Tibetan word Shambhala means "source of happiness." The legend said that in this mystical land people enjoyed spiritual bliss, security, and prosperity. Having mastered special techniques, they turned themselves into godlike beings and exercised full control over forces of nature. They were blessed with long lives, never argued, and lived in harmony as brothers and sisters.

At one point, as the story went, alien intruders would corrupt and undermine the faith of Buddha. That was when Rudra Chakrin (Rudra with a Wheel), the last king of Shambhala, would step in and in a great battle would crush the forces of evil. After this, the true faith, Tibetan Buddhism, would prevail and spread all over the world. Scholars argue that the paradisal image of Shambhala and the motif of the final battle between good and evil, elements missing in original Buddhism, most likely were borrowed from neighboring religious traditions, particularly from Manichaeism and Islam, which were making violent advances on Buddhism in the early Middle Ages.

The Shambhala legend is the description of the famous Buddhist paradise-the land of spiritual enlightenment and simultaneously the land of plenty that people of the Mongol-Tibetan world dreamed about since the early Middle Ages.

The entire Shambhala legend sprang up in northern India in the early Middle Ages, between the 900s and 1200s. Along with the description of Shambhala as the land of enlightenment and plenty, it mentioned that at some point barbarian demons coming from the west would inflict devastating damage on the Buddhist faith. In Sanskrit texts these alien infidels were called mlecca people. Tibetan sources referred to them as lalo. The invaders, the legend said, would bring misery and chaos, and the whole world would enter Kaliyuga (the Age of Disputes), when the true Buddhist faith would decline. The northern Shambhala kingdom would remain the only stronghold of the true faith and would eventually redeem people from this misery.

To deliver Tibetan Buddhist people from the danger, the last Shambhala king, Rudra Chakrin (the Wrathful One with the Wheel, Rigden Djapo in Tibetan), would enter a trance so that he could see the coming events. Then he would gather a mighty army and launch a merciless attack against the barbarians. In the ensuing horrible, Armageddon-like battle, the infidels would be totally crushed, and the Age of Disputes would be over. After this successful Shambhala war, the true faith (Tibetan Buddhism) would triumph all over the earth.

Those who shaped the Shambhala prophecy were clearly preoccupied not only with the spiritual resistance against the "barbarian Dharma" but also with military logistics of the coming battle. Besides the millions of wild and mad elephants and thousands of warriors and horses that Rudra Chakrin would gather for his final battle, the legend mentioned the variety of weapons to be used against the "people of Mecca." There were not only chariots, spears, and other conventional hardware of ancient combat, but also sophisticated wheel-shaped machines of mass destruction. There would also be a special flying wind machine for use against mountain forts.

According to the Shambhala prohpecy, this prototype of a modern-day napalm bomber would spill burning oil on the enemies. Moreover, the protectors of the faith would use a harpoon machine, an analogy of a modern-day machine gun, designed to simultaneously shoot many arrows that would easily pierce the bodies of armored elephants. The defeat of the mlecca barbarians would launch the Age of Perfection (Kritayuga), when the true faith would triumph and the Shambhala kingdom would expand over the entire world.

People would stop doing evil and manifest only virtuous behavior. At the same time, they would enjoy their riches, freely indulge in sensual pleasures, and live long lives, up to nine hundred years. Cereals in the fields and fruit trees would grow on their own, bringing plentiful crops and fruits. At this new age, not only a selected few, but everyone would be able to reach spiritual enlightenment.

Modern seekers, including practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, either downplay the militaristic aspects of the Shambhala myth or do not talk about them at all. Instead, they focus on the spiritual inner aspects of the prophecy. Whenever they mention the Shambhala war, current books on Tibetan Buddhism usually explain it as a metaphor for the battle against internal demons that create obstacles for spiritual seekers on their path and that the victory of Rudra Chakrin over his enemies means spiritual enlightenment.

The deans of modern Tibetan Buddhism remind us that elimination of the enemies of Shambhala does not mean actual annihilation of the infidels but overcoming one's own ignorance and sins. Even particular details of the Shambhala war have been reinterpreted according to modern religious ethics.