There is a prophecy that arose in Tibetan Buddhism over 12 centuries ago. The signs it foretold, they said, are recognizable now, in our generation. Since this prophecy speaks of a time of great danger – of apocalypse – I was, as you can imagine, very interested to find out about it.
There are varying interpretations of this prophecy. Some portray the coming of the kingdom of Shambhala as an internal event, a metaphor for one’s inner spiritual journey independent of the world around us. Others present it as an entirely external event that will unfold in our world independent of what we may choose to do or what our participation may be in the healing of our world. A third version of the prophecy was given to me by my friend and teacher Choegyal Rinpoche of the TashiJong community in northern India.
There comes a time when all life on Earth is in danger. In this era, great barbarian powers have arisen. One is in the Western Hemisphere and one in the center of the Eurasian land mass. Although these two powers have spent their wealth in preparations to annihilate each other, they have much in common: weapons of unfathomable destructive power, and technologies that lay waste our world. In this era, when the whole future of sentient life seems to hang by the frailest of threads, the kingdom of Shambhala begins to emerge.
You can’t go there, for it is not a place, it is not a geopolitical entity. It exists in the hearts and minds of the Shambhala warriors – that is the term Choegyal used, “warriors.” Nor can you recognize a Shambhala warrior when you see her or him, for they wear no uniform, or insignia, and they carry no banners. They have no barricades on which to climb to threaten the enemy, or behind which they can hide to rest or regroup. They do not even have any home turf. Always they must move on the terrain of the barbarians themselves.
Now the time comes when great courage – moral and physical – is required of the Shambhala warriors, for they must go into the very heart of the barbarian power, into the pits and pockets and citadels where the weapons are kept to dismantle them. To dismantle weapons, in every sense of the word, they must go into the corridors of power where decisions are made.
The Shambhala warriors have the courage to do this because they know that these weapons are manomaya. They are “mind-made.” Made by the human mind, they can be unmade by the human mind. The Shambhala warriors know the dangers that threaten life on Earth are not visited upon us by any extraterrestrial powers, satanic deities, or preordained evil fate. They arise from our own decisions, our own lifestyles, and our own relationships.
So in this time, the Shambhala warriors go into training. When Choegyal said this, I asked, “How do they train?” They train, he said, in the use of two weapons. “What weapons?” I asked, and he held up his hands in the way the lamas hold the ritual objects of bell and dorje in the lama dance.
The weapons are compassion and insight. Both are necessary, he said. You have to have compassion because it gives you the juice, the power, the passion to move. When you open to the pain of the world you move, you act. But that weapon by itself is not enough. It can burn you out, so you need the other – you need insight into the radical interdependence of all phenomena. With that wisdom you know that it is not a battle between good guys and bad guys, but that the line between good and evil runs through the landscape of every human heart. With insight into our profound interrelatedness, you know that actions undertaken with pure intent have repercussions throughout the web of life, beyond what you can measure or discern. By itself, that insight may appear too cool, too conceptual, to sustain you and keep you moving, so you need the heat of the compassion. Together, within each Shambhala warrior and among the warriors themselves, these two can sustain us as agents of wholesome change. They are gifts for us to claim now in the healing of our world.