Shambhala stained glass

Iconography

Rigden Gallery

From “Seeking Shambhala: Exhibition of Rigden Thangkas from the Boston Museum of Fine Art”

Sureshvara (2), Fifth Dharma King of Shambhala

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Tibet, late 17th century AD Distemper on cotton Destroyer of the City of Delusion, the Fifth Dharma King holds the dhanus (bow) and sara (arrow). At the right an attendant hold a transparent fan. In the foreground a mythical unicorn-type creature (Chinese: Qilin) lays before the king while a dragon supports the leg of the king’s throne. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Denman Waldo Ross Collection, 1906 06.324

Shambhala: The Kingdom and Lineages

The Kingdom and First Lineage

Shambhala is described in sacred texts as a kingdom somewhere in Central Asia, surrounded by snow-capped mountains that resemble the Himalayas. The kingdom is shaped like an eight-petal lotus blossom with the Kalapa Palace at its center. Twelve vassal states are situated on each petal, each then divided into one hundred districts with one hundred thousand towns. Shambhala (śambhu) is a Sanskrit term, the Tibetan (bde ‘byung) translates to mean “Bliss-Arising” or “Source of Happiness.”

After turning seventy, the Buddha Shakyamuni taught the Kalachakra Tantra (Wheel of Time – methods of practice and meditation with emphasis on cognitive transformation to attain enlightenment) at Dhanyakataka Stupa near Rajgir, India to select disciples. Among them was Suchandra, the King of Shambhala. After the initiation, the Buddha then prophesized the future enlightenment of all sentient beings inhabiting the kingdom of Shambhala. Suchandra upon his return to his kingdom taught the basic tantra and a voluminous commentary of sixty thousand verses to his numerous subjects but soon passed away within a year or two. A line of six kings follows Suchandra; together they complete the first lineage known as the Dharma (Religious or Truth) Kings of Shambhala. Symbols and iconography, such as what each king holds or who else is depicted, are clues to identifying each king and their place in the lineage.

Second Lineage

The eighth king, Manjushri Yashas, in the Shambhala linage is an incarnation of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. He is important because he condensed and simplified the Kalachakra teachings complied by the First King of Shambhala. This shorter version is in use today whereas the longer version no longer exists. Manjushri Yashas also converted a group of non-Buddhist Brahman priests to Buddhism and initiated them into the Kalachakra Tantra. By uniting all the inhabitants of Shambhala into one “vajra-caste” or family of tantric practitioners, the eighth king founded a second line of kings. Manjushri Yashas therefore becomes the first of the twenty-five Kalki (Tibetan: rigs-ldan or Rigden) “Holder of the caste” or Vidyadhara “Wisdom Holder” Kings of Shambhala.

Our sincere thanks to The Shambhala Trust for donating these images.

2024-05-25 15:18:37