“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.”
Have you ever heard tales of the mythical city of Shambhala? I’m here to tell you that it is a real place, as real as New York City or Berlin.
On October 4, 1938, I was living in the Sudentenland. For three days, the Nazis had attacked the Czech army. We had been assured that the fighting would never reach us. It was normal for my landlord to come and check up on me periodically, so when I heard the heavy knocking at my front door, I simply opened it. I was pushed backwards as four uniformed men forced their way into my home. By their armbands, I could see that the Nazis had finally come.
A man walked in, tall and clothed in the same uniform as the other four. The sound of the other officers clicking their heels was like gunfire at an execution. “Guten Tag, Frauline. I am Peter Aufschnaiter, of the German Himalayan Foundation. I am heading an expedition into Tibet in search of something that Herr Heinrich Himmler and I feel that you know something about.” He stopped to judge my reaction. “We are in search of Shambhala.”
I tried to shut down the gasp that threatened to come out of my mouth. Heinrich Himmler had approached me about joining his “scientific” department a few months ago, and I had turned him down. I should have known that the intense man would never have let me go. Now, he was chasing legends in the hopes of justifying his reign of terror. “Shambhala is an existential fairy tale.”
Herr Aufschnaiter smirked. “I think you know better than that. Do not worry, you will not be harmed. Well, not so long as you comply.” With a gesture of his hand, the other Nazis surrounded me and pushed me out the door.
I was housed in a small apartment in Berlin under constant supervision until we left for Tibet in the middle of May of 1939. My jailers kept a constant vigil the entire time we were on the boat. We had barely made it off of the gangplank when Herr Aufschnaiter turned to me and handed me another package. “Now, Frauline Olessia, lead me to Shambhala.”
Inside was a small cloth bound book called the Kalachakra Tantra. I looked up and tried to convince him of his folly one more time. “This is a book of prayers for priests. I assure you, Herr Aufschnaiter, Shambhala is not an actual place.”
His face contorted in anger. “It is!” he spat, clenching his fist. “Within we will find evidence of the first Aryan society. Or, at least,” he whispered menacingly, “you had better pray that we do.”
The Nazi Himalayan team marched us at a back-breaking pace, accompanied by the Tibetan guides that they had forced into servitude. I was given a cart so that I could do my research as we moved ever towards the immense mountain chain. The book was fascinating and I was beginning to think that Shambhala was an actual place and not just a myth! Inside the book, it didn’t just tell of a single city, but an entire world complex beneath the earth, with tunnels that wound throughout the entire breadth of the planet, linking all of the powerful cities of ancient myth, including Atlantis! Imagine, the world’s greatest achievements, all of its hidden secrets, buried within another skin on our planet; another entire society living and breathing beneath our very feet. As excited as that thought was making me, there was a real dread that was beginning to form. There were passages that contained information about medicines that allowed people to live forever, techniques that allowed you to unlock the hidden potential of your brain, and weapons of such destruction that it allowed its user to dematerialize whole mountains with nothing but a single beam of light. Everything that I was reading was telling me how technologically advanced Shambhala was. I was beginning to worry that the Nazis were after more than just validation for their hate regime.
There was nothing that I could do to stop the procession from getting ever closer to its goal. There were more Nazis watching me now, and they were all armed. If I was going to get away, I would have to find some way of doing so without getting caught in the back by a stream of bullets.
A small shrine lay near the road ahead of us. A Buddhist monk was in prayer in front of it, with his reed hat pulled low, obscuring his face. We were about to pass, when I saw a symbol on the shrine that was in the book in my hands, a symbol for the city of Shambhala.
I called to the soldier that was driving the cart. “Please hold. I need to ask this monk for directions.” He nodded and stopped, whistling for the rest of the group to do the same. I hopped out of the cart and ran to the monk, who barely raised his head.
“Please”, I panted in Tibetan, “Please, you have to help me. Those men are looking for Shambhala, and if I don’t lead them there, they are going to kill me. But if I do, they’ll certainly destroy it in the hopes of finding weapons. I have to get away!”
The monk never looked at me, not even when my voice had reached a panicked pitch. When he did speak, his voice was a calm whisper. “Do not be afraid. Shambhala will protect you.” He pointed toward one of the mountains ahead and lowered his head, continuing his prayers.
I felt rough hands grab my arm and spin me around. Herr Aufschnaiter was glaring at me, his eyes stormy and accusatory. “What did he say to you?”
“He…he said that Shambhala is…is…”
The monk pointed towards the mountain again. “Tell them.”
I hung my head. “The city is there.”
The Nazi officer laughed cruelly and barked at his men. “Bring the climbing gear. We are going up!”
The climb was torturous, and I slipped so many times that I was certain that I should have died. My hands were raw and bloody, and I had lost all the strength in my arms. The Nazi machine kept climbing, pushing me further and further up the mountain as they went.
Finally, ruthless hands shoved me into a large crevice. I heard someone bark out, “We shall rest here for a moment. Bring water!” I tried to stay away from them, but they continued to push me further into the cave until I was against the back wall.
As I watched the last uniformed Nazi squeeze their way into the covered ledge, they all suddenly grabbed their heads, silently screaming. They fell, and I pushed as far back from them as I could, my back bracing for the bruising that it would receive on the unhewn stone. But I fell completely back, landing on a small, circular floor that was under the ledge where I had just been. I didn’t even have time to think before the floor began descending at a breakneck speed into the mountain itself.
As my heart raced, I looked out into a huge valley lit by what I thought was the sun. Its lush greenery was vibrant and beautiful, and there was a lake so large it could have been a sea. There was a city, golden and shining, and I could see other cities in the distance. The view was spectacular.
It took a long while to make it to the floor. Waiting for me was the same Buddhist monk that I had seen at the shrine. I thanked him over and over. “Those men are evil. I shudder to think what they would have done to this wonderful place.”
He shook his head. “They will never find it. They are not worthy.”
I sighed relievedly and started on my path towards the city itself.
The man shook his head and put his arm out to stop me. “You are not worthy, either.”
I was a little disappointed, but I understood. He had saved my life, but that didn’t entitle me to see the legendary city or its people. “Then, thank you for saving me. He would have used your technology for great evil.”
He shook his head serenely. “No. He is not the one. Not even this Hitler is the one. One day, when the world has been consumed by its greed and nothing but war wages, an evil man will come for our Utopia. He will unite all of the men that follow the material world and lay it to waste. It is then that our king will come from the mountains of mist with his mighty army and vanquish the corruption in your world. Then, all will know peace.” He turned to me then. “You will see that time, but not now.”
He pointed another way, and said, “This path will lead you to the Gobi desert. The Nazis will not find you there.” He looked at me sadly. “Look for the fall of man. And, when you have lost all hope, look for Shambhala.”
I turned to leave, crestfallen in the fact that I was not welcome in a world that was new, where all possibilities of my world had already been achieved and new ones lay awaiting discovery. I turned, but I couldn’t walk down those corridors. No, not yet. I chewed on my lip and tried to find some way of impressing the monk so that I could stay. “Why?” I asked, grasping for that magical phrase that would make me seem like a better person. “Why must we wait until there is nothing but evil in the world before we can see your splendors?”
The monk sighed behind me, as one would before he answered a small child. “Because, in order for you to see hope for what it really is, you have experience all the evil in the box first.”
I haven’t seen Shambhala since, but I haven’t given up hope that one day, when everything seems lost, the King will come and give us a Golden Age of peace. And on that day, we shall all live in Shambhala.