Tibet, the roof of the world and one of the most beautiful and untamed areas of our planet. Unspoiled by human beings, this remote region attracts not only those keen to conquer the highest mountains on Earth but those who want to find a deeper meaning for their existence.
Home to the Dalai Lama, this peaceful Buddhist nation rejects many of the trappings of the modern world, preferring instead to search within for peace, happiness and fulfillment.
Shrouded in mystery and largely inaccessible until the last century, much about Tibet remains unknown and undiscovered.
Intriguingly, over the recent years, some of the secrets of this mystical place have begun to filter into the Western World.
One such secret has caught the imagination of many, inspiring debate, inquiry, and even novels.
That secret suggests that deep within the valleys of the Tibetan Plateau, hidden from human eyes, live the immortal beings of the Himalayas.
The story of the Gyanganj has been told and retold in Indian and Tibetan culture for many centuries. Sometimes known as Shambhala (source of happiness), it is a city of stunning beauty hidden deep within the valleys of the Himalayas.
Arranged to resemble an eight-petaled lotus, it is surrounded by snow covered mountains. At its center stands the tree of life which unites heaven, earth, and the underworld.
For the few who have seen Gyanganj or Shambhala, it is described as a city of shimmering crystal. Its occupants are immortals who are responsible for guiding the fate of the world.
Living within this mystical kingdom they protect and nurture the spiritual teachings of all faiths and beliefs.
Imparting their wisdom to others they subtly work to influence the destiny of mankind for the good.
Tibetan Buddhists believe that at a time of great chaos in the world, the 25th ruler of this special land will appear to guide Earth to a better age.
The 1933 novel The Lost Horizon by James Hilton is largely responsible for bringing the story of Gyanganj to the west.
Inspired by his time in Tibet, the book tells the story of a British man who finds love peace and fulfillment in a place called Shangri-La, a city of immortals deep in the Tibetan mountains.
Spurred on by his work a few intrepid explorers have gone in search of this enigmatic city without success. Surely if such a place did exist it would have been discovered by now.
Satellite technology and modern mapping techniques mean there are very few areas of the world that remain completely hidden or undiscovered.
The answer lies in the nature of Gyanganj.
The city exists simultaneously in a material, psychic and spiritual dimension and can only be reached through, prayer, meditation and ultimately enlightenment.
Visitors to Gyanganj
The story of Gyanganj could easily be dismissed as a beautiful fable from a land far away except that there are those living among us who claim to have seen Gyanganj for themselves and returned to tell of their of their experiences.
In 1942 a British army officer, L.P. Farrel was invited to attend a picnic with the king of one of the mountainous regions in the Himalayas.
Invited along because of his strong interest in the local culture and Buddhism, he was about to undergo a life changing experience.
The picnic party pitched tents as darkness fell, intending to spend the night in the mountains. Almost as soon as he fell asleep Farrel was awoken by a supernatural being who asked him to come to a spot further up the mountain.
Terrified, the army officer remained in his tent. Throughout the night, the apparition appeared to him again. At dawn, Farrel decided to make his way to the spot where the ghostly visitor had indicated.
When he arrived he was met by an old man who he described as a sage. The sage knew Farrel’s name and seemed to glow with a strange light.
When he touched the army officer, he seemed to be filled with electricity. The saintly man asked Farrel to vacate the place where the tents were pitched as later in the day a young man would arrive at that very spot.
This young man had a special destiny to fulfill and this would be hindered if the tents were not moved. Farrel did as he was told and the party moved their tents.
Later that day a young man arrived on the spot where the tents had previously stood. Watching, the army officer witnessed the land around him change.
A light lit up a nearby tree and the life of the young man was replayed to him like a movie at the cinema.
Around him, Farrel could see people and buildings where there had been nothing but grass and rocks before.
By the end of the experience, the boy declared that he was ready to abandon his earthly ties and enter Gyanganj.
Nobody from Farrel’s party witnessed the scenes that he and the young man saw clearly. The army officer understood that he had only seen a glimpse of Shambhala, but it was enough to change the course of his life forever.
If we accept that there is a city somewhere on Earth that can only be reached through meditation and enlightenment, can we also accept that there are beings that will live forever?
Strangely, the idea of immortality is a concept that is becoming increasingly more popular in the scientific community.
Some scientists now suggest that death is not an inevitable part of our existence, instead it should be viewed as a disease which can be cured or prevented.
Ayurveda medicine has traditionally used herbs, spices, and fruits with powerful rejuvenating properties that encourage cell renewal.
Hormones secreted by the body often have a detrimental effect on our internal organs. Meditation has been shown to control these hormones and encourage longevity.
If science can accept that within the foreseeable future humans will live for hundreds of years, who is to say that those who immerse themselves in the deeply spiritual religions of the east haven’t discovered the secret to immortality already.
When asked to describe Gyanganj or Shambhala, the Dalai Lama explained that it is not a physical place that we can find. It is not heaven but a pure land in the human realm.
The only way to visit this land is through a karmic connection. Inhabited by the immortal beings of the Himalayas, the city, and its occupants subtly guide the destiny of the world through prayer and meditation.
Protecting the spiritual teachings of the world, of all faiths and beliefs, they work for the good of mankind.
For those of us in the west, some of the concepts and ideas are difficult to grasp, understand or even believe.
But in a world full of chaos, war, and unkindness, it is quite wonderful to imagine that somewhere on the roof of the world, people that are truly good are working to gently guide, influence and protect us.