form World as Lover, World as Self by Joanna Macy,
I often tell this story in workshops, for it describes the work
we aim to do and the training we engage in. It is from a prophecy
that arose in Tibettan Buddhism over 12 centuries ago. I learned
of it from my Tibettan friends in India when, in 1980, I heard
many of them speaking of this ancient prophecy as coming true in
our time period. The signs it foretold, they said, are recognisa
ble 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 Rimpoche of the Tashi Jong 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 centre of the Eurasian landmass. Al
though these two powers have spent their wealth in preparing to
anihilate each other, they have much in common: weapons of un
fathomable 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 kindom of Shambhala
begins to emerge.
You can't go there for it is not a place, it is not a geo-
political entity. It exists in the hearts and minds of the Sham
balha warriors - that is the term that Choegyal used,
"warriors." Nor can you recognise 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 terain of the barbarians themselves.
Now the time coms 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 disman
tle 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 extra-terrestial powers, satanic
deities, or preordained evil fate. They arise from our own deci
sions, our own lifestyles, and our own relationships.
So in this time, the Shamhala warriers 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 thru the
landscape of every human heart. With insight into our profound
interelatedenss, 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, to conceptual, to sustain you and keep you moving, so
you need the heat of the compassion. Together, within each Shamb
hala 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.