In 1933 James Hilton, in his novel Lost Horizon, wrote about the legend of Shangri-La (a variant of the original Shambala.) He placed Shambala in the south-eastern part of China in the Himalayas. The book was instrumental in introducing the mysticism of the East to Western readers; yet Hilton had knowledge of only a small part of the entire narrative.
In his novel, Hilton recounted the parts of the legend he had heard: about a hidden valley where men and women live for enormous lengths of time. Little did he know the entire legend of Shambala, which describes a much larger story: that of the preservation of the teachings of the Vedas and Yoga and their re-introduction to the world when the cycle of time starts again.
In his book On the Way to Shambala, Dr. Edwin Bernbaum writes about visiting a Buddhist temple in Nepal and coming across a scripture which describes a passage to that mythical valley. He placed it as being somewhere in northern Nepal. Over the years, other esoteric locations described for Shambala are the Arctic, the Western Himalayas and even the middle of the earth.
Yoga has its own mythic stories – a recounting of its origins, its progression, its diminution over time, its disappearance and finally, its rebirth.
Both Hindusim and Buddhism describe time as being circular, and each cycle of time as being composed of four distinct ages or epochs: Satya yuga, the beginning age, then Treta yuga, Dwapara yuga, and finally Kali yuga. Moral characteristics such as honesty, non-violence and mercy decline steadily over the passage of time, until finally, at the end of Kali yuga, they are practically non-existent.
What would the world look like at the end of time? The Srimad Bhagavatam describes it as a cannibalistic society with a wicked world ruler, terrible environmental degradation and oppressive taxation.
In a Hindu text, the Bhagavat Purana (also known as the Srimad Bhagavatam), it is mentioned that yogis and rishis meditate in an invisible state in Shambala. Their goal: to preserve within themselves the teachings of the Vedas and the Yogas and to reintroduce them to the world at the beginning of the coming Satya Yuga.
A great world-consuming struggle between good and evil will ensue at the end of time, featuring mystical weapons and ancient flying craft known as vimanas, as Lord Kalki (a future avatar of Lord Vishnu) battles an evil world ruler who attacks Shamabala. The dictator who orchestrates the destruction is killed and the earth, abused for so long, blooms anew, the wheel of time turns again, yogis are saved, and the eternal teachings of the Vedas and yoga are reintroduced to world.
We are now somewhere at the beginning of Kali yuga, and we can only expect things to get worse before they get better! The lesson: become more adept at our sadhana (yoga practise) and maybe become like little Shambalas ourselves, ready to pass on the teachings to others!