Excerpt from The Secret of Shambhala by James Redfield, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Secret of Shambhala

In Search of the Eleventh Insight

by James Redfield

The Secret of Shambhala by James Redfield X
The Secret of Shambhala by James Redfield
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  • First Published:
    Nov 1999, 238 pages
    Nov 2001, 238 pages


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Yin just handed the steward his ticket and walked down the aisle.

On the flight to Lhasa, Yin and I sat in different sections of the plane, giving me time to think. All I knew was that Shambhala was of great significance to Tibetan Buddhists, whose ancient writings described it as a holy city of diamonds and gold, filled with adepts and lamas--and hidden somewhere in the vast uninhabitable regions of northern Tibet or China. More recently, though, most Buddhists seemed to speak of Shambhala merely in symbolic terms, as representing a spiritual state of mind, not a real location.

I reached over and pulled a travel brochure of Tibet from the pouch on the seat back, hoping to get a renewed sense of its geography. Lying between China to the north and India and Nepal to the south, Tibet is basically a large plateau with few areas lower than six thousand feet. At its southern border are the towering Himalayas, including Mount Everest, and on the northern border just inside China are the vast Kunlun Mountains. In between are deep gorges, wild rivers, and hundreds of square miles of rocky tundra. From the map, eastern Tibet seemed to be the most fertile and populated, while the north and west looked sparse and mountainous, with few roads, all of them gravel.

Apparently there are only two major routes into western Tibet--the northern road, used mostly by truckers, and the southern road, which skirts the Himalayas and is used by pilgrims from all over the region to reach the sacred sites of Everest, Lake Manasarovar, and Mount Kailash, and farther on to the mysterious Kunluns.

I looked up from my reading. As we flew along at thirty-five thousand feet, I began to sense a distinct shift in temperature and energy outside. Below me, the Himalayas rose in frozen, rocky spires, framed by a clear blue sky. We practically flew right over the top of Mount Everest as we passed into the airspace of Tibet--the land of snows, the rooftop of the world. It was a nation of seekers, inward travelers, and as I looked down at the green valleys and rocky plains surrounded by mountains, I couldn't help being awed by its mystery. Too bad it was now being brutally administered by a totalitarian government. What, I wondered, was I doing here?

I looked back at Yin seated four rows behind me. It bothered me that he was being so secretive. I made up my mind, again, to be very cautious. I would not go any farther than Lhasa without a full explanation.

When we arrived at the airport, Yin resisted all my inquiries about Shambhala, repeating his assertion that soon we would be met by Wil, at which point I would learn everything. We caught a taxi and headed toward a small hotel near the center of town, where Wil would be waiting.

I caught Yin staring at me.

"What?" I asked.

"I was just checking to see how you are adjusting to the altitude," Yin said. "Lhasa is twelve thousand feet above sea level. You must take it easy for a while."

I nodded, appreciating his concern, but in the past I had always adapted easily to high altitudes. I was about to mention this to Yin when I caught sight of a huge, fortress-like structure in the distance.

"This is the Potala Palace," Yin said. "I wanted you to see it. It was the Dalai Lama's winter home before he was exiled. It now symbolizes the struggle of the Tibetan people against the Chinese occupation."

He looked away and remained silent until the car stopped not in front of the hotel, but down the street a hundred feet.

"Wil should be here already," Yin said as he opened the door. "Wait in the taxi. I'll go in and check."

But instead of getting out, he stopped and stared at the entrance. I saw his look and gazed in that direction myself. The street was busy with Tibetan pedestrians and a few tourists, but all seemed normal. Then my eyes fell on a short, Chinese man near the corner of the building. He held a paper of some kind, but his eyes were carefully surveying the area.

© 1999 by James Redfield. All rights reserved. Published with permission of the publisher, Warner Books.

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