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What is Shangri-La?

Kunlun Mountains

Shangri-La is a fictional place located in the Kunlun Mountains of Tibet. It was fictionalized in the book "Lost Horizon" by English author James Hilton in 1933. Hilton drew inspiration for the story from the British Museum to provide him with Tibetan cultural contexts. Many ancient Tibetan scriptures mention places similar to Shangri-La, such as Nghe-Beyul Khembalung. Shangri-La and Khembalung are what we would call "Heaven on Earth".

Not only in Tibet, but in many other ancient civilizations, the closer you were to the sky above you, the closer you were to God/Source/Deity/The Great Beyond. This is part of the reason why people such as the Aztecs built mounds and temples -- not only as burial sites for important people (such as ancient Egyptians with their pyramids), but so the Earth or structures could become elevated and closer to the Heavens. Here is a well-known example of an ancient Aztec temple.

With these circumstances in mind, since the mountains are naturally erected into the sky, they make a great place to live if you want to connect more deeply to the god you worship. In Tibet, Tibetan Buddhism makes up 78.5% of the entire population's religious/Spiritual beliefs, meaning many of the Tibetan people don't collectively pray to or believe in one specific God or Deity. There are subsets of Tibetan Buddhism, and each one is different -- some only follow the practices of and send prayers to the Buddha, while others also incorporate meditations or rituals relating to specific Deities involved in their Spiritual practice.

There are around 1700 Tibetan monasteries and temples all across Tibet, and many are located near or within mountain ranges. While most Tibetan Buddhists don't pray specifically to a God, being up in the mountains connects them closer to nature and The Great Beyond -- whether that be a form of Heaven or reaching Nirvana.

A trek to the top of a mountain in and of itself can represent reaching Nirvana. One can travel long and far and face difficult circumstances that try to prevent the person from reaching the mountaintop. Through all pain and suffering, reaching the top of the mountain represents facing all those difficulties head-on rather than running away, and coming out on top. It is physically representative of life itself, and the ups and downs we all face. I'll be discussing this even more next week, where the topic will be Mount Everest and what drives people to try to climb it.

Much love,

Brittney xx

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