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Observations placeholder

David-Neel, Alexandra – Seeing Shangri-la



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 2


A description of the experience

My Journey to Lhasa – Alexandra David-Neel

We could not allow ourselves a longer rest. The day had broken and it was time for us to retire to a hiding-place, away from the trail.

I awakened Yongden and we went. A few minutes after we started the young man pointed out with his stick something under the trees.

"There they are," he said.

The pair of spotted fellows were indeed there. They turned their heads toward us, looked for a little while, and then went their way along the stream, while we climbed the path.

As we went up, the aspect of the forest changed once more. It was now much less dense. The sun that had risen lit the undergrowth, and through the openings in the foliage we could see the opposite bank of the river beneath us. We noticed with astonishment that it seemed to be cultivated, but cultivated in a fanciful way, more in the fashion of gardens and parks than of common fields.

It was a glorious morning, and we enjoyed our walk so much that we continued it long after the hour at which we usually sought shelter. The river bent suddenly and we confronted a village built on a slope at the foot of which our path turned along the stream. A few isolated houses could even be seen quite near us on the sides of the path itself.

What village was this? It was not charted on any map and none of the people of the country from whom we had cleverly got information before our departure, had ever told us a word about it. Its architecture was peculiar. We did not see cottages and farms, but villas and miniature palaces surrounded by small yet stately looking parks!

The strange town was bathed in a pale golden light. No sound of human voices, no noises of animals, were heard in it. But, now and then, a faint silvery jingling struck our ears. We were amazed. Were we in Thibet or had we reached fairyland?

We could not, however, remain standing in the path. People might come along, and to be seen so near the frontier posts was imprudent. It was imperative, for safety's sake, that we should delay our investigations until the evening. Once more we retreated amongst the bushes and the rocks. There, overtired, I sank on the moss and fell asleep, feverish and raving a little.

Our impatience to see again the fantastic village, our fear of having to cross an inhabited place, and the desire to look for ways to avoid it, brought us on the trail before sunset at the spot on which we had stood in the morning.

Where were the graceful villas, the stately little palaces and the sunny gardens?

The forest was empty. A severe landscape of dark trees extended before us, and a cold breeze, wailing among the branches, took the place of the harmonious jingling.

"We have dreamed," I said to Yongden. "We did not see anything this morning. All that happened while we were asleep."

"Dreamed!" exclaimed the lama. "l will show you how we have dreamed. This morning, while you were looking at the miraculous town, I drew a sungpo [magic sign] on a rock with the spike of my staff, so that neither gods nor demons could oppose our progress. I shall find it again." And he looked on a flat stone at the foot of a fir tree. "There it is!" he triumphed. "Look!"

I saw the roughly drawn sungpo.  lt silenced me for a moment.

"My son," I said, proceeding forward, "this world itself is but a dream, and so . . ."

"I know," interrupted my companion. "Nevertheless, the sungpo and the ngags [magic words] that I uttered while drawing it, have dispelled the mirage. It was certainly the work of some who wished to delay us!"

"Yes, like the blackbirds," I continued, laughing, "and maybe the small leopards, too."

"Like the birds, yes!" affirmed my son, decidedly vexed. "As for the leopards, I do not know. They looked honest beasts. Anyhow, we will soon be out of these Kha Karpo forests and confront true villages instead of dreamland ones, and true men, officials, soldiers, and others, instead of mi ma yin. Let us see, then, if we can manage our business with them as cleverly as I have done with the folks of other worlds."

"Have no fear about it," I replied, seriously, "I will look after that."

"How will you do it?" he asked.

"I will make them dream and see illusions, just as the mi ma yins did to us."

And I really did so when, a few days later, circumstances brought us before Thibetan officials.

The source of the experience

David-Neel, Alexandra

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