Nicholas Roerich and the Kalachakra Tantra
A further two individuals who won the most respect for the Shambhala myth in the West before the flight of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, were also Russians, Nicholas Roerich (1874–1947) and his wife Helena Ivanovna (1879–1955). Roerich was a lifelong painter, influenced by the late art nouveau movement. He believed himself to be a reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci.
Via his paintings, of which the majority featured Asian subjects, especially the mountainous landscapes of the Himalayas, he attempted to spread his religious message. He became interested in the ideas of Theosophy very early on; his wife translated Madame Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine into Russian. The occultist led him to Buddhism, which was as we have said en vogue in the society ofSt. Petersburg at the time.
We have already briefly encountered him as a designer of Agvan Dorjiev’s Kalachakra temple. He was a close friend of the Buriat. In contrast, he hated Albert Grünwedel and regarded his work with deep mistrust. Between the years of 1924 and 1928 he wandered throughout [[Wikipedia:Central Asia|Central Asia]] in search of the kingdom of Shambhala and subsequently published a travel diary.
In 1929 he began a very successful international action, the Roerich Banner of Peace and the Peace Pact, in which warring nations were supposed to commit themselves to protecting each others cultural assets from destruction. In the White House in 1935 the Roerich Pact was signed by 21 nations in the presence of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The migrant Russian succeeded in gaining constant access to circles of government, especially since the American agricultural minister, Henry Wallace, had adopted him as his guru. In 1947 the painter died in the Himalayan foothills of northern India.
With great zeal his wife continued her husband’s religious work up until the nineteen-fifties. Helena Ivanovna had from the outset actively participated in the formation of her husband’s ideas. Above all it is to her that we owe the numerous writings about Agni Yoga, the core of their mutual teachings. Roerich saw her as something like his shakti, and openly admitted to her contribution to the development of his vision.
He said in one statement that in his understanding of the world,
“the duty of the woman [is] to lead her male partner to the highest and most beautiful, and then to inspire him to open himself up to the higher world of the spirit and to import both valuable and beautiful aspects and ethical and social ones into life”
(Augustat, 1993, p. 50).
In his otherwise Indian Buddhist doctrinal system there was a revering of the “mother the world” that probably came from the Russian Orthodox Church.
Roerich first learned about the Kalachakra Tantra from Agvan Dorjiev during his work on the temple in St. Petersburg. Later, in Darjeeling, he had contact to the lama Ngawang Kalzang, who was also the teacher of the German, Lama Govinda, and was well versed in the time teachings. It is, however, most unlikely that Roerich received specific initiations from him or others, as his statements about the Kalachakra Tantra do not display a great deal of expertise. Perhaps it was precisely because of this that he saw in it the “happy news “ of the new eon to come.
He thus took up exactly the opposite position to his contemporary and acquaintance, Albert Grünwedel, who fanatically denounced the supreme Buddhist doctrinal system as a work of the devil.
“Kalachakra”, Roerich wrote,
“is the doctrine which is attributed to the numerous rulers of Shambhala. ... But in reality this doctrine is the great revelation brought to humankind ... by the lords of fire, the sons of reason who are and were the lords of Shambhala”
(Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, pp. 79, 81).
According to Roerich, the “fiery doctrine was covered in dust “ up until the twentieth century. (Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 122). But now the time had come in which it would spread all over the world.
As far as their essential core was concerned, all other religions were supposed to be included in the Time Tantra already:
“There are now so many teachers — so different and so hostile to one another; and nonetheless so many speak of the One, and the Kalachakra expresses this One”, the Russian has a Tibetan lama say.
“One of your priests once asked me: Are the Cabala and Shambhala not parts of the one teaching? He asked: Is the great Moses not a initiate of the same doctrine and a servant of its laws?”
(Schule der Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 78).