The mystery of the ‘beyul’: Where legend meets reality

The concept of ‘beyul’ originated from the beliefs of the Nyingma school, the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism founded by the Vajrayana revealer Guru Padmasambhava in the eighth century. Beyul are large, hidden mountain valleys often encompassing hundreds of square kilometres- niches of peace and refuge. The word ‘beyul’ stands for ‘hidden valley’ in the Tibetan language. They are places where physical and spiritual worlds overlap, thus bringing out a distinct dimension.

According to ancient Buddhist texts, Padmasambhava, or Guru Rinpoche assigned deities to look after the beyul. The protective forces manifest as snow leapards, mists and snowstorms. Information on their locations was recorded on scrolls in the form of ‘terma’, which were hidden under rocks and inside caves, monasteries and stupas. The ‘tertons’ or spiritual seekers would find them after vigorous searching. Still,a person might follow instructions from the ancient texts but still not be able to see or experience the beyul if not in the proper spiritual state.

Buddhist texts reveal that the beyul would be discovered when the world approaches destruction and becomes too corrupt for spiritual practice. The valleys are described as reminiscent of paradise, and are much of an earthly paradise. These beautiful yet concealed places can only be reached with enormous hardship. Pilgrims who travel to these wild and distant places often experience extraordinary occurrences similar to those encountered by Buddhist spiritual practitioners on the path to liberation. Forcefully embarking on the path may cause failure and death.

The exact geographical locations of beyul are most times debated as their positions are also spiritual. One of the most lauded beyul is Pemako , literally meaning ‘the secret lotus shaped land’. It is situated in southeastern Tibet, east of a striking Tsangpo River gorge known as the Great Bend, where the river curves sharply into the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. The Tsangpo Gorge has enormous waterfalls in which the river drops more than 8,000 feet in a 150-mile stretch. These waterfalls, where several adventurers have lost their lives, are said to be the gateway to a secret, inner part of the Beyul Pemako.

Beyul are religious conceptions, but because of their sacredness, hunting, over-exploiting natural resources, human conflicts are spiritually discouraged. They have thus become a haven for nature and wildlife. A hidden land of peace and tranquility, that is what we are in search of consistently, isn’t it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s