Nepalese Myths Surrounding Snow Leopards


looking down the Lapche Valley

“The blue-green valleys of Khumbu...”


Edwin Bernbaum, Ph.D., writes in The Way to Shambhala: A Search for the Mythical Kingdom Beyond the Himalayas:

We were standing beside the monastery of Tengboche on a ridge beneath Mount Everest, gazing out over the blue-green valleys of Khumbu, set deep in ranges of shining snow peaks. Far off below us, where morning shadows still lingered, wisps of smoke from cooking fires floated like river mist over Sherpa villages scattered between terraced fields and forests of pine and rhododendron.

“Khumbu used to be sacred,” Kalsang, the Head Lama’s brother, remarked.

“Isn’t it still?" I asked, continuing to gaze at the peaceful valleys below us.

“No, not anymore – not since people came to live here years ago. They built villages and fields and made it into an ordinary place like anywhere else. Now anyone can come here; it’s no longer special.”

“But somewhere up there, behind those mountains,” he added, pointing at the snow peaks east of Everest, “there’s a sacred valley called Khembalung. A long time ago, when Guru Rimpoche brought the teachings of Buddhism from India to Tibet, he set the gods to watch over it and keep it hidden from the world. It’s supposed to be a peaceful place, with food and everything you need for meditation. Only the true followers of Guru Rimpoche, the ones who really practice his teachings, can find it. There’s a guidebook to Khembalung, but if the wrong kind of people try to follow it, snow leopards will attack them at the mountain passes and drive them away.”