Hindu-Buddhist roots of Christianity

    MP Ajith Kumar 

    Who followed Buddha? Jesus … [but] Christianity became disfigured when it went to the West … that is my reading”. Thus commented Mahatma Gandhi in his address, ‘Message of the East’ he delivered before the first Asian Relations Conference at Delhi (April 2, 1947). But the “message of Asia” he said is something “not to be learnt through European spectacles”. In fact the West’s dilettantish reading into Christianity making it the twin brother of its economic interest has deeply marred the beauty of human civilization.

    Max Muller in his Sacred Books of the East (Vol. XI) confirms that ‘Messiah’ which in Persian means the ‘great traveler’ is nobody other than the ‘Mettayya’ of the Buddhist literature. Isa Messiah was indeed the great messenger of ‘Isa’, which means God in Sanskrit. It is thus history that Christ’s teachings were Indian in origin.

    Mahatma Gandhi was right in his judging Christianity as an offshoot of oriental culture, especially the one that sprang up from India’s soil. Swami Vivekananda has already stated, “I am of the religion of which Christianity is an offshoot and Buddhism its rebel child”.

    The statements of these great ones are amply shored up by a number of historical evidences that go to prove Christianity’s Indian background. The theory that Jesus Christ spent a considerably formative part of his life in India from where he formed his teachings’ philosophical background was proposed by a good number of scholars and researchers, most of them Westerners and some from India.

    Scrolls from the Lamasery of Leh mention Christ’s life there. Even the Book of Luke, an almost complete biography of Christ, does not answer to where he was between the ages of 13 (after he was lost and found in the temple) and 29 when he came out to be baptized by St. John. Buddhist scrolls unravel this missing link.

    Nicolai Notovitch, a Russian scholar who visited India in 1887, has recorded Jesus’ visit to Leddakh and other eastern places in his book The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ (Dover Publications, Inc. New York, 2008). In Hemis Lamasery at Leh Notovitch found 84,000 scrolls some of which contain the biography of the prophet ‘Isa’ or Jesus. “Isa”, Notovitch writes, “born in Israel … when reached the age of 13 … disappeared secretly from his parents’ house … set out towards Sind … with the purpose of perfecting himself in the divine knowledge and studying the laws of the great Buddha”. (Notovitch, pp. 27-28) He wandered through Sind, Bodh Gaya, Rajagriha and other holy cities including Jagnath in the country of Odisha where Indian preceptors initiated young Isa to Vedic studies. But the philosophy of equality Jesus studied from the Vedas and the teachings of the Buddha and proclaimed among the Vaishyas and Shudras irritated the Brahmins who attacked him both verbally and physically with the result that he was forced to leave the place and live disguised under different names – Isa, Yuz, Yuzu, Issa, Yuza etc.

    Forced to flee the Himalayan region, Jesus returned to Israel via Persia at the age of 29.
    Many inquisitive ones verified the writings of Notovitch. In 1922, Swami Abhedananda traveled to Hemis monastery to know whether Notovitch did in fact obtain the Buddhist manuscripts on Jesus sojourn in the East. Having gone through the same manuscripts which the Lama of the monastery gave for verification the Swami wrote in Bengali the book titled Kashmir O Tibbate i.e. In Kashmir and Tibet. Abhedananda writes,
    Isa was unwilling to marry … left Jerusalem, joined a group of traders, set out for the land of Sind … crossed the northern Sind … arrived at the home of Jagannath, the country of Vyasa-Krishna’s mortal play … there he began reading, learning and expounding the Vedas … lived for six years in Rajagriha, Kasi and other holy places … set out for Kapilavastu, the birthplace of Lord Buddha … lived six years with Buddhist monks … learned Pali and Buddhist scriptures … returned to his homeland at the age of 29 … (Elizabeth Clare Prophet, The Lost Years of Jesus, Bombay, 2013, pp. 205-206.)

    From the Buddhist teachers, Christ learnt the tenets of non-killing, meditation and unattached work, which he later taught his followers. Max Muller in his Sacred Books of the East (Vol. XI) confirms that ‘Messiah’ which in Persian means the ‘great traveler’ is nobody other than the ‘Mettayya’ of the Buddhist literature. Isa Messiah was indeed the great messenger of ‘Isa’, which means God in Sanskrit. It is thus history that Christ’s teachings were Indian in origin.

    Historians opine that after crucifixion Christ returned to Bethpur or Bandipur on the banks of Jhelum in Kashmir where he met the lost children of Israel and spent his old age. As per the descriptions of the New Testament Jesus Christ did not die on the Cross. Thus goes the Book of Luke: After the Crucifixion Joseph of Arimathaea went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He then took it down, wrapped it in a shroud and put it in a tomb which was hewn in stone. Meanwhile the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus [too joined him]. They took note of the tomb and how the body had been laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments … they went to the tomb with the spices they had prepared. [But] they found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb … they could not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

    Afraid and confused, they were about to return without the body of Christ anointed, but became hopeful at the words of the two men in brilliant clothes who suddenly appeared at their side and asked, “Why look among the dead for someone who is alive?” After a while Jesus himself came up and walked by their side. Afraid that it was the ghost of Jesus, they got agitated. Christ having recognised their feelings, said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts stirring in your hearts? See by my hands and my feet that it is I myself. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this he showed them his hands and his feet. Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, as they were dumbfounded; so he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes.

    After having thus proved that he did not die on the cross he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and left for Bethpur in search of the lost tribes of Israelites. Historians identify Bethpur as Bandipur of Kashmir. Of the five places mentioned in the Old Testament, the land of promise, Bethpur literally means the place of opening. As the Jhelum River is also called ‘Beth’ in Persian and ‘Veth’ in Kashmir, Bethpur could be the name of the place situated on the banks of Jhelum. According to Kalhana’s Rajatarangini Bandipur is known as Bethpur too. It is the place of opening as the valley of Kashmir opens out from this place and the Jhelum passes through a gap into the Vular Lake. It could thus be inferred, the Bethpur of Kashmir was the promised land where Jesus preached to his children of Israel. Faber-Kaiser, the German scholar in his book Jesus Died in Kashmir attempts to prove that the origins of many people in Afghanistan and Kashmir are really Israelite. He claims to have found a group of people at Yusmarg in Kashmir who call themselves the children of Israel. They worship at the Tomb of Rauzabal which they claim contain the mortal remains of Yuzu Asaf or Issa Messiah i.e. Jesus Christ. They also worship at Musa’s tomb north of Srinagar which according to them enshrines the mortal remains of Prophet Moses.

    Bhavishya Mahapurana, considered to have been written in 115 A.D mentioned that Raja Shalewahin (in the year 78 A.D.) visited the Himalayas where the king came across a dignified and white robed saintly looking person of fair complexion. Asked who he was. The saint replied: “Know me as the son of God (Ishputram) and born of a virgin. I am the preacher of the Mlechchh religion and a follower of the true principles.” Further asked of his religion, he said: “Rajan, on the disappearance of truth and the destruction of traditions, I appeared there and through my work the wicked and the guilty suffered, and in turn, I also suffered at their hands.” He further said: “It is love, truth and purity of heart and for this I am called ‘Isa-Maseeh’ (Jesus Christ).”

    During this return to India Jesus was accompanied by St. Thomas and his mother Mary who died at Muri (named after Mary) on India-Pakistan route. Mullah Nadiri in his Tareekh-e-Kashmir, Mirza Gulam Ahmad Qadiyani in his Maseeh Hindustan Mein, Andreas Faber-Kaiser in Jesus Died in Kashmir and Holger Kersten in Jesus Lived in India have dealt this at length. Jawaharlal Nehru, Zafarullah Khan, the Pak Judge of International Court of Justice and many others subscribed to this view.

    According to Jawaharlal Nehru’s Glimpses of World History: “All over Central Asia, in Kashmir and Ladakh and Tibet and even further north, there is still a strong belief that Jesus or Issa travelled about there . . . there is nothing inherently improbable in his doing so.”

    But this topic is still a matter of controversy. It would continue to be so unless and until the tomb is excavated for archaeological excavations. The theories woven around Jesus’ life in India, however, disturbing to the orthodox Christians, cannot be dismissed as an unfounded canard about their saviour. The matter is something to be investigated meticulously and scrupulously. Because history is a subject of objectivity which respects only reason rather than emotion. After all the religion of Christ is an enquiry after truth.

    True, there is a St. Thomas tradition connecting Gondophernes of Taxila. But none knows St. Thomas’ itinerary to Kerala. A professional missionary, he must have preferred a land route. But there is no evidence to prove his itinerary between Taxila and Kerala. Besides, the claim regarding his converting the Brahmins proves untenable, since this highly privileged group had no reason to quit Hinduism and embrace Christianity, which in AD 1st Century did not develop a philosophy except what Jesus Christ developed while in Kashmir and Laddakh, to attract even an average educated group. Archaeological evidences too are lacking. The argument regarding the crosses erected by St. Thomas too dash on the rock of historical arguments. Cross was only the instrument for crucifixion during the days of Christ and Thomas, and it became the symbol of the Church only later. Amusingly some of the Crosses the Church argued as having been erected during the times of Thomas were made of cement! Faith is something not to be predicated on a bunch of lies. St. Thomas, as the Vatican Note released a few years ago asserts, never visited Kerala.

    But there is also a different question involved. This is, why those who uphold the St. Thomas tradition of Kerala gobble down Jesus’ visit to Kashmir and his indebtedness to Indian thought in developing his teachings? Why the Keralite Christians get soured at the Hindu traditions in Christianity? Answer is simple. They got their religion not directly from Christ but from the colonial West with Cross which was used to torture Christ as its mere trademark. Again, why the Church in India opposes socialism whereas in Russia the Communist Government tolled the Church bells to arouse the patriotic sentiments against a German invader? Here again the answer is simple. It is capitalism Vs socialism. In Russia Christianity remained oriental and hence near to Christ. Unopposed to the Communist uplift of the downtrodden, an ideal Christ too preached, Christianity proved to be a national religion in Russia. One may recall the Russian Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov’s comment when the Soviet Union fell, “Christ was the first Marxist”. One may again remember the Russian philosopher, Dostoyevsky’s dream of a new Russia emerging from the synthesis of Christ’s sympathy to the poor, Marx’s principle of equality and Russian countryside piety, which of course for the time being failed, and the forecasting of Spengler, the German philosopher historian that the “next thousand years of Russia will belong to Dostoyevsky’s Christianity” which is now becoming almost true. But Indian Christianity always went the reverse. The statement of the Chennai Arch Bishop some years ago that the Church would call off all its educational, humanitarian and charitable activities in retaliation to the then Tamil Nadu Government prohibiting religious conversion was typical of its attitude. Really he said what he meant – stunting of education and starving the destitute in their orphanages, all in the name of God. Charity narrows down to become a reward for conversion. Poor Jesus! Had he come back he would once again have prayed his ‘Father’ to forgive this ignorance. This is no religion of Christ, which he imbibed from India, but of Church that grew in Europe. It is high time we Learned Christ first, and that too against his Indian background. Otherwise all what are being done in the name of Christ would only go against his teachings.