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Jesus was a Buddhist Monk BBC Documentary
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A western christian herself FINALLY got enlightened and realized
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How Buddhist Cultural Memes Were Appropriated By Christianity
by Subhash Kak
- Feb 06, 2016, 2:36 pm
What is the exact relationship between the New Testament and ancient
Indian texts on Buddhism? How much of the early gospels were inspired by
the Buddhist texts?
Living in the global village as we do, it is good to trace the origins
of iconic stories within the palimpsest of culture, especially those
that hold power over the religious imagination of people and have the
potential to create discord, in order we can all celebrate our shared
heritage and look at each other in friendship. More often than not it
will reveal the tangled nature of our collective memories.
We know that the Panchatantra stories traveled west from India and
became Kalilah wa-Dimnah in Arabic (after the names of the two jackals
Karataka and Damanaka). The name of the influential philosophical
movement of Brethren of Purity (ikhwan al-safa) is itself traced to one
of the Panchatantra stories. These stories and others from the
katha-sarita-sagara were celebrated in the Arabian Nights and Sindbad.
Scholars have also noted parallels between the Panchatantra and Aesop’s
The origin of the legend of Barlaam and Josaphat, two of the most famous
Christian saints of the Middle Ages is less widely known. This legend
was so hugely popular that, from time to time, the Church announced that
the relics of the two had appeared miraculously and were then installed
with solemn ceremony. Barlaam and Josaphat found their way into the
Roman Martyrology (27 November), and into the Greek calendar (26 August).
The legend tells how an Indian king persecutes his son, Josaphat, who
astrologers have foretold, will establish the Christian Church. In due
course, Josaphat meets the hermit Saint Barlaam and converts to
Christianity. In the end, the prince’s father accepts the son’s
conversion and retires to the desert to spend his last days with the old
Church scholars now acknowledge that Barlaam and Josaphat is a play on
the names Bhagavan and Bodhisattva, and it is a reworking of the story
of Buddha’s enlightenment. The original story was a Mahayana text that
was translated into Arabic and European languages. Indeed, this legend
should not startle us for St. Ann, St. Lucy, St. Denis and St. Brigid,
represent pre-Christian deities Anna, Lucia, Dionysus and Brighid were
The echo of Indian stories in the early gospels and the influence of
Vedanta and Buddhism on Gnosticism is also well accepted. In particular,
the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas (which was discovered at Nag Hammadi
in 1945) resonates with Indian ideas of spirituality.
The question of the possible relationship between the New Testament and
Indian texts has a long history. The great philosopher Arthur
Schopenhauer (1788-1860) went so far as to suggest that the canonical
gospels had an Indian basis:
The New Testament … must be in some way traceable to an Indian source:
its ethical system, its ascetic view of morality, its pessimism, and its
Avatar, are all thoroughly Indian. It is its morality which places it in
a position of such emphatic and essential antagonism to the Old
Testament so that the story of the Fall is the only possible point of
connection between the two.
The famed Indologist Max Müller also spoke of the connections:
That there are startling coincidences between Buddhism and Christianity
cannot be denied, and it must likewise be admitted that Buddhism existed
at least 400 years before Christianity. I go even further, and should
feel extremely grateful if anybody would point out to me the historical
channels through which Buddhism had influenced early Christianity.
This challenge was met by Rudolf Seydel, who showed that the originals
of the events in the gospels are in the Lalitavistara Sutra, and he
listed fifty-one parallels. Some of these are virginal conception by
Mary and Maya, the annunciation by the angels, the star in the east, the
tree that bends down to aid the mother, and the old sage who predicts
the child’s future.
Further specific parallels are in Luke’s infancy narrative, in the story
of the good thief, the story of the temptation of Jesus, the prediction
of his death as in John 12.34, or the story of the aged Simeon in Luke
2:25 (the Buddhist Asita), or the passage John 7:38. Some see the
parallels as no more than coincidences, although their details appear to
go against that view. The scholar Albert J. Edmunds tried to find middle
Each religion is independent in the main, but the younger one arose in
such a hotbed of eclecticism that it probably borrowed a few legends and
ideas from the older, which was quite accessible to it.
It is hard to take the view that the Buddhist texts borrowed from the
Christian gospels since the life stories of the Buddha were translated
into Chinese from Sanskrit as early as the eleventh year of the reign of
Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty (69 CE), and this is much prior
to the time the gospels were written down.
Another important perspective is the operation of the Church and the
Buddhist temple. Our evidence comes from the French Lazarist
missionaries, Evariste Huc, and Joseph Gabet, who were amongst the first
Westerners to visit Lhasa in the 1840s. Their travels through Asia and
Tibet were chronicled in Huc’s book Souvenirs d’un voyage dans la
Tartarie, le Thibet et la Chine pendant les années 1844, 1845 et 1846.
Huc was astonished by the similarities between Buddhist and Catholic
The cross, the miter, the dalmatica, the cope, … , the service with
double choirs, the psalmody, the exorcisms, the censer at suspended from
five chains, the benedictions given by the Lamas by extending the right
hand over the heads of the faithful, the chaplet, ecclesiastical
celibacy, spiritual retirement, the worship of the saints, the fasts,
the processions, the litanies, the holy water, all these are analogies
between the Buddhists and ourselves.
Huc explained the similarities in the borrowings by the Tibetans from
the West. But Tibetan Buddhism has an old history that connects it to
the Buddhist monasteries of China and India with ancient prescriptions
of ritual and worship, and it is implausible it borrowed the practices
of a remote creed. It is more likely that the Tibetan and the Catholic
rituals have a common source.