Hellenic Buddhism and Buddhist Christianity  




Theravada Buddhist and other Indian Influences on Greek Philosophy and early Christianity, and subsequent Hellenic and possible Christian influence on the Rise of Mahayana Buddhism. Also, esoteric origins of Christianity and the mystery of Christ.


*Dedicated to H.H. the Dalai Lama*


by Peter Holleran



   "One of the distinguishing features of the Gandharan school of art that emerged in north-west India is that it has been clearly influenced by the naturalism of the Classical Greek style. Thus, while these images still convey the inner peace that results from putting the Buddha's doctrine into practice, they also give us an impression of people who walked and talked, etc. and slept much as we do. I feel this is very important. These figures are inspiring because they do not only depict the goal, but also the sense that people like us can achieve it if we try." (The Dalai Lama, foreword to "Echoes of Alexander the Great").

   Preface

   With this comment the Dalai Lama concurs that there was a definite Hellenistic influence on the Buddhist artwork of the beginning Mahayana period. This article will explore whether there were shared religious and philosophical influences between the two cultures and also cross-linkages with Christianity as well. Some of what will be presented is not rigorous proven fact, but reasonable supposition based on many sources and streams of thought. Tragedies like the destruction of the libraries at Alexandria and the great monastery of Nalanda, as well as the fact that the Buddhist canons were not written down until one or two centuries after Jesus' death and nearly five centuries after the Buddha's death, work to our disadvantage. The existing literature on all of these topics, however, is quite extensive. I am indebted to Mark Scorelle for the original idea for this article, and for further contributing thoughts.

   Introduction

   In sum, the ideas to be looked at here are the possibility that Theravada Buddhism had an influence on Greek and early Christian thought, as well as the person known as Jesus, Issa, or Jehoshua, and that several hundred years later, the Hellenic concept of the Logos and the ideal of the perfected or Illuminated man, influenced Buddhism in India, possibly contributing to the rise of the Mahayana school. The “lost years” of Jesus, Christian and Jewish settlements in India, Buddhism before Gautama, Buddhist communities in the Middle East, the Hindu mythology of Avatars and the pagan myths of Saviors born on December 25 are among the topics to be discussed. The importance of synthesizing this information is to provide a basis for a rational religion free of sectarianism, without sacrificing the true spiritual dimension in the process, as some New-Age reductionists have done. I am thinking here of the works (available here on-line), Christianity: The Greatest Story Ever Sold by Acharya S, and The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors by Kersey Graves, which I can not praise enough for their wealth of information on the universal mythos and solar cult of the world-savior or sun-god, which has for thousands of years produced many deity figures around the globe, such as Osiris, Horus, Mithra, Buddha, Krishna, and Jesus, all born from a virgin on or around December 25, all crucified or sacrificed and then resurrected for the salvation of the world, leading one to the inevitable conclusion that a universal brotherhood and priesthood bent on power and herding the masses into what William Bramley, in his provocative and intriguing, The Gods of Eden, called “custodial religions”, is a reasonable, compelling view. Much of their argument was previously introduced in the nineteenth century by Hislop in his work The Two Babylons. In the process of reducing all ancient teachings to their common religious-astrological origins, however, and rightfully and necessarily so, these writers sometimes leave the task half done, for the reader still needs a sense of a true spiritual dharma, the actual esoteric gnosis behind the mysteries, as a means of transcendance, or process and possibility of realization itself. There is also the question of whether jesus actually lived. These writers think not, as did many occultists of the nineteenth century. However, in the Annals of Tacitus, Book 15, Section 44, it tells us that Christ was executed in the reign of Tiberius while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea. Thus it is entirely possible that Jesus did in fact exist, while the Romans and the Catholic Church later superimposed astrological and pagan stories on top of the life of the real Jesus. A translation of Eusebius' Church History by Dr. Paul Maier is a good place to start in understanding what really happened with early Christianity.

   Many Greeks of the third century B.C. (Plotinus, Pythagoras, Apollonius of Tyana, etc.) were aware of the teachings of the Buddha, as well as other Indian doctrines. Swami Vivekananda wrote:

   "There is no philosophy in the world that is not indebted to Kapila [the originator of Samkhya philosophy]. Pythagoras went to India and studied this philosophy, and that was the beginning of the philosophy of the Greeks. Later, it formed the Alexandrian school and still later the Gnostics. It became divided into two; one part went to Europe and Alexandria, and the other remained in India; and out of this, the system of Vyasa was developed."   (http://www.hinduism.co.za/sanatan.htm)

   His monastic brother, Swami Abhedananda, in The Samkhya Philosophy of Kapila, shared these views:

   "Kapila is known as the father of the doctrine of evolution because he is the first who gave the logical arguments for the support of the doctrine. It is believed that Kapila lived long before the Greek philosophers Plato and Pythagoras were born. Some of the Oriental scholars are of opinion that the Greek philosophy drew a great deal from the philosophy of Kapila, and Kapila’s psychology as well as the principle of cosmology are the most ancient ones in the world. Though the idea of evolution existed long before Kapila and also before Plato and Pythagoras, yet Kapila was the first who taught by observation and experiment how to solve the mysteries of this universe.....The fundamental principles of the Buddhist philosophy also depend upon the Samkhya theory. In fact, all systems of Indian philosophy believe in the doctrine of evolution. Even the Buddhists [who] do not believe in the existence of the phenomenal universe, and still they believe in the doctrine of evolution. All those who believe in God, also believe in the theory of evolution."   (http://www.hinduism.co.za/sankhya.htm)

   It is not inconceivable that Plotinus' concepts of the trinity or three primal hypostases (One, Nous, and Soul), as well as that of the Logos or Logoi from the Nous (being) and Matter (non-being), were in turn derived from the Purusha-Buddhi-Ahamkara, and Purusha-Prakriti of Kapila. Plotinus himself said:

“It is no new doctrine, it was held in the earliest times although without being explicitly developed: we desire only to be in this matter the interpreters of the wise men of old and to show by the evidence of Plato that they held the same views as ourselves." (Ennead, v. I, 8.)

  According to Raphael of the Ashram Vidya Order, Plato was schooled in the thought of Pythagoras and thus may have been familiar with the primordial traditions of India, of which Buddhism was a part:

   "Plato was initiated to Philosophy by Cratylus, one of Heraclitus’ disciples. His early formation, thus, focused more on the tenets of “becoming” rather than on those of “Being”. The most forming philosophical influence Plato received, however, came from Socrates. Of this latter Plato was an assiduous and diligent listener. And it was Socrates who became the protagonist of his dialogues. After Socrates’ death in 399 B.C., Plato went on a series of journeys for about ten years: where he was initiated into the Egyptian Mysteries: to the south of Italy and to Tarentum where he came into contact with Archytas, the leader of the Pythagoreans of the area...Plato's philosophy is of an initiatory order, it is conversion to Being, it is initiation into the supreme Good...Its understanding doesn’t occur in the realm of mental speculations; it requires a realization in one’s conscience and a concordant commitment in one’s life...Platonism was highly regarded by the Fathers of the Church (Ambrose, Augustine, John of Damascus, Anselm from Canterbury, and so on). It continued to be the Doctrine approved by the Church until the XII century... Although Justinian closed the Platonic Academia in the 529 A.D. , groups and individuals continued meditating, realizing, and expressing this Doctrine...(http://www.vidya-ashramvidyaorder.org/OnLineR.html)

   The view that an eternal, immortal, persisting soul "substance" is not the conditio sine qua non of rebirth is found not only in the older Upanishads, but also in Pythagoras and Empedocles, where rebirth is taught without the assumption of an imperishable individual personality. This is similar to the annatta, or no-soul doctrine which is the central tenet of Buddhism.

   Alexander the Great, moreover, several hundred years before Christ brought Hellenic influence with him on his journeys and conquests to the Far East. In turn, Theravadin Buddhist missionaries (by edict of King Asoka (273-232 B.C.) after the Third Buddhist Council in 241 B.C.) were sent by Moggaliputta to many countries, including Kashmir, Afghanistan, Burma, Ceylon, China, Nepal, Tibet, and importantly, Egypt and Syria in the Middle East, which had an influence on groups such as the Neo-Platonists, Gnostics, and the Essenes, including quite possibly the being named Jesus. It is probable that Buddhist influence was felt abroad even before Asoka's reign, in fact, for India was a center of East-West trade, and as Hindus were afraid of contamination by contact with the unorthodox, many seafarers and land-travelers were likely Buddhist. Buddhism in some form, moreover, according to some researchers, may be much older than previously believed, actually predating Gautama by many centuries, and thus possibly one of the oldest religions on earth.

   Early Church Fathers knew of Buddha also. In the 2nd century CE, Clement of Alexandria wrote the following:

   "Among the Indians are those philosophers also who follow the precepts of Boutta, whom they honour as a god on account of his extraordinary sanctity." ( Stromata (Miscellanies), Book I, Chapter XV)

   He also recognized Bactrian Buddhists (Sramanas) and Indian Gymnosophists for their influence on Greek thought:

   "Thus philosophy, a thing of the highest utility, flourished in antiquity among the barbarians, shedding its light over the nations. And afterwards it came to Greece. First in its ranks were the prophets of the Egyptians; and the Chaldeans among the Assyrians; and the Druids among the Gauls; and the Sramanas among the Bactrians; and the philosophers of the Celts; and the Magi of the Persians, who foretold the Saviour's birth, and came into the land of Judaea guided by a star. The Indian gymnosophists are also in their number, and the other barbarian philosophers. And of these there are two classes, some of them called Sramanas, and others Brahmins." (Stromata (Miscellanies))

   That is a pretty strong statement.

   The story of the birth of the Buddha was also not unknown: a fragment of Archelaos of Carrha (278 CE) mentions Buddha's virgin-birth, and Saint Jerome (4th century CE) said that he "was born from the side of a virgin... Queen Maya came to bear the Buddha after receiving a prophetic dream in which she foresaw the descent of the Bodhisattva (Buddha-to-be) from the Tusita heaven into her womb." This is an example of a solar myth story with obvious parallels to the story of Jesus being conceived in connection with the visitation of the Holy Spirit to the Virgin Mary.

   In the 2nd century CE, Saint Origen (185-253 A.D.) stated that Buddhists co-existed with Druids in pre-Christian Britain:

   "The island (Britain) has long been predisposed to it (Christianity) through the doctrines of the Druids and Buddhists, who had already inculcated the doctrine of the unity of the Godhead." (Commentary on Ezekiel)

   All of the ancient mysteries appear to have had a common pre-historic origin, and Christianity was the inheritor of these. The cult of Mithras, for instance, which came to Italy from Persia, had many similarities with the sacerdotalism of the modern church. It became the major cult, and at one time all of Europe was converted to its doctrines. The early Christians met under the city of Rome, using as their places of worship the subterranean temples of Mithras. The Encyclopedia Britannica says the following:

   "The fraternal and democratic spirit of the first communities, and their humble origin; the identification of the object of adoration with light and the sun; the legends of shepherds with their gifts and adoration, the flood,and the ark; the representation in art of the fiery chariot, the drawing of water from the rock; the use of bell and candle, holy water and the communion, the sanctification of Sunday and of the 25th of December; the insistence on moral conduct, the emphasis placed on abstinence and self-control; the doctrine of heaven and hell, of primitive revelation, of the mediation of the Logos emanating from the divine, the atoning sacrifice, the constant warfare between good and evil and the final triumph of the former, the immortality of the soul, the last judgement,the resurrection of the flesh and the fiery destruction of the universe - [these] are some of the resemblances which, whether real or apparent, enabled Mithraism to prolong its resistance to Christianity." (Manly Palmer Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages, (Tarcher/Penguin, 2003 edition, p. 50 - a massive book all the more remarkable considering the author wrote it in 1928 at the age of only twenty-seven)

   To bring the pagans into the Roman Empire through the medium of the growing Christian faith, and perhaps to save face for many murders he had committed, including that of family members, for which the pagan religions such as Mithraism would not grant him pardon, the Emperor Constantine was baptised a Christian and gave Christianity official tolerance as a state religion (supposedly after a great light gave him a conversion experience, although on his death bed he still gave a prayer to the god Zeus or Jupiter). The next Roman emperor, Julian, tried to retract Constantine’s ruling by restoring various rights to pagans and was murdered, possibly suggesting there were forces other than purely Roman behind the rise of Christianity. The idea of the Savior-God born on December 25 (more or less the time of the winter solstice with the sun at its lowest ebb in Capricorn, ready to be “born again”, a pagan astro-religious belief) along with a host of pagan-soon-to-become-Catholic symbols, rituals, and teachings, were then meshed into the existing gospel accounts. Dates for the writing of the gospels vary, from 70 A.D. to as late as 250 A.D. Authorship is mysterious, with the name of Marcion and others bandied about, with much intrigue and possible political conspiracy involved in establishing a new Christian version of the earlier pagan myths (including Zeus, Osiris, Mithra, etc.) to consolidate Roman control. The Gnostics were persecuted, as well as anyone not professing the new faith. At the Council of Constantinople in 553 A.D. Emperor Justinian forced the elimination of the doctrine of reincarnation from the teachings of the Church. This basic occult tenet was widely accepted by the early Church Fathers, including Origen and Clement of Alexandria - as well as by Jesus himself, apparently, who confirmed to his disciples that John the Baptist had been the prophet Elias (Matthew 17:10-13). There are numerous references to reincarnation in the Old Testament and it was universally believed among early Christians. This council also fixed the date of Jesus’ birth as December 25, the same as all the other saviors of the pagan world, whose religion is said to have originally derived from the temple mysteries of Atlantis, passing from there to Central Asia and Egypt.

   The concept of the Logos was most evident in the Gospel of John, which was much different from the other three “synoptic gospels', and designed to bring the gnostics into the new Church. Some branches of the Gnostics believed in initiation into the inner realms through the power of a godman, much like some Sufi and Sant Mat or shabd yoga schools teach (see Morton Smith, The Secret Gospel, pp. 14-17, and the much longer, Clement of Alexandria and the Secret Gospel of Mark by the same author). This idea may have been later worked into the Mahayana teachings, particular in regards to the god-like perception of the Buddha, and in references to Avalokitesvara and other almost mythical celestial saviors, as well as the Surangama Sutra's reference to the inner sounds, and perhaps even the later Vajrayana development and the idea of the compassonate and spiritually powerful maha-siddha. In the Surangama Sutra, for instance, many assembled Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas and great Arhats confessed to Lord Buddha how they had attained samadhi through the help of great Buddhas of the past [thus suggesting a much earlier beginning to Buddhism than Gautama himself]. They had faithfully served their gurus, listened to their teachings, practiced what they were taught, and expressed less of an exclusive emphasis on self-effort and self-reliance pertaining to spiritual matters than did the theravadin schools. Mention is made of the celestial rays of light emanating from the great Buddha to the benefit of those in the assembly.

   The symbol of the cross is an ancient one in all cultures worldwide that predates Christianity by thousands of years. It is found not only in Christianity as their priests would have one believe, but in Egyptian, Persian, Chaldean, Buddhist, Japanese, Native American, and other cultures and religions. Whether the ancient Tau or T-cross of the Qaballists, the Egyptian ankh or Crus Ansata, or the familiar Roman cross, it symbolizes the crucifixion of man's Higher Self on the earth, as pointed out by Plato, an initiate of the Mysteries in Egypt - who as Voltaire once said did more to popularize the crucifixion teaching than Christianity ever did. There were, as mentioned, at least sixteen crucified 'world saviors' in written history: K(C)rishna, Christ, Adonis, Apollo, Bacchus, Quexacoatl, Osiris, Mithra, etc., all linked in with the mythos of the Solar deity which dies or is crucified on December 25 and is 'reborn' in the spring at the vernal equinox, but at a deeper level are symbolic of the cosmic sacrifice of the Christ principle within and for man.

   Paul Brunton notes that nearly identical stories are found in diverse religious traditions:

   "Religion teaches mythology as a historical fact. The Hindu holy book Vishnu Purana tells of a king who massacred the male children in his country in a vain search for the divine Krishna, whose fortunes, it was predicted, would menace his own. The Jewish scriptural tale of the infant Moses and the Egyptian scriptural tale of the infant Osiris [and the Christian tale of the infant Jesus] escaping from exactly the same danger are significant. We have here versions, different in time and altered by time, of one and the same event, whose original is lost in the prehistory of Central Asia. Or, alternately, we have an equally ancient myth whose inner meaning needs to be fathomed." (Notebooks, Vol. 12, Part 1, 5.131)

   When the conquistador Cortex went to Mexico his men were astonished that the priests of the Aztecs had the same symbology, dress, and rituals of worship as the Catholic church, and the Aztecs thought Cortez to be the reincarnation of Quexacoatl who had promised to return, and unfortunately they let him in, whereupon he proceeded to wipe them out.

   Buddha is often listed among the crucified world saviors, but the history of his life as recorded in The Book of the Great Decease, purportedly by his disciples, is fairly straightforward, and so in his case the reference is only allegorical. But the Buddhist wheel of life is composed of two superimposed crosses, as is the Tibetan Swastika. The symbol of the earth in esotericism is a circle with a cross in the center. According to Manly Palmer Hall, "for thousands of years the cross has been identified with the plan of salvation for humanity." And, "to the Pythagoreans the most sacred of all numbers [characterizing the perfection of heaven and earth] was the 10, the symbol of which is X or cross. In both Japanese and Chinese languages the character of the number 10 is a cross." (Manly Palmer Hal, op. cit., p. 596, 599).

   It is likely that Jesus was not really crucified on the cross (which in the ancient myths is usually a tree - a symbol of the outstretched man-body and the internal chakra system with a macrocosmic inverted 'world-tree' counterpart as well, whose roots are in the heavens and branches reach into the earth); early Christians like Irenaeus wrote in his book Against Heresies that according to the word of the Apostles that Jesus lived a long time and was around even in the time of Trajan (Roman emperor from 98-117 A.D.).

   Sant Kirpal Singh answered a question from someone who mentioned that Christianity believed that Jesus died for the sins of the world. His simple response was, "ALL masters have died for the sake of the world."

   The Logos idea, the Hellenic ideal of the perfected man, the Savior-God idea, the doctrine of atonement (or its eastern version of a saint taking on the karma of others), the concept of the Bodhisattva, as well as the teachings of compassion (bodhicitta) and love were all eventually adopted in the rise of the Mahayana schools beginning, possibly, with the fourth Buddhist Council in approximately 100 A.D. These all reflect a reasonable probability of both Hellenic and Christian influence, and were quite an advance and a challenge to the conventional vedic structure of social and religious life with its caste system and respective dharmas. They may also have been a re-accretization of earlier parts of the solar myth that had been exfoliated by Gautama with his more direct teachings as embodied in the early Buddhist development...

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The following historical section gives background information on the early development of Buddhism and consists of quoted material from wikepedia.com in italics interspersed with my comments and additional research [in brackets].


   Development of the Buddhist Councils and the Rise of the Mahayana

"1st Buddhist council (5th c. BCE)
The first Buddhist council was held soon after the death of the Buddha under the patronage of king Ajatasatru of the Magadha empire, and presided by a monk named Mahakasyapa, at Rajagriha (today's Rajgir). The objective of the council was to record the Buddha's sayings (sutra) and codify monastic rules (vinaya): Ananda, one of the Buddha's main disciples and his cousin, was called upon to recite the discourses of the Buddha, and Upali, another disciple, recited the rules of the vinaya. These became the basis of the Pali Canon, which has been the orthodox text of reference throughout the history of Buddhism.


   [The initial cause for this council, according to one source, was the overhearing of a conversation by Mahakassapa, chief disciple of the Buddha, in which an aged monk Subhadda openly said to other monks:

   "Do not grieve, do not lament. We are happily rid of the Great Sramana (Buddha). We used to be annoyed by being told: 'This beseems you, this beseems you not.' But now we shall be able to do whatever we like, and what we do not like, we shall not have to do."

   (H. Kern, Manual of Indian Buddhism (Delhi, 1970), quoted in: Kanai Lal Hazra, History of Theravada Buddhism in South-East Asia (New Delhi: Munshiran Manoharlal Publishers Pvt Ltd, 1982), p. 25)

   How often this happens when the teacher dies! Mahakassappa was anxious over the future of the Sangha and convened five hundred arhats to establish the canon of the Dhamma, or teaching, and also a canon of the discipline of the Sangha, or community of practitioners. These became the two Pitakas or "baskets" (so named because manuscripts were later carried around in baskets), the Suttanta-Pitaka, consisting of the sermons of the Buddha, and the Vinaya-Pitaka, or the rules of discipline. These canons, however, were as yet handed down from one generation of monks to another by oral tradition of memorization, as the teachings were not written down until the time of the Fourth Council(s). This has led some to question the accuracy of the accounts of the first three councils. (see: (http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhism/lifebuddha/2_32lbud.htm). Teitaro Suzuki, however, with reference to many sources argues adamantly for the historicity of at least the First council (see: The First Buddhist Council (http://www.sacred-texts.com/journals/mon/1stbudcn.htm). Paticularly amusing is a section entitled “The Misdeamenors of Ananda”, #7, which states “Ânanda exposed the secret parts of Buddha in the presence of women, thinking that the act would tend to the cessation of their passions, but how could he know this when he had not yet attained to the stage of Arhatship?” Ananda was known as the last disciple of the Buddha to attain enlightenment.]

2nd Buddhist council (383 BCE)
The second Buddhist council was convened by King Kalasoka and held at Vaisali, following conflicts between the traditional schools of Buddhism and a more liberal interpretational movement called the Mahasanghikas. The traditional schools considered the Buddha as a human being who reached enlightenment, which could be most easily attained by monks following the monastic rules and practicing the teaching for the sake of overcoming suffering and attaining Arhantship (the so-called "solitary realizer"). The secessionist Mahasangikas, however, tended to consider this approach too individualistic and selfish. They considered the objective of becoming an arhat insufficient, and instead proposed that the only true goal was to reach full buddhahood, in a sense opening the way to future Mahayana thought. They became proponents of more relaxed monastic rules, which could appeal to a large majority of monastic and lay people, hence their name the "great" or "majority" assembly.


   [The original dispute appears relatively minor today, being over the so-called “Ten Points”. This was a reference to claims of some monks breaking ten rules, some of which were considered major. The specific ten points were:

   1. Storing salt in a horn.
   2. Eating after midday.
   3. Eating once and then going again to a village for alms.
   4. Holding the Uposatha Ceremony with monks dwelling in the same locality.
   5. Carrying out official acts when the assembly was incomplete.
   6. Following a certain practice because it was done by one's tutor or teacher.
   7. Eating sour milk after one had his midday meal.
   8. Consuming strong drink before it had been fermented.
   9. Using a rug which was not the proper size.
   10. Using gold and silver.

   The Second Council made the unanimous decision not to relax any of the rules, and censured the behaviour of the monks who were accused of violating the ten points.

   The council ended, therefore, with the rejection of the Mahasanghikas. They left the council and maintained themselves for several centuries in northwestern India and Central Asia according to Kharoshti inscriptions found near the Oxus and dated c. 1st century AD. The concept of the ‘’greater vehicle, the mahayana, developed two new elements: one, availability of the teachings to those other than the monks, and, two, a greater concept of enlightenment, the Bodhisattva ideal, beyond that of the solitary realizer or Arahant. After the 1st Century A.D. the Mahayanist took a more defined position and then the Mahasanghika (Mahayana) and Hinayana concepts were introduced. About the 2nd Century A.D. Mahayana became clearly defined. Nagarjuna developed the Mahayana philosophy of Sunyata and proved logically that everything is void (Madhyamaka-karika). About the 4th Century two writers, Asanga and Vasubandhu, also wrote a large amount of works on Mahayana philosophy.

   The remaining Theravadins split into eleven sects, and another fifteen or more sects developed by the end of the second century B.C. The term “Hinayana”, or the “lesser vehicle”, was coined by the Mahayanists as a derogatory, but is not synonymous with the term Theravadins, who left for Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Laos and Cambodia during the 3rd Century B.C. before the Mahayana had become fully developed

   A major reason for the split, once again, was the disagreement over the status of the arhat. The Theravada elders eventually conceded to the Mahasamghikas that arhats are limited in their knowledge. For instance, they might not know directions when traveling and could receive information on such things from others. Nevertheless, they were proficient in Dharma matters. Arhats, moreover, could even have doubts about their own attainments, although they would not relapse. Theravada insisted, however, that arhats are completely free of disturbing emotions, such as desires. The Mahasanghika or “majority group” disagreed concerning disturbing emotions. They asserted that arhats could still be seduced in dreams and have nocturnal emissions, because arhats still had a trace of lust. Thus, the Mahasanghikas made a clear distinction between an arhat and the perfection of a Buddha, which, fortunately, grew more sophisticated over time]. 

Ashokan proselytism (c. 260 BCE)
The Mauryan king Ashoka (273-232 BCE) converted to Buddhism after his bloody conquest of the territory of Kalinga (today's Orissa) in the east of India. Regretful of the horrors brought by the conflict, the king decided to renounce violence, and to advertise the faith by building stupas and pillars urging for the respect of all animal life, and enjoining people to follow the Dharma. He also built roads and hospitals around the country.

This period marks the first spread of Buddhism beyond India. According to the plates and pillars left by king Ashoka (the Edicts of Ashoka), emissaries were sent to various countries in order to spread Buddhism, as far as the Greek kingdoms in the West, in particular the neighboring Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, and possibly even farther to the Mediterranean according to the stone inscriptions left by Ashoka.


   [Asoka's conversion, as did the later supposed conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity, led to the conversion of many of his subjects. This is of importance because Buddhism had previously appealed mainly to upper-class, well-educated people, but once the emperor became a Buddhist, it became a religion of the common people as well].

3rd Buddhist Council (c.250 BCE)
King Ashoka convened the third Buddhist council in 241 BCE at Pataliputra (today's Patna). It was held by the monk Moggaliputta. The objective of the council was to reconcile the different schools of Buddhism, to purify the Buddhist movement, particularly from opportunistic factions which had been attracted by the royal patronage, and to organize the dispatch of Buddhist missionaries throughout the known world.

The Pali canon (Tipitaka, or Tripitaka in Sanskrit, literally the "Three Baskets"), which comprises the texts of reference of traditional Buddhism and is considered to be directly transmitted from the Buddha, was formalized at that time. It consists of the doctrine (the Sutra Pitaka), the monastic discipline (Vinaya Pitaka) and an additional new body of subtle philosophy and metaphysics (the Abhidharma Pitaka).The teaching, however, was still in oral form only.

The efforts of Ashoka to purify the Buddhist faith also had the effect of segregating it against other emerging movements. In particular, after 250 BCE, the Sarvastivadin (who had been rejected by the 3rd council, according to the Theravada tradition) and the Dharmaguptaka schools became quite influential in northwestern India and Central Asia, up to the time of the Kushan Empire in the first centuries of the common era. The distinguishing beliefs of the different sects today seem rather obscure. The Dharmaguptakas were characterized by a belief that Buddha was separate and above the rest of the Buddhist community, for instance, and the Sarvastivadin believed that past, present, and future are all simultaneous.


   [The beginnings of the Third Council shared even more of the religious discord and violence that later plagued the councils of the early Christian Church. It seems that many unsavory and unfaithful types had joined the Order to exploit the patronage of King Asoka, who procided food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. Genuine monks refused to hold the prescribed purification or Uposatha ceremony in the company of these corrupt, heretical monks. Asoka sent a minister to order the genuine monks to perform the ceremony. They refused, and the minister had the monks lined up and beheaded one by one until he reached the King’s brother, Tissa, who had been ordained, whereupon the minister stopped the slaughter. Asoka was appalled and then convened the 3rd council. Also, in striking contrast to the uniform accounts of the Second Council, there are records of several possible 'Third Councils'. These different versions function to authorize the founding of one particular school or other].

Hellenistic world
Some of the Edicts of Ashoka inscriptions describe the efforts made by Ashoka to propagate the Buddhist faith throughout the Hellenistic world, which at that time formed an uninterrupted continuum from the borders of India to Greece. The Edicts indicate a clear understanding of the political organization in Hellenistic territories: the names and location of the main Greek monarchs of the time are identified, and they are claimed as recipients of Buddhist proselytism: Antiochus II Theos of the Seleucid Kingdom (261-246 BCE), Ptolemy II Philadelphos of Egypt (285-247 B.C.), Antigonus Gonatas of Macedonia (276-239 BCE), Magas of Cyrene (288-258 BCE), and Alexander of Epirus (272-255 BCE).

"The conquest by Dharma has been won here, on the borders, and even six hundred yojanas (4,000 miles) away, where the Greek king Antiochos rules, beyond there where the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander rule, likewise in the south among the Cholas, the Pandyas, and as far as Tamraparni." (Edicts of Ashoka, 13th Rock Edict, S. Dhammika)

Furthermore, according to Pali sources, some of Ashoka's emissaries were Greek Buddhist monks, indicating close religious exchanges between the two cultures: "When the thera (elder) Moggaliputta, the illuminator of the religion of the Conqueror (Ashoka), had brought the (third) council to an end he sent forth theras, one here and one there: and to Aparantaka (the "Western countries" corresponding to Gujarat and Sindh) he sent the Greek (Yona) named Dhammarakkhita". (Mahavamsa XII).

It is not clear how much these interactions may have been influential, but some authors have commented that some level of syncretism between Hellenist thought and Buddhism may have started in Hellenic lands at that time. They have pointed to the presence of Buddhist communities in the Hellenistic world around that period, in particular in Alexandria (mentioned by Clement), and to the pre-Christian monastic order of the Therapeutae (possibly a deformation of the Pali word "Theravada"), who may have "almost entirely drawn (its) inspiration from the teaching and practices of Buddhist ascetism" (Robert Lissen).

From around 100 BCE, "star within a diadem" symbols, also alternatively described as "eight-spoked wheels" and possibly infuenced by the design of the Buddhist Dharma wheel, appear on the coinage of the Hebrew King Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 BCE). Alexander Jannaeus was associated with the Phil-Hellenic sect of the Sadducees and the monastic order of the Essenes, themselves among the competing sects that were precursors of Christianity. These representations of eight-spoked wheels continued under the reign of his widow, Queen Alexandra, until the Roman invasion of Judea in 63 BCE.

Buddhist gravestones from the Ptolemaic period have also been found in Alexandria, decorated with depictions of the Dharma wheel (Tarn, "The Greeks in Bactria and India"). Commenting on the presence of Buddhists in Alexandria, some scholars have even pointed out that It was later in this very place that some of the most active centers of Christianity were established (Robert Linssen "Zen Living").

Greco-Buddhist interaction (2nd c. BCE-1st c. CE)
In the areas west of the Indian subcontinent, neighboring Greek kingdoms had been in place in Bactria (today's northern Afghanistan) since the time of the conquests of Alexander the Great around 326 BCE: first the Seleucids from around 323 BCE, then the Greco-Bactrian kingdom from around 250 BCE.

The Greco-Bactrian king Demetrius I invaded India in 180 BCE as far as Pataliputra, establishing an Indo-Greek kingdom that was to last in various part of northern India until the end of the 1st century BCE. Buddhism flourished under the Indo-Greek kings, and it has been suggested that their invasion of India was intended to show their support for the Mauryan empire, and to protect the Buddhist faith from the religious persecutions of the Sungas (185-73 BCE).

One of the most famous Indo-Greek kings is Menander (reigned c. 160-135 BCE). He
[may have] converted to Buddhism and is presented in the Mahayana tradition as one of the great benefactors of the faith, on a par with king Ashoka or the later Kushan king Kanishka. Menander's coins bear the mention "Saviour king" in Greek, and "Great king of the Dharma" in Kharoshthi script. Direct cultural exchange is suggested by the dialogue of the Milinda Panha between the Greek king Menander and the monk Nagasena around 160 BCE. Upon his death, the honour of sharing his remains was claimed by the cities under his rule, and they were enshrined in stupas, in a parallel with the historic Buddha (Plutarch, Praec. reip. ger. 28, 6). The interaction between Greek and Buddhist cultures may have had some influence on the evolution of Mahayana, as the faith developed its sophisticated philosophical approach and a man-god treatment of the Buddha somewhat reminiscent of Hellenic gods. It is also around that time that the first anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha are found, often in realistic Greco-Buddhist style: "One might regard the classical influence as including the general idea of representing a man-god in this purely human form, which was of course well familiar in the West, and it is very likely that the example of westerner's treatment of their gods was indeed an important factor in the innovation" (Boardman, "The Diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity" ).

   [The Questions of Menander - supposedly a conversation between the king and Nagasena -is unique among ancient Buddhist texts in that its dialogue form is characteristic of Greek philosophical texts and may have actually been originally written in Greek. The Kushan Empire in the Gandhara region, as stated, saw the emergence of an Indo-Greek Buddhist style of sculpture. The Buddha, earlier represented only symbolically (as a footprint), came to be depicted as a Greek deity or king, standing or seated in meditation].

Rise of Mahayana (1st c.BCE-2nd c.CE) and Fourth Buddhist Council
The rise of Mahayana Buddhism from the 1st century BCE was accompanied by complex political changes in northwestern India. The Indo-Greek kingdoms were gradually overwhelmed, and their culture assimilated by Indo-European nomad migrants from Central Asia, the Indo-Scythians, and then the Yuezhi, who founded the Kushan Empire from around 12 BCE. The Kushans were supportive of Buddhism, and a fourth Buddhist council was convened by the Kushan emperor Kanishka, around 100 CE at Jalandhar or in Kashmir, and is usually associated with the formal rise of Mahayana Buddhism and its splitting off from from Theravada Buddhism. Theravada Buddhism does not recognize the authenticity of this council, and it is sometimes called the "council of heretical monks".


   [The main reason for its convening was the realization that it was no longer possible for the majority of monks to retain the entire Tipitaka in their memories as had been the case formerly for the Venerable Mahinda and those who followed after him].

It is said that Kanishka gathered 500 bhikhus in Kashmir, headed by Vasumitra, to edit the Tripitaka and make references and remarks. Allegedly, during the council there were altogether three hundred thousand verses and over nine million statements compiled, and it took twelve years to complete. This council did not rely on the original Pali canon (the Tripitaka). Instead, a set of new scriptures was approved, as well as fundamental principles of Mahayana doctrine. The new scriptures, usually in the Gandhari vernacular and the Kharosthi script, were rewritten in the classical language of Sanskrit, to many scholars a turning point in the propagation of Buddhist thought.

The new form of Buddhism was characterized by an almost God-like treatment of the Buddha, by the idea that all beings have a Buddha-nature and should aspire to Buddhahood, and by a syncretism due to the various cultural influences within northwestern India and the Kushan Empire."


[End of wikepedia material (http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/Buddhism_History/id/52684)

   Summarizing further, the Mahasanghikas branched into five schools. All of them agreed the arhats were limited and that the Buddhas were supreme, and each of them developed this assertion further, paving the way for Mahayana. The Mahayana sutras first appeared between the first century B.C.E. and the fourth century C.E. in Andhra, eastern South India, the area in which Mahasanghika was flourishing. According to their traditional accounts, these sutras had been taught by the Buddha, but were orally transmitted even more privately than the Hinayana works had been, with some even being safeguarded in non-human realms. (This type of mystical/mythological argument opens the door to a much more ancient origin for these teachings, and also for the intermingling of the solar mythos within the historical accounts as well). For instance, within Mahayana, the Madhyamaka (dBu-ma) and Chittamatra (Sems-tsam-pa) Schools appeared first in Andhra, South India. Madhyamaka traces from Nagarjuna, who lived in Andhra between 150 and 250 C.E. Some traditional accounts say that Nagarjuna recovered the Prajnaparamita sutras from beneath the sea, where the Nagas had been keeping watch over them and safeguarding them from the time when Buddha had taught them on Vulture’s Peak (Bya-rgod phung-pa’i ri, Skt. Grdhrakuta) near Rajagrha, central North India. “Nagas” by some accounts were half-human half-serpent beings that live beneath both the earth and bodies of water.[Other esoteric accounts, however, say they were a previous race of man, possibly alien hybrids, who came from over the sea, perhaps from a dying Lemuria, to southern India]

   The first Buddhist monastic university, Nalanda, was built near Rajagrha at the beginning of the second century C.E. [Note: others say 450 CE]. Nagarjuna was said to have taught there, although the timing is questionable, as he was said to have spent most of his life in southern India, but a whole host of other stellar Mahayana Masters did, among them Asanga, founder of the Yogacara school, Vasubhandu, Dignaga, Dharmakirti, the immortal Shantideva, and Padmasambhava. Much of the Tibetan Mahayanist influence came from Nalanda. Nagarjuna had a far-reaching influence and was considered a “second Buddha” (as also was Padmasambhava) by Tibetans and other Mahayanists. His work has similarities with that of Greek philosophies.

   "Nagarjuna's work has the whole pattern of the Greek dialectic, with its complex and extensive system of arguments, which in Greece developed over a period of several centuries; yet it arises suddenly, without evidence of developmental stages, in its own tradition." (Mc Evilly, The Shape of Ancient Thought, p.500). For more on possible connections see Greco-Buddhism.

   About 83 B.C., during the reign of the pious Sinhalese king, Vatta Gamani Abhaya (108-77BC), a second “4th Council”, a Council of Theravadin Arahants was held in Sri Lanka and the Tipitaka, for the first time in the history of Buddhism, was put down in writing on ola leaves. The Mahavamsa, the Great Chronicle of Ceylon described that Parthian and Alexandrian delegates were also in attendance at this council. It is therefore possible that there was some Hellenic influence on the Theravadin school as well.

   In the final analysis, however, the words of one internet responder may reflect the most we can conclude based on the evidence:

   "whether Greeks influenced Buddhism... or similar influences affected the Greeks and Buddhism... or each spontaneously came to similar outlooks...is ultimately inconsequential. What is important is that the commonality exists... and was developed over centuries thru free-thinkers, not a controlled manufacture of beliefs...The only thing we know for sure is that the statue of the Buddhas and the whole concept of making statues to represent the Buddha was most likely a Greek influence."

   The period Ghandara art work as evidenced in paintings and statues, definitely more Greek-looking than oriental, openly reflected the Hellenistic influence. This is extremely interesting and also possibly revealing in regards to the ubiquitous solar mythos that had infiltrated the mediterranean world. The contact with the Hellenized Gandharan culture resulted in the development of a new art form, the Buddha statue. Before Buddhism reached Gandhara (northwest Pakistan) in the 3rd century BC, there had been no representation of the Buddha, as he was regarded as beyond the reach of artists, and it was in the Gandharan culture that the use of Buddha images began. The earliest of these resembled the Greek god Apollo. Many figures from Hellenic mythology were depicted in Ghandaran artwork surrounding the Buddha. Scholars have suggested that these were created by local Greeks who carried their classic artistic conception and Indianized it by transforming it into the figure of a Greek-featured Buddha, dressed in a toga with drapery covering both shoulders, shoes and sandals, acanthus leaf decorations, wavy hair, etc. and seated in the yoga pose. It has been suggested that the concept of the “man-god” was essentially inspired by Greek mythological culture. This iconic art was characterized by a “realistic idealism”, combining realistic human features, proportions, attitudes and attributes, together with a sense of perfection and serenity reaching to the divine. This expression of the Buddha as a both a man and a god became the iconographic model for subsequent Buddhist art.

   "One of the distinguishing features of the Gandharan school of art that emerged in north-west India is that it has been clearly influenced by the naturalism of the Classical Greek style. Thus, while these images still convey the inner peace that results from putting the Buddha's doctrine into practice, they also give us an impression of people who walked and talked, etc. and slept much as we do. I feel this is very important. These figures are inspiring because they do not only depict the goal, but also the sense that people like us can achieve it if we try." (The Dalai Lama, foreword to "Echoes of Alexander the Great", 2000).

   In Gnostic Apostle Thomas (1997, Chapter 22), Herbert Christian Merillat argues in contrast that the primary western influence on Buddhist art, while still Hellenic in emphasis, was Roman, not Greek:

   "Early Western students of Buddhist art tended to think that the obvious Hellenistic aspects of Kushan sculpture in the Gandhara region derived directly from the conquests of Alexander the Great late in the fourth century B.C. Before the Kushans, however, any surviving traces of Greek influence on the region's art and coinage appear weak and crude. Later scholars have persuasively argued (and a discerning eye will confirm) that the Hellenistic features, especially sharply defined and naturalistic human figures and distinctive treatment of garment-folds, derived from a fresh infusion directly from the Roman world in the first two centuries. A.D." (see http://www.gnosis.org/thomasbook/ch22.html)

   While statuary was influenced by Hellenism and Romanism, however, the Buddhist architecture (i.e., temples, stupas, etc.) remained primaily Indian in design.

   As stated, a main characteristic of Mahayana Buddhism is that it stressed the idea that the historical Gautama Buddha should be regarded as one of many Buddhas, and also the idea that the layman could attain Enlightenment as opposed to it being an unattainable ideal. The Greek idea of Wisdom or Gnosis may possibly have influenced or been influenced by the Indian concepts of Enlightenment and Jnana or Knowledge.

   Theravada generally maintains that a Buddha must postpone his nirvana in order to save other beings, whereas the Mahayana does not, thereby arguing for a greater concept of enlightenment, emphasizing not only emptiness but also bodhicitta (compassion) and ultimately epitomized in the Lankavatara sutra which states "all things are in Nirvana from the beginning." Despite their differences, however,the Theravadin and Mahayana schools remain united on the following basic tenets:

1. Sakyamuni Buddha as the Teacher
2. The Four Noble Truths
3. The Eightfold Path
4. Paticca-samuppada (dependent origination)
5. Rejection of a supreme being who created and governs this world
6. Three characteristics of existence: Anicca, Dukkha and Anattta
7. Three levels of training: Sila, Samadhi and Panna (discipline, meditation, insight)

For more information on some of the topics discussed thus far, please explore the following interesting links:

   Greco-Buddhist Monasticism

   Buddhism on the Silk Road

   Greco-Buddhism

   Greco-Buddhist Art

   Christianity and Buddhism

______________________________________________________________________________________

   Not only was there cross-pollination between Hellenism and Buddhism, but there may have been significant Buddhist-Christian borrowing as well. A reasonable place to start this topic is in the examination of various theories and mysteries surrounding the person known as Jesus himself.


   The Jesus Mysteries: Birth date, travels to England, Egypt, India, and Kashmir?, the crucifixion?, further travels?, Buddhist influences, Solar Mythos of a Savior-God, spiritual function

Part One - the date of birth (7 B.C. - 113 A.D?)

   The life and legacy of the one called Jesus the Christ is so important for understanding the entire western spiritual tradition and for the illumination of many occult matters that it is necessary for this entry to be somewhat lengthy. Perhaps as good a place as any to begin is in examining the controversy regarding his date of birth, for if the traditionally held date is in doubt then other commonly accepted ideas about him may also be questionable. When the mistaken views are eliminated then the truth about this adept-teacher may be more easily recognizable in the light of universal spiritual teaching.

   The traditional date of December 25 is suspect on two counts. One, the biblical references that “shepherds watched over their flocks by night” would be reasonable for the warmer summer months, but not in the cold of winter which was also the rainy season in Judea. Secondly, and of more historical significance, is that the date of december 25 is basically equivalent to the time of the winter solstice, when the sun is at its lowest ebb in the astrological sign of Capricorn, and a time when the ancients of the Near East celebrated the birth of the sun (Son) god. (Indeed, Horus, Osiris, Bacchus, Adonis, Mithra, and Hercules were all ‘born of a virgin mother’ on December 25, according to Swami Abhedananda, in Great Saviors of the World. The more recent The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold, by Acharya S, reiterates this). The Saturnalia of the pagans was essentially equivalent to the rather late addition of the celebration of Christmas in the Christian calendar. The date of the resurrection of Jesus also conveniently coincides with the time of the spring equinox, when all of nature is “reborn”. It is thus an historical fact that the existing pagan rituals associated with the cycles of nature were superimposed with events from the life of a Christ figure, many of which were in common with those in the stories of saviors or avatars throughout the world. Many of the birth, life, death, and miracle stories of so-called “world-saviors” are similar. For instance, legends about Buddha and those about Krishna given in the Vishnu-Purana and the Bhagavad-Gita closely parallel those of Jesus. This syncretization into a supercult was accomplished by the Roman state to consolidate the empire under a new, official state religion. This does not obviate the usefulness of these celebrations for they had a meaning and purpose even before Jesus. Nor does it present itself as evidence that Jesus was not a genuine historical person, spiritual realizer, or highly evolved being. By many accounts, he very well may have been. The mythology that was overlayed upon his life to a great extent by edict of the Roman Emperor Constantine, however, is most important, and must be rightly understood.

   Some astrologers have held that a likely key for establishing a correct date of birth for Jesus is the astronomical conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation Pisces, which was undoubtedly the brightest stellar phenomenon at the time, occuring on three separate occasions in 7 B.C. and supposedly the 'bright star" that appears only once every eight hundred years. The Jewish rabbinical writer Abarbanel predicted that the Savior would be born then, and Jewish tradition speaks of Jupiter as the “kingly star” (”Guru” in Hindu astrology), Saturn as the “protector of Israel”, and Pisces as the sign of the Messiah [although, in general, the symbology of the fishes and Pisces at this time reflected the transition into the astrological age of Pisces, a 2100 year period within the 25,000 year Great Cycle of Plato]. The eyes of the Wise Men, who were astrologers, would certainly have been focussed on this major astrological event, rather than a comet as has sometimes been suggested. The astronomer Kepler calculated the occurence of this conjunction centuries later but was ridiculed for his views. Yet in 1925 a German named Schnabel deciphered the writings of the ancient Babylonian School of Astrology at Sippar and discovered references to four attempts which astrologers made to observe it. The first attempt, near the end of February of that year, failed because the conjunction was obscured by the sun, also in Pisces. Sittings on April 12, May 29, and December 4, however, were fruitful. (1) The biblical references to the “star in the east” implied either that the conjunction was visible on the eastern horizen as the sun sank in the west, or that it was visible by the Wise Men from their home in the orient, most likely in Persia. The brightest of these conjunctions was on May 29, which was the date chosen by psychologist C.G. Jung. (2) Manly Palmer Hall argued that Jesus was a Libra. Yogi Bhajan according to former disciples, maintained that he was a Virgo. The Urantia Book [a questionable source] gives a clairvoyently received date of August 21, 7 B.C., thus making Jesus a Leo. Sathya Sai Baba, however, said that Jesus was born at 3:15 am (early morning) on the 28th of December, nineteen hundred and eighty years ago (spoken on 12/25/1979), thus making him a Capricorn. [Interestingly, On December 25th, 1987, Christmas was being celebrated as usual by Sathya Sai Baba at Prashanti Nilayam, in India. As usual thousands of devotees from all over the world had assembled for this unforgettable expression of unity among world religions and cultures. Sai Baba was walking among the lines of eager devotees giving Darshan when one of them stood up with his camera and asked Sai Ram (as he is affectionately called) to wait for a moment while the devotee snapped a picture. Sai Baba joked with him that there were a number of shops outside where he can procure photographs, why did he want yet another photograph? But the devotee persisted and he finally agreed, but curiously after the picture was taken, Sai Baba uncharacteristically told him to go and get the film developed. When the photographer got the film developed, to the surprise of all it turned out to be a picture of Jesus, not of Sai Baba. Evidently he wanted to impress upon them that all Avataras of God come from the same essence and in that sense are One. As Sai Baba says of such mysterious phenomena: "No one can understand my mystery. The best you can do is get immersed in it"].

   The discrepency in the year of Jesus’ birth (i.e., his being born in 7 B.C.) lies with the work of a Scythian monk named Dionysus Exiguus, who, in 553 A.D., the time of the Second Council of Constantinople, was instructed to design a new calendar working backwards from his time to the birth of Jesus. His calculations were several years off, fortunately or unfortunately for us. A date of 6-7 B.C. is confirmed by the Jerusalem Bible, for this was the year the census was taken in Palestine and for which Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus, traveled to Bethlehem to enroll. Further evidence for this date is suggested in the Gospel of Matthew, where we are told that Herod (who died in 4 B.C.) was still alive when Jesus was born...Professor Hilton Hotema felt that a date of 7 B.C. was contradicted by the Gospel of Luke, which says that the savior was born during the taxing decreed by Augustus Caesar, first taken when Cyrenius was governor, after 7 A.D. (3) The bulk of written evidence, however, favors a supposed birth during Herod’s reign.


   Part Two: The Life of Jesus


   Early life travel and studies

   Speculation about the life of Jesus spans an incredible range of possibilities. The New Testament gospels fail to account for his life between the ages of twelve and thirty, except to mention that he "grew in wisdom and stature." The question to ask is "how" and "where" did this happen? Before answering this we shall examine some possible developments in his life up to the age of twelve, when, we are informed by Luke, Jesus spoke in the temple of Jerusalem, "And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers" (Luke 2,47). Where did this early wisdom come from?

   First of all it must be stated that it may not have come from anywhere, for the simple reason that Jesus may never have existed at all. Acharya S points out that this supposedly crowd-drawing preacher was “completely overlooked by the dozens of historians of his day, an era considered one of the best documented in history.” The gospels themselves were admittedly written between 145-180 A.D. (some say as late as 250 A.D.), most likely first modelled after a work, “The Gospel of the Lord” by the gnostic Marcion, and contain many inconsistencies. Bottom line, they were created to draw the pagans and all existing sects into one central Roman Church, a master solar cult syncretizing all of the solar cults of antiquity. There is so much available on this I can do little more than re-recommend Acharya S’ book as a central starting point with its many, many references to other works on the subject. Despite all of the mythology, however, it is still possible the spiritual figures Jesus and Buddha actually existed, and Acharya S has not gone unrefuted.

   Yet forgetting that for the time being, let us examine some of the theories extant about the life of Jesus.

   The legends of the Grail suggests that Jesus might have gone to the British Isles. The story goes that Joseph of Arimathea (uncle or great-uncle of Jesus according to ancient Eastern Orthodox tradition as well as the Jewish Talmud) carried the chalice that received the crucified Savior's blood 3300 miles to Glastonbury where he founded the first Christian Church. Several local traditions maintain that Jesus had earlier visited Cornwall, Summerland, Priddy, and Glastonbury, accompanied by his uncle Joseph, who was in the tin trade. In those days England was the major center of the tin industry, and it is possible, therefore, that Joseph, who may have become the guardian of Jesus after the death of his father, would have taken Jesus with him on his business trips. It is also possible that Jesus may have traveled there with Joseph, a member of the Essenes, in order to study with the ancient Druids who were schooled in the teachings of Pythagoras, and hence the Buddhists as well. (4)

   According to the gospel accounts (about which we will have more to say later), Jesus and his family fled to Egypt to avoid the infanticide of Herod and remained there for a number of years. It is possible that they stayed until Jesus was twelve, for Herod's son, Archelaus, ruled until 6 A.D., and they feared him, too. (The discrepency of dates, as mentioned, is due to the fact that according to consensus Jesus was most likely born c. 7 B.C.) While in Egypt Jesus may have studied at one of the Buddhist missionary schools, called Viharas, that were said to have been in existence in Alexandria before the Christian era. He may thus have been imbued with the wisdom of the eastern sages by studying under Buddhist scholars from a young age. (5)

   At this point the gospels fall silent until the time when Jesus began to teach at the age of thirty. Certainly, however, a lot must have taken place in those intervening years. It has been suggested by many that Jesus went to India to study with the wise men of the East. Holger Kersten points out that the enthusiastic reception the gospels relate that Jesus was greeted with upon his first entering Jerusalem was unusual for one who had worked in his father’s carpentry shop until his thirtieth year, and would thus have been unfamiliar to the population of that great city, and it would otherwise have also been incongruent for John the Baptist to have met him with the words, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11,3). (6)

   Levi Dowling, in The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, tells us, from his clairvoyant transcriptions of the Akashic records (“nature’s memory” on the etheric plane), that Jesus sojourned to India, Tibet, Persia, Assyria, Greece, and Egypt for the purpose of studying under enlightened teachers prior to beginning his mission in the near East:

   “Prince Ravanna sees Jesus in the temple and is captivated..Hillel tells him about the boy and Ravanna gives a feast in his honor..Ravanna becomes a patron of Jesus and takes him to India to study the Brahmic religion...Hillel said that we call this child the Day Star from on high, for he has come to bring men a light, the light of life, to lighten up the way of men and to redeem his people, israel...Ravanna brought Jesus to Orissa, India, and the Brahmic priests were glad to welcome home the prince, and with favor, they received the Jewish boy...And Jesus was accepted in the temple, Jagannath, and here learned the Vedas and the Manic Laws...The Brahmic masters wondered at the clear conceptions of the child, and often were amazed when he explained to them the meaning of the laws...”

   Rudolph Steiner confirmed this through similar psychic means. Of course, this type of ‘research’ may not be reliable, and all of the aforementioned works have been dismissed as speculative. Were there, then, more objective accounts of such sojourns by one known as Jesus?

   Nicholas Notovitch in the late-nineteenth century claimed to have uncovered a manuscript in Himis monastery, Ladakh, recounting the travels of one known in the East as Saint Issa, whom he identified as Jesus. His story of this document, The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, corresponded to the above-mentioned psychic reading of Dowling recounted in The Aquarian Gospel. After initially doubting Notovitch, a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Abhedananda, journeyed to Tibet, investigated his claim, helped translate part of the document, and later championed his views. (7)

   Hazur Baba Sawan Singh, guru of Sant Kirpal Singh, also apparently believed these accounts:

   "If [meditation/concentration] were such an easy affair, Guru Nanak would not have sat on pebbles for twelve years. Christ would not have spent nineteen years in the Tibetan hills, and...[Swami Ji Maharaj] would not have contemplated in a solitary, dark, back room for seventeen years..." (Spiritual Gems II: 143)

   Swami Satyasangananda conjectured that Jesus spent these eighteen years "growing in wisdom and stature" at the ancient Indian university in Nalanda which at one time had ten thousand students enrolled in over thirty-four subjects (8). Jesus may have been to Nalanda and conversed with sages, as many such beings, including even the Buddha, were said to have spent time there, but he could not have attended the University, which by historical accounts, as previously mentioned, began either in the second century CE or about 450 CE under the patronage of the Gupta emperors, notably Kumaragupta.

   The Urantia Book, also allegedly received through psychic channelling, reports that Jesus went to Rome on several occasions where he consulted with sages from India. However, it is adamant over its one thousand pages that Jesus stayed home during his so-called "lost years", taking care of his mother and many siblings after his father's early death, until such time as one of his brothers was old enough to take over the task. This is probably the least reliable of all of the books cited so far.


   Views of Death and Ascension

   While official catechism maintains that Jesus Christ died on the cross and later bodily ascended into heaven, some esotericists hold that the “cross” represents the outstretched man-body, and that any “ascension to heaven”, by Jesus or anyone else, was essentially a mystical or yogic one via the esoteric chakra system in the spinal line, through the “narrow gate” at the ajna doorway behind the eyes, and upwards through the higher brain centers to the crown center and above. Heaven, they assert, is not in the sky, but within the body-mind of man. Jesus, therefore, ‘ascended’ many times before his death, as likewise do many saints and yogis from all traditions.

   An esoteric Platonic or Neo-Platonic view, also advanced by Paul Brunton, was that a true crucifixion, again symbolized by the outstretched arms of the man-body, this time extended over the entire earth, would be the mere fact of incarnation itself, especially by such an advanced being as Jesus or the Christ, whom Brunton held was an advanced being from a higher, more evolved planet. This is derived from theosophical society founder H.P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine, in which Christ is alleged to have been the 'Solar Logos', an Archangelic presence from the Sun, who came with a purported mission of purification of the earth's karma at a critical point of its evolution. Thus, according to her and other theosophists the Christ was not the third person of the Christian Trinity, but an advanced being from another world. The link-up with the human Jesus is that Jesus of Nazareth was a pure initiate of the mystery schools who had been prepared through many incarnations, previously as Mechilzedik, Abraham, Moses, and Zoroaster, to sacrifice his human vehicle during his baptism by John the Evangelist, so that the Solar Logos could incarnate in a highly purified human body. This, according to the occultists, is what distinguished the Christ from Buddha, the latter who was a human being (sometimes held to be the first) who through some five hundred previous incarnations achieved the highest state possible for man on Earth. Others simply say that Jesus himself was an advanced initiate who attained union with his inner Christ-Self and became an important teacher/savior for humanity.

   It has been argued by more than a few that the man Jesus did not die on the cross, but was taken down, rejuvenated with herbs and other means, and lived and taught for many years in the Middle East and Orient before dying, some say, in Kashmir at an advanced age. (9)

   This is an interesting view. Historical research, local legends, the Koran, the Hindu Puranas, and numerous documents and writings from the Near East, India, Kashmir, and Tibet tentatively confirm that Jesus, or one known as Isa, Yasu-Masih, and Yuz Asaf, studied and taught in India and eventually died in Kashmir. To one schooled for a lifetime in the existing doctrine of the Church such a claim may seem fantastic. It is a fact, however, and known to biblical scholars, that there exist many manuscripts kept under lock and key in the Vatican that contain evidence contradicting the official teachings about Jesus or the Christ. One internet poster has summarized some of this information:

   "Roza Bal is the name of a shrine located in the Khanyar district of Srinagar, in Kashmir, India, venerated by some Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. It is believed to be the final resting place of a Prophet named Yuz Asaf. Many ancient scriptures and some other facts suggest that Yuz Asaf is in fact none other than Jesus himself. Nicolai Notovich, a Russian scholar, was the first to suggest that Christ may have gone to sub-continent. In 1887, he visited a Buddhist monastery near Zoji-la pass where a monk told him of a bodhisattva saint called "Issa". Notovich was stunned by the remarkable similarities of Issa's teachings and martyrdom with that of Christ's life, teachings and crucifixion. After crucifixion, the first trail of Jesus is found in the Persian scholar F. Mohammed's historical work "Jami-ut-tuwarik" which tells of Christ's arrival in the kingdom of Nisibis (now known as Nusaybin in Turkey) . The same is found in the Imam Abu Jafar Muhammed's "Tafsi-Ibn-i- Jamir at-tubri." Holger Kersten who researched on Jesus being in the sub-continent, found that in both Turkey and Persia there are ancient stories of a saint called "Yuz Asaf" ("Leader of the Healed"), whose behaviour, miracles and teachings are remarkably similar to that of Christ.

   More clues are drawn from the Apocrypha. These are texts said to have been written by the Apostles but which are not officially accepted by the Church. The Apocryphal 'Acts of Thomas', for example, tell how Christ met Thomas several times after the Crucifixion. In fact they tell us how Christ sent Thomas to teach his spirituality in India. This is corroborated by evidence found in the form of stone inscriptions at Fatehpur Sikri, near the Taj Mahal, in Northern India. They include "Agrapha", which are sayings of Christ that don't exist in the mainstream Bible. Their grammatical form is most similar to that of the Apocryphal gospel of Thomas.

   Then there are more in The Apocryphal Acts of Thomas, and the Gospel of Thomas which are of Syrian origin and have been dated to the 4th Century AD, or possibly earlier. In these texts Thomas tells of Christ's appearance in Andrapolis, Paphlagonia (today known as in the extreme north of Anatolia) as a guest of the King of Andrappa. It seems that Christ and Mary then moved along the West coast of Turkey, proof of this could be an old stopping place for travellers called the "Home of Mary", found along the ancient silk route. In his travels through Persia (today's Iran) Christ became known as Yuz Asaf (leader of the Healed). We know this because a Kashmiri historical document confirms that Isa (the Koranic name for Christ) was in fact also known as Yuz Asaf. The Jami - uf - Tamarik, Volume II, tells that Yuz Asaf visited Masslige, where he attended the grave of Shem, Noah's son. There are various other accounts such as Agha Mustafa's "Awhali Shahaii-i-paras" that tell of Yuz Asaf's travels and teachings all over Persia. It seems that Yuz Asaf blessed Afghanistan and Pakistan with his presence also. There are for example two plains in Eastern Afghanistan near Gazni and Galalabad, bearing the name of the prophet Yuz Asaf. Again in the Apocryphal Acts of Thomas, Thomas says that he and Christ attended the Court of King Gundafor of Taxila (now Pakistan), in about 47AD, and that eventually both the King and his brother accepted Christ's teachings. Researchers claim that there are more than twenty one historical documents that bear witness to the existence of Jesus in Kashmir, where he was known also as Yuz Asaf and Issa. For example the Bhavishyat Mahapurana (volume 9 verses 17-32) contains an account of Issa-Masih (Jesus the Messiah). It describes Christ's arrival in the Kashmir region of India and his encounter with King Shalivahana, who ruled the Kushan area (39-50AD), and who entertained Christ as a guest for some time.

   The historian Mullah Nadini (1413) also recounts a story of Yuz Asaf who was a contemporary to King Gopadatta, and confirms that he also used the name Issa, i.e. Jesus. There is also much historical truth in the towns and villages of Northern Pakistan to prove that Jesus and his mother Mary spent time in the area. For instance, at the border of a small town called Murree, there is nearby a mountain called Pindi Point, upon which is an old tomb called `Mai Mari da Asthan' or "The final resting place of Mary". The tomb is said to be very old and local Muslims venerate it as the grave of Issa's Mother. The tomb itself is oriented East-West consistent with the Jewish tradition, despite the fact it is within a Muslim area. Assuming its antiquity, such a tomb could not be Hindu either since the Hindus contemporary to Christ cremated their dead and scattered their ashes as do Hindus today.

   Between the villages of Naugam and Nilmge, 40km south of Srinagar, is a meadow called Yuz-Marg (the meadow of Yuz Asaf, i.e. Jesus). Then there is the sacred building called Aish Muqam, 60km south east of Srinagar and 12km from Bij Bihara. "Aish" is derived from "Issa" and "Muqam" place of rest or repose. Within the Aish Muqam is a sacred relic called the 'Moses Rod' or the 'Jesus Rod', which local legend says, belonged to Moses himself. Christ is said to also have held it, perhaps to confirm his Mosaic heritage. Above the town of Srinagar is a temple known as "The Throne of Solomon", which dates back to at least 1000BC, which King Gopadatta had restored at about the same time as Christ's advent. The restoration was done by a Persian architect who personally left four inscriptions on the side steps of the temple. The third and fourth inscription read: "At this time Yuz Asaf announced his prophetic calling in Year 50 and 4" and "He is Jesus -- Prophet of the Sons of Israel"! Christ may have travelled to the South of India also, finally returning to Kashmir to die at the age of approximately 80 years. Christ's tomb, lies in Srinagar's old town in a building called Rozabal. "Rozabal" is an abbreviation of Rauza Bal, meaning "tomb of a prophet". At the entrance there is an inscription explaining that Yuz Asaf is buried along with another Muslim saint. Both have gravestones which are oriented in North-South direction, according to Muslim tradition. However, through a small opening the true burial chamber can be seen, in which there is the Sarcophagus of Yuz Asaf in East-West (Jewish) orientation!

   According to Professor Hassnain, who has studied this tomb, there are carved footprints on the grave stones and when closely examined, carved images of a crucifix and a rosary. The footprints of Yuz Asaf have what appear to be scars represented on both feet, if one assumes that they are crucifixion scars, then their position is consistent with the scars shown in the Turin Shroud (left foot nailed over right). Crucifixion was not practised in Asia, so it is quite possible that they were inflicted elsewhere, such as the Middle East. The tomb is called by some as "Hazrat Issa Sahib" or "Tomb of the Lord Master Jesus". Ancient records acknowledge the existence of the tomb as long ago as 112AD. The Grand Mufti, a prominent Muslim Cleric, himself has confirmed that Hazrat Isa Sahib is indeed the tomb of Yuz Asaf."
(Courtesy: www.tombofjesus. com, BBC Documentary: Jesus in India, Jesus in India by Holger Kersten)

   Apart from all this there exist two apparently distinct teachings about Jesus, that revealed in some of the extra-canonical gospels, and that of St. Paul.

   Paul essentially adopted the pagan views, with a Jewish emphasis, and built upon the simple, direct spiritual teachings of a master Jesus an elaborate doctrine of him as a Savior whose death on the cross was an expiation for the sins of the world. While the Jesus of the gospels stated that he was the light of the world 'while he was in the world', according to Holger Kersten,

   “Paul regressed to the primitive Semitic religions of earlier times, in which parents were commanded to give up their first-born in a bloody sacrifice.” (10)

   Paul actually hedged on the issue of gnosticism, however, speaking of revealing the knowledge of what “had been kept secret for so long”, suggesting he was privy to some inner knowledge, while nevertheless still building up the solar mythos. Paul's teachings, which did contain references to becoming mystically united with Christ, became transformed into the view that mere belief in Jesus' blood sacrifice was enough for salvation, and this became the prevailing view incorporated into the gospels. It is considered possible in some schools that a great master can purify individual and perhaps even world karmas through his penance and sacrifice, but to make this a substitute for spiritual practice altogether is to create a mythology. Further, the idea that Jesus ascended bodily up into the heavens may have been put forth to account for his otherwise mysterious disappearance after the crucifixion. The naive people of the time could accept such a doctrine, for in their collective world view the heavens did, in fact, exist above the starry firmament. Such a view, of course, only mirrors their identification with bodily life.


   The Essenes

   One view of the majority of sceptics is that the four gospels were an arbitrary selection of many such books, canonized in the second century A.D. by the Church Father Irenaeus and others as the authentic story, in an attempt to unite the multiplicity of Christian sects into a supercult under the authority of the Roman state. Many other documents have been uncovered in the twentieth century, such as the Dead Sea scrolls and other manuscripts in the monastery of Qumran, which demonstrate the similarity of the teachings of Jesus and those of the Essene communities. The Essenes wore white robes, regulated their community in a manner similar to the rules of conduct found in Buddhist monasteries, and spoke of a "New Covenant" and also of a mysterious "Teacher of Righteousness." And echoing the virtues of homelessness and the rejection of wealth and possessions of the Essenes as well as Buddhist monks, and also the prohibition on using gold and silver given out at the Second Buddhist Council, Jesus said:

   "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head....Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it, and stay with him until you depart." (Matthew 8:20, 10:9-11)

   The sayings of Jesus in the Apochrypha and Dead Sea Scroll material as well as the canonical gospels can all be seen to reflect a possible Buddhist influence.

   Many historians believe that the Essenes were influenced by the Buddhist missionaries sent to Palestine, Syria, and Alexandria over two centuries before Christ by the edict of King Asoka of India. Buddhist missionaries were also sent to Siberia, Ceylon, and China. One branch of the Essenes were the Therapeutae, a name possibly derived from Theraputta, meaning a "son" or follower of Thera (Elder, or advanced follower of the Buddha). The Nazaria were another branch of Essenes, and the word Nazarene, meaning "one who was a keeper or celebrant of the sacred rites" can be traced back to the Old Testament. Thus, Jesus the "Nazarene" may have been associated with and thoroughly knowledgable about the esoteric gnostic sect the Essenes, and was not simply a naive "savior" without experiential familiarity with the esoteric influences of his time. The common view that he was "Jesus of Nazareth" may be a creative interpretation, for Nazareth, a tiny, tiny place was so insignificant that in the Gospel according to John, Nathanael asked the apostle Philip, "Can there be any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (John 1,46). The very first Christians are referred to by the apostles as Nazarenes, and Jesus is mentioned as such six times. John the Baptist was also a Nazarene, both a healer and a prophet. (Moreover, according to Acharya S, “Nazareth” did not even exist at the supposed time of Jesus life).

   Swami Vivekananda had a significant vision in 1896 while sailing on a ship from Naples to Colombo:

   "One night, somewhere between Naples and Port Said, he saw in a vivid dream a venerable, bearded old man, like a rishi of India, who said: 'Observe carefully this place. You are now in the Island of Crete. This is the land where Christianity began. I am one of the Therapeutae who used to live here.' The apparition uttered another word, which the Swami could not remember. It might have been 'Essene,' a sect to which John the Baptist belonged. Both the Therapeutae and the Essenes had practised renunciation and cherished a liberal religious outlook. According to some scholars, the word Therapeutae may be derived from the Buddhist word Sthaviraputtra or theraputta, meaning the sons or disciples of the Theras, or Elders, the superiors among the Buddhist monks. The word Essene may have some relation with Isiyana, meaning the Path of the Lord, a well-known sect of Buddhist monks. It is now admitted that the Buddhists at an early time had monasteries in Asia Minor, Egypt, and generally along the eastern part of the Mediterranean.

   The old man in the dream concluded his statement by saying: 'The truths and ideas preached by us were presented as the teachings of Jesus. But Jesus the person was never born. Various proofs attesting this fact will be brought to light when this place is dug up.' At that moment — it was midnight — the Swami awoke and asked a sailor where the ship was; he was told that it was fifty miles off Crete.

   The Swami was startled at this singular coincidence. The idea flashed in his mind that the Acts of the Apostles might have been an older record than the Gospels, and that Buddhist thought, coming through the Therapeutae and the Essenes, might have helped in the formulation of Christianity. The person of Christ might be a later addition. He knew that Alexandria had been a meeting-place of Indian and Egyptian thought. Later, when the old sites in Crete were excavated, evidence was found connecting early Christianity with foreign sources.

   But Swami Vivekananda never refused to accept the historical Christ. Like Krishna, Christ, too, has been revealed in the spiritual experiences of many saints. That, for Vivekananda, conferred upon him a reality which was more real than historical realities. While travelling in Switzerland, the Swami one day plucked some wild flowers and asked Mrs. Sevier to offer them at the feet of the Virgin in a little chapel in the mountains, with the remark, 'She too is the Mother.' One of his disciples, another day, gave him a picture of the Sistine Madonna to bless. But he refused in all humility, and piously touching the feet of the child said, 'I would have washed his feet, not with my tears, but with my heart's blood.' "
(11)

   Brunton offered the following view:

   "The orthodox view of the Bible is untenable, according to philosophic tradition. It is really a collection of books written in different centuries by men on different levels of inspiration. It mixes half-history with myth, and legend with allegory and poetry. The tribal memories of the Hebrews are put on the same level - which is a mistake - as the inspired revelations of their seers and the Mystery teachings they learned in Egypt and Chaldea. The orthodox view of Jesus is equally dispelled by philosophic insight. The man Jehoshua, who was the real figure behind the legendary one, lived a hundred years before the supposed date. Although much of the teaching associated with his name in the New Testament is actually his own, not much of the life there given is actually historical. The narrative in its pages is partly allegory depicting a disciple's mystical journey ending in the crucifixion of his ego and partly an excerpt from Jehoshua's biography. There was no violent death, no physical crucifixion in this biography." (12)

   [It is not clear how Brunton came to all of this knowledge. By one account he came across such a biography during his travels in the orient, but when later attempting to see it again was told it was no longer possible. Therefore, as far as we can tell, this remains mere speculation].


   The Crucifixion

   The death of Jesus on the cross has been contested for centuries, and many inconsistencies exist in the gospel accounts alone, disregarding for the moment Muslim, Persian, and Hindu sources. Jesus was only supposedly on the cross for three hours, too short of a period to die according to some authorities. The usual cause of death by crucifixion is asphyxiation, not blood loss, for the position of the arms in relation to the body constricts breathing. This process is slowed considerably, however, when a spike is placed under the feet, or, in Jesus' case, through his feet. Pilate was amazed when they told him that Jesus was dead, because it had been such a short tlme. His body was taken down because it was the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. The legs of the two criminals crucified along with Jesus were broken to cause their bodies to slump and hasten the asphyxiation process.

   "But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was already dead, they brake not his legs..." (John 19,33).

   The event immediately preceding the apparent death of Jesus had been the administering to him of a sponge filled with vinegar. The expected effect of this, however, would be to act as a stimulant, whereas the actual effect was the opposite. The gospel of John states:

   "When Jesus had therefore received the vinegar, he said, 'It is finished': and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." (John 19, 30).

   The three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) state that Jesus gave out a loud cry before he died, but a "loud cry would have been impossible in a state of absolute exhaustion or shortly before asphyxiation, which was the cause of death in the opinion of many medical experts." (13) The view advanced by Kersten is that the soma plant asclepias acida, not vinegar, was given to Jesus. This plant appears in an illustration by the graves of the early Christians in the catacombs of Rome, and has the property of making anyone ingesting it appear dead for a few days. Roman soldiers were in the habit of administering narcotic drinks to men condemned to death, and it was a Roman soldier, perhaps sympathetic with the Essenes, who offered Jesus the drink. Joseph of Arimathea had pre-arranged for Jesus' body to then be brought to a sepulchre where he was kept for three days before being taken away. (Joseph was a rich man whose discipleship, according to John, was kept a secret from the world).


   After the Crucifixion: travels east

   Swami Rama Tirtha argued that Jesus was in a state of spiritual trance for the three days after the crucifixion [based on what evidence, I do not know; perhaps he advanced this view to further the promulgation of Indian yoga; in any case he bought into the solar mythos wherein there is always three days before the savior is resurrected; Rama Tirtha penned many inspirational writings, but ended up committing suicide by drowning himself. Therefore, this should also be taken as speculation]:

   "You know that Christ did not die when he was crucified. This is a fact which may be proved. He was in a state called samadhi, a state where all life-functions stop, where the pulse beats not, where the blood apparently leaves the veins, where all the signs of life are no more, where the body is, as it were, crucified. Christ threw himself into that state for three days and like a Yogi came to life again, made his escape and came back to Kashmir." (The Sentinel, a British daily, quoted in Journey into Kashmir and Tibet, by Swami Abhedananda)

   Rama Tirtha noticed in his own travels that there were many places in Kashmir with Christian names, even though there was no Christian sect existing there. The grave of "Eash" ("prince"; "Isha", or Jesus) has been serviced for two thousand years in Srinigar. Furthermore, a miraculous healing ointment known as Malam-i-Isha (the 'Jesus ointment ') is in use in India to this day and is claimed to be the same ointment that Christ used to heal his wounds.

   According to these views, after Jesus fully rested, rejuvenated, and was healed of his ordeal, he took great pains to convince his disciples that his appearance to them was quite real, and that his body was a physical one, not ghostly or ethereal. There are several accounts in the gospels of his meeting with them, sharing food, letting him touch his wounds, etc.. After this, the gospels are silent, except to say, as in the Gospel of Luke, that he "was parted from them, and carried up into heaven" (Luke 24, 50-52). Numerous sources report that this was not the end, however, and that Jesus traveled eastward, first to Damascus, then Nisibis (on the Turkish side of the Syrian border), then Andrapolis in northern Anatolia, and eventually Persia, Afghanistan, and, finally, Kashmir. The Acts of Thomas and the apocryphal gospel of Thomas (documents of Syrian origin) tell us, moreover, of the missionary work that Jesus' apostle Thomas accomplished in Edessa, and also of his journey to India at the request of Jesus. His tomb is there today. These writings also suggest that Thomas was the most advanced of the disciples of Jesus, almost an equal to the Master himself (14), and perhaps his twin brother. (15)

   In the holy Koran it is stated:

   "And they killed him not, nor did they cause his death on the cross." (4:157)

   The further sayings of Prophet Muhammed mention that Jesus died in Kashmir at the age of one hundred twenty. The Koran considers Jesus to be a true prophet, a divinely inspired man of God. Muslim and Persia sources purport to trace the sojourn of Jesus, known as Isa, or Yuz Asaf ("leader of the healed") along the old Silk Road to the orient. Indeed, the books, Christ in Kashmir by Aziz Kashmiri, and Jesus Lived in India by Holger Kersten, list literally scores of documents and articles arguing for this view.

   There are also Hindu and Tibetan accounts. According to Kersten, the Bhavishyat Maha Purana [date?], tells us that Israelites settled in India, and, in verses 17-32, describes the arrival of Jesus in Ladakh:

   "One day, Shalivahan, the chief of the Sakyas, went into the Himalayas. There, in the Land of the Hun (= Ladakh, a part of the Kushan empire), the powerful king saw a man sitting on a mountain, who seemed to promise auspiciousness. His skin was fair and he wore white garments. The king asked the holy man who he was. The other replied: 'I am called a son of God, born of a virgin, minister of the non-believers, relentlessly in search of the truth.'

   O king, lend your ear to the religion that I brought unto the non-believers ... Through justice, truth, meditation, and unity of spirit, man will find his way to Isa in the center of light. God, as firm as the sun, will finally unite the spirit of all wandering beings in himself...the blissful image of Isa, the giver of happiness, will remain forever in the heart; and I was called Isa-Masih.'" (Jesus the Messiah)
(16)

   Over twenty-one historical documents, acccording to Kersten, bear witness to Jesus having lived in Kashmir. Many places there, as well as along the Silk Road, include versions of his name(s) and also versions of the name of Moses. A tomb bearing the name of Yuz Asaf exists in Srinigar to this day, and eighty kilometers away is a tombstone of Moses, which has been tended by Rishis, according to the grave watchman, for over 2700 years. A tomb called Mai Mari da Asthan, "The Final Resting Place of Mother Mary", is situated in a small town named Mari on the Pakistan-Kashmir border.

   Again, Acharya S argues that this is entirely a fabrication based on the ubiquitous sun-god mythos that encircled the globe. Tombs for Jesus and Moses are also claimed to exist in China and Japan, are good for business, and no proof of an actual burial place. She feels the Issa story is also a myth, i.e., an Arabic version of Jesus or “Joseph” (“Yuz Asaf”), which was latched onto by some scholars essentially to either argue for a historical Jesus (absent conclusive Middle Eastern evidence) by asociation with common names and places and mythologies, such as “Issa/Isa of Arabia, who was born of a Virgin Mary and was the “Divine Word” of the ancient Arabian Nasara/Nazarenes around 400 BCE.” Indeed, the story of Mother Mary is found in many variations throughout the world. The Notovitch story, she says, was “that which was related on the subject by merchants who have come from Israel”, thus only indicating what was the prevailing mythos of the time about the Jesus tradition that was brought to India, and is thus not proof of his actually being there. Passages in the Himis manuscript, such as “six years later, Issa, whom the Buddha had chosen to spread the holy word, could perfectly explain the sacred rolls,” may have been Buddhist propaganda to place Buddhism on a higher pedestal than Christianity.

   To answer the inevitable question, “why would Jesus travel to the East after his crucifixion?” requires a fanciful but not entirely implausible history of the Israelites. Kersten argues that Kashmir was the biblical “Promised Land”, as well as the final home of the eastwardly migrating “ten lost tribes”, driven out of Israel by the Assyrian King Sargon II in 722 B.C. [I think Kersten may be mistaken here in asserting that all ten of the “lost tribes” went to Kashmir. There is also evidence for the view that they went north towards the Black Sea, then west, scattering over many years throughout Europe to become the Saxons (“I-saac’s-sons”), Danes (“Dan’s sons”) and other kindred peoples. Blavatsky claims in her Secret Doctrine, however, that some people of Abraham went to Kashmir, but that the bulk of them settled in the Middle East]. In support of his theory Kersten offers that there are many Jewish settlements throughout Asia, and it has long been recognized that the Kashmiri race bears a striking resemblance to Semitic people in appearance, language, customs, morals, dietary habits, clothing, and character.

   “The language of Kashmir derives from Hebrew. According to tradition, in ancient times Jewish people settled there, whose language changed into the Kashmirian of today. There are many Hebrew words that are quite obviously connected with the language of Kashmir.” (17)

   Kertsen argues that over three hundred biblical names are very closely related linguistically to the same or similar Kashmiri names. Thus he says that it is logical to assume that Jesus would find shelter on his journeys in the hebrew settlements along the Silk Road, which he traveled to minister to the “Children of Israel”, the people of Moses and Abraham.

   Rathering than supporting the view of a historical Jesus or Moses, however, Kersten’s work may support the much more ancient reckoning of H.P. Blavatsky as theorized in The Secret Doctrine: Anthropogenesis, that there were Hebrews who were descendants of the Chandalas or casteless peoples, the non-brahmans or a-brahmins (Abraham) in India. Unable to change the minds of the ruling Brahman caste about the injustices of the caste system, they were forced to migrate westward. In Genesis one reads that God Jahwe told Abraham, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.” (Genesis 12, 1) In the Book of Joshua it is stated, “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel...and I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.” (Joshua, 24, 2-3) In Genesis, once more, one finds, “and the border of the Canaanites was..even unto Lasa” (the capitol of Tibet?) (Genesis 10,19). Kersten suggests that the evidence tips the scale in favor of Abraham leaving his home in northern India rather than Sumer as commonly believed. The Bible is even more explicit, he claims, regarding the final resting place of Moses, who led his people to the “Promised land”, reserved for the children of Israel (the descendants of Abraham, but not all Hebrews) (Numbers 27, 12):

   “And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisga...over against Jeri-cho...And the Lord said unto him, ‘This is the land which I swore unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither. So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, acording to the word of the Lord. And he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor, but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.” (Deuteronomy 34, 1-6)

   The names Moab, Pisga, Nebo, and Beth-peor are all found in the region of northern Kashmir where the river Jhelum opens out onto a wide, fertile plain. Furthermore, there is a temple of obvious Hebrew design in Srinigar, Kashmir, known as “Takht-j-Suleiman”, the “throne of Solomon”. It is an assumption of some scholars that King Solomon, son of David, visited Kashmir and had a temple built there. It is a biblical fact that his influence was known far and wide and that he sent fleets of ships on voyages to the east (II Chronicles 9:21, 10). According to Kersten, local Moslem people know another name for Kashmir itself: “Baghi Suleiman”, or the “Garden of Solomon”. (18) Blavatsky wrote that his ring, the famous “seal of Solomon”, was definitely of Indian origin. (19)

   Chandra Das argues that it was not merely that foreign Aryan stock invaded India, pushing the darker-skinned Dravidians southward, but that Indian Aryans also migrated to Europe and Asia, spreading their language and customs. He cites as fact that Lithuanian dialect is very similar to Sanskrit as an example. This is consistent with Blavatsky’s view that the [Aryan] Fifth Root Race of Man was sequestered in inner Asia near the Gobi Sea (later to become the Gobi desert) 75,000 years ago for the purposes of the next phase in man's evolution and from there branched out to all parts of the world. (20)

   Some say there were no “Lost Tribes” at all, that all ten northern tribes (known as “Israel”) were gradually reabsorbed into the surrounding territory after their departure in 722 B.C., and that the “Lost Tribes” idea was manufactured by the Judaites (the southern tribes of Judah and Levi) to explain away why the northern kingdom had different interpretations of Mosaic law than they did. Acharya S argues that the Samaritans/Sadducees (northern tribes) won out over Judah in having a greater role in Judaizing the pagan Roman solar mythos of the Christ first created by Marcion in his “Gospel of the Lord”. This Judaizing was chiefly accomplished in the Gospel of Luke, which has more historical Judaic references than the other gospels. The whole issue of competing Jewish sects at the turn of the millenium is extremely complicated. John and Matthew were clearly more gnostic/Roman in emphasis.


   Spiritual purposes of Jesus

   Aziz Kashmiri suggests that Jesus is referred to in Buddhist scriptures as Metteya or Bhagwa Metteya (the "white-skinned Messiah") prophesied to come five hundred years after the death of the Buddha (563-483 B.C.). Jesus taught about the Father-God (Amit Abha) and may, if he existed, have thus had a hand in the Fourth Council of Buddhism, held in Kashmir in the second half of the first century A.D., which encouraged the spread of the Mahayana ideal and the concept of the Bodhisattva or Savior. If not Jesus himself, then the Hellenistic and Gnostic ideas about Jesus may have been an influence.

   Jesus said:

   I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.” (John 10:16)

   Kersten, once more, argues that these sheep, or children of God, are called “Israel” in Hebrew and “Kashyab” in Sanscrit. “Kashyab-Mar” (God’s land) became known as Kashmir. By this line of reasoning the story of Jesus is intimately conected with the history of a collection of people it was his particular destiny to serve. To investigate this any further, however, one needs to compare all this with the “British Israel” literature, which gives equally intriguing arguments that the so-called “Lost Tribes” migrated north from Israel, past the Black Sea, then west (with perhaps a minority going east), leaving settlements throughout Europe all the way to the British Isles. Once again, the multitude of names reflecting the houses of Israel (i.e., Saxons, or “I-saac’s sons”; the house of Dan, as in “Danube”, “D-nieper”, etc.); the stories of Jeremiah taking Tia Tefi, the “king’s (or pharoah’s) daughter” to Ireland via Spain (the Iberian peninsula, “Iberia” from “Hiberia - “Heber” - “Hebrew”), to meet and marry a royal descendant from one of the lost Israelite tribes that migrated there generations before; the story of the coronation stone, "lia fael", supposedly the stone that Jacob lay his head on the night he had a prophetic dream about Israel; the Glastonbury legends about visits of Jesus there (the song, “Jerusalem”, sings about these), and so on. This view is highly controversial.

   What is commonly accepted as true regarding Jesus (and possibly Krishna, Osiris, Buddha, Mithra, Dionysus, Zeus, and many others), and biblical history in general, is, to a significant extent, unfortunately, a grouping of sometimes inconsistent, often strategically selected accounts, heavily mythologized, that have worked, intentionally or unintentionally, to veil a great tradition of human spirituality, both exoteric and esoteric.

   “Dionysus was a ‘prototype of Christ with a cult center at Jerusalem,’ where during the 1st century he was worshipped by Jews. Dionysus/Bacchus’s symbol was “IHS” or “IES,” which became “Iesus” or “Jesus.” The “IHS” is used to this day in Catholic liturgy and iconography.”

   “Of all the sun-gods worshipped at the beginning of the Christian era, Osiris may have contributed more details to the evolving Christ figure than any other...He was the Resurrection and the Life, the Good Shepherd, Eternity and Everlastingness, the god who “made men and women to be born again.”

   “The Egyptian mysteries were continued by the gnostics and Christianized in Rome....furthermore, inscribed about 3500 years ago on the walls of the Temple of Luxor were images of the Annunciation, Immaculate Conception, Birth and Adoration of Horus [Osiris], with Thoth announcing to the Virgin Isis that she will conceive Horus; with Kneph, the “Holy Ghost,” impregnating the virgin, and with the infant being attended by three kings, or magi, bearing gifts. In addition, in the catacombs of Rome are pictures of the baby Horus being held by the virgin mother Isis - the original “Madonna and Child.”

   “You poor idiotai, said the Gnostics [to the early Christians], you have mistaken the mysteries of old for modern history, and accepted literally all that was only meant mystically.”(21)


   Whether or not one accepts any of the interpretations suggested here, there are more than enough reasons to consider them rather than simply swallowing whole the conventional Church doctrine.

   The burning of the great libraries, including the library at Alexandria, and the secreting away of sacred manuscripts by the Roman Catholic Church, has unfortunately severed our link with much of the history of mankind’s past.

   One of the more exotic views of Jesus’ mission is that of anthroposophist Rudolph Steiner who maintained that Jesus, a highly evolved Essene initiate, abandoned his body during his immersion by John the Baptist so that the Christ, a more highly evolved being (the planetary Logos), could incarnate in an adult vehicle. (22) This is the “walk-in” theory. Such an advanced yogic or spiritual phenomenon is only rarely mentioned in the traditions, and Steiner likely put forth this rather “theistic” version of what is a more universal spiritual transformation (in which the “Christ” or all-pervading divine Spirit or “Word” manifests in the body-mind of a purified and surrendered individual) as support for his view that the Christ (as the planetary Logos) was somehow of evolutionary importance for the entire world, and actually purified the world’s “etheric body” during the supposed three days spent in hell before the resurrection of the body of Jesus. (23) It may be that such purification, if any, was affected by an entire process of Divine or Avataric incarnation, not merely a speculative three day period (which, incidentally, is a universal feature in the various versions of the solar mythos). This would be a bit more intelligible in the light of the higher philosophy. Steiner even has the Christ borrowing, not only the physical body of Jesus, but later, in order to appear to St. Paul on the road to Damascus, the “soul-sheath” (subtle or astral body) of Krishna. (I don’t think I could come up with better material if I was on LSD!). Briefly summarized, Steiner’s position is that the advent of the Christ allowed humanity (which had fully descended into matter and lost its ancient clairvoyant sensitivity) to reawaken to the subtle, psychic heart consciousness while retaining a fully individuated ego-self, which was the product of a long evolutionary process. (24)

   This process may still be true, even if the supposed saviors never existed. Personally, I hold more with Blavatsky, who demythologizes Christ, than with Steiner. Yet perhaps it is true that the Christ was a higher being or principle sent down to earth at this time for the evolution of mankind as a whole. PB wrote that Jesus came from a higher planet (likely a view gathered from his theosophical days (25), while Anthony Damiani, reflecting the occult doctrine, mentioned that

   “among the early Christians it was known that the descent of Christ was experienced as a huge light coming into the earth long before Jesus appeared.” (26)

   The Gnostics actually held to a view much like that of Steiner. Many of them accepted the idea that the Christ occupied the body of the disciple Jesus from his baptism to the crucifixion. Irenaeus reported that according to Cerinthus and other teachers:

   "Jesus was not born of the virgin, but rather he was the son of Joseph and Mary, just like all other men, but more powerful in righteousness, intelligence and wisdom. After the baptism Christ descended upon him from the authority which is above all in the form of a dove and thereafter proclaimed the unknown Father and accomplished wonders. But at the end Christ again departed from Jesus and (only) Jesus suffered, and rose again; Christ however remained impassable, since he has a spiritual being." (Gnosis, p165)

   In one gnostic interpretation, the descent of the Christ was for the purpose of releasing some of the light entrapped by the Archons of the lower realms since the dawn of creation and send it back to the divine realms of the eternal Aeons. For Steiner and others, the purpose was to enable man to re-contact the light while living on earth. The mystery of the Christ is a profound matter with many levels of meaning. PB, as mentioned, says Jesus was different than Buddha, in that he was a being from a higher plane or planet, while Buddha was a man who was realized through his own efforts. This view of Jesus concurs with the following quote by a Krishna devotee; I would take this one with a grain of salt:

   "There is a text by the name Bhavishya Purana (which means literally the 'History of the Future'), in which predictions of the present age of Kali are given. The book was written by the sages 5,000 years ago, before the Kali yuga began. Through their mystic vision they were able to foresee many events that would take place in the Kali yuga, and for the benefit of humanity they put them down in writing. Some of the events described include the appearance and activities of Jesus Christ (whom it is revealed came to India and spent much time at Puri in Orissa, as well as in the HImalayas), the appearance of Mohammed, and many others. Jesus is described as coming from the planet of the Sun, and is given the name Isa-putra or "son of God". Mohammed is described as coming from the Kailasha planet, which is the abode of Lord Siva. In both cases they were sent to establish non-vedic dharma to put a degraded civilization back on the track of God consciousness." (taken from the internet)

   The Hindus, however, perhaps to make him one of their own, consider Buddha one of the nine divine avatars. Kalki (or perhaps Maitreya) is the tenth avatar, still to come (although new-age speculation has held him to be either Adi Da (aka Da Free John), Sai Baba, Babaji, Kalki Bhagavan, or someone now alive but apparently only known to Benjamin Creme! Who knows?! And is there an accepted definition of what an avatar is? - more on that later). The Koran considers Jesus a man of God, a true prophet; Avalokitesvara, as described in the Surangama Sutra, appears to be a Buddhist Christ-like figure, emanating the sweet sounds of the Logos that will carry one back to ones true Home via attaining the Diamond Samadhi through the faculty of Intrinsic Hearing. The emphasis on intrinsic Sound is also evident, curiously, even in the “Mind-Only” Lankavatara Sutra, another of the most important Mahayana texts:

   “Where the Tathagatas enter with their sustaining powers there will be music not only in various musical instruments and vessels but also even in grass, shrubs, trees, and mountains., Mahamati, yes, in towns indeed, palaces, houses, and royal abodes. How much more those endowed with sentiency! The mute, blind, and eeaf will be cured of their deficiencies, Mahamati, and will enjoy their emancipation. Such, Mahamati, is the great extraordinary virtue of the sustaining power imparted by the Tathagatas.” (27)

   Here we begin to see also another theme of the Mahayana, that of the grace of the godman, or the “sustaining power of the Tathagatas for the spiritual aid of the Boddhisatvas, Arhants, etc. Without the help of the Buddhas, the upward spiritual course of the aspiring Bodhisattvas is missing an all important factor, which is also necessary to help in their task and vow of world salvation . In the Theravada and/or Hinayana paths, self-effort is the chief factor, but in the Mahayana there is repeated reference to the power and grace of the Buddhas for attaining the highest enlightenment. In the Mahayana teaching there is also the doctrine of Parinamana, or that of turning over one’s merit to others to expedite their attainment of Nirvana. The Theravada teachings generally extoll the inevitability and inextricable nature of karma, but in the Mahayana the realized saint or Buddha can take on his own body the suffering or evil merit of others. Not only can he expiate the sins of others but he can also impart his powers to them as well.

   Too often, however, these esoteric teachings are lost in the less philosophical doctrines of the solar mythos. On the nature of divine incarnations, avatars, and second comings, we have the cautionary words of PB:

   "There is metaphysically no such thing as a human appearance of God, as the Infinite Mind brought down into finite flesh. This error is taught as a sacred truth by the Bahais in their Manifestation doctrine, by the Christians in the Incarnation doctrine, and by the Hindus in their Avatar doctrine. God cannot be born in the flesh, cannot take a human incarnation. If He could so confine Himself, He would cease to be God. For how could the Perfect, the Incomprehensible, and the Inconceivable become the imperfect, the comprehensible, and the conceivable?
   Yet there is some fire behind this smoke. From time to time, someone is born predestined to give a spiritual impulse to a particular people, area, or age. He is charged with a special mission of teaching and redemption and is imbued with special power from the universal intelligence to enable him to carry it out. He must plant seeds which grow slowly into trees to carry fruit that will feed millions of unborn people. In this sense he is different from and, if you like, superior to anyone else who is also inspired by the Overself. But this difference or superiority does not alter his human status, does not make him more than a man still, however divinely used and power-charged he may be."

     "The notion that the infinitude of deity can be compressed and contained within a specific human organism is unphilosophical. Whether such an avatar be Krishna in India, Horus in Egypt, or Jesus in Palestine, there has never been any ground for raising one above the others, for the simple reason that there has never been any avatars at all. And if the doctrine of divine incarnations is irrational, the sister doctrine of predicted and messianic second advent is partly wish-fulfillment and partly a miscomprehension. If a divinely inspired being first appears visibly in the flesh of his own body, his second appearance is invisibly in the heart of his own worshippers.”
(28)

   One more thing before finishing this section. Just as Ghandaran art reflected Hellenized images of the Buddha more in line with the solar mythos, in like manner the accounts we have about the appearance of Jesus may have been altered. The Jewish historian Josephus, who some suspect was a turncoat who first supported but later fought against Jewish patriots who rebelled against Rome, described Jesus based on an arrest warrant prepared by the officers of Pontius Pilate, which, not surprisingly, later disappeared from the archives in Rome. In a version of this that survived in Slavonic texts Jesus was described as a man of mature age, dark skin, three cubits high (about four feet, six inches), hunchbacked with a long face, long nose, short hair and an undeveloped beard, such that those who saw him might be frightened at his appearance. Even if Josephus’ account is doubtful, in that he may have been attempting to cast doubt on the image of a Jewish “Messiah”, other texts, both canonical and some rejected as uncanonical at the Council of Nicea, confirmed this. In the Acts of John it states:

   “I was afraid and cried out, and he, turning about, appeared as a man of small stature, and caught hold on my beard and pulled it and said to me: ‘John, be not faithless but believing, and curious.’ ”

   The prophecy in Isaiah (52:14 - 53:1-3) also fortells of an unattractive if not ugly Messiah:

   “Just as there were many who were appalled at Him - His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and His form marred beyond human likeness..He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.”

   Such an image would not do for the Romans, and a Hellenized God-like figure was created for the new savior. Forgeries ands fabrications were made by the church, one of which included an alleged letter from Pontius Pilate to Emperor Tiberius describing Jesus in the following manner:

   “Jesus of Nazareth spoke rather as a friend of the Romans than of the Jews. One day I observed in the midst of a group of people a young man who was leaning on a tree, calmly addressing the multitude. I was told it was Jesus. This I could easily have suspected so great was the difference between Him and those who were listening to Him. His golden colored hair and beard gave to his appearance a celestial aspect.”

   The truth is we do not know what either Jesus or Buddha looked like, but in both cases the solar mythos survived in art and legend.

   Not only that, but the rise of Christianity as well as the rise and spread of Buddhism, particularly Mahayana Buddhism are both examples of the religious evolution and consolidation of the Piscean Age (0 -2160 A.D.), wherein the old gods were subsumed under, in Christianity, one among several competing mythological saviors who was actually supposed to have become a man, and in Buddhism, a human figure who was likewise a challenge to the older Vedic gods by teaching man to find God within himself. Even in Hinduism transcendental gods like Vishnu who incarnate to bring back justice and compassion when religion declines took precedence over the older more warlike Arian gods like Indra. The Indian tribes of the Americas, likewise, awaited the return of the Pale Brother, their crucified white savior, Quexalcoatl, etc.. The entire world was overtaken with an enhanced version of the solar mythos which developed into several international religions essentially based on Piscaen virtues of prayer, love, and self-sacrifice (Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism), despite forays into the dark side of Piscean fear, paranoia, and unconscious hatreds as well, and which overall was an evolution from the many-godded pantheon of the prior Arian 2160 BCE - 0 CE), Taurian (2160 BCE - 4320 BCE) and Geminian Ages (4320 BCE - 6480 BCE), and the Mother Goddess worship of the Cancerian Age (6480 BCE - 8640 BCE). We are now 150 years away from the beginning of the Aquarian Age (2160 CE - 4320 C.E.) wherein the idea of the savior god will be transcended and men rather than seeking for God will recognize their divinity within, acting as sons and daughters of God and not as petitioners of an independent deity or deity figure. Already the effects of the Aquarian energy are becoming felt by increasing numbers of people.

   [Note: much of the "unknown years of Jesus" material is not without its critics and sceptics. See the on-line book Strange New Gospels (1931), by Edgar J. Goodspeed, for extended coverage of these arguments].


   Perhaps a reasonable summary of what we might conclude from the material on the life of Jesus was stated by PB:

   “We need not torture our reason to accept these parts of the New Testament which seem incredible. If we give some of them an allegorical meaning, as being taken from the mythology of a mystery cult, and reject the others as the results of deliberate tampering with the text, as obvious interpolations, we shall be able to justify all the more our faith in the credible parts. For with them is interwoven the genuine historical narrative of the real life of the man Jesus. The result is a mixed composition, where the Annunciation and Crucifixion are not to be taken literally, but Jesus' preaching and his disciples' apostolate are. The biographic Jesus must be separated from the symbolic Christ, for the one is an earthly figure and the other a mystical concept.” (29)

   Buddhism Before Gautama

   In early Buddhism Buddha meant only Siddhartha Gautama. Later the idea began that there could be many Buddhas: some in the past, some in the present and some in the future. This may have been a re-introduction of the much earlier idea of the solar mythos, as we shall see, or a new concept imported from Hellenism. The idea of an eternal Buddha incarnating perpetually to help suffering beings was introduced in the Lotus Sutra, or the 'Sutra of the Lotus of the Wonderful Law', supposedly the final sermon of Shakyamuni and the epitome of his teaching, held on Vulture Peak, where he was visited by "Many Treasures [or Jewels] Thus Come One Buddha" who had passed into extinction (nirvana) thousands if not millions of kalpas previously. The Lotus Sutra became the most important text in East Asian Buddhism and especially in medieval Japan during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), which saw the rise of the Soto (Zazen) school under Dogen who used the Lotus Sutra more than any other, and Pure Land schools under Honen, Shinran, and Nichiren, all of whom used the Lotus Sutra exclusively. Much later, Hakuin, founder of the Rinzai (Koan) school attained his fundamental enlightenment after grappling with the Lotus Sutra. His new teaching was that this very world was the Lotus Land of Purity, and this very body the body of the Buddha. While he re-energized Zen, these radical doctrines made him a maverick among the traditional Pure Land schools, who either taught the common people that the Pure Land in the western direction beyond ten billion worlds, or, for the mystically inclined, that it was reachable after death in a realm called Sukhavati from where one's eventual enlightenment was assured [in this respect possibly similar to the Sach Khand in the Sant Mat tradition].

   Some feel the Lotus Sutra, unique in that it is not an exposition of a metaphysical doctrine, but a vast supernatural, and debatably mythological, epic, with apocalyptic overtones, was nevertheless the primary influence on the separation of Mahayana from Hinayana Buddhism, rather than doctrinal squabbles and the dialectical works of sages like Nagarjuna, etc.. The Pure Land school, whether in its form as trust in the compassionate vow of Amida Buddha as expounded by Honen, or reliance on the "Other-Power" as proclaimed by his disciple Shinran, or chanting the daimoku ('namu myoho renge kyo' - the name of the Lotus Sutra) by Nichiren, had definite parallels with the simple message of faith promoted by Christianity, and could be considered the main Buddhist 'bhakti' path. It de-emphasized monasticism and promoted one practice for all, capable of leading all to enlightenment. For instance, for Dogen, ‘zazen’ became an expession of Buddha-nature itself. For Honen and Shinran, faith in Amida, and for Nichiren, faith in the Lotus Sutra, were direct expressions of Buddha-nature, and not solely a means to it. Nichiren was familiar with and did at times teach about non-dualism, but still felt this single practice was sufficient for all. A few hundred years later an unconventional Zen Master named Ikkyu satirically wrote these verses on the Pure Land:

   "Pure Land is far beyond,
   Ten billion worlds away,
   How can I hope to reach there
   With only a pair of sandals?"


   The Lotus Sutra never had the influence in Indian or Tibetan Mahayana that it had in Eastern Asia, where its less metaphysical teachings of simple faith had more of a reception. D.T. Suzuki, however, in his book, Shin Buddhism, reminds us that one can not come to an assurance of the delivering power of Amida Buddha or rest in the arms of the ‘Other-Power’ until one has exhausted all of one’s own efforts or ‘self-power’. In this he is reflecting the more traditional Zen viewpoint descending from Hakuin.

   Besides the idea of an eternal Bodhisattva Buddha (also similar to the idea of an eternal incarnation of a primal Satguru as taught in some schools of Sant Mat), the Lotus Sutra brought in the concepts of a universally achievable Buddha nature, a teaching of 'One Vehicle' or supreme dharma (although this never was explicitly delineated in the Sutra), and also the coming of a degenerate age after the paranirvana of Shakyamuni. Dates for the composition of the Lotus Sutra are the 1st-2nd centuries A.D., so there is a conceivable link with a historical Jesus.

   Since the advent of the Mahayana school, in any case, the Buddha became an "ideal" person, with tradition reaching a notion of 36 ideal features such a great character should possess. Some of those features are clearly visible on statues. Others, like the feature of their foot (lotus sign, etc.), are difficult to represent.

   Once more, according to ancient Buddhist tradition, there were countless Buddhas before Gautama and there will be many Buddhas after him. In short, he is not the first, nor will he be the last. Counting from the present kalpa, Buddha Gautama is considered in some traditions the fourth Buddha, and in others the sixth. The first is Gakusandho Buddha, second Gonakamano Buddha and the third Gassapo Buddha. The last Buddha of this kalpa will be Mettaya Buddha.

   Old stories say that Siddhartha Gautama was born around the 6th century BCE. He was the one who would become the first Buddha in written history, and was the first person to teach Buddhism directly to the people. This was unique. His birth, life and work are shrouded in legends, however, like the stories in the Buddhavamsa of the Khuddaka-nikâya of many Buddhas before Gautama, the historical or "Shâkyamuni Buddha". According to Buddhist mythology, such as in the Jataka Tales, Shakyamuni himself lived many lives before coming to our present world era. In his many existences during a long, long period of time in the one hundred thousand worlds, the future Buddha had fulfilled the Ten Paramitas, and, in order to save this world, was to be born in our era to become a fully enlightened Buddha. Other accounts have him being enlightened long before his historical birth. This, again, was either an addition of the Mahayana period or was a re-introduction of a much earlier religious point of view.

   The Order of Nazorean Essenes trace the origins of ancient Buddhism, Bonpo & Central Asian Buddhism, and Indian Buddhism, and argues, moreover, that both Jainism and the Bonpo faith of Tibet reject the idea of a historical Gautama as the founder of Buddhism. Despite the reputed historical encounter between Gautama and a Jain and a Samkhaya teacher, after which he found a higher enlightenment under the Bo tree than they could offer him, the Jains feel what became the teachings of early Buddhism were really borrowings from the teachings of Mahavira and even earlier teachings. This Essene group maintains that:

   "About 500 years prior to Buddha Sakyamuni coming to the world, which was around 1063 BC, a figure called Lord Shenrab Miwo had reformed the primitive ways of the Shen race.  In fact, Miwo was the individual responsible for founding the Tibetan Bon religion. Shenrab reformed the primitive Indo-European faith of Europe and Asia and laid the foundation for all schools of enlightenment from Eastern Lands, such as the Tibetan Nyingma, the Chinese Cha'an, the Indian Jain and Buddhist Faiths, as well as many others. His remarkable achievements and teachings have been erroneously associated with other later teachers......Hindus, Bons, Buddhists, and Jains trace their origins to Mt. Kailash in western Tibet....Mt. Kailash was an ancient hub of a type of Buddhism that eventually became Ch'an, Mahayana and Vajrayana [and supposedly this center would be a migration stop from an even earlier migration out of the Tarim Basin in Mongolia 75,000 years ago after the deluge, as maintained in Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine]. Its multi-buddha worship is in stark contrast to the atheistic branch of Indian Buddhism promoted by Siddhartha.  The term "bon" means "dharma" in  the Central Asian Iranian language of Sogdian spoken by the Manichaeans. 'Bond-pa' in Tibetan means "to invoke the gods", and Dzogchen means “the Great Perfection”.

   Thus, according to them, the Bonpo religion was a forerunner of the Dogzchen practice, a high form of Tibetan Buddhism. Of course, many lesser practices were and are presented leading up to that highest form. Tibetan Buddhism, therefore, was not a simple evolute of Gautama’s teachings but a later admixture of the Bonpo religion and Mahayana Buddhist doctrines imported from India.

   Similarly, in the book, Ascetic Figures Before and in Early Buddhism: The Emergence of Gautama the Buddha, by Martin G. Wiltshire, it is argued that the concept of the paccekabuddha existed before Gautama, and was a link between earlier Brahmanic religion and the dharma of Gautama. Wiltshire says there was a continuum from the Vedic and early Brahmanic religion with its sacrificial rituals and goal of attaining svarga loka, followed by a proto-sramana period with reliance on the brahma viharas and the goal of attaining brahma loka, and finally the later sramana period which was early Buddhism of the Buddha and the dhamma with the goal now of nibbana (nirvana). This progression of goals dovetails nicely with the evolutionary ideas of H.P. Blavatsky and Rudolph Steiner. Wiltshire adds, “the early Buddhists derived from other traditions the symbols they used to convey and illustrate the notion of Sakyamuni’s uniqueness. “ (p. 118) .

   I encourage the reader to take a (discriminating) look at the Order of Nazorean Essenes’ website with many intriguing links on these topics. The basic idea is that there has been what the Hindus call a Sanatan Dharma, or what the Muslims call “Shari ‘ah or “ religion of Adam”, that has spread throughout the world, with twists and turns, accretions and superimpositions, over the ages, with at various times the doctrines being refreshed or clarified.

   According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr, some Indian Muslim scholars of the Moghul period thought of the Hindus, along with Jews, Christians, Moslems, and Zoroastrians, as ‘people of the book’, or ‘ahl al-kitab’, belonging to the chain of prophets preceding Islam and beginning with Adam. Some have also considered the prophet Dhu’l-Kifl spoken of in the Quran as the Buddha of Kifl (Kapilavastu) and the ‘Fig Tree’ of surah 95 to be the Bodi Tree under which the Buddha received his illumination. Further, Dara, a Sufi of the Qadiriyyah order, believed that the Upanishads were the ‘Hidden Books’ referred to by the Quran (lvi. 77-80). (30)

   The Nazorean Essenes argue that there is almost as little hard evidence for a historical Gautama as Acharya S felt there was for a historical Jesus. Our only reliance is on the oral tradition. His life story was written down long after his supposed death, and not by his contemporaries, and he himself wrote nothing. [However, the Order of Nazorean Essenes do not seem to be entirely unbiased, for they do make the claim for the existence of an Essene Jesus].

   Nevertheless, it is clear that there has been a continual refinement and summarizing of the higher dharma since the time of these supposed historical figures, whether they personally existed or not. The period 500 B.C. to 300 A.D. appears to have been a turning point in human history. Of this it might be said that even if there have been no historical “avatars” as such, there have still been different dispensations from the Divine Mind as well as important spiritual masters appearing at significant historical turning points. And in the right hands the various solar myths have been gifts of the ancient sages to serve the nascent spiritual impulses of newly incarnated man, and to give the as yet uninitiated some guidance, some way of remembering the world of the sun (God) within, through believing in the sun without that he could see, understand, and visualize. When he grew up spiritually he would penetrate into the heart of the mysteries that still awaited him. So the solar cult, initially a revelation of sages to preserve ancient wisdom worldwide, was not by design a necessarily bad thing, except when it got into the evil hands of the dark cults, the exoteric “crowd-controllers” working for bloodlines of the illuminati who are even now up to no good.

   My take on Buddhism is that, while it shares much of the mythology of Christianity, and has its solar cult within its priesthood also, as evidenced by the garb, the rituals, and the myths, especially in Tibet, at least there has been in recent centuries (since the supposed historic time of Gautama) an exposition of the philosophical underpinnings to the esoteric side of the myths, that is, a comprehensive metaphysics, first preserved in the Abidharma at the Third Buddhist Council, overlaid to some extent since the rise of the Mahayana with a resurgence of some of the earlier solar mythos about the savior-god Buddhas, which is much more ancient than the purported lifetime of Gautama. Indeed, Buddhism as part of the solar mythos may be many thousands of years old, as evidence of black-featured and black-skinned Buddhist statuary appears to indicate, harkening back to an age when an advanced black race had attained prominence. The possible histories get very convoluted. Some say the prevalence of black statuary of Buddha indicates the predominance of the Naga influence having migrated from a dying Lemuria, possibly with an advanced technology as described in Hindu scriptures, with vimanas or flying machines and more.

   The Buddhism after Gautama was a challenge to the Brahmanical culture, with its hierarchical caste system, which itself was a degradation of the earlier Rishi culture (much as the Egyptian culture was purportedly a degradation from the far, far earlier culture of the builders of the great Pyramid and Sphinx), but the Brahmanical culture, unfortunately, reasserted itself after Buddhism in India began to die out, the epitomy of which was the sacking of the great university of Nalanda by the Moslems (much as the esotericism behind the solar myth and much of the history of man’s past was lost when the great library at Alexandria was destroyed, largely in Roman times - although there are inconclusive and alternate theories about how that happened). Thereafter, the true impulse of modern metaphysical Buddhism escaped to Tibet, China, and Japan, with occasional reassertions of the sun cult in the form of the exoteric worship of god-beings like Avalokitesvara, Amitabha, and Quan Yin, but never totally divorced from mystical truth to the extent of the debauching of all esotericism by the Roman Catholic Church, where at one point even reading was punishable by death.


   The Bottom Line

   The esoteric side to the solar mythos was summed up by PB when he said,

   “The God in the sun is the ‘I’ in me” -- this put tersely is the essence of man’s relationship to divinity.” (31)

   This basically points to the philosophical state of sahaj as what is to be realized, and what, in essence, was closely guarded for posterity by the highest of sages among the temple priests of old. Evil priesthoods have used the Solar cults (and millenia before them, the Lunar and Stellar cults) to hide the truth and control the masses, while benevolent priesthoods and sages have used them to symbolize yet preserve truth for an infant humanity. The time for secrecy and obfuscation is now past. Hidden within all the religions, philosophically speaking, is that the World-Mind has been tending to the evolution of its very own World-Idea since the dawn of creation. As Anthony Damiani wrote regarding the “Ideas” that are the “substance” of the Intellectual Principle as expressed by Plotinus:

   “Each of the ideas could be regarded as an absolute or leading idea for a particular philosophic tradition and would be that version of the Divine Mind most suited to fill the spiritual needs of the people served by that tradition.” (32)

   Thus, each religion had its own unique contribution to make. The turning point for the more open revelation of the truth behind the solar mythos, however, seems to have been Hellenic times. Its later reflection in the Mahayana development was perhaps not just an intellectual or mental advance over earlier teachings, but the sign of a shift in the evolutionary potential for man, which was then beginning to be more fully expressed and made available in the written doctrines. The Greeks employed the concepts of balance, proportion, and reason to a much fuller extent than previous cultures, and while sages like Plato and Plotinus still tended at times to philosophically look backwards with a disposition towards the “heavens”, that is, towards the celestial abodes, or even Nirvikalpa, or the Kaivalya of the yogis, or Atman and Purusha of the Samkhya of Kapila, Plotinus, upon some interpretations at least, seemed to be moving towards the expression of the greater understanding that would be sahaj, or the true Buddhist nirvana.

   Martin Larson agrees that what arose in Greece was a truly unique period in the history of man:

   “We believe that had there been no Christianity, Greek enlightenment would, after a fierce struggle with Mithraism and its offspring Manichaeism, have emerged victorious. There would have been no Dark Ages....” (33)

   Unfortunately the Dark Ages happened, and the promise that was Greece was overshadowed for a time. The ancient wisdom of the Hellenic sages has been resurrected, however, and hopefully will find a new and fruitful rebirth in the modern mind.

   Did Kapila influence Plato and Plotinus? Did these Greek sages in turn influence Nagarjuna and other Buddhists? We can only guess. PB said that Plotinus came from afar, wrote the Enneads, then went back to his star. Great minds arose at a fruitful turning point in world history led by their divine guidance within. As Emerson wrote:

   " To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, -- that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,---- and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages." ( - from Self-Reliance).

   Furthermore, we confront the fact that authorship of many illuminating texts from antiquity is often disputed or unknown, yet regardless, some great mind wrote them. As Swami Chinmayananda reminds us (Narada Bhakti Sutras, introduction):

   "The Western method of investigation into the authorship of a book is not workable in the ancient Hindu Scriptural textbooks. In practical philosophy the importance is not on who wrote it, but the emphasis is whether the philosophy does work."

   I hope some of the ideas in this essay were interesting and thought provoking or even thought exhausting and silencing. A problem I faced going deeper and deeper into my studies was that the more convoluted and mysterious the origins of it all became. Hard research is difficult to come by, and many original texts have unfortunately been lost or destroyed through the ages. Several themes emerge, but often require the suspension of disbelief and the willingness to consider material often mysterious and fantastic. But “there are more things on heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.”


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1. Victor Dunston, The Invisible Hand (Meggido Press, Ltd., 1984)
2. C.G. Jung, Collected Works, Vol. 9, ii (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press), 1950), p. 76-77
3. Hilton Hotema, Mystery Man of the Bible (Mokelumne Hill, CA: Health Research, 1956)
4. “Following the Grail”, Heart (Summit University Press, Winter, 1985)
5. Holger Kersten, Jesus Lived in India (Dorset, England: Element Book Ltd, 1986), p. 9
6. Ibid, p. 112
7. Swami Abhedananda, Journey into Kashmir and Tibet (the English translation of Kashmiri 0 Tibbate) (Calcutta: Ramakrishna Vivekananda Math, 1987)
8. Light on the Guru and Disciple Relationship, written and compiled by Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati under the guidance of Swami Satyananda Saraswati (Bihar, India: Bihar School of Yoga, 1984)
9. Kersten, op. cit. ; also: James Harvey, The Crucifixion by an Eye Witness (P.O. Box 999, Las Vegas, Nevada 89101: Publisflers, 1971) (first published by the Chicago Indo-American Book Company, 1907)
10. Kersten, op. cit., p. 29
11. Swami Nikhilananda, Vivekananda: a Biography, Experiences in the West 1953
12. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1988), Vol. 12, Part I, 5.77
13. Ibid, p. 155
14. Ibid, p. 181-182
15. Aziz Kashmiri, Christ in Kashmir (Srinagar, Kashmir: "ROSHNI" Publications, 1984), p. 58
16. Kersten, op. cit., p. 195
17. Ibid, p. 69
18. Ibid, p. 57
19. H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Vol. II, p. 135
20. Abinas Chandra Das, Rig-Vedic India (Calcutta University, 1921)
21. Acharya S, The Christ Conspiracy (Kempton, Illinois: Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999), p. 112-116
22. Edoure Schure, From Sphinx to Christ (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1982)

John the Baptist (7 B.C. - 26 A.D.) was a prophet whom the New Testament gospels suggests may have been the cousin of Jesus, although this is debated. He proclaimed:

   “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he will baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” (Matthew 3:11)

In this instance, it can be assumed that “water”, a universal symbol for the emotional nature of man, may represent the purification of base emotions and animal passions. This is the necessary conversion of the heart, to prepare the individual for the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire, which represent the initiation by the higher process of Kundalini-Shakti, or the Shabd or Spirit-Power, as is common to the yogic traditions of the East, and which was presumably the practice of the master Jesus. Paul Brunton, in philosophic fashion, distinguishes the “Holy Ghost” from “fire” by saying that the baptism of the Holy Ghost is the initial awakening of the life-force in the body, while baptism with fire refers to the illumination of the intelligence, which occurs at a more advanced stage when one reasides in a much calmer and equanimitous condition. (The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, Vol. 12, 5.39-40).

John the Baptist heralded the appearance of Jesus as the Messiah, or Christ (“annointed one”), and may have performed an initiatory function for him. Some feel that this was a mere formality in that Jesus was already illumined when he met John. Others, such as Rudolph Steiner, argue that Jesus was an advanced initiate who sacrificed his body at his time of his baptism by John so that it could be used by the Christ being.

Mary and Joseph (the parents of Jesus), Joseph of Arimathea (Jesus’ uncle or great-uncle), and John the Baptist are considered in some esoteric circles to have been members of the Essene brotherhood, and as such would likely have been prepared for either the birth and upbringing of Jesus, the future adept, or the coming of the Christ, the avataric descent. John was beheaded by Herod, governor of Galilee, thus becoming the first martyr of the Christian faith.

(Some have argued that Joseph of Arimathea was actually Jesus’ father. The more I got into the writing of this article the deeper the mystery became).

23. Compare this with the account in the Atharva Veda where Nachiketas spent three nights in the abode of Yama (the lord of death) before becoming eligible for the secret knowledge. This appears to be an early example of the solar mythos where the savior spends three nights in hell before his resurrection. (M.D. Pandit, Studies in the Tantras and the vedas (Madras: Ganesh & Co Private Ltd, 1967)

24. source misplaced
25. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, op. cit., 5.79
26. Anthony Damiani, Looking Into Mind: How To Recognize Who You Are And How You Know (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1990), p. 77
27. D.T. Suzuki, trans., The Lankavatara Sutra (Boulder, CO: Prajna Press, 1978), p. 89
28. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications), Vol.16, Part 1: 1.184, 1.176
29. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 12, Part 1, 5.78
30. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Sufi Essays (Chicago, Illinois: KAZI Publications, 1999), p. 132,141
31. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, op. cit., 1.1
32. Anthony Damiani, Astronoesis (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 2000), p. 115
33. Acharya S, op. cit., p. 412



Appendix: The Death of Jesus on the Cross

For those who side with the belief there really was a death by crucifixion, here is one article that provides some of the gory details of the expected physiological processes.