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Roza Bal & the Buddhist connection

"Everything changes. Nothing remains without change"
(Siddhartha Gautama)

Short explanation of Buddhism
Teachings of Buddhism
The Christian side and the doctrinal battle to preserve the faith
The Q and Jesus the Buddha--The Sources



he Buddhist connection to the issue of Jesus in India is fascinating. Holger Kersten, author of, Jesus Lived in India: His Unknown Life Before and After the Crucifixion, has become a very important modern resource in the theory regarding a possible influence of Buddhism on Jesus Christ or Jesus Christ’s influence on Buddhism (See Kersten’s, The Original Jesus: The Buddhist Sources of Christianity). Of course, Mr. Kersten is not the first individual to suggest a connection between Buddhism and Jesus Christ. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, for instance, in his book, Jesus In India, disputed a contemporary view of his day that suggested that Jesus Christ had been influenced by Buddhists (indeed, taught by Buddhists) during the ages of 12 to 30, the missing years of Jesus’ life, unmentioned in the Bible. According to proponents of a Buddhist/Jesus link, Jesus spent those missing years under the tutelage of Buddhist monks.

[Before continuing, we must mention here that a deep, intricate and fascinating philosophical/religious discussion comparing Eastern religions and philosophies on the one hand, and Western Christianity (especially the role of the Age of Enlightenment and its reaction to Christianity) on the other hand, can be found in the book, Saving the Savior, and has been excluded from this website. That philosophical discussion directly ties into the significance of the discovery of the tomb of Jesus Christ. That discussion can be found in the paperback version.  That discussion will be found in the chapter entitled, Jesus the Buddha?, in the section, "The Buddhist Side and the Eastern philosophical bases for the need to bury Jesus."

We will give a very brief description of Buddhism. We want the reader to understand that this link deals with Jesus-as-Buddhist only as a subset of the larger issue of Christianity vs. Eastern religions in general, a subject further elaborated upon in Saving the Savior.

Short explanation of Buddhism

Buddhism today is a major religion whose adherents have been numbered between 150 and 300 million people. Many Buddhists would reject the statement that Buddhism is a religion. Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 BC), known as the Buddha, was the founder of Buddhism. The word Buddha is a title that means “one who is awake,” i.e., one who has become enlightened. Buddha was born in Kapilavastu, near what today is the Indian-Nepal border. He was the son of the ruler of a kingdom, and at the age of 29 he began to realize the emptiness of his life.  He had been raised in an environment of sheltered luxury. So he renounced all attachments to the world and began a quest for inner peace and inner enlightenment. For a few years he practiced Yoga and became a strict ascetic. Eventually he abandoned this method as pointless, choosing a middle ground between a life of indulgence and a life of self-denial. Finally, at age 35, he was sitting under a Bo tree, meditating. Through this meditation he finally reached the state of perfect enlightenment by moving through a series of higher states of consciousness. For the remainder of his life, he traveled throughout northern India teaching his practice of attaining enlightenment.

Teachings of Buddhism

At the center of the enlightenment that is said to be achieved by the practices of Buddhism lie what are called the Four Noble Truths, the last of which is of special interest with regard to our discussion concerning the struggle between Buddhism and Christianity: (1) Life is suffering; (2) All suffering is caused by ignorance of the nature of reality as well as the attachments that result from this ignorance; (3) Suffering can be overcome by removing ignorance and releasing oneself from attachment; (4) The way to overcoming suffering is through following the Noble Eightfold Path: right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right-mindedness and right contemplation. These eight elements of the Noble Eightfold Path are divided into three categories that form the pillars of Buddhism: morality, wisdom and samadhi (concentration).

Buddhism, as it has evolved and as it exists today, does not recognize the existence of a Supreme Being. But some state that this was not the case in the beginning, and that Buddha did acknowledge a Supreme Being. Ashoka, the most famous and most devoted follower of the Buddha and his teachings, carved many inscriptions on rocks called stupas, and some state that these rocks clearly indicate a belief in a Supreme Being. One such rock is located on the bank of a river named Katak, and reads as follows:

“Much longing after the things (of this life) is a disobedience, I again declare; not less so is the laborious ambition of dominion by a prince who would be a proprietor of heaven. Confess and believe in God (Is’ana) who is the worthy object of obedience. For equal to this (belief), I declare unto you, ye shall not find such a means of propitiating heaven. Oh strive ye to obtain this inestimable treasure.”


The Christian side and the doctrinal battle to preserve the faith

We came across a very interesting document, produced by the body within the Catholic Church responsible for maintaining its dogma: The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, also known as the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and formerly known as the Inquisition. And this document, in my view, will give the reader an excellent understanding of how Christianity views Buddhism and other Eastern forms of religion as threats. A careful reading of excerpts from this document will give the reader a keen understanding of why the subject of the Roza Bal and the theory of a post-crucifixion life of Jesus Christ in India poses so great a threat to the very fundamental teachings of Christianity, and why Buddhism plays a role. We will present excerpts from this document. Then We will quote Holger Kersten (the Buddhist side), briefly, to contrast the two views. The title of the Congregation’s document is, “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation.” Any emphasis in the following document is ours:


“1. Many Christians today have a keen desire to learn how to experience a deeper and authentic prayer life despite the not inconsiderable difficulties which modern culture places in the way of the need for silence, recollection and meditation. The interest which in recent years has been awakened also among some Christians by forms of meditation associated with some Eastern religions and their particular methods of prayer is a significant sign of this need for spiritual recollection and a deep contact with the divine mystery.


“Nevertheless, faced with this phenomenon many feel the need for sure criteria of a doctrinal and pastoral character which might allow them to instruct others in prayer, in its numerous manifestations, while remaining faithful to the truth revealed in Jesus, by means of the genuine tradition of the Church. This present letter seeks to reply to this urgent need, so that in the various particular churches the many different forms of prayer, including new ones, may never lose their correct personal and communitarian nature. These indications are addressed in the fist place to the bishops, to be considered in that spirit of pastoral solicitude for the churches entrusted to them, so that the entire people of God—priests, religious and laity—may again be called to pray, with renewed vigor, to the Father through the Spirit of Christ our Lord.

“2. The ever more frequent contact with other religions and with their different styles and methods of prayer has, in recent decades, led many of the faithful to ask themselves what value non-Christian forms of meditation might have for Christians. Above all, the question concerns Eastern methods. Some people today turn to these methods for therapeutic reasons. The spiritual restlessness arising from a life subjected to the driving pace of a technologically advanced society also brings a certain number of Christians to seek in these methods of prayer a path to interior peace and psychic balance.

“This psychological aspect is not dealt with in the present letter, which instead emphasizes the theological and spiritual implications of the question. Other Christians, caught up in the movement toward openness and exchanges between various religions and cultures, are of the opinion that their prayer has much to gain from these methods. Observing that in recent times many traditional methods of meditation, especially Christian ones, have fallen into disuse, they wonder whether it might not now be possible, by a new training in prayer, to enrich our heritage by incorporating what has until now been foreign to it.

“3. To answer this question, one must first of all consider, even if only in a general way, in what the intimate nature of Christian prayer consists. Then one can see if and how it might be enriched by meditation methods that have been developed in other religions and cultures. However, in order to achieve this, one needs to start with a certain clear premise. Christian prayer is always determined by the structure of the Christian faith, in which the very truth of God and creature shines forth. For this reason, it is defined, properly speaking, as a personal, intimate and profound dialogue between man and God. It expresses, therefore, the communion of redeemed creatures with the intimate life of the persons of the Trinity.

“This communion, based on baptism and the Eucharist, source and summit of the life of the church, implies an attitude of conversion, a flight from ‘self’ to the ‘you’ of God. Thus Christian prayer is at the same time always authentically personal and communitarian. It flees from impersonal techniques or from concentrating on oneself, which can create a kind of rut, imprisoning the person praying in a spiritual privatism which is incapable of a free openness to the transcendental God. Within the church, in the legitimate search for new methods of meditation it must always be born in mind that the essential element of authentic Christian prayer is the meeting of two freedoms, the infinite freedom of God with the finite freedom of man.”

To review: The introduction of this document openly reveals that the primary concern of the Catholic Church with regard to nontraditional forms of worship is Eastern religions, particularly their meditation forms. Then it states that the figure of Jesus Christ must stand at the very center of any view of meditation, religion, or spirituality entertained by Christians. Next, the document acknowledges that today’s Christians feel something missing in their own Christian tradition since, it says, they “are of the opinion that their prayer has much to gain from these methods.”

Then the document clearly states a primary concern of Christianity, particularly the Catholic Church: its cohesion and integrity as a religious structure with its own viewpoint: “Christian prayer is always determined by the structure of the Christian faith.” Next it states that the prayer of Christians must be prayer that is contained strictly within the doctrinal beliefs of Christianity, citing two prime doctrinal beliefs as essential for the performance of proper Christian prayer: that Jesus Christ died on the cross for the redemption of humanity, and the belief in the Trinity, i.e., God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ) and God the Holy Spirit: “It expresses, therefore, the communion of redeemed creatures with the intimate life of the persons of the Trinity.” It is clear here that in Christianity, there can be no form of spiritual expression or meditation that does not include the figure of Jesus Christ. He alone is the redeemer [“redeemed creatures”] of humanity through his death on the cross.

We must state, though, that Christianity at large, especially non-Catholic Christian fundamentalism, bases its anti-Eastern religion stance on verses of the Bible (of which there are many) that warn against what it calls, “familiar spirits.” Here is one such example:

“And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.” (Bible, Leviticus 20: 6)

It is because of verses such as this that many fundamentalist Christians totally avoid such practices as Yoga or Tai Chi Chuan, despite their proven beneficial physical exercise techniques and despite their popularity. Some fundamentalist Christians state that those practices (particularly Yoga) open up areas of the body to familiar spirits, and that those areas should remain closed.

Continuing with the document:

“Thanks to the words, deeds, passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in the New Testament the faith acknowledges in him the definitive self-revelation of God; the incarnate Word who reveals the most intimate depth of his love...”

“The entire Gospel of St. John is taken up with the contemplation of him who from the beginning is the Word of God made flesh. Paul, to whom Jesus appeared in his divine majesty on the road to Damascus, instructs the faithful so that they may ‘have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth (of the mystery of Christ), and to know the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.’ (Eph. 3:18 ff). For Paul the mystery of God is Christ, ‘in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’ (Col. 2:3) and, the apostle clarifies, ‘I say this in order that no one may delude you with beguiling speech.’ (v. 4)...”

“...from the very beginning everything proceeds to converge on Christ, the fullness of revelation and of grace, and on the gift of the Holy Spirit...”

“7. Some consequences derive immediately from what has been called to mind. If the prayer of a Christian has to be inserted in the Trinitarian movement of God, then its essential content must also necessarily be determined by the twofold direction of such movement. It is in the Holy Spirit that the Son comes into the world to reconcile it to the Father through his works and sufferings. On the other hand, in this same movement and in the very same Spirit, the Son incarnate returns to the Father, fulfilling his will through his passion and resurrection. The ‘Our Father,’ Jesus’ own prayer, clearly indicates the unity of this movement: the will of the Father must be done on earth as it is in heaven (the petitions for bread, forgiveness and protection make explicit the fundamental dimensions of God’s will for us), so that there may be a new earth in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The prayer of Jesus has been entrusted to the church...(‘Pray then like this,’ Lk. 11:2)...Consequently, it must always be offered within the authentic spirit of the church at prayer, and therefore under its guidance, which can sometimes take a concrete form in terms of a proven spiritual direction. The Christian, even when he is alone and prays in secret, is conscious that he always prays for the good of the church in union with Christ, in the Holy Spirit and together with all the saints.”

“8. Even in the first centuries of the church some incorrect forms of prayer crept in...Subsequently, two fundamental deviations came to be identified: Pseudognosticism and Messalianism, both of concern to the fathers of the church...”

“...These false fourth-century charismatics identified the grace of the Holy Spirit with the psychological experience of his presence in the soul. In opposing them, the fathers insisted on the fact that the soul’s union with God in prayer is realized in a mysterious way, and in particular through the sacraments of the church...”

“Both of these forms of error continue to be a temptation for man the sinner. They incite him to try to overcome the distance separating creature from Creator, as though there ought not to be such a distance; to consider the way of Christ on earth, by which he wishes to lead us to the Father, as something now surpassed; to bring down to the level of natural psychology what has been regarded as pure grace, considering it instead as ‘superior knowledge’ or as ‘experience.’ 

“Such erroneous forms, having reappeared in history from time to time on the fringes of the church’s prayer, seem once more to impress many Christians, appealing to them as a kind of remedy, be it psychological or spiritual, or as a quick way of finding God...”

“...The meditation of the Christian in prayer seeks to grasp the depths of the divine in the salvific [i.e., salvation] works of God in Christ, the incarnate Word, and in the gift of his Spirit...”

“12. With the present diffusion of Eastern methods of meditation in the Christian world and in ecclesial communities, we find ourselves faced with a pointed renewal of an attempt, which is not free from dangers and errors, to fuse Christian meditation with that which is non-Christian. Proposals in this direction are numerous and radical to a greater or lesser extent...Still others do not hesitate to place that absolute without image or concepts, which is proper to Buddhist theory, on the same level as the majesty of God revealed in Christ, which towers above finite reality.

“To this end, they make use of a ‘negative theology’ that transcends every affirmation seeking to express what God is and denies that the things of this world can offer traces of the infinity of God. Thus they propose abandoning not only meditation on the salvific works accomplished in history by God of the old and new covenant, but also the very idea of the one and triune God, who is love, in favor of an immersion ‘in the indeterminate abyss of the divinity.’ These and similar proposals to harmonize Christian meditation with Eastern techniques need to have their contents and methods ever subjected to a thoroughgoing examination so as to avoid the danger of falling into syncretism.”

The above explanations from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith make it very clear that there can be no meditation form or prayer practice that does not have as its goal the attempt to reach God through Jesus Christ. From the Christian perspective, it is absolutely impossible to engage in any form of spiritual or religious experience that does not include Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the Church teaches that knowledge of the love of Jesus Christ surpasses all other knowledge: “to know the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge...” It then says that from the very beginning of creation, “everything proceeds to converge on Christ. Next the document states, essentially, that the Church now represents the custodian of proper prayer to God: “The prayer of Jesus has been entrusted to the church...(‘Pray then like this,’ Lk. 11:2) Consequently, it must always be offered within the authentic spirit of the Church at prayer, and therefore under its guidance, which can sometimes take a concrete form in terms of a proven spiritual direction.

Then the document tells us that it is only through the special rituals, or sacraments, of the Church that a Christian can properly reach God: “...the soul’s union with God in prayer is realized in a mysterious way, and in particular through the sacraments of the church...” Next the document warns Christians of the dangers of Eastern forms: “With the present diffusion of Eastern methods of meditation in the Christian world and in ecclesial communities, we find ourselves faced with a pointed renewal of an attempt, which is not free from dangers and errors, to fuse Christian meditation with that which is non- Christian.

Last (though this is not the end of that lengthy document), the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith warns of what it perceives as the danger of a syncretic movement emerging within the Church—a movement that would include various forms of religious/spiritual/meditative non-Christian practices within its system: “ as to avoid the danger of falling into syncretism.” Interestingly, Holger Kersten, a strong supporter of the Jesus-in-India theory and a proponent of Buddhism, embraces that which the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith fears the most: a syncretic world movement of spirituality. In his book, Jesus Lived In India, he states, “A kind of syncretic world religion of the future is in ascendance.”

For the past 2000 years, the figure of Jesus Christ has been wholly associated with the Christian Church. In the 21st century it appears that Christianity will be faced with the possibility that others will take possession of Jesus Christ, lifting him out of the church and placing him in various eastern traditions, one of them Buddhism. Up until now, Christians had simply assumed that Jesus Christ was a figure belonging solely to Christianity. Now that idea is being challenged.

The Q and Jesus the Buddha--The Sources

As proof that Jesus Christ was a student of Buddhism, some proponents of the Jesus-in-India, Jesus-as-Buddhist theory cite sayings of Buddha that appear to be identical to sayings of Jesus Christ as recorded in the canonical Gospels as well as non-canonical Christian scriptures. This is a large subject, and, as such, I’m going to give just six examples of these similar teachings. If the reader wishes to delve deeper into this subject, we suggest that you obtain the book, The Original Jesus: The Buddhist Sources of Christianity.

The reader will have noted that we include non-canonical Christian scriptures here. This is for a simple reason. The majority populations of the world are non-Christian. As such, we feel that they have the right to be exposed to whatever Christian scripture or document exists, especially considering the history of violence employed by the Church in enforcing doctrine [The Inquisition]. In light of such history, it becomes extremely difficult to regard as sacrosanct the rulings of the various councils within Church Christianity that declared certain scriptures “non-canonical.”

The need to consider non-canonical scriptures is brought powerfully home by the discovery amongst Christian scholars of what some of them accept as a Christian source document called Q, dated before the compilation of the canonical Gospels. This is not actually a physical document. [We must state here that there are some who wholly dismiss the Q as nothing more than a device invented by some Christian scholars in order to bridge the time lapse between Jesus Christ and the Gospel writers. These scholars claim that this Q document actually existed and was a source document used by the Gospel writers, an assertion disputed by others. But for purposes of this discussion, we are going to assume that such a document actually existed.]

The label Q comes from the German word, Quelle, which means source. Christian scholars “found” this document not through archaeological discovery, but by careful scrutiny of the contents of the Gospel.  This scrutiny led them to conclude to their satisfaction that the Gospel writers, though they wrote at different times, had worked from some common source. They call that source the Q. While researchers worked to determine which of the Gospels was the oldest, they made certain discoveries. First of all, they recognized that it would be impossible to actually track down the real authors of the Gospels through historical research. So they would have to get their information from the Bible itself.

It was noted that Matthew, Mark and Luke were related. They then saw that passages in Matthew and Luke corresponded only when they happened to follow a story that was also located in Mark. This led to the conclusion that Matthew and Luke must have gotten their accounts from Mark, and that Mark was the oldest of the three. On the other hand, Matthew and Luke, which were believed to have been recorded about 95 AD, contain a good number of sayings of Jesus not found in Mark. So although Matthew and Luke had Mark as a source, there must have also been something else available to them that they used to compile and write their Gospels. Christian scholars have labeled this source the Q, and some of them strongly believe that the Q must be the oldest text circulated amongst Jesus’ followers, and was perhaps even composed of written accounts by Jesus’ followers recorded after the crucifixion. Similarities are also found between canonical sayings of Jesus and those found in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas. [See, The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins].

Whether or not the Q actually existed, this debate amongst Christians over the origins of the Gospel texts demonstrates clearly why we must include non-canonical scriptures here.  Because there is no way to know whether or not the canonical Gospels contain additions or omissions, due to the fact that the alleged Q document does not physically exist.  Therefore we cannot compare the Gospel texts against the Q document so as to verify their accuracy.

The following are a very small comparative sample of scriptural—canonical or otherwise—sayings of Jesus Christ and the Buddha. We will simply use the label Q to mean the sayings of Jesus as found in various Christian source documents. Therefore, the right side of the chart below that lists sayings of Jesus has the heading Q rather than, Matthew, or Mark or Gospel of Thomas, since these are sayings that can sometimes be found in more than one Gospel. The left side of the chart contains quotes from the Dhammapada. Christians and those familiar with the sayings of Jesus will readily recognize them. For a much bigger list than that presented below, please consult books that compare the teachings of Buddha to the teachings of Christ, of which there are many.


Indian Scriptural Source

The Q

Better than absolute sovereignty over the earth, better than lordship over all the worlds is the Fruit of a Stream-Winner. (Dh 13:178)

For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away.

Surely, the path that leads to worldly gain in one, and the path that leads to Nibbana is another; understanding this, the Bhikkhu, the disciple of the Buddha, should not rejoice in worldly favours, but cultivate detachment.  (Dh 5:75)

No man can serve two masters. Either he hates the one and loves the other, or he is loyal to one and despises the other. You cannot serve God and wealth [mammon]

What is the use of your matted hair, O witless man? What is the use of your antelope skin garment? Within, you are full of passions; without, you embellish yourself. (Dh 26:394).

Shame on you Pharisees! For you clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are full of greed and incontinence. Foolish Pharisees! Clean the inside and the outside will also be clean. Shame on you Pharisees! For you love the front seats in the assemblies and greetings in the marketplaces. Shame on you! For you are like graves, outwardly beautiful, but full of pollution inside.

A wise man renounces evil and sensual pleasure and he does all meritorious work in order to attain Nibbana. He becomes a homeless one (Dh 6:87)

Because of that I say this: Whoever is emptied will be filled with light; but whoever is divided will be filled with darkness.

The Bhikkhu who, while still young, devotes himself to the Buddha's Teaching, illuminates this world like the moon freed from a cloud (Dh 25:382)

He who wishes to follow me must know himself and bear my yoke.

The mindful exert themselves. To no abode are they attached. Like swans that quit their pools, home after home they abandon (and go). They for whom there is no accumulation, (of kammic activities or the four necessities of life) who reflect well over their food, who has Deliverance, which is Void and Signless, as their object - their course like that of birds in the air cannot be traced. (Dh 7:91-92)



When someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go,’ Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.’ When another said, ‘Let me first go and bury my father,’ Jesus said, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead.’ Yet Another said, ‘I will follow you , sir, but first let me say good-bye to my family.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

The above is a short survey of the similarities between the teachings of Buddha and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Again, to those who believe in Jesus as a follower of the Buddha who learned his teachings from Buddhist masters, Jesus was not the Son of God in the literal sense, but an enlightened master who followed and taught the teachings of Gautama Buddha. The above does not encompass the entire discussion regarding Jesus as Buddha, of course. More study is encouraged, as there are a good number of books comparing the Buddha and Jesus Christ. 

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