icolas Notovitch is an important character in the history of studies surrounding the theory of Jesus in India. He has become most famous for his book, The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ (also available through Tree of Life Publications). Notovitch was an aristocratic Russian “Jew” born in the Crimea in the year 1858. We have the word Jew in quotes because though his parents were Jews, he and his brother, Osip Notovitch, converted to the Greek Orthodox Christian religion when they were young. Notovitch began his career as a journalist. Later he authored twelve books, mostly centering on the politics of Russia. His political books were studied amongst the political elite of Europe, as he had command of both French and Russian, writing in both languages. His book, Pravda Obevrejah, won him universal condemnation from the Jews [the book was considered anti-Semitic], but he was at first praised by the Christians. That was not to last.
During the latter part of the 1870s, Notovitch decided to
embark on an “extended journey through the Orient.” He explained the purpose
of his journey as follows:
“The first object of
this journey was to study the customs and habits of the inhabitants of India
amid their own surroundings, as well as the grand, mysterious archaeology
and the colossal, majestic nature of the country. Wandering without any settled
course from one locality to another, I at last came to mountainous Afghanistan,
whence I reached India through the picturesque passes of Bolan and Guernai.
I then followed the Indus to Rawal-Pindi, traveled through the Punjab—the
country of five rivers—visited the golden temple of Amritsir, the tomb of
Randjid Singh, King of the Punjab, near Lahore, and proceeded toward Kashmir,
the ‘vale of eternal happiness.’ There I began my peregrinations as fancy
or curiosity guided or dictated until I reached the Ladak, where I intended to make a
somewhat lengthy stay before returning to Russia through Eastern Turkestan
In our view, Notovitch’s explanations regarding his
purpose of embarking upon this trip are extremely important. It demonstrates
that he had no preconceived notions about the issue of Jesus in India. He
was simply engaged in traveling and exploration in an attempt to study various
cultures, “mysterious archaeology” and the natural environment of India.
Notovitch was not out to promote any particular religious belief, one way or the other. He was absolutely oblivious to the fact that he would one day become one of the most notorious (in the view of some orthodox Christians) figures of the 20th century—a man now referenced in every Jesus-in-India study in print, whether Islamic, Buddhist, or New Age, and a target of Christian propagandists.
Finally reaching India in 1887, Notovitch visited the famous Golden Temple at Amritsar, eventually moving on
to Ladak. He went to Kargil where he
began a horseback trek on his way to Leh, the capital of Ladak. At a
place called Mulbek near the Wakha River, he decided to visit two monasteries,
one of which was Buddhist, located above a hill. There he met a Lama, and
the two conversed about religion. At one point in the conversation, the monk
|"We also respect the one whom you recognize as Son of the one God. The spirit of Buddha was indeed incarnate in the sacred person of Issa [Jesus], who without aid of fire or sword, spread knowledge of our great and true religion throughout the world. Issa is a great prophet, one of the first after twenty-two Buddhas. His name and acts are recorded in our writings." (Taken from, A Search for the Historical Jesus.)|
[Kersten states that the name “Isa”, or “Issa”, derives from the Syrian, Yeshu (Jesus), “being altered to conform to Musa (=Moses).” It is very interesting that Jesus is referred to as “Issa” in Buddhist documents, as “Isa” in the scripture of Islam, the Quran, and as “Isa” in the Hindu scripture, the Bhavishya Mahapurana. That the religious documents of these three religions mention Jesus as “Isa” suggests that this was actually a name by which he was known in the East. Buddhism and Hinduism predate Islam.]
We recommend that the reader secure the book, The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, because the entire extended account of these exchanges between Notovitch and the Lama can be read. That account graphically records Notovitch’s shock in hearing that the life of Jesus Christ had been recorded in Buddhist manuscripts.
Notovitch, of course, inquired of the
Lama concerning these writings. The Lama told him that these documents were
located in the Lhasa archives in Tibet. The Lama told him that there
were other larger monasteries possessing copies of these accounts of the life
of Jesus in India. After hearing the Lama’s explanations, Notovitch decided to delay his return to Europe so that he could see some of
these documents for himself. Intent on assuring that he would encounter no
obstacles in his determination to view these documents, Notovitch explained:
|"That I might not arouse the suspicions of the authorities in regard to the object of my visit to the convent, and raise no obstacles to a subsequent journey to Thibet [Tibet]--as a Russian--on my return to Leh I announced my immediate departure for India, and again left the capital of Ladak." (Unknown Life)|
While riding his horse near Hemis Monastery
suffered a terrible fall from his horse and broke his right leg,
and he was forced to remain under the care of the Buddhist monks at Hemis until
his leg healed. After requesting to see the manuscripts concerning Jesus in India,
the monks brought to his bedside two books with loose, yellowed leaves. During
the next two days one of the monks read these documents to Notovitch
while an interpreter translated and Notovitch
took notes. Here we provide a few excerpts from these texts:
"It was then that Issa clandestinely left his father's house, went out of Jerusalem, and, in company with some merchants, traveled toward Sindh, that he might perfect himself in the divine word and study the laws of the great Buddhas. In the course of his fourteenth year, young Issa, blessed by God, journeyed beyond the Sindh and settled among the Aryas in the beloved country of God. The fame of his name spread along the Northern Sindh. When he passed through the country of the five rivers and the Radjipoutan, the worshippers of the God Djaine begged him to remain in their midst.
"But he left the misguided admirers of Djaine and visited Juggernaut, in the province of Orsis, where the remains of Viassa-Krichna rest, and where he received a joyous welcome from the white priests of Brahma.
"They taught him to read and understand the Vedas, to heal by prayer, to teach and explain the Holy Scripture, to cast out evil spirits from the body of man and give him back human semblance. He spent six years in Juggarnaut, Rajegriha, Benares, and the other holy cities; all loved him, for Issa lived in peace with the Vaisyas and the Soudras, to whom he taught the Holy Scripture.
"But the Brahmans and the Kshatriyas declared that the Great Para-Brahma forbade them to approach those whom he had created from his entrails and from his feet. That the Vaisyas were authorized to listen only to the reading of the Vedas, and that never save on the feast days.
"That the Soudras were not only forbidden to attend the reading of the Vedas, but to gaze upon them even, for their condition was to perpetually serve and act as slaves to the Brahmans, the Kshatriyas, and even to the Vaisyas. 'Death alone can free them from servitude,' said Para-Brahma. 'Leave them, therefore, and worship with us the gods who will show their anger against you if you disobey them.'
"But Issa would not heed them; and going to the Soudras, preached against the Brahmans and the Kshatriyas. He strongly denounced the men who robbed their fellow-beings of their rights as men, saying, 'God the Father establishes no difference between his children, who are equally dear to him...
"'The wrath of God shall soon be let loose on man, for he has forgotten his Creator and filled his temples with abominations, and he adores a host of creatures which God has subordinated to him. For, to be pleasing to stones and metals, he sacrifices human beings in whom dwells a part of the spirit of the Most High.
"For he humiliates them that labor by the sweat of their brow to gain the favor of an idler who is seated at a sumptuously spread table. They that deprive their brothers of divine happiness shall themselves be deprived of it, and the Brahmans and the Kshatriyas shall become the Soudras with whom the Eternal shall dwell eternally.
"For on the day of the Last Judgment, the Soudras and the Vaisyas shall be forgiven because of their ignorance, while God shall visit his wrath on them that have arrogated his rights.'
"The Vaisyas and the Soudras were struck with admiration, and demanded of Issa how they should pray to secure their happiness. 'Do not worship idols, for they do not hear you; do not listen to the Vedas, where the truth is perverted; do not believe yourself first in all things, and do not humiliate your neighbor. Help the poor, assist the weak, harm no one, do not covet what you have not and what you see in the possession of others.'" (Ibid, pgs. 34-35)
Let’s take a brief moment to examine one of the above statements attributed to Jesus: “For, to be pleasing to stones and metals, he sacrifices human beings in whom dwells a part of the spirit of the Most High.” The idea that part of the spirit of God dwells in human beings parallels the Gnostic view of a Divine spark that they believed existed in human beings
The passages go on to say that Jesus was forced to leave
the area after he was warned that the priests had become furious over his
teachings of absolute equality for the lower castes. So he left Juggarnaut
in the night, traveled and took refuge in the Gothamide country, learned the
Pali language, and dedicated himself to a deep study of Buddhist scriptures.
After awhile, Jesus traveled back towards his birthplace. All along the way,
in whatever country he entered, he defended the rights of the oppressed and
quarreled with the priestly class. In Persia, he became such a nuisance that
the Persian Zoroastrian priests got hold of him one evening and expelled him,
hoping that he would be eaten by wild beasts .
Finally, he reached Palestine. The connection between San Issa and Jesus Christ becomes clearer as we read on. Issa arrived back in Palestine at the age of 29 and, having been gone so long, no one knew who he was:
"And the learned men then said: 'Who art thou, and from what country hast thou come into our own? We had never heard of thee, and do not even know thy name.'
"'I am an Israelite,' responded Isa, 'and on the very day of my birth, I saw the walls of Jerusalem, and I heard the weeping of my brothers reduced to slavery, and the moans of my sisters carried away by pagans into captivity.
"And my soul was painfully grieved when I saw that my brothers had forgotten the true God; while yet a child, I left my father's house to go among other nations. But hearing that my brothers were enduring still greater tortures, I returned to the land in which my parents dwelt, that I might recall to my brothers the faith of their ancestors, which teaches us patience in this world that we may obtain perfect and sublime happiness on High.'"
"And the learned old men asked him this question: 'It is claimed that you deny the laws of Mossa [Moses] and teach the people to desert the temple of God.'
"And Issa said: 'We cannot demolish what has been given by our Heavenly Father and what has been destroyed by sinners; but I have recommended the purification of all stain from the heart, for that is the veritable temple of God.
"As to the law of Mossa, I have striven to reestablish them in the heart of men; and I say to you, that you are in ignorance of their true meaning, for it is not vengeance, but forgiveness that they teach; but the sense of these laws have been perverted." (Ibid, pgs 39-40)
Notovitch now felt that he had come across the most powerful discovery in 2000 years: written manuscripts giving stunning details of the lost years of Jesus, between the ages 12 and 30, that are not mentioned in the Bible, and showing that Jesus had been tutored by Buddhists. It is well worth quoting extensively Notovitch’s explanations of his next moves:
"Entertaining no doubt of the authenticity of this narrative, written with the utmost precision by Brahmin historians and Buddhists of India and Nepal, my intention was to publish the translation on my return to Europe. With this object in view, I addressed myself to several well-known ecclesiastics, requesting them to revise my notes and tell me what they thought of the matter.
"Monseigneur Platon, the celebrated Archbishop of Kiev, believed my discovery to be of great importance, but he earnestly tried to dissuade me from giving the memoirs publicity, declaring it would be against my own interests to do so. Why? This the venerable prelate refused to explain. Our conversation, however, having taken place in Russia where censorship would have placed its veto on a work of this kind, I determined to wait. A year later I chanced to be in Rome. Here I submitted the manuscript to a cardinal standing high in the estimation of the Holy Father.
"'Why should you print this?'" he said, didactically; 'nobody will attach much importance to it, and you will create numberless enemies thereby. You are still young, however. If you need money, I can obtain some compensation for these notes, enough to remunerate you for your loss of time and expenditure.' Naturally enough, I refused the offer.
"In Paris I laid my project before Cardinal Rotelli, whom I had met in Constantinople. He also opposed the publication of my work, under pretext that it would be premature. 'The church,' he added, 'suffers too deeply from this new current of atheistic ideas, and you would only furnish new food to the calumniators and detractors of the evangelical doctrine. I tell you this in the interest of all Christian churches.' I then called on M. Jules Simon, who found my communication most interesting and advised me to consult M. Renan in regard to the best means of publishing these memoirs.
"The very next day I found myself seated in the study of the great philosopher. At the end of the interview M. Renan proposed that I should entrust him with the memoirs in question, that he might make a report on them to the Academy. This proposition, as the reader will understand, was most deductive and flattering. Yet I took away the work with me, saying I wished to revise it once more--the fact being that I feared if I accepted this association I would only receive the bare honor of discovering the chronicles, while the illustrious author of 'The Life of Jesus,' would reap the glory of the publication and of the commentaries. Believing myself sufficiently prepared to publish the narrative by adding my own notes, I finally declined the courteous offer made to me. That I might not, however, wound the feelings of the great master, whom I deeply respected, I resolved to await his death, which could not be far off, judging from his feebleness. Soon after the death of M. Renan, I wrote to M. Jules Simon, and again sought his advice. His reply was that I should judge for myself the expediency of giving publicity to the memoirs." (ibid, pgs. 10-11)
Some critics of Nicolas Notovitch
claim that a Buddhist monk once stated that Nicolas Notovitch
never even visited Hemis Monastery
. We have obtained from Dr. Fida Hassnain
(and we reproduce this with his full permission) a copy of his English
translation of portions of a German diary of a Christian missionary named
. Br. Weber
was a missionary at the Moravian
Mission Church at the city of Leh
, Tibet. Dr. Marx, Brother Weber
, A.H. Jaeschke
, William Heyde
, G. Sandberg
, A.H. Franche
and other missionaries established the Moravian
Mission Church in 1885. We present a few excerpts of Dr. Fida Hassnain
’s translation below. Note that in the P.S. it is stated that the older monks
did indeed say that they remembered the visit of Nicolas Notovitch
to Hemis Monastery. The diary was commenced on August 18, 1885. The
first two paragraphs correspond to the yellowed portion
of Dr. Hassnain's English translation. You will then note in the third paragraph
that Br. Weber
, a Christian missionary, almost angrily refutes the claims of Notovitch
, claiming that there existed official documentation stating that Notovitch
never entered Hemis Monastery. But then the P.S. offers another story.
"In the autumn 1887 a Russian turned up here, MM [Moravian Mission] and visited the Monastery of H [Hemis] in the neighbourhood of Leh. This gentleman is now living in Puric, and in 1893 he published a larger [illegible] of writing, a "New life of Jesus." He asserts that his foot had been seriously hurt on his travel, not far from Himis [Hemis], and that he had found shelter in the monastery and had been nursed by the monks. They had shown him a Tibetan copy of a book, "The Life of Issa", being kept in Lhassa...According to this book, Jesus as a young man is said to have emigrated, to have studied the Brahmani [illegible] in India, and the Buddism in Tibet--to have returned to Palestine as a mature man, and preaching his acquired knowledge and doctrines as the truth of God, to have been generally venerated by the Jews. But Pilate, against the expressed will of the High council, had taken him prisoner and crucified him. But as Pilate even on the grave of Jesus had been afraid of a mutiny of the people, he had given order to place his corpse secretly to another grave, out of which which fact the legend of the resurrection had come into being.
This life of Jesus written in Tibetan language that certain Notovitch [illegible] to have translated with the help of the monks, although he does not understand the Tibetan language and most certainly could not speak to the Lamas even in Urdu. Actually the aim of this evangalism is quite clear to us: the author tends to bridge the space from the 13th up to the 30th year of age of Jesus and to trace back the Godly doctrines of Christ to Brahman and Buddhist wisdom.
Yet after precise inquiries made we had, in order to preserve truth, to attack the author in public; for it is not that the doctrine of Christ is a plagiate, but the whole tale and the whole books is nothing but humbug and a mere lie. Mr. Notovitch, of course, is getting heated very much at our assertion, leading it back to a libelous attitude and narrow minded envy. But, Brother Weber has in his possession an official piece of writing in which the Prior of the Monastery declares that no sick European had been nursed in their monastery and that in their library there was no [illegible] book on Issa or Jesus, nor had been..."
But the P.S. at the bottom of Dr. Hassnain’s translation says the following:
|"When I visited the Lamasery [Monastery] at Hemis, and together with [illegible] and Mr. Stobden interviewed the 'Manager' (The young head Lama being in Tibet studying), the other Lamas who also were present belonging to the Monastery immediately said that their older monks did remember an Englishmen being injured and brought to their Monastery and that some MSS [manuscripts] were shown to him."|
The P.S. goes on to state that at that time, in that area, a European of any kind was called an “Englishman” unless his specific nationality was known. So although Notovitch was a Russian, the older monks referred him to as an “Englishman.” Also, it is not at all likely that two different Europeans visited Hemis, suffered a fall and an injury, were nursed by Buddhist monks and given manuscripts to read. Obviously the “Englishman” referred to by the older monks was none other than Nicolas Notovitch.
When Dr. Fida Hassnain visited the Moravian Mission Church, he came across a bundle of diaries written in German by these Moravian missionaries. Reverend Chattan Phuntchuk explained to Dr. Hassnain that they had recorded all the day-to-day happenings in these diaries. It was by chance that Dr. Hassnain came across the diary containing the above quotes. On page 118, written in red ink, were the words: “St. Issa” (St. Jesus). Dr. Hassnain inquired about the document, and Rev. Phuntchuk then explained that the document contained some entries regarding the visit of Nicolas Notovitch to Hemis and about his discovery of scrolls that mentioned St. Issa. Dr. Hassnain took a photograph of both pages of the diary, and also made some notes.
Dr. Hassnain returned to the monastery several times. Reverend Phuntchuk was no
longer in charge of the Moravian Mission and had left for another city. When Dr. Hassnain inquired about the diaries that he had photographed on a previous
visit, he was told that the diaries were no longer there. Some have claimed
that Hemis Monastery does not even exist (To see a picture of the Hemis Monastery, go
It is clear why Nicholas Notovitch became a hated man. Opponents of the Jesus-in-India theory often attempt to denigrate the findings of Notovitch by observing that his writings against Judaism were mentioned in Adolph Hitler’s, Mein Kampf. While Adolph Hitler was certainly amongst the most evil human beings in history, his mention of Notovitch’s opinions regarding Judaism, it seems to me, is quite irrelevant to the issue of Jesus in India. This is so especially because of the fact that other evidence now exists supporting the theory that Jesus spent time in India. And independent researchers, such as Dr. Fida Hassnain and Andreas Faber Kaiser, have documented this evidence.
We should state here that neither orthodox Muslims nor orthodox Christians are comfortable with the idea that Jesus may have gone to India as a young man to learn and teach Buddhism. For Muslims, Jesus was a prophet to whom God spoke. As such, he would not have needed to go to India to learn Buddhism. For Christians, Jesus was the Son of God, and did not need to be instructed by Buddhists. We present this material on Notovitch not necessarily to support the idea that Jesus may have gone to India to learn Buddhism.