In reading the account of the life of Issa (Jesus Christ), one is struck, on the one hand by the resemblance of certain principal passages to accounts in the Old and New Testaments; and, on the other, by the not less remarkable contradictions which occasionally occur between the Buddhistic version and Hebraic and Christian records.
To explain this, it is necessary to remember the epochs when the facts were consigned to writing.
We have been taught, from our childhood, that the Pentateuch was written by Moses himself, but the careful researches of modern
scholars have demonstrated conclusively, that at the time of Moses, and even much later, there existed in the country bathed by the Mediterranean, no other writing than the hieroglyphics in Egypt and the cuniform inscriptions, found nowadays in the excavations of Babylon. We know, however, that the alphabet and parchment were known in China and India long before Moses.
Let me cite a few proofs of this statement. We learn from the sacred books of "the religion of the wise" that the alphabet was invented in China in 2800 by Fou-si, who was the first emperor of China to embrace this religion, the ritual and exterior forms of which he himself arranged. Tao, the fourth of the Chinese emperors, who is said to have belonged to this faith, published moral and civil laws, and, in 2228, compiled a penal
code. The fifth emperor, Soune, proclaimed in the year of his accession to the throne that "the religion of the wise" should thenceforth be the recognized religion of the State, and, in 2282, compiled new penal laws. His laws, modified by the Emperor Vou-vange,--founder of the dynasty of the Tcheou in 1122,--are those in existence to-day, and known under the name of "Changements."
We also know that the doctrine of the Buddha Fô, whose true name was Sakya-Muni, was written upon parchment. Fô-ism began to spread in China about 260 years before Jesus Christ. In 206, an emperor of the Tsine dynasty, who was anxious to learn Buddhism, sent to India for a Buddhist by the name of Silifan, and the Emperor Ming-Ti, of the Hagne dynasty, sent, a year before Christ's birth, to India for the sacred books
written by the Buddha Sakya-Muni--the founder of the Buddhistic doctrine, who lived about 1200 before Christ.
The doctrine of the Buddha Gauthama or Gothama, who lived 600 years before Jesus Christ, was written in the Pali language upon parchment. At that epoch there existed already in India about 84,000 Buddhistic manuscripts, the compilation of which required a considerable number of years.
At the time when the Chinese and the Hindus possessed already a very rich written literature, the less fortunate or more ignorant peoples who had no alphabet, transmitted their histories from mouth to mouth, and from generation to generation. Owing to the unreliability of human memory, historical facts, embellished by Oriental imagination, soon degenerated into fabulous legends,
which, in the course of time, were collected, and by the unknown compilers entitled "The Five Books of Moses." As these legends ascribe to the Hebrew legislator extraordinary divine powers which enabled him to perform miracles in the presence of Pharaoh, the claim that he was an Israelite may as well have been legendary rather than historical.
The Hindu chroniclers, on the contrary, owing to their knowledge of an alphabet, were enabled to commit carefully to writing, not mere legends, but the recitals of recently occurred facts within their own knowledge, or the accounts brought to them by merchants who came from foreign countries.
It must be remembered, in this connection, that--in antiquity as in our own days--the whole public life of the Orient was concentrated
in the bazaars. There the news of foreign events was brought by the merchant-caravans and sought by the dervishes, who found, in their recitals in the temples and public places, a means of subsistence. When the merchants returned home from a journey, they generally related fully during the first days after their arrival, all they had seen or heard abroad. Such have been the customs of the Orient, from time immemorial, and are to-day.
The commerce of India with Egypt and, later, with Europe, was carried on by way of Jerusalem, where, as far back as the time of King Solomon, the Hindu caravans brought precious metals and other materials for the construction of the temple. From Europe, merchandise was brought to Jerusalem by sea, and there unloaded in a port, which is
now occupied by the city of Jaffa. The chronicles in question were compiled before, during and after the time of Jesus Christ.
During his sojourn in India, in the quality of a simple student come to learn the Brahminical and Buddhistic laws, no special attention whatever was paid to his life. When, however, a little later, the first accounts of the events in Israel reached India, the chroniclers, after committing to writing that which they were told about the prophet, Issa,--viz., that he had for his following a whole people, weary of the yoke of their masters, and that he was crucified by order of Pilate, remembered that this same Issa had only recently sojourned in their midst, and that, an Israelite by birth, he had come to study among them, after which he had returned to his country. They conceived a
lively interest for the man who had grown so rapidly under their eyes, and began to investigate his birth, his past and all the details concerning his existence.
The two manuscripts, from which the lama of the convent Himis read to me all that had a bearing upon Jesus, are compilations from divers copies written in the Thibetan language, translations of scrolls belonging to the library of Lhassa and brought, about two hundred years after Christ, from India, Nepaul and Maghada, to a convent on Mount Marbour, near the city of Lhassa, now the residence of the Dalai-Lama.
These scrolls were written in Pali, which certain lamas study even now, so as to be able to translate it into the Thibetan.
The chroniclers were Buddhists belonging to the sect of the Buddha Gothama.
The details concerning Jesus, given in the chronicles, are disconnected and mingled with accounts of other contemporaneous events to which they bear no relation.
The manuscripts relate to us, first of all,--according to the accounts given by merchants arriving from Judea in the same year when the death of Jesus occurred--that a just man by the name of Issa, an Israelite, in spite of his being acquitted twice by the judges as being a man of God, was nevertheless put to death by the order of the Pagan governor, Pilate, who feared that he might take ad vantage of his great popularity to reestablish the kingdom of Israel and expel from the country its conquerors.
Then follow rather incoherent communications regarding the preachings of Jesus among the Guebers and other heathens.
[paragraph continues] They seem to have been written during the first years following the death of Jesus, in whose career a lively and growing interest is shown.
One of these accounts, communicated by merchant, refers to the origin of Jesus and his family; another tells of the expulsion of his partisans and the persecutions they had to suffer.
Only at the end of the second volume is found the first categorical affirmation of the chronicler. He says there that Issa was a man blessed by God and the best of all; that it was he in whom the great Brahma had elected to incarnate when, at a period fixed by destiny, his spirit was required to, for a time, separate from the Supreme Being.
After telling that Issa descended from poor Israelite parents, the chronicler makes
a little digression, for the purpose of explaining, according to ancient accounts, who were those sons of Israel.
I have arranged all the fragments concerning the life of Issa in chronological order and have taken pains to impress upon them the character of unity, in which they were absolutely lacking.
I leave it to the savans, the philosophers and the theologians to search into the causes for the contradictions which may be found between the "Life of Issa" which I lay before the public and the accounts of the Gospels. But I trust that everybody will agree with me in assuming that the version which I present to the public, one compiled three or four years after the death of Jesus, from the accounts of eye-witnesses and contemporaries, has much more probability of being in
conformity with truth than the accounts of the Gospels, the composition of which was effected at different epochs and at periods much posterior to the occurrence of the events.
Before speaking of the life of Jesus, I must say a few words on the history of Moses, who, according to the so-far most accredited legend, was an Israelite. In this respect the legend is contradicted by the Buddhists. We learn from the outset that Moses was an Egyptian prince, the son of a Pharaoh, and that he only was taught by learned Israelites. I believe that if this important point is carefully examined, it must be admitted that the Buddhist author may be right.
It is not my intent to argue against the Biblical legend concerning the origin of Moses, but I think everyone reading it must share my
conviction that Moses could not have been a simple Israelite. His education was rather that of a king's son, and it is difficult to believe that a child introduced by chance into the palace should have been made an equal with the son of the sovereign. The rigor with which the Egyptians treated their slaves by no means attests the mildness of their character. A foundling certainly would not have been made the companion of the sons of a Pharaoh, but would be placed among his servants. Add to this the caste spirit so strictly observed in ancient Egypt, a most salient point, which is certainly calculated to raise doubts as to the truth of the Scriptural story.
And it is difficult to suppose that Moses had not received a complete education. How otherwise could his great legislative
work, his broad views, his high administrative qualities be satisfactorily explained?
And now comes another question: Why should he, a prince, have attached himself to the Israelites? The answer seems to me very simple. It is known that in ancient, as well as in modern times, discussions were often raised as to which of two brothers should succeed to the father's throne. Why not admit this hypothesis, viz., that Mossa, or Moses, having an elder brother whose existence forbade him to think of occupying the throne of Egypt, contemplated founding a distinct kingdom.
It might very well be that, in view of this end, he tried to attach himself to the Israelites, whose firmness of faith as well as physical strength he had occasion to admire. We know, indeed, that the Israelites of Egypt
had no resemblance whatever to their descendants as regards physical constitution. The granite blocks which were handled by them in building the palaces and pyramids are still in place to testify to this fact. In the same way I explain to myself the history of the miracles which he is said to have performed before Pharaoh.
Although there are no definite arguments for denying the miracles which Moses might have performed in the name of God before Pharaoh, I think it is not difficult to realize that the Buddhistic statement sounds more probable than the Scriptural gloss. The pestilence, the small-pox or the cholera must, indeed, have caused enormous ravages among the dense population of Egypt, at an epoch when there existed yet but very rudimentary ideas about hygiene and where,
consequently, such diseases must have rapidly assumed frightful virulence.
In view of Pharaoh's fright at the disasters which befell Egypt, Moses' keen wit might well have suggested to him to explain the strange and terrifying occurrences, to his father, by the intervention of the God of Israel in behalf of his chosen people.
Moses was here afforded an excellent opportunity to deliver the Israelites from their slavery and have them pass under his own domination.
In obedience to Pharaoh's will--according to the Buddhistic version--Moses led the Israelites outside the walls of the city; but, instead of building a new city within reach of the capital, as he was ordered, he left with them the Egyptian territory. Pharaoh's indignation on learning of this infringement of
his commands by Moses, can easily be imagined. And so he gave the order to his soldiers to pursue the fugitives. The geographical disposition of the region suggests at once that Moses during his flight must have moved by the side of the mountains and entered Arabia by the way over the Isthmus which is now cut by the Suez Canal.
Pharaoh, on the contrary, pursued, with his troops, a straight line to the Red Sea; then, in order to overtake the Israelites, who had already gained the opposite shore, he sought to take advantage of the ebb of the sea in the Gulf, which is formed by the coast and the Isthmus, and caused his soldiers to wade through the ford. But the length of the passage proved much greater than he had expected; so that the flood-tide set in
when the Egyptian host was half way across, and, of the army thus overwhelmed by the returning waves, none escaped death.
This fact, so simple in itself, has in the course of the centuries been transformed by the Israelites into a religious legend, they seeing in it a divine intervention in their behalf and a punishment which their God inflicted on their persecutors. There is, moreover, reason to believe that Moses himself saw the occurrence in this light. This, however, is a thesis which I shall try to develop in a forthcoming work.
The Buddhistic chronicle then describes the grandeur and the downfall of the kingdom of Israel, and its conquest by the foreign nations who reduced the inhabitants to slavery.
The calamities which befell the Israelites,
and the afflictions that thenceforth embittered their days were, according to the chronicler, more than sufficient reasons that God, pitying his people and desirous of coming to their aid, should descend on earth in the person of a prophet, in order to lead them back to the path of righteousness.
Thus the state of things in that epoch justified the belief that the coming of Jesus was signalized, imminent, necessary.
This explains why the Buddhistic traditions could maintain that the eternal Spirit separated from the eternal Being and incarnated in the child of a pious and once illustrious family,
Doubtless the Buddhists, in common with the Evangelists, meant to convey by this that the child belonged to the royal house of David; but the text in the Gospels, according
to which "the child was born from the Holy Spirit," admits of two interpretations, while according to Buddha's doctrine, which is more in conformity with the laws of nature, the spirit has but incarnated in a child already born, whom God blessed and chose for the accomplishment of His mission on earth.
The birth of Jesus is followed by a long gap in the traditions of the Evangelists, who either from ignorance or neglect, fail to tell us anything definite about his childhood, youth or education. They commence the history of Jesus with his first sermon, i.e., at the epoch, when thirty years of age, he returns to his country.
All the Evangelists tell us concerning the infancy of Jesus is marked by the lack of precision: "And the child grew, and waxed
strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him," says one of the sacred authors (Luke 2, 40), and another: "And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his sheaving unto Israel." (Luke 1, 80.)
As the Evangelists compiled their writings a long time after the death of Jesus, it is presumable that they committed to writing only those accounts of the principal events in the life of Jesus which happened to come to their knowledge.
The Buddhists, on the contrary, who compiled their chronicles soon after the Passion occurred, and were able to collect the surest information about everything that interested them, give us a complete and very detailed description of the life of Jesus.
In those unhappy times, when the struggle
for existence seems to have destroyed all thought of God, the people of Israel suffered the double oppression of the ambitious Herod and the despotic and avaricious Romans. Then, as now, the Hebrews put all their hopes in Providence, whom they expected, would send them an inspired man, who should deliver them from all their physical and moral afflictions. The time passed, however, and no one took the initiative in a revolt against the tyranny of the rulers.
In that era of hope and despair, the people of Israel completely forgot that there lived among them a poor Israelite who was a direct descendant from their King David. This poor man married a young girl who gave birth to a miraculous child.
The Hebrews, true to their traditions of devotion and respect for the race of their
kings, upon learning of this event went in great numbers to congratulate the happy father and sec the child. It is evident that Herod was informed of this occurrence. He feared that this infant, once grown to manhood, might avail himself of his prospective popularity to re-conquer the throne of his ancestors. He sent out his men to seize the child, which the Israelites endeavored to hide from the wrath of the king, who then ordered the abominable massacre of the children, hoping that Jesus would perish in this vast human hecatomb. But Joseph's family had warning of the impending danger, and took refuge in Egypt.
A short time afterward, they returned to their native country. The child had grown during those journeyings, in which his life was more than once exposed to danger.
[paragraph continues] Formerly, as now, the Oriental Israelites commenced the instruction of their children at the age of five or six years. Compelled to constantly hide him from the murderous King Herod, the parents of Jesus could not allow their son to go out, and he, no doubt, spent all his time in studying the sacred Scriptures, so that his knowledge was sufficiently beyond what would naturally have been expected of a boy of his age to greatly astonish the elders of Israel. He had in his thirteenth year attained an age when, according to Jewish law, the boy becomes an adult, has the right to marry, and incurs obligations for the discharge of the religious duties of a man.
There exists still, in our times, among the Israelites, an ancient religious custom that fixes the majority of a youth at the accomplished
thirteenth year. From this epoch the youth becomes a member of the congregation and enjoys all the rights of an adult. Hence, his marriage at this age is regarded as having legal force, and is even required in the tropical countries. In Europe, however, owing to the influence of local laws and to nature, which does not contribute here so powerfully as in warm climates to the physical development, this custom is no more in force and has lost all its former importance.
The royal lineage of Jesus, his rare intelligence and his learning, caused him to be looked upon as an excellent match, and the wealthiest and most respected Hebrews would fain have had him for a son-in-law, just as even nowadays the Israelites are very desirous of the honor of marrying their daughters to the sons of Rabbis or scholars.
[paragraph continues] But the meditative youth, whose mind was far above anything corporeal, and possessed by the thirst for knowledge, stealthily left his home and joined the caravans going to India.
It stands to reason that Jesus Christ should have thought, primarily, of going to India, first, because at that epoch Egypt formed part of the Roman possessions; secondly, and principally, because a very active commercial exchange with India had made common report in Judea of the majestic character and unsurpassed richness of the arts and sciences in this marvellous country, to which even now the aspirations of all civilized peoples are directed.
Here the Evangelists once more lose the thread of the terrestrial life of Jesus. Luke says he "was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel " (Luke 1, 80), which
clearly demonstrates that nobody knew where the holy youth was until his sudden re-appearance sixteen years later.
Arrived in India, this land of marvels, Jesus began to frequent the temples of the Djainites.
There exists until to-day, on the peninsula of Hindustan, a sectarian cult under the name of Djainism. It forms a kind of connecting link between Buddhism and Brahminism, and preaches the destruction of all other beliefs, which, it declares, are corroded by falsehood. It dates from the seventh century before Jesus Christ and its name is derived from the word "djain" (conqueror), which was assumed by its founders as expressive of its destined triumph, over its rivals.
In sympathetic admiration for the spirit of the young man, the Djainites asked him to
stay with them; but Jesus left them to settle in Djagguernat, where he devoted himself to the study of treatises on religion, philosophy, etc. Djagguernat is one of the chief sacred cities of Brahmins, and, at the time of Christ, was of great religious importance. According to tradition, the ashes of the illustrious Brahmin, Krishna, who lived in 1580 B. C., are preserved there, in the hollow of a tree, near a magnificent temple, to which thousands make pilgrimage every year. Krishna collected and put in order the Vedas, which he divided into four books--Richt, Jagour, Saman and Artafan;--in commemoration of which great work he received the name of Vyasa (he who collected and divided the Vedas), and he also compiled the Vedanta and eighteen Puranas, which contain 400,000 stanzas.
In Djagguernat is also found a very precious library of Sanscrit books and religious manuscripts.
Jesus spent there six years in studying the language of the country and the Sanscrit, which enabled him to absorb the religious doctrines, philosophy, medicine and mathematics. He found much to blame in Brahminical laws and usages, and publicly joined issue with the Brahmins, who in vain endeavored to convince him of the sacred character of their established customs. Jesus, among other things, deemed it extremely unjust that the laborer should be oppressed and despised, and that he should not only be robbed of hope of future happiness, but also be denied the right to hear the religious services. He, therefore, began preaching to the Sudras, the lowest caste of slaves, telling
them that, according to their own laws, God is the Father of all men; that all which exists, exists only through Him; that, before Him, all men are equal, and that the Brahmins had obscured the great principle of monotheism by misinterpreting Brahma's own words, and laying excessive stress upon observance of the exterior ceremonials of the cult.
Here are the words in which, according to the doctrine of the Brahmins, God Himself speaks to the angels: ''I have been from eternity, and shall continue to be eternally. I am the first cause of everything that exists in the East and in the West, in the North and in the South, above and below, in heaven and in hell. I am older than all things. I am the Spirit and the Creation of the universe and also its Creator. I am all-powerful; I am the God of the Gods, the King of the
[paragraph continues] Kings; I am Para-Brahma, the great soul of the universe."
After the world appeared by the will of Para-Brahma, God created human beings, whom he divided into four classes, according to their colors: white (Brahmins), red (Kshatriyas), yellow (Vaisyas), and black (Sudras). Brahma drew the first from his own mouth, and gave them for their appanage the government of the world, the care of teaching men the laws, of curing and judging them. Therefore do the Brahmins occupy only the offices of priests and preachers, are expounders of the Vedas, and must practice celibacy.
The second caste of Kshatriyas issued from the hand of Brahma. He made of them warriors, entrusting them with the care of defending society. All the kings, princes,
captains, governors and military men belong to this caste, which lives on the best terms with the Brahmins, since they cannot subsist without each other, and the peace of the country depends on the alliance of the lights and the sword, of Brahma's temple and the royal throne.
The Vaisyas, who constitute the third caste, issued from Brahma's belly. They are destined to cultivate the ground, raise cattle, carry on commerce and practice all kinds of trades in order to feed the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas. Only on holidays are they authorized to enter the temple and listen to the recital of the Vedas; at all other times they must attend to their business.
The lowest caste, that of the black ones, or Sudras, issued from the feet of Brahma to be the humble servants and slaves of the
three preceding castes. They are interdicted from attending the reading of the Vedas at any time; their touch contaminates a Brahmin, Kshatriya, or even a Vaisya who conies in contact with them. They are wretched creatures, deprived of all human rights; they cannot even look at the members of the other castes, nor defend themselves, nor, when sick, receive the attendance of a physician. Death alone can deliver the Sudra from a life of servitude; and even then, freedom can only be attained under the condition that, during his whole life, he shall have served diligently and without complaint some member of the privileged classes. Then only it is promised that the soul of the Sudra shall, after death, be raised to a superior caste.
If a Sudra has been lacking in obedience to a member of the privileged classes, or has
in any way brought their disfavor upon him. self, he sinks to the rank of a pariah, who is banished from all cities and villages and is the object of general contempt, as an abject being who can only perform the lowest kind of work.
The same punishment may also fall upon members of another caste; these, however, may, through repentance, fasting and other trials, re-habilitate themselves in their former caste; while the unfortunate Sudra, once expelled from his, has lost it forever.
From what has been said above, it is easy to explain why the Vaisyas and Sudras were animated with adoration for Jesus, who, in spite of the threats of the Brahmins and Kshatriyas, never forsook those poor people. In his sermons Jesus not only censured the system by which man was robbed of his
right to be considered as a human being, while an ape or a piece of marble or metal was paid divine worship, but he attacked the very life of Brahminism, its system of gods, its doctrine and its "trimurti" (trinity), the angular stone of this religion.
Para-Brahma is represented with three faces on a single head. This is the "trimurti" (trinity), composed of Brahma (creator), Vishnu (conservator), and Siva (destroyer).
Here is the origin of the trimurti:--
In the beginning, Para-Brahma created the waters and threw into them the seed of procreation, which transformed itself into a brilliant egg, wherein Brahma's image was reflected. Millions of years had passed when Brahma split the egg in two halves, of which the upper one became the heaven, the lower
one, the earth. Then Brahma descended to the earth under the shape of a child, established himself upon a lotus flower, absorbed himself in his own contemplation and put to himself the question: "Who will attend to the conservation of what I have created?" "I," came the answer from his mouth under the appearance of a flame. And Brahma gave to this word the name, "Vishnu," that is to say, "he who preserves." Then Brahma divided his being into two halves, the one male, the other female, the active and the passive principles, the union of which produced Siva, "the destroyer."
These are the attributes of the trimurti; Brahma, creative principle; Vishnu, preservative wisdom; Siva, destructive wrath of justice. Brahma is the substance from which everything was made; Vishnu, space wherein
everything lives; and Siva, time that annihilates all things.
Brahma is the face which vivifies all; Vishnu, the water which sustains the forces of the creatures; Siva, the fire which breaks the bond that unites all objects. Brahma is the past; Vishnu, the present; Siva, the future. Each part of the trimurti possesses, moreover, a wife. The wife of Brahma is Sarasvati, goddess of wisdom; that of Vishnu, Lakshmi, goddess of virtue, and Siva's spouse is Kali, goddess of death, the universal destroyer.
Of this last union were born, Ganesa, the elephant-headed god of wisdom, and Indra, the god of the firmament, both chiefs of inferior divinities, the number of which, if all the objects of adoration of the Hindus
be included, amounts to three hundred millions.
Vishnu has .descended eight times upon the earth, incarnating in a fish in order to save the Vedas from the deluge, in a tortoise, a dwarf, a wild boar, a lion, in Rama, a king's son, in Krishna and in Buddha. He will come a ninth time under the form of a rider mounted on a white horse in order to destroy death and sin.
Jesus denied the existence of all these hierarchic absurdities of gods, which darken the great principle of monotheism.
When the Brahmins saw that Jesus, who, instead of becoming one of their party, as they had hoped, turned out to be their adversary, and that the people began to embrace his doctrine, they resolved to kill him but his servants, who were greatly attached
to him, forewarned him of the threatening danger, and he took refuge in the mountains of Nepaul. At this epoch, Buddhism had taken deep root in this country. It was a kind of schism, remarkable by its moral principles and ideas on the nature of the divinity
ideas which brought men closer to nature and to one another.
Sakya-Muni, the founder of this sect, was born fifteen hundred years before Jesus Christ, at Kapila, the capital of his father's kingdom, near Nepaul, in the Himalayas. He belonged to the race of the Gotamides, and to the ancient family of the Sakyas. From his infancy he evinced a lively interest in religion, and, contrary to his father's wishes, leaving his palace with all its luxury, began at once to preach against the Brahmins, for the purification of their doctrines.
[paragraph continues] He died at Kouçinagara, surrounded by many faithful disciples. His body was burned, and his ashes, divided into several parts, were distributed between the cities, which, on account of his new doctrine, had renounced Brahminism.
According to the Buddhistic doctrine, the Creator reposes normally in a state of perfect inaction, which is disturbed by nothing and which he only leaves at certain destiny-determined epochs, in order to create terrestrial buddhas. To this end the Spirit disengages itself from the sovereign Creator, incarnates in a buddha and stays for some time on the earth, where' he creates Bodhisattvas (masters), * whose mission it is to preach the
divine word and to found new churches of believers to whom they will give laws, and for whom they will institute a new religious order according to the traditions of Buddhism.
A terrestrial buddha is, in a certain way, a reflection of the sovereign creative Buddha, with whom he unites after the termination of his terrestrial existence. In like manner do the Bodhisattvas, as a reward for their labors and the privations they undergo, receive eternal bliss and enjoy a rest which nothing can disturb.
Jesus sojourned six years among the Buddhists, where he found the principle of monotheism still pure. Arrived at the age of twenty-six years, he remembered his fatherland, which was then oppressed by a foreign yoke. On his way homeward, he preached
against idol-worship, human sacrifice, and other errors of faith, admonishing the people to recognize and adore God, the Father of all beings, to whom all are alike dear, the master as well as the slave; for they all are his children, to whom he has given this beautiful universe for a common heritage. The sermons of Jesus often made a profound impression upon the peoples among whom he came, and he was exposed to all sorts of dangers provoked by the clergy, but was saved by the very idolators who, only the preceding day, had offered their children as sacrifices to their idols.
While passing through Persia, Jesus almost caused a revolution among the adorers of Zoroaster's doctrine. Nevertheless, the priests refrained from killing him, out of fear of the peoples' vengeance. They
resorted to artifice, and led him out of town at night, with the hope that he might be devoured by wild beasts. Jesus escaped this peril and arrived safe and sound in the country of Israel.
It must be remarked here that the Orientals, amidst their sometimes so picturesque misery, and in the ocean of depravation in which they slumber, always have, under the influence of their priests and teachers, a pronounced inclination for learning and understand easily good common sense explications. It happened to me more than once that, by using simple words of truth, I appealed to the conscience of a thief or some otherwise intractable person. These people, moved by a sentiment of innate honesty,--which the clergy for personal reasons of their own, tried by
all means to stifle--soon became again very honest and had only contempt for those who had abused their confidence.
By the virtue of a mere word of truth, the whole of India, with its 300,000,000 of idols, could be made a vast Christian country; but . . . . this beautiful project would, no doubt, be antagonized by certain Christians who, similar to those priests of whom I have spoken before, speculate upon the ignorance of the people to make themselves rich.
According to St. Luke, Jesus was about thirty years of age when he began preaching to the Israelites. According to the Buddhistic chroniclers, Jesus's teachings in Judea began in his twenty-ninth year. All his sermons which are not mentioned by the Evangelists, but have been preserved by the Buddhists, are remarkable
for their character of divine grandeur. The fame of the new prophet spread rapidly in the country, and Jerusalem awaited with impatience his arrival. When he came near the holy city, its inhabitants went out to meet him, and led him in triumph to the temple; all of which is in agreement with Christian tradition. The chiefs and elders who heard him were filled with admiration for his sermons, and were happy to see the beneficent impression which his words exercised upon the populace. All these remarkable sermons of Jesus are full of sublime sentiments.
Pilate, the governor of the country, however, did not look upon the matter in the same light. Eager agents notified him that Jesus announced the near coming of a new kingdom, the re-establishment of the throne
of Israel, and that he suffered himself to he called the Son of God, sent to bring back courage in Israel, for he, the King of Judea, would soon ascend the throne of his ancestors.
I do not purpose attributing to Jesus the rôle of a revolutionary, but it seems to me very probable that Jesus wrought up the people with a view to re-establish the throne to which he had a just claim. Divinely inspired, and, at the same time, convinced of the legitimacy of his pretentions, Jesus preached the spiritual union of the people in order that a political union might result.
Pilate, who felt alarmed over these rumors, called together the priests and the elders of the people and ordered them to interdict Jesus from preaching in public, and even to condemn him in the temple under the charge of apostasy. This was the best means for
[paragraph continues] Pilate to rid himself of a dangerous man, whose royal origin he knew and whose popularity was constantly increasing.
It must be said in this connection that the Israelites, far from persecuting Jesus, recognized in him the descendant of the illustrious dynasty of David, and made him the object of their secret hopes, a fact which is evident from the very Gospels which tell that Jesus preached freely in the temple, in the presence of the elders, who could have interdicted him not only the entrance to the temple, but also his preachings.
Upon the order of Pilate the Sanhedrim met and cited Jesus to appear before its tribunal. As the result of the inquiry, the members of the Sanhedrim informed Pilate that his suspicions were without any foundation whatever; that Jesus preached a religious,
and not a political, propaganda; that he was expounding the Divine word, and that he claimed to have come not to overthrow, but to re-establish the laws of Moses. The Buddhistic record does but confirm this sympathy, which unquestionably existed between the young preacher, Jesus, and the elders of the people of Israel; hence their answer: "We do not judge a just one."
Pilate felt not at all assured, and continued seeking an occasion to hale Jesus before a new tribunal, as regular as the former. To this end he caused him to be followed by spies, and finally ordered his arrest.
If we may believe the Evangelists, it was the Pharisees who sought the life of Jesus, while the Buddhistic record most positively declares that Pilate alone can be held responsible for his execution. This version is
evidently much more probable than the account of the Evangelists. The conquerors of Judea could not long tolerate the presence of a man who announced to the people a speedy deliverance from their yoke. The popularity of Jesus having commenced to disturb Pilate's mind, it is to be supposed that he sent after the young preacher spies, with the order to take note of all his words and acts. Moreover, the servants of the Roman governor, as true "agents provocateurs," endeavored by means of artful questions put to Jesus, to draw from him some imprudent words under color of which Pilate might proceed against him. If the preachings of Jesus had been offensive to the Hebrew priests and scribes, all they needed to do was simply to command the people not to hear and follow him, and to forbid him entrance
into the temple. But the Evangelists tell us that Jesus enjoyed great popularity among the Israelites and full liberty in the temples, where Pharisees and scribes discussed with him.
In order to find a valid excuse for condemning him, Pilate had him tortured so as to extort from him a confession of high treason.
But, contrary to the rule that the innocent, overcome by their pain, will confess anything to escape the unendurable agonies inflicted upon them, Jesus made no admission of guilt. Pilate, seeing that the usual tortures were powerless to accomplish the desired result, commanded the executioners to. proceed to the last extreme of their diabolic cruelties, meaning to compass the death of Jesus by the complete exhaustion of his
forces. Jesus, however, fortifying his endurance by the power of his will and zeal for his righteous cause--which was also that of his people and of God--was unconquerable by all the refinements of cruelty inflicted upon him by his executioners.
The infliction of "the question" upon Jesus evoked much feeling among the elders, and they resolved to interfere in his behalf; formally demanding of Pilate that he should be liberated before the Passover.
When their request was denied by Pilate they resolved to petition that Jesus should be brought to trial before the Sanhedrim, by whom they did not doubt his acquittal--which was ardently desired by the people--would be ordained.
In the eyes of the priests, Jesus was a saint, belonging to the family of David; and
his unjust detention, or--what was still more to be dreaded--his condemnation, would have saddened the celebration of the great national festival of the Israelites.
They therefore prayed Pilate that the trial of Jesus should take place before the Passover, and to this he acceded. But he ordered that two thieves should be tried at the same time with Jesus, thinking to, in this way, minimize in the eyes of the people, the importance of the fact that the life of an innocent man was being put in jeopardy before the tribunal; and, by not allowing Jesus to be condemned alone, blind the populace to the unjust pre-arrangement of his condemnation.
The accusation against Jesus was founded upon the depositions of the bribed witnesses.
During the trial, Pilate availed himself of
perversions of Jesus' words concerning the heavenly kingdom, to sustain the charges made against him. He counted, it seems, upon the effect produced by the answers of Jesus, as well as upon his own authority, to influence the members of the tribunal against examining too minutely the details of the case, and to procure from them the sentence of death for which he intimated his desire.
Upon hearing the perfectly natural answer of the judges, that the meaning of the words of Jesus was diametrically opposed to the accusation, and that there was nothing in them to warrant his condemnation, Pilate employed his final resource for prejudicing the trial, viz., the deposition of a purchased traitorous informer. This miserable wretch--who was, no doubt, Judas--accused Jesus
formally, of having incited the people to rebellion.
Then followed a scene of unsurpassed sublimity. When Judas gave his testimony, Jesus, turning toward him, and giving him his blessing, says: "Thou wilt find mercy, for what thou hast said did not come out from thine own heart!" Then, addressing himself to the governor: "Why dost thou lower thy dignity, and teach thy inferiors to tell falsehood, when without doing so it is in thy power to condemn an innocent man?"
Words touching as sublime! Jesus Christ here manifests all the grandeur of his soul by pardoning his betrayer, and he reproaches Pilate with having resorted to such means, unworthy of his dignity, to attain his end.
This keen reproach enraged the governor,
and caused him to completely forget his position, and the prudent policy with which he had meant to evade personal responsibility for the crime he contemplated. He now imperiously demanded the conviction of Jesus, and, as though he intended to make a display of his power, to overawe the judges, ordered the acquittal of the two thieves.
The judges, seeing the injustice of Pilate's demand, that they should acquit the malefactors and condemn the innocent Jesus, refused to commit this double crime against their consciences and their laws. But as they could not cope with one who possessed the authority of final judgment, and saw that he was firmly decided to rid himself, by whatever means, of a man who had fallen under the suspicions of the Roman authorities, they left him to himself pronounce the verdict
for which he was so anxious. In order, however, that the people might not suspect them of sharing the responsibility for such unjust judgment, which would not readily have been forgiven, they, in leaving the court, performed the ceremony of washing their hands, symbolizing the affirmation that they were clean of the blood of the innocent Jesus, the beloved of the people.
About ten years ago, I read in a German journal, the Fremdenblatt, an article on Judas, wherein the author endeavored to demonstrate that the informer had been the best friend of Jesus. According to him, it was out of love for his master that Judas betrayed him, for he put blind faith in the words of the Saviour, who said that his kingdom would arrive after his execution. But after seeing him on the cross, and having waited in vain
for the resurrection of Jesus, which he expected to immediately take place, Judas, not able to bear the pain by which his heart was torn, committed suicide by hanging himself. It would be profitless to dwell upon this ingenious product of a fertile imagination.
To take up again the accounts of the Gospels and the Buddhistic chronicle, it is very possible that the bribed informer was really Judas, although the Buddhistic version is silent on this point. As to the pangs of conscience which are said to have impelled the informer to suicide, I must say that I give no credence to them. A man capable of committing so vile and cowardly an action as that of making an infamously false accusation against his friend, and this, not out of a spirit of jealousy, or for revenge, but to gain a handful of shekels! such a man is, from the
psychic point of view, of very little worth. He ignores honesty and conscience, and pangs of remorse are unknown to him.
It is presumable that the governor treated him as is sometimes done in our days, when it is deemed desirable to effectually conceal state secrets known to men of his kind and presumably unsafe in their keeping. Judas probably was simply hanged, by Pilate's order, to prevent the possibility of his some day revealing that the plot of which Jesus was a victim had been inspired by the authorities.
On the day of the execution, a numerous detachment of Roman soldiers was placed around the cross to guard against any attempt by the populace for the delivery of him who was the object of their veneration
[paragraph continues] In this occurrence Pilate gave proof of his extraordinary firmness and resolution.
But though, owing to the precautions taken by the governor, the anticipated revolt did not occur, he could not prevent the people, after the execution, mourning the ruin of their hopes, which were destroyed, together with the last scion of the race of David. All the people went to worship at Jesus' grave. Although we have no precise information concerning the occurrences of the first few days following the Passion, we could, by some probable conjectures, re-construct the scenes which must have taken place.
It stands to reason that the Roman Cæsar's clever lieutenant, when he saw that Christ's grave became the centre of universal lamentations and the subject of national grief, and
feared that the memory of the righteous victim might excite the discontent of the people and raise the whole country against the foreigners' rule, should have employed any effective means for the removal of this rallying-point, the mortal remains of Jesus. Pilate began by having the body buried. For three days the soldiers who were stationed on guard at the grave, were exposed to all kinds of insults and injuries on the part of the people who, defying the danger, came in multitudes to mourn the great martyr. Then Pilate ordered his soldiers to remove the body at night, and to bury it clandestinely in some other place, leaving the first grave open. and the guard withdrawn from it, so that the people could see that Jesus had disappeared. But Pilate missed his end; for when, on the following
morning, the Hebrews did not find the corpse of their master in the sepulchre, the superstitious and miracle-accepting among them thought that he had been resurrected.
How did this legend take root? We cannot say. Possibly it existed for a long time in a latent state and, at the beginning, spread only among the common people; perhaps the ecclesiastic authorities of the Hebrews looked with indulgence upon this innocent belief, which gave to the oppressed a shadow of revenge on their oppressors. However it be, the day when the legend of the resurrection finally became known to all, there was no one to be found strong enough to demonstrate the impossibility of such an occurrence.
Concerning this resurrection, it must be remarked that, according to the Buddhists.,
the soul of the just Issa was united with the eternal Being, while the Evangelists insist upon the ascension of the body. It seems to me, however, that the Evangelists and the Apostles have done very well to give the description of the resurrection which they have agreed upon, for if they had not done so, i.e., if the miracle had been given a less material character, their preaching would not have had, in the eyes of the nations to whom it was presented, that divine authority, that avowedly supernatural character, which has clothed Christianity, until our time, as the only religion capable of elevating the human race to a state of sublime enthusiasm, suppressing its savage instincts, and bringing it nearer to the grand and simple nature which God has bestowed, they say, upon that feeble dwarf called man.
258:* Sanscrit:--"He whose essence (sattva) has become intelligence (bhodi)," those who need but one more incarnation to become perfect buddhas, i.e., to be entitled to Nirvâna.
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