by Acharya S
Many of the numerous lives of Buddha
were spent as divine beings; yet, like so many religions that do not
subscribe to the typical theology of other cultures, it is claimed
of Buddhism that it is "atheistic." This contention was also laid
upon early Christianity because that faith likewise did not
acknowledge the reigning deities.
As Church father Justin Martyr
writes in his First Apology:
CHAPTER VI--CHARGE OF ATHEISM
Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are
atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not
with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness
and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all
The Buddhist situation is quite similar
to that of Christianity.
In reality, every religion, sect and cult
believes it has the "right god," and each could be deemed
"atheistic" by another's standard. In the case of Buddhism, the
Brahmans deemed Buddha an "atheist," because he supposedly did not
believe in the Hindu devas; yet, as we have seen, Buddha was himself
considered a deva.
Elucidating this debate, the Catholic
In the Buddhist conception of
Nirvana no account was taken of the all-god Brahma. And as
prayers and offerings to the traditional gods were held to be of
no avail for the attainment of this negative state of bliss,
Buddha, with greater consistency than was shown in pantheistic
Brahminism, rejected both the Vedas and the Vedic rites. It was
this attitude which stamped Buddhism as a heresy.
For this reason, too, Buddha has
been set down by some as an atheist. Buddha, however, was not an
atheist in the sense that he denied the existence of the gods.
To him the gods were living realities. In his alleged sayings,
as in the Buddhist scriptures generally, the gods are often
mentioned, and always with respect.
As concerns CE's remark about Buddha's
"alleged sayings," the skepticism is not misplaced, except that one
could as easily say the same in reference to Jesus. Indeed, it is
clear that the aphorisms attributed to Jesus, like those of Buddha,
are wisdom sayings or platitudes that had been floating around the
world for centuries and millennia before being attributed to these
mythical, spiritual figureheads.
Regarding Buddhism's purported "atheism," Dr. Inman comments:
It is asserted that Siddartha did
not believe in a god, and that his Nirvana was nothing more than
To my own mind, the assertion that Sakya did not believe in God
is wholly unsupported. Nay, his whole scheme is built upon the
belief that there are powers above us which are capable of
punishing mankind for their sins.
It is true that these "gods"
were not called Elohim, nor Jah, nor Jahveh, or
Jehovah, nor Adonai, or Ehieh (I am), nor
Baalim, nor Ashtoreth -- yet, for
"the son of Suddhodana" (another name for Sakya Muni, for he has
almost as many, if not more than the western god), there was a
supreme being called Brahma, or some other name representing the
same idea as we entertain of the Omnipotent.
In reality, in its highest understanding
Buddhism portrays the entire cosmos as divine. Concerning Buddhism's
concept of the divine, Simpson states:
The Faith began with the belief in a
celestial, self-existent Being termed Adi Buddha or Iswara. Rest
was the habitual statement of his existence. "Formless as a
cypher or a mathematical point and separate from all things, he
is infinite in form, pervading all and one with all."
This last sentence concerning "Adi
Buddha" being separate yet pervasive sounds paradoxical, which is
the case with Buddhism, as well as all religious systems that
conceive of God as "omnipresent" yet wholly other. While Buddhism in
general does not preach the notion of a giant, anthropomorphic male
deity somewhere "out there," separate and apart from creation, the
concepts of deity and divinity abound. In reality, in addition to
the idea of Adi Buddha, Buddhism is full of wild, fabulous tales
with divine beings of all sorts, especially Tibetan Buddhism, for
Yet, like so many ancient religions,
Buddhism was a polytheistic, pantheistic monotheism or monism. This
polytheistic monotheism of Buddhism was described by the Abb Huc, a
Catholic priest who traveled to the East and was startled to
discover the many important correspondences between Buddhism and
With the respect to polytheism,
Missionary Huc says, "that although their religion embraces many
inferior deities, who fill the same offices that angels do under
the Christian system, yet," --adds M. Huc-- "monotheism is the
real character of Budhism;" and he confirms the statement by the
testimony of a Thibetan.
Among these "inferior deities" are the
devas. Although Buddha himself was said to have been a "deva" many
times, it is paradoxically claimed that no deva can become a Buddha,
and that the latter must incarnate as a man, not as a woman, a
sexist notion that includes avoiding "all sins that would cause him
to be born a woman."
The fact that Buddha was depicted as
having been a deva, in several "lives" and before taking birth as
Siddhartha, nevertheless makes him a divine being, or godman.
Indeed, Buddhist inscriptions address not only the celestial
"self-existent Being" but also the "Supreme Being," as exemplified
by the following inscription, found in Bengal at Budhagaya, and part
of Moor's original chapter on Buddhism:
"Reverence be unto thee, in the form
of Buddha: reverence be unto the Lord of the earth: reverence be
unto thee, an incarnation of the Deity, and the Eternal One:
reverence be unto thee, O God! in the form of the God of Mercy:
the dispeller of pain and trouble; the Lord of all things; the
Deity who overcomest the sins of the Kali Yug; the guardian of
the universe; the emblem of mercy toward those who serve thee --
O'M! the possessor of all things in vital form. Thou art Brahma,
Vishnu, and Mahesa; thou are Lord of the universe; Reverence be
unto the bestower of salvation I adore thee, who art celebrated
by a thousand names, and under various forms, in the shape of
Buddha, the God of Mercy.--Be propitious, O Most High God!"
Here, then, is a primary source that
demonstrates a few important things: One is that Buddha himself is a
god -- the God, in fact. Another important point is that he is
identified as Brahma and Vishnu, and the third is the similarity
between his nature and that of Jesus.
As seen from this inscription, Buddha is,
Along with these divine epithets, Buddha
is called "God of Gods," as well as "the great Physician," "Healer,"
"Savior," "Blessed One," "Savior of the World" and "God among gods."
The following is from a fuller translation of the Budhagaya
inscription, by Charles Wilkins:
In the midst of a wild and dreadful
forest, flourishing with trees of sweet-scented flowers, and
abounding in fruits and rootsresided Booddha the Author of
Happiness This Deity Haree, who is the Lord Hareesa, the
possessor of all, appeared in this ocean of natural beings at
the close of the Devapara, and beginning of the Kalee Yoog: he
who is omnipresent and everlastingly to be contemplated, the
Supreme Being the Eternal one, the Divinity worthy to be adored
by the most praise-worthy of mankind appeared here with a
portion of his divine nature.
Once upon a time the illustrious Amara, renowned amongst men,
coming here, discovered the place of the Supreme Being, Booddha,
in the great forest. The wise Amara endeavoured to render the
God Bouddha propitious by superior service
The inscription goes on, with Amara
having dreams and visions in which a voice speaks to him. Referring
to "the Supreme Spirit Bouddha," the "Supreme Being, the incarnation
of a portion of Veeshnoo," it continues with the same portion
related by Moor, above, regarding the "Most High God," etc. This
Most High God is also called the "purifier of the sins of mankind,"
"Bouddha, purifier of the sinful" It is quite clear from this
inscription that not only is Buddhism not atheistic, but the Supreme
Being, the Eternal One, is called Buddha. He is also, like Jesus,
the "bestower of salvation."
Moreover, another Christian scholar, Major Mahony, maintains that
the Singhalese claim that, "before his appearance as a man," Buddha
was a god and "the supreme of all the gods." Also, in the second
century, Christian authority Clement of Alexandria related the
worship by Indians of the "God Boutta." (Stromata, I.)
Ceylonese word "Vehar," the writer Relandus stated:
Vehar signifies a temple of their
principal God Buddou, who, as Clemens Alexandrinus has long ago
observed, was worshipped as a God by the Hindoos.
With all the divine beings, including
the umpteen Buddhas themselves, and the Supreme Being even called
Buddha, it is evident that Buddhism is not "atheistic." In addition,
Doane confirms that "son of God" is likewise an appropriate title
The sectarians of Buddha taught that
he (who was the Son of God (Brahma) and the Holy Virgin Maya) is
to be the judge of the dead.
Hence, in reality, deeming Buddha as
God, a god, a godman, or son of God is accurate and appropriate.
In actuality, like Krishna, Buddha is not a "real person" but a
composite of gods and people. His exploits are fabulous, while his
sayings, of course, are from humans.
Moreover, as is also the case with
Krishna, some of the information regarding "the Buddha," including
important correspondences to the Christian myth, is not found in
mainstream books and likely constituted mysteries. Indeed, although
the story has changed over the centuries and millennia, it has not
escaped the notice of a number of researchers and scholars that
numerous elements of Buddhism closely resemble the Christian myth
In the Buddha story, in fact, one can
see many aspects strikingly similar to the Jesus tale, although,
like that of Krishna, the Buddha myth is more elegant and
To begin with, Buddha's mother, Mahamaya, was fecundated by the
"Holy Spirit," while a "heavenly messenger" informed Maya that she
would bear "a son of the highest kings." This Buddha would leave
behind his royal life to become an ascetic, Maya was told, and serve
as a "sacrifice" for humanity, to whom he would provide joy and
Buddha's birth occurred when the
"Flower-star" appeared in the east, and was attended by a "host of
angelic messengers," who announced the "good news" that a glorious
savior of all nations had been born. The holy babe was attended by
"princes and wise Brahmans," or "rishis," one of whom prophesied
that Buddha's mission would be to "save and enlighten the world."
According to the Abhinish-Kramana Sutra, the king of Maghada desired
to know whether or not there were any inhabitants of his kingdom who
would threaten his reign. In this quest, two agents embarked, one of
whom discovered Buddha and reported him to the king, also advising
the monarch to annihilate Buddha's tribe.
Obviously, Buddha escapes this fate, and, at one point eluding his
parent for a day, goes on to wow his wise elders with his sagacious
discourses and marvelous understanding. As an adult setting out on
his mission, Buddha encounters "the Brahman Rudraka, a mighty
preacher," who becomes the sage's disciple. A number of Rudraka's
own disciples decide to follow Buddha, but become disenchanted when
they see he does not observe the fasts.
Concerning Buddha's first
followers, Titcomb relates:
These disciples were previously
followers of Rudraka. Before Buddha appoints a larger number of
apostles, he selects five favorite disciples, one of whom is
afterward styled the Pillar of the Faith; another, the Bosom
Friend of Buddha. Among the followers of Buddha there is a
Judas, Devadatta, who tries to destroy his master, and meets
with a disgraceful death.
Hence, as Buddha was said to have had
five favorite disciples who left their former teacher to follow him,
so was Jesus, whose initial five left John the Baptist. Buddha is
also depicted as speaking with "two buddhas who had preceded him," a
motif reminiscent of Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah.
In addition, while Buddha fasts and prays in solitude in the desert,
he is tempted by the Prince of Darkness, Mara, whose overtures of
wealth and glory the sage resists. This story, of course, parallels
that of Jesus being tempted by Satan. Concerning the temptation
motif, Christian apologist Weigall acknowledges that "there is a
pagan legend which relates how the young Jupiter was led by Pan to
the top of a mountain, from which he could see the countries of the
Subsequent to the temptation, Buddha takes a purifying bath in the
river Neranjara, upon which "the devas open the gates of Heaven, and
cover him with a shower of fragrant flowers," to Jesus's baptism in
the Jordan, with the appearance of a heavenly dove and voice
announcing him to be son of God.
In order to be convinced of Buddha's true nature, the crowd
"required a sign," another motif found within Christianity. Like
Jesus, Buddha is portrayed as walking on water, in his case the
Ganges, while one of his disciples also is able to walk on water at
"At his appearance the sick were healed, the deaf
cured, and the blind had their sight restored."
The miracle of the
fishes and loaves, paralleling that of Jesus, is apparently
recounted in the Mayana-Sutra. While riding a horse, Buddha's path
is covered with flowers tossed by the devas or angels, like Jesus
with the donkey and palms.
Moreover, Buddha takes a vow of poverty and wanders homeless, with
no rest for his weary head. His disciples too are advised to "travel
without money, trusting to the aid of Providence," as well as to
renounce the world and its riches. They too are able to perform
miracles, including exorcising evil spirits and speaking in tongues.
The resemblances do not stop there, as
one of the disciples' miracles is also found in the Old Testament:
Arresting the course of the sun, as
Joshua was said to have done, was a common thing among the
disciples of Buddha.
At one point, some of Buddha's disciples
are imprisoned by "an unjust emperor," but are miraculously released
by "an angel, or spirit." The story of the offensive eye being
plucked out and thrown away by a disciple is also related in
Like Jesus, Buddha exhorts his disciples to "hide their good deeds,
and confess their sins before the world." Furthermore, Buddha is
portrayed as administering baptism for the remission of "sin."
As Bunsen relates:
In a Chinese life of Buddha we read
that "living at Vaisali, Buddha delivered the baptism which
rescues from life and death, and confers salvation."
Buddha's teachings embraced the
brotherhood of men, the giving of charity to all, including
adversaries, and "pity or love for one's neighbor."
The biblical story of the Samaritan
woman is likewise found in Buddhism: One of Buddha's chief
disciples, Ananda, encounters a low-caste woman near a well and
requests some water from her. The woman informs Ananda of her
offensive low caste, such that she should not approach him.
Nevertheless, Ananda responds that he is not interested in her
caste, only in the water, after which the woman becomes a follower
As Evans says:
This gentle reply [of Ananda]
completely won the maiden's heart, and Buddha coming by,
converted her dawning affection into zeal for the general good
through the practice of his system of unselfish morality.
In addition, in The Fountainhead of
Religion, first published in 1927, Indian writer Ganga Prasad
"The parables of the New Testament also bear a marked
resemblance to those of Buddha."
Not only the anecdotes, miracles,
sayings and parables but also many of Buddha's epithets correlate to
those of Christ. For example, some of Buddha's numerous titles
include the following:
He was called the Lion of the Tribe
of Sakya, the King of Righteousness, the Great Physician, the
God among Gods, the Only Begotten, the Word, the All-wise, the
Way, the Truth, the Life, the Intercessor, the Prince of Peace,
the Good Shepherd, the Light of the World, the Anointed, the
Christ, the Messiah, the Saviour of the World, the Way of Life
Furthermore, when he was about to pass
on, Buddha informed his disciples that even if the world were to "be
swallowed up" and the heavens "fall to earth," etc., "the words of
Buddha are true." He also instructed his followers to disperse upon
his death and spread his doctrines, establishing schools,
monasteries and temples, and performing charity, so that they may
attain to "Nigban," or "heaven."
Concerning Buddha's death, Titcomb states:
It is said that towards the end of
his life Buddha was transfigured on Mount Pandava, in Ceylon.
Suddenly a flame of light descended upon him, and encircled the
crown of his head with a circle of light. His body became
"glorious as a bright, golden image," and shone as the
brightness of the Sun and moon
At the death of Buddha, the earth trembled, the rocks were split
and phantoms and spirits appeared. He descended into hell and
preached to the spirits of the damned.
When Buddha was buried, the coverings of his body unrolled
themselves, the lid of his coffin was opened by supernatural
powers, and he ascended bodily to the celestial regions.
The resemblances to the Christ myth
include the transfiguration, the earthquake upon death, the descent
into hell and the ascension. For the most part, the preceding
synopsis of Buddha's life and death reflects the mainstream,
orthodox tale. One notable exception is the assertion that Buddha is
portrayed as "ascending bodily" after his death, a claim that is not
without merit, as will be seen.
In any case, those who know the gospel
story and the canonical Acts of the Apostles in depth, as well as
the apocryphal Christian texts and legends recounted over the
centuries, will recognize numerous elements in the Buddha tale that
correspond to the Christ myth. In Bible Myths and Their Parallels in
Other Religions, Doane goes into even greater detail as to these
Regarding such correspondences between
Buddhism and Christianity, Prasad remarks:
It is not a little strange that the
remarkable resemblance, which we have noticed between Buddhism
and Christianity extends even to the lives of their founders.
Gautama Buddha, as well as Jesus Christ, is said to have been
miraculously born. The birth of each was attended with marvelous omens, and was presided over by a star
Both Gautama and Jesus are said to have twelve disciples each.
The assertion that Gautama had 12
disciples is, of course, not found in mainstream accounts. Could it
be, however, that this Indian scholar has more knowledge about the
subject than the Western pundits and apologists?
We have already noted that the motif of
the five disciples is found in the Buddha myth, and, as we shall
see, the common astrotheological motif of the 12 would likewise be
entirely appropriate and expected, and may have constituted esoteric
knowledge and mysteries based on Buddha's true nature.
The Christ Myth, John Jackson relates
other important details of the Buddha myth, some of which also are
"esoteric," i.e., not found in the orthodox story:
The close parallels between the
life-stories of Buddha and Christ are just as remarkable as
those between Krishna and Christ. Buddha was born of a virgin
named Maya, or Mary. His birthday was celebrated on December 25.
He was visited by wise men who acknowledged his divinity. The
life of Buddha was sought by King Bimbasara, who feared that
some day the child would endanger his throne.
At the age of twelve, Buddha
excelled the learned men of the temple in knowledge and wisdom.
His ancestry was traced back to Maha Sammata, the first monarch
in the world. (Jesus' ancestry is traced back to Adam, the first
man in the world.) Buddha was transfigured on a mountain top.
His form was illumined by as aura of
bright light. (Jesus was likewise transfigured on a mountain
top.) "And his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was
white as the light." After the completion of his earthly
mission, Buddha ascended bodily to the celestial realms.
The motifs of Jackson's synopsis not
emphasized or mentioned in the orthodox tale are the virginity of
Buddha's mother and his December 25th birth date, both of which have
merit, however, as is the case in the Krishna myth. Also, like
Titcomb, Jackson asserts that Buddha "ascended bodily."
The profuse correspondences between Buddhism and Christianity were
noticed numerous times over the centuries by Jesuits and other
Catholic missionaries who traveled to the East, including the clergy
of the Portuguese, who invaded India in the 15th century.
Christian lawyer O'Brien relates in The Round Towers of Ireland:
the conformity between the Christian
and the Budhist religion was so great, that the Christians, who
rounded the Cape of Good Hope with Vasco da Gama, performed
their devotions in an Indian temple, on the shores of Hindostan!
Nay, "in many parts of the
Peninsula," says Asiatic Researches, "Christians are called, and
considered as followers of Buddha, and their divine legislator,
whom they confound with the apostle of India, is declared to be
a form of Buddha, both by the followers of Brahma and those of
Regarding these conformities, Prasad
Dr. Fergusson, who is perhaps the
highest authority on the subject of Indian Architecture, makes
the following remarks about the Buddhist cave temple of Karli,
the date of which he fixes at 78 b.c.: "The building resembles,
to a great extent, a Christian Church in its arrangement,
consisting of a nave and side aisles, terminating in an apse or
semidome, round which the aisle is carried. "
"But the architectural similarity," says Mr. Dutt, "sinks into
insignificance in comparison with the resemblance in rituals
between the Buddhist and Roman Catholic Church." A Roman
Catholic missionary, Abbe Huc, was much struck by what he saw in
The missionary Huc's travels in Tibet
yielded acknowledgment of the following aspects of Tibetan Buddhism,
which correlate closely to Catholic ritual and hierarchy:
"confessions, tonsure, relic
worship, the use of flowers, lights and images before shrines
and altars, the signs of the Cross, the trinity in Unity, the
worship of the queen of heaven, the use of religious books in a
tongue unknown to the bulk of the worshippers, the aureole or
nimbus, the crown of saints and Buddhas, wings to angels,
penance, flagellations, the flabellum or fan, popes, cardinals,
bishops, abbots, presbyters, deacons, the various architectural
details of the Christian temple."
In its article on "Buddhism," the
Catholic Encyclopedia outlines some of these correspondences between
the Tibetan and Catholic religions, yet maintains that Catholicism
was first and that the Buddhist correlations are "accretions" likely
copied from the Christian faith:
Catholic missionaries to Tibet in
the early part of the last century were struck by the outward
resemblances to Catholic liturgy and discipline that were
presented by Lamaism -- its infallible head, grades of clergy
corresponding to bishop and priest, the cross, mitre, dalmatic,
cope, censer, holy water, etc.
At once voices were raised
proclaiming the Lamaistic origin of Catholic rites and
Unfortunately for this shallow theory, the
Church was shown to have possessed these features in common with
the Christian Oriental churches long before Lamaism was in
existence. The wide propagation of Nestorianism over Central and
Eastern Asia as early as A.D. 635 offers a natural explanation
for such resemblances as are accretions on Indian Buddhism.
The charge that Hinduism, Buddhism and
other "Pagan" religions copied Christianity proves that there are
indeed significant similarities between them, so much so that the
most learned apologists and defenders of the faith were compelled to
acknowledge and find a reason for them. Naturally, since
Christianity is depicted as "divine revelation" entirely new to the
times, the Catholic hierarchy could not admit that the more ancient
religion could have influenced the new Christian faith.
So began the tradition of claiming
Christian influence on Indian and Tibetan religion. While the
argument may be applicable to Tibetan Buddhism, although it seems
unlikely, the fact will remain that most if not all of the
ritualistic correspondences outlined above existed somewhere in some
form prior to the Christian era, which means that they are not
"divine revelation" to Christians.
In response to Christian claims of Buddhism copying Christianity, in
The Ruins of Empires, Volney created a fictional conversation
between a Christian and a Tibetan Buddhist in which the Buddhist
"Prove to us," said the Lama, "that
you are not Samaneans [Buddhists/Hindus] degenerated, and that
the man you make the author of your sect is not Fot [Buddha]
himself disguised. Prove to us by historical facts that he even
existed at the epoch you pretend; for, it being destitute of
authentic testimony, we absolutely deny it; and we maintain that
your very gospels are only the books of some Mithraics of
Persia, and the Essenians of Syria, who were a branch of
At this point, Volney notes:
That is to say, from the pious
romances formed out of the sacred legends of the mysteries of
Mithra, Ceres, Isis, etc., from whence are equally derived the
books of the Hindoos and the Bonzes. Our missionaries have long
remarked a striking resemblance between those books and the
gospels. M. Wilkins expressly mentions it in a note in the
Bhagvat Geeta. All agree that Krisna, Fot [Buddha], and
have the same characteristic features: but religious prejudice
has stood in the way of drawing from this circumstance the
proper and natural inference. To time and reason must it be left
to display the truth.
It is indeed time to throw away
religious prejudice and display the truth. In this case, the truth
is that Buddhism's traditions are very old, and there is no evidence
of any magical Christian making his way, in the case of Tibet, to
the "top of the world" and, overthrowing the religious hierarchy of
the entire country, being able to implement the Christian myth and
ritual, leaving no direct trace of either himself or the event.
Moreover, the Catholic Encyclopedia (CE) continues its outline of
similarities between Christianity and Buddhism in general, again
attempting to debunk the contention that the latter was influenced
by the former. The striking similarities between Buddhism and
Christianity include the orders of monks and nuns; various sayings;
and most of all, says CE, "the legendary life of Buddha, which in
its complete form is the outcome of many centuries of accretion" and
which contains "many parallelisms, some more, some less striking, to
the Gospel stories of Christ."
Having said that, CE attempts to disparage those who would "take for
granted" that these parallelisms are pre-Christian.
third-rate scholars," says CE, "have vainly tried to show that
Christian monasticism is of Buddhist origin, and that Buddhist
thought and legend have been freely incorporated into the Gospels."
CE then accuses these various scholars of grossly exaggerating or
fabricating these resemblances, even though a number of those who
have outlined these correspondences have been Jesuits and Catholics
who studied Buddhism firsthand.
As we have seen, the resemblances
are hardly "grossly exaggerated" or fictitious; yet, CE avers that,
"all these exaggerations, fictions, and anachronisms are
eliminated, the points of resemblance that remain are, with perhaps
one exception, such as may be explained on the ground of independent
"Independent origin," yet copied by Buddhism from
While modern defenders of the faith flatly refuse to acknowledge the
similarities between the story and religion of the Buddha and those
of the Christ, more critical and learned apologists of the past,
their backs against the wall because of the abundance of such
analogies, were thus compelled to argue that Christianity influenced
Buddhism, rather than the other way around.
Concerning this debate,
which was obviously well known among the scholars of the past
centuries, Inman comments:
With the usual pertinacity of
Englishmen, there are many devout individuals who, on finding
that Buddhism and Christianity very closely resemble each other,
asseverate [contend], with all the vehemence of an assumed
orthodoxy, that the first has proceeded from the second. Nor can
the absurdity of attempting to prove that the future must
precede the past deter them from declaring that Buddhism was
promulgated originally by Christian missionaries from Judea, and
then became deteriorated by Brahminical and other fancies!
If, for the sake of argument, we
accord such cavillers the position of reasonable beings, and ask
them to give us some proof of the assertion, that early
Christian people went to Hindostan and preached the gospel
there; or even to point out, in history, valid proofs that India
was known to a single apostle, we find that they have nothing to
say beyond the vaguest gossip.
Inman then proceeds to name as this
gossip the writings of church fathers who claimed that the disciples
Thomas, Bartholomew and Pantaneus, among others, traveled to India,
and single-handedly so affected the vast and diverse populace there
that it adopted and adapted Christianity, completely eradicating
evidence of its Palestinian and Judean origin. By these accounts,
however, it seems that these Christian fathers are not speaking of
India but of Arabia and Persia.
Furthermore, as we have seen, rather
than being a wandering disciple, "Thomas" is evidently not only
Tammuz but also Tamas, or "darkness," apparently an epithet for an
Indian god such as Krishna who shared much of the same solar
mythology found elsewhere. In other words, the "St. Thomas
Christians" of Malabar are not "Christians" at all but pre-Christian
Regarding this particular area and the
Christian justification for the presence of "Christianity" in India,
There is positively no evidence
whatever -- except some apocryphal Jesuit stories about certain
disciples of Jesus, found by Papal missionaries at Malabar -- that
any disciple of Mary's son ever proceeded to Hindostan to preach
the gospel during the first centuries of our era.
Indeed, the evidence of Christian
activity in India is apparently limited to only as early as the 7th
century, with the Nestorianism mentioned by the Catholic
Concerning this debate, Bunsen, a Christian, comments:
The remarkable parallels in the most
ancient records of the lives of Gautama Buddha and of Jesus
Christ require explanation. They cannot all be attributed to
chance or to importation from the West.
We now possess an uninterrupted chain of Buddhist writings in
China, "from at least 100 b.c. to a.d. 600," according to
Dr. Inman also remarks upon the numerous
correlations between Buddhism and Christianity, and concurs that the
Buddhist tale came first:
It will doubtless have occurred to
anyone reading the preceding pages, if he be but familiar with
the New Testament, that either the Christian histories called
Gospels have been largely influenced by Buddhist's legends, or
that the story of Siddartha has been molded upon that of Jesus.
The subject is one which demands and deserves the greatest
attention, for if our religion be traceable to Buddhism, as the
later Jewish faith is to the doctrines of Babylonians, Medes,
and Persians, we must modify materially our notions of
"inspiration" and "revelation." Into this inquiry St. Hilaire
goes as far as documentary evidence allows him, and Hardy in
Legends and Theories of the Buddhists also enters upon it in an
almost impartial manner.
From their conclusions there can be no
reasonable doubt that the story of the life of Sakya
Municertainly existed in writing ninety years before the birth
of Jesus; consequently, if the one life seems to be a copy of
the other, the gospel writers must be regarded as the
Of course, non-Christian scholars, such
as Indians themselves, also contend that the Indian religions, with
various of their "Christian" motifs and rituals, long preceded the
Such scholars possess common sense and rationality on
their side, since Buddha and Buddhism antedated Christianity by
centuries, if not millennia.