Continuing the weekly serialization of
Damian Beeson Bullen’s
THE CHISPER EFFECT
In which a number of the world’s greatest mysteries are finally solved
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In the previous chapter of The Chisper Effect I began a research trip to India, searching for a different Jesus to the one presented in the Gospels. My journey took me to Hemis monastery in Ladakh, where mysterious ancient texts told the story of Jesus’ studies in India, some of which content correlates to the writings of an ancient Indian poet called Ashu Ghosha. This gives us the vital, factual support to create the following babel chain.
Between Ashu & Issa (pronounced Isha in Sanskrit) we see ‘Asha,’ a name which connects to Jesus thro’ a second century text known as the ‘First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ,’ an alternative to those found in the New Testament. Said to have been written by Caiaphas, one of the Jewish leaders involved in the trial of Jesus, the First Gospel is a fascinating storehouse of apocryphal information about Jesus, including a great deal of his boyhood in Egypt. The text contains a crucial piece of information;
And it came to pass, when the Lord Jesus was born at Bethlehem, a city of Judea in the time of Herod the King; the wise men came from the East to Jerusalem, according to the prophecy of Zoradascht, and brought with them offerings: namely, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and worshipped him, and offered to him their gifts
The name Zoradascht is a wee philochisp of Zoroastra, a mysterious Persian ascetic of the 2nd millennium BC. Among his writings are the Gathas, seventeen sacred devotional hymns in which a certain ‘Asha’ is proclaimed the ‘Genius’ of ‘Truth and Righteousness.‘ In one of the Gathas, Zoroastra proclaims, ‘may Asha attain a body,‘ suggesting this was the very ‘prophecy of Zoradascht’ which led the ‘Wise Men’ to Bethlehem where they found the infant Jesus, the very personification of divinity.
Ashu Ghosha is more commonly known as Asvaghosha, whose philochisp seems influenced by the word ‘Ashavan,‘ which means ‘possessor of Asha.‘ His date can be calculated through ancient Chinese and Tibetan documents (Fu tsou t‘ung chi 2 / Fo tsu li tai tung tsai 1). Anchored on the Buddha’s enlightenment, the ‘Parinirvana,’ of c.530 BC, they state that 600 years passed between the Nirvana and Açvaghosha, giving us a date of c.AD 70. The same six centuries are also used by the Mahâmâyâsûtra, which says; ‘When six hundred years [after Buddha’s death] are expired, ninety different schools of the tîrthakas will arise and proclaiming false doctrines, each will struggle against the other to destroy the law of Buddha. Then a Bhikshu, Açvaghosha by name, will in an excellent manner teach the essence of the Dharma and defeat all the followers of the tîrthakas.’
Little is known about Asvaghosha the man. His life story contains only a smattering of biographical material that has been left to posterity through scattered Tibetan and Chinese traditions. Of these, the most detailed is a biography translated into Chinese by Kumaragiva. We may observe in this text a wandering ascetic able to defeat all comers in theological debate; all, that is, except an elderly Bhikshu named Parsva. Following a competitive debate in front of monarchs, ministers & ascetics, Parsva emerged triumphant & Asvaghosha consented to become his disciple. In this, & every other account of Asvaghosha, his birthplace and parentage differ widely, flung across India from top to tail, a confusing collection which leads one to think that his true origins were actually unknown. The problem has been analyzed in great detail by Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki (1870–1966), the great Japanese scholar of all things Buddhist, who states, ‘as a youth, when thoroughly familiar with every department of knowledge, he went to Odiviça, Gaura, Tîrahuti, Kâmarûpa, and some other places, defeating everywhere his Buddhist opponents by his ingenious logic. All these places are situated in Eastern India, and among the Chinese traditions the Record of the Triratna (Li tai san pao chi) as well as the Accounts of Buddha and the Patriarchs (Fo tsu tung chi) agree with Târanâtha in placing Açvaghosha’s native land in the East; but the Life of Vasubandhu makes Açvaghosha a native of Bhâshita, while in Nâgârjuna’s work, the Mahâyânaçâstravyâkhyâ (Shih mo ho yen lun), he is mentioned as having been born in Western India… The Record of Buddha and the Patriarchs Under Successive Dynasties (Fo tsu li tai t‘ung tsai) agrees with neither of the above statements, for it says (fasciculus 5): “The twelfth patriarch, Açvaghosha Mahâsattva was a native of Vârânasî.” A further contradicting tradition is pointed out by Prof. S. Murakami in one of his articles on the history of Buddhism, quoting the Shittanzô (fas. 1), which makes Açvaghosha a man of South India… A few more details about Asvaghosha can be obtained from oriental sources, but only serve to confuse the real man.’ All the confusion about Asvaghosha’s origins imply he may have born outwith India, offering convoluted support for his being the Judea-born Jesus. Indeed, many of the cities mentioned by Suzuki as being the native home of Asvaghosha, such as Varanasi (Benares), are in precisely the same regions of India in which Notovich places Issa during his academic sojurn through India, who was also, ‘defeating everywhere his Buddhist opponents by his ingenious logic.’
One story, found in the ancient Buddhist text ‘The Transmission of the Dharmapitaka,’ relates how he, ‘went to Pâtaliputra for his propaganda-tour,’ where he ‘composed an excellent tune called Lai cha huo lo, that he might by this means convert the people of the city. Its melody was classical, mournful, and melodious, inducing the audience to ponder on the misery, emptiness, and non-âtman-ness of life. That is to say, the music roused in the mind of the hearer the thought that all aggregates are visionary and subject to transformation.’ Through this tale we can see how Asvaghosha was one of the earliest poet-saints of India, creative spirits described by the twentieth century scholar M Suryanarayana as, ‘the flowering of divinity in man through the medium of music and poetry.‘ The power of the poet-saint to inspire the Indian mind may be perfectly seen in recent centuries, when the wonderful faith of the Sikhs evolved from the hymns of Guru Nanak. As we shall go on to discover, Asvaghosha possessed so much of that ‘flowering of divinity in man’ that he would inspire faiths & religions all across the ancient world.
With the ‘Ghosha’ epithet meaning ‘speech,’ the author of the Budhhacarita & the Vajra Sucha possesses a fully-translated name of ‘Speech of Ashu/Ashva.’ This helps us understand the real meaning of an obscure passage in the Book of Revelations. Written sometime in the late 1st century by an unidentified ‘John,’ we encounter the messiah figure whose ‘name is called The Word of God.’
Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. Revelations 19: 11-16
As a poet of the most prodigious output, Asvaghosha made reputable forays into hymns, epic poetry and even drama. Of the ‘two larger Bauddha works of high repute’ mentioned by BH Hodgson, one would be the famous ‘Buddhacarita,’ a long and beautiful poetical biography of the Buddha. We encounter within it a Virgin Birth story extremely similar to the Christian Nativity, & that the Buddha’s mother appears as a certain Queen ‘Maya’ reinforces the connection to Jesus’ mother Mary. The very valid question we may start to ask at this point is, ‘did the author of the Gospels read the Buddhacarita or, of course, vice versa?’ A connection was suggested by the eminent nineteenth century Orientalist, Samuel Beal;
Having translated the Buddhacarita throughout, and also the greater portion of Asvaghosha’s sermons, I am impressed with the conviction that Christian teaching had reached his ears… the doctrine of a universal salvation, and of Buddha’s incarnation by the descent of the Spirit, and by a power of Bodhui, or wisdom, by which we are made sons or disciples – these and other non-Buddhist ideas found in Asvaghosha’s writings, convince me that there was such an intercommunication at this time between East and West as shaped the later school of Buddhism into a pseudo-Christian form; and this accounts very much for some other inexplicable similarities
Christian motifs are also contained in a branch of Buddhism personally founded by Asvaghosha. Called the Mahayana, or ‘Greater Vehicle,’ its outstanding text, ‘Treatise for Awakening Faith’, was composed by Asvaghosha. A Christian link to the treatise was discerned by Samuel Beal, who observed; ‘there is one book, the K‘i-sin-lun, or ‘Treatise for Awakening Faith,’ which has never yet been properly examined, but, so far as is known, is based on doctrines foreign to Buddhism and allied to a perverted form of Christian dogma… The differentiation of enlightenment into two distinct qualities, wisdom and action, or, according to the terminology of later Mahâyânists, wisdom and love, constitutes one of the principal thoughts of the Mahâyâna Buddhism and shows a striking similarity to the Christian conception of God who is considered to be full of infinite love and wisdom.’ Another concise connection between the Mahayana and Christianity can be found in the Gospel of Luke’s Parable of the Prodigal Son, which uncannily matches a story found in a key Mahayanan text known as the Lotus Sutra.
The evidence is accumulating for Asvaghosha being an Indian ‘avatar’ of Jesus Christ. The word means incarnation, & just as there are numerous representations of the Hindu god Vishnu, there appears equally to be several Jesus avatars. One of these was a certain Ishvarakrishna, & during my residence in Leh I mooted my embryonic theory to certain scholars at the Central Institute for Buddhist Studies. One particular morning we were sat outside in the sunshine, a small gaggle of pupils observing our conversations, as I explained to the scholars the crux of my thoughts; not only did Jesus Christ survive the Crucifixion, not only did he travel to India, but during his time on the Subcontinent he would also compose seminal texts which would form the fundamental pillars of both Krishnaism and Mahayana Buddhism. In this spirit I asked the scholars about the possibility of a certain Asvaghosha being the same personage as Ishvarakrishna. The notion was promptly met with laughter of gentle condescension, and I was told rather bluntly that although the two men may have shared the same era, and written in the same style of Sanskrit, Asvaghosha was a poet and Ishvarakrishna a philosopher. I replied with calm erudition, explaining that although Ishvarakrishna was considered to be a philosopher, he wrote his Samkhyakarika in verse, hence making him a poet. My observation was met with Vedic silence, a profound moment of validation, for my new theory of Jesus-in-India had passed its first critical test.
Ever since Notovich set the ball rolling, the search for Jesus outside of Judea has been gathering momentum, with fresh evidence turning up all the time. A great deal of this research has been conducted by Professor Fida Hassnain. He was well placed to do all this, being the one-time Director of Archives, Archaeology, Research and Museums for Kashmir; a job which provided him with intimate access to numerous obscure and ancient documents. He writes in his book, ‘A Search for the Historical Jesus;’
I was ordered, in the 1960s, to proceed to Leh, the capital of the former kingdom of Ladakh, to examine the historical records and maps relevant to the border dispute between China and India. I had visited Ladakh earlier, and had established the first State Archive Repository there. But my new assignment led me to make many more journeys to the region, and during one such visit I came by chance upon a document relating to Jesus Christ. This was the event which aroused my curiosity and led me to embark on a quest for the historical Jesus
In the first of Hassnain’s books to explore the subject, The Fifth Gospel (1988), the professor quietly reflects upon the course of his personal quest, stating, ‘it took me many years to locate and examine oriental sources, in Sanskrit, Tibetan, Arabic, Persian and Urdu dealing, with the lost years of Jesus. The material was rich and, unlike much of the historical material to which the church had access, on the whole, untouched since ancient times. These ancient documents, recording as they did a little-known connection between Christianity and the East, were of immense fascination to me – each new discovery further fueling my passion for the quest.’ Hassnain’s fantastic work in the field has secured him a place as its leading exponent, and since his arrival on the world stage in the seventies, a series of interested parties have travelled to Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, in order to discuss the Indian Jesus. The first was Andrea Faber Kaiser of Spain, and his wife Mercedes (1975), who were soon followed by two German authors, Helmet Goackel (1977) & Helger Kersten (1982). Each visitor was greeted warmly, and given free access to all the documents and information uncovered by the Professor. Hoping very much to be the next, I set off along the Ladakhi plateau on the ten-hour taxi ride to Srinagar, travelling the torturous and serpentine roads that lead to Kashmir’s gorgeous green vales in an airy, yet most solid jeep. As we headed west, I noted nothing much had really changed along the route since the Italian priest, Ippotito Desideri, recorded three centuries ago how, ‘the greater part of the road is along the flanks of the loftiest and most awful mountains and in which ordinarily there is not found sufficient space for one man to pass by another…. only the slightest carelessness with your feet would cause you inevitably to be precipitated down the slope and to be dashed in pieces in the torrent which runs below the two mountain.’
The journey was a wonderful passage through a landscape of such inspirational majesty it was as if the gods themselves had painted the scene. Shorn of trees, Ladakh offers a lunar landscape to the erstwhile traveler who dares reach this northernmost part of India. Equally gorgeously on display are the aquamarine waters of the great River Indus, here in its infancy before it flows into Pakistan and down to the Arabian Sea. The proximity of Pakistan was made evident in the Kargil sector – named after a charming little town I passed through in a heartbeat – for here and there were scattered memorials and cemeteries erected by the Indian Army in remembrance to those who fought & died in the three-month War of 1998. As we left the district, the mountains were becoming jagged like porcupines, or gnarled like tree-stumps, or rising into white-haired grey beards like beautiful Himalayan druids ruling over all humanity. Crossing the regional border and dropping into Kashmir, my scenic elation turned to absolute toe-curling terror as I experienced the worst hour of my entire life thus far. Our jeep was descending down a road, or half-a road should I say, zig-zagging a mountain often a meter or so from the precipice, braving such treacherous corners that one false move would see a vehicle and its occupants tumbling hundreds of meters to their inevitable dooms. In the great tradition of Buddhism I felt several lives flash by as our driver overtook on sharp bends, and at one point my nerve broke. The mentalist had just parked up at the edge of the road to let a convoy of trucks pass us and I just had to get out and walk down the road to a safer spot!
After minutes that seemed like hours we eventually dropped to a less dangerous height, and I had reached the famous vale of Kashmir. It was the end of the harvest season, where the paddy fields are shorn of rice and have browned in the summer sun. Two months previously, I was told, all was lushly green, and surely contained the magical quality that makes the Vale of Kashmir so special. On reaching its capital, Srinagar, I encountered an Indian city quite different from those of the plains. Despite its million inhabitants, in Indian terms Srinigar is less busy, much cleaner, and in certain places has quite the European feel. Flat roofs are few and far between, with most houses thrusting up steep sheets of metal to let the rains flow freely to earth. On my first night I bore witness to a great Kashmiri storm, which exploded in violent fury and raged for half an hour or so of torrential rain and booming thunder, after which it disappeared, leaving a cool freshness which blew away the mists that had been all prevailing all afternoon. In the distance I could see the Himalayas again, stepping out of the haze like handsome young soldiers going out on gallant parade.
For accommodation during my stay in Srinigar I took a house-boat on the city’s delectably serene Dal Lake. A village on water, one must travel to and from the ‘mainland’ upon the oar-drawn shakaras, a watery oasis of calm far away from the sheer incessancy of India. I spent many a pleasant moment observing the activities of a family dwelling a few meters across the water from my residence. They lived on the lake not for tourism, but for life, their half-carved shakara testament to a world that passed its existence amid such gentle settings. The lake waters were so still, they acted as the most clearest of mirrors to those colorful boats, doubling the beauty with an all-surrounding sense of the picturesque. Also reflected upside-down in the waters was the pyramid-like peak of the sensational & evocative Zabarwan Mountain, at whose summit sits an ancient temple venerated by three faiths: to the Saivites it is Shankaracharya, to the Muslims it is the Throne of Solomon, and to the Buddhists it is known as the Jyesteshwara temple.
On my very first morning in Srinagar, I decided to take a look at the tomb of Yuz Asaf. His body has long been said to be entombed in a fairly innocuous, square shrine in the Rozabal district of Srinagar. In the Bagh-i-Sulaiman by Mir Saad Shahabadi (1780 AD) we read of the tomb, ‘legends say that there was a prince, most accomplished, pious & great, who received the Kingdom of God. He was so faithful to the Lord. That he was raised to the status of the Prophet. Through His grace he became the guide, to the people of the Valley. Here lies the sepulchre of that prophet, who is known as Yuz Asaph.’ That Jesus came to such a place as mountainous, fertile Kashmir is asserted by the Qu’ran (23:51) which states as fact, ‘we made the son of Mary and his mother a Sign, and gave them shelter on an elevated land of green valleys and springs of running water.’ That Mary once resided in this region can be observed in the small Pakistani town of Murree, a few miles along the mountain passes from Kashmir. Within this charming idyll, an old tomb is aligned in the east-west Christian fashion called Mai Mari da Asthan, or the ‘Final resting place of Mary.’
On surviving the Crucifixion, there is a great deal of documentary evidence which shows Jesus returning to India. An approximate date for his arrival in Kashmir may be identified in a passage by the 15th century Persian scholar, Mulla Nadiri, who describes inscriptions etched into the stonework of the Throne of Solomon.
During this time Hazrat Yuz Asaf having come from the Holy Land to this holy valley proclaimed his prophethood. He devoted himself, day and night, in prayers to God, and having attained the heights of piety and virtue, he declared himself to be a Messenger of God for the people of Kashmir… It was because of this Prophet’s orders that Sulaiman, whom Hindus called Sandeman, completed the repairs of the dome. Year Fifty and four. Further, on one of the stones of the flankwalls encasing the stairs he inscribed: In these times Yuz Asaf proclaimed his prophethood and on the other stone of the stairs he also inscribed that he Yuz Asaf was Yusu, Prophet of Children of Israel
Professor Hassnain correlates the year ‘fifty and four’ to the Christian era’s 78 AD, which fits well with the idea of Jesus returning to India after his ministry in Palestine. Reaching Kashmir, he would die here & be buried at Rozabal. On arriving at the shrine myself, I found it painted green and white; the colours of Islam. Muslims are by far the majority throughout Srinagar, and they have added a great sign at the front of the shrine on which is found a quote from the Qu’ran; ‘that they said (in boast), ‘We killed Jesus Christ the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah,’ but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them. And those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not. (4:157-158).’
After a couple of young Australian backpackers pocketed a few small chunks of masonry in 2010, the shrine has been closed to visitors. Taking photographs is strictly forbidden, a matter which seriously irked the locals after I innocuously took a shot. “It is an international dispute,” I was told by a tall, bearded fellow urging me to put my camera away while another fellow tried to snatch it from my hands, ripping my shirt in the process. Apologizing in the most profuse of fashions I managed to diffuse the tinderbox, & a peaceful atmosphere broke out once more at the shrine. Through the incident I realized just how much religious sentiment still divides humanity to this day, and wondered what the true Jesus would think about followers of divinity separated only by the ‘name’ of their god, squabbling over his mortal remains.
We must now make a small examination of a certain king Kansihka, who convened what is known as the 4th Buddhist Council. He was very much a new Asokha, being both peace-loving advocate of Buddhism and powerful conqueror, whose Kushana Empire was spread out across great swathes of land through the modern regions of north India, eastern Pakistan and southern Afghanistan. We can date the council to the Age of Jesus through an account contained in the Blue Annals, which records the attendance of ‘five hundred argats headed by Arya Parsva.’ This man is the very Bhiksu who taught Buddhism to Asvaghosha, & the Parsva-Asvaghosha-Kanishka historical triangle is completed by a recorded interaction between Kanishka and Asvaghosha;
The king of Tukhâra was very powerful. He was called Candana Kanishtha. Being very ambitious and bold, and far superior in courage to all his contemporaries, every country he invaded was sure to be trampled down under his feet. So when he advanced his four armies towards Pâaliputra, the latter was doomed to defeat in spite of some desperate engagements. The king demanded an indemnity of 900,000,000 gold pieces, for which the defeated king offered Açvaghosha, the Buddha-bowl and a compassionate fowl, each being considered worth 300,000,000 gold pieces. The Bodhisattva Açvaghosha had intellectual powers inferior to none; the Buddha-bowl having been carried by the Tathâgata himself is full of merits; the fowl being of compassionate nature, would not drink any water with worms in it,–thus all these having merits enough to keep off all enemies, they are on that account worth 900,000,000 gold pieces. The king of Tukhâra was greatly pleased at receiving them, and immediately withdrawing his army from the land went back to his own kingdom. The Fu fa tsang yin yüan ch‘uan
The chief object of the Fourth Council was to set in stone the tenets of the Mahayana, of which Alice Getty writes; ‘ended in schism between the Buddhists of the south (Ceylon) and those of the north (India)… While the Sri Lankan Buddhist clung on to the canon of the south (Hinayana)…. the Mahayana recognized the existence of a supreme god (Adi-buddha).’ Adda, or ‘father’ in Aramaic, is the name used by Jesus for God throughout the Gospels, while the notion of the Adi-buddha is contained in the earliest texts of the Mahayana, which can be dated to roundabout the time of the Fourth Buddhist Council, when Tarantha tells us, ‘some of the Mahayana scriptures reached the human world.‘ Suzuki adds, ‘while we are still in the dark as to how Mahayana Buddhism developed in India, we know that when it was introduced into China by the missionaries from India and central Asia, it was already regarded as directly coming from the Buddha’s own golden mouth, and that what must have developed during several hundred years after his death was taken in a wholesale manner for a system fully matured in his life-time extending over a period of about half a century after his Enlightenment. As the sutras were translated into Chinese, the first of which appeared in 68 a. d, they profoundly stirred the Chinese and then the Japanese mind awakening their religious consciousness to its very depths.’ One really does get the feeling here that Jesus-Asvaghosha was an active force in the creation of Mahayana Buddhism, was present at the Fourth Buddhist Council, and was the driving force behind the introduction of a supreme god into Buddhism.
I was now fully charged up by the enticing chance of meeting Professor Hassnain. Obtaining his private address from a smart looking fellow in the street, one short rickshaw ride later was in the Parray Pura district of Srinagar, knocking on the gate of a pleasant and large detached house. To my joy, Professor Hassnain came out, and I was amazed to see how sprightly he was on his feet given that he had passed his ninetieth year. We passed an amiable hour in his garden discussing ideas and sharing theories, and I happily told the Professor how much I respected his work. On one occasion during our spot of Socratic dialogue, this 21st century saddhu spoke with much excitement of his suspicions as to Jesus having met Mary Magdelane while they were both students in the ancient Indian kingdom of Magadha, with her name originally being Mary of Magadha. This idea definitely has some merit, for the ‘Life of Issa’ describes how Jesus studied in Radjagriha, the capital of the Magadha kingdom. The conversion of Magadha to Magdalene would be another example of the Chisper Effect in action, and propelled me to show the professor my own ideas as to who the Indian Jesus really was. Asking for a pen and paper, while I sketched out a brief outline of my own contributions to the theory, the Professor’s eyes lit up with youthful excitement. This was a moment of sheer pride, for I had travelled many miles to show him my work, which was built, of course, upon his own fifty years of study, and to receive such encouragement from the master in the field was a perfect reward.
After a lifetime of studying the subject of Jesus in India, Fida Hassnain had published his magnum opus only the previous year, and he presented me with a copy to take away. The book is called ‘Jesus in Kashmir,’ and his aim in publishing it was, ‘to give further impetus to researches on the hidden life of Jesus Christ.‘ One of the most important pieces of evidence contained in the book is a passage known as the ‘Bhavisya Suta.’ It had been discovered written upon birch-bark papyrus in the possession of the Maharajas of Jammu and Kashmir, a translation of which was published under the orders of H.H. Maharaja Sir Partap Singh of Kashmir in 1910. Hassnain describes how he discovered the text; ‘my research assistant, Pandit Dinanath Yachh, showed me the Bhavishya Mahapurana, a rare Sanskrit work compiled by Suta in about 115AD. It was evident that the Bhavishya Mahapurana had been compiled by a votary of Hindusim much before the advent of Islam and its author had no knowledge of Christianity even.’ The Bhavisya Suta reveals a number of tallies between Ishavara-Putaram, the self-styled ‘Son of God’ & the Christian Jesus. Most conspicuously, Ishavara declares himself as ‘born of a Virgin,’ while the term ‘Masiha’ is an obvious deviation of the Greek Messiah. The sighting occurs in a region of the Himalayas known as the ‘Huna Country,’ an ancient kingdom known as Hunadesh straddling the modern-day borders of Nepal, Tibet and India. The events of the passage took place during the reign of King Shalivahana, which Hassnain explained spanned the years 39-50 AD. Chronologically, and crucially, this places Jesus in India after the Crucifixion.
Once upon a time the subduer of the Sakas went towards Himatunga and in the middle of the Huna country the powerful king saw an auspicious man who was living on a mountain. The man’s complexion was golden and his clothes were white.
“The king asked, ‘Who are you sir?’
‘You should know that I am Ishavara Puturam, the Son of God’, he replied blissfully, and am born of a virgin. I am the expounder of the religion of the mlecchas and I strictly adhere to the Absolute Truth.’
Hearing this the king enquired, ‘What are the religious principles according to your opinion?
Hearing this questions of Shalivahana, Isha putra said, ‘O king, I hail from a land far away. When the destruction of the truth occurred, –I, Masiha the prophet, came to this country of degraded people where there are no rules and regulations. Finding that fearful irreligious condition of the barbarians spreading from Mleccha-Desha, I have taken to prophethood.
Please hear, Oh king, which religious principles I have established among the mlecchas. The living entity is subject to good and bad contaminations. The mind should be purified by taking recourse of proper conduct and performance of japa. By chanting the holy names one attains the highest purity. Just as the immovable sun at-tracts, from all directions, the elements of all living beings, the Lord of the Surya Mandala who is fixed and all-attractive, and attracts the hearts of all living creatures. Thus by following rules, speaking truthful words, by mental harmony and by meditation, Oh descendant of Manu, one should worship that immovable Lord’.”
“Having placed the eternally pure and auspicious form of the Supreme Lord in my heart, O protector of the earth planet, I preached these principles through the mlecchas’ own faith and thus my name became ‘isa-masiha’.”
There has been a long running debate as to the identification of the Kashmiris as one of the lost tribes of Israel. From Hebrew topography to the semitic physiognomy, & of course the Throne of Solomon, there are enough Judaic traces to support Yuz Asaf preaching to the Jews of Kashmir, ‘through the mlecchas’ own faith.’
In the Indian annals, there is another man who shares the name Ishavara; an ancient poet known as Ishvarakrishna. He is remembered only for creating a single poem known as the Samkhyakarika, which was, as the text tells us, ‘compendiously set down in the arya metre by the noble-minded and devout Ishvarakrishna, who thoroughly comprehended the established doctrine.’ The dates for Ishvarakrishna are unknown, but he must have lived before the sixth century AD, when a Buddhist scholar named Paramartha translated the Samkhyakarika into Chinese. We possess little else information: a 9th century commentary on the Samkhyakarika, the Jayamangala, describes him as an ‘itinerant monk;’ while a Vedic background is implied by the Samkyakarika’s ‘such is creation from Brahma down to a blade of grass.’ So far so good, for both these slender clues can be confidently connected to Asvaghosha, who we have seen was a student of the Vedas & who describes himself in his own Saundaranda text as a ‘mendicant and teacher,’ an excellent match to the Jayamangala’s ‘itinerant monk.’ We must also observe here that in the Buddhist text Tarantha, the father of Asvaghosha was given as a Brahman called Samghaguhya.
Analyzing the contents of the Samkhyakarika, I have discovered a very tangible link to the Buddhacarita of Asvaghosha through the ancient philosophy known as the Samkhya, which was brought by Ishvarakrishna to its classical perfection. HT Colebrooke writes; ‘it cannot be denied that the Samkhya is the most interesting, if not the greatest, of the six orthodox systems of Hindu speculation and the sixty-nine memorial verses of Ishvara Krishna… though undoubtedly representing a late period in its development, portray more exactly than any other work the true teachings of the school.’ If the Samkhyakarika represents a ‘late period’ in the development of the Samkyha, there must have been an earlier version of the system, a proto-samkhya if you will. This leads us to the twelfth book of the Buddhacarita, in which a primitive version of the Samkhya can be found. When GJ Larson tells us, ‘any attempt to comprehend the development of Samkhya must take Asvaghosa’s treatment seriously,’ we can sense how the poetical ‘Jesus’ first wrote, as Asvaghosha, the Buddhacarita. Composing his Samkhyakarika in later life, by this time his name had transchispered into Ishvarakrishna.
The ‘Krishna’ element extant within the Ishvarakrishna etymology leads us to one of the greatest gods of the Hindu pantheon; that blue-skinned deity and star-turn of the great parabolic poem known as the Bhagavad Gita (Song of God). The Gita has the honour of being the first Sanskrit text to be translated into English, by the very erudite Charles Wilkins in 1784. It has since been translated into hundreds of languages across the world, a most beloved text whose timelessness shall ever reverberate through the aeons. The poem is an episode in the Indian epic poem, the Mahabharata, & is set is the field of Kurukshetra in the moments before the outbreak of an epic battle between the Pandavas and the Kuru, with both armies facing each other across the field. Krishna is in deep philosophical discussion with a young Prince by the name of Arjuna, a situation reminiscent of a scene in the Buddhacarita, where the Buddha philosophizes with a young prince in a rather similar chariot.
When the twentieth century orientalist & professor of Sanskrit EH Johnstone wrote; ‘the account of Buddhacarita is closer to the doctrines of the Moksadharma and the Gita,’ he recognized that chapter two of the Gita contained the same proto-samkhya of the Buddhacarita. By 1918, the highly insightful comparative theologist Holden Edward Sampson managed to penetrate the poem’s symbolism, explaining how the Gita is actually an allegorical exposition of the Samkhya, writing; ‘Arjuna is the soul, Krishna is the eternal and divine ego who drives the chariot/body which carries the soul, while the three qualities that propel the body; sattva (light) rajas (desire) and tamas (indifference) desire, are in the Gita represented as three horses.’
The next step on the chispological pathway of instinctual assumption is to presume that Asvaghosha/Ishavara had some part to play in the composition of the Gita. Indeed, ‘a supplementary point to be noticed in Açvaghosha,’ suggests Beal, ‘is the abundance of similar thoughts and passages with those in the Bhagavadgîta.’ Where the Gita contains elements from both Vedic scripture and early Buddhism (fitting neatly with Asvaghosha’s background), it shares similar syntax, grammar and vocabulary with Asvaghosha’s Sanskrit. The same poet is also celebrated for writing a play known as the Sariputrapakirana (Legend of the Disciple Sariputra), which uses allegorical figures to instruct the audience on morality. This is just the model on which the Gita is built, and it is possible that the dialogue-based Bhagavad Gita would have been a didactic play in its original form. The next station we must come to as we ride the thought-train of supposition is that after composing the Gita, Asvaghosha was then given the ‘Krishna’ epithet. Thus, in later years, & under the name of Ishvara Krishna, he would go on to compose the Samkhyakarika.
Krishna is a Sanskrit word, which translates into Greek as Christos. It is no great effort to see the name Isha-Krishna transchispered by the writers of the Gospels into Jesus Christ. The teachings of the Gita’s Krishna are much the same as those of Jesus; as in their spirit of complete renunciation and their mutual focus on love and compassion. Multiple other similarities between the Gita and Christian theology have been noticed by meditative thinkers such as Mahatma Gandhi, who compared the experience of reading the Gita with that of Gospels.
The New Testament produced a different impression, especially the Sermon on the Mount which went straight to my heart. I compared it with the Gita. The verses, “But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak too,’ delighted me beyond measure
In the foreword to Sampson’s ‘The Bhagavad Gita Interpreted,’ a fellow student of Hindusim from the west, R.F. Hall, refers to the Gita’s, ‘exact synchronism with the mystery-religion taught by Jesus Christ.’ There are, of course, many parallels between Krishna’s sayings in the Gita and the sayings of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, including:
Krishna: I am Beginning, Middle, End, Eternal Time, the Birth and the Death of all. I am the symbol A among the characters. I have created all things out of one portion of myself
Jesus: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.
Krishna: By love and loyalty he comes to know me as I really am, I love you well. Bear me in mind, love me and worship me so you will come to me, I promise you
truly for you are dear to me
Jesus: Anyone who loves me will be loved by my father and I shall love him and show myself to him
Krishna: Whenever, O Arjuna, righteousness declines and unrighteousness prevails, my body assumes human form and lives as a human being.
Jesus: If God were your Father, ye would love me; for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of Myself but He sent me.
‘One of the most important contributions of the Bhagavad Gita to religious thought,’ writes H.E. Sampson, ‘is it’s teaching of the bodily dwelling of the divinity among men.’ Both Krishna and Jesus were deemed to be gods who had taken on a mortal guise, physical manifestations of the deity ‘sent’ to earth in order to save mankind through their respective teachings. This radical new concept in theosophy led to seismic revolutions in both Brahmanism and Judaism, and from the bedrock of these older belief systems two new and exciting religions would subsequently grow, whose followers were known by the extremely similar-sounding Krishnaites and Christians.
Can it only be coincidence that an ancient Vedic Sanskrit text, the Krishna Yajur Ved, which sings, ‘In the beginning was Prajapati, with Him was the Word, And the Word was truly the Supreme Brahman,’ has a complete tally with the opening of the Gospel of John. ‘The Divine poet,’ declared the excellent Indian literary savant, Rama Nair, is one who has experienced the reality of the word or Logos, and who enables others to see the Divine. He is one who reveals his own self-realisation so that others can transcend the limitations of their self. God is viewed as the Beloved showering His Grace of Divine love on his disciples. The Divine poet of the East is an avatara, or God in human form.’ The famous opening of the Gospel of John offers a similar idea, by saying, ‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was with god, and the word was god….and the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.’
There now presides a distinct possibility that a pathway has been hacked through the thickets of distant history, along which may be found a glade of international theological harmony. Jesus Christ should in all reality be seen not only as a preacher in Palestine, but also a poet-saint in India. Fruitfully creochisped into Christian, Buddhist & Hindu traditions, such ebullient richness & untrammeled diversity in the world’s worship must be heartily praised. As uncompromising faith and deep devotion draws beautiful music, elegant dancing and vivid imagery from the souls of all peoples and all nations, it would be a dull congregation indeed if this planet of ours all sang entirely from the same hymn sheet.
Next Wednesday, 06/12/17