Was Jesus A Buddhist Monk? BBC Documentary Debunked

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By Gerald Readore| Here is a link is to an article from a website titled “Enlightened-Consciousness.com” and talks about a BBC Documentary that attempts to show that during the ages of 13-29 Jesus traveled to Tibet and the surrounding regions and became a Buddhist monk. These are sometimes called the “silent years” because it is said that nothing is recorded in Biblical, Western or Middle eastern sources about the details of Jesus’ life during this time period. We will return to this claim later.

The article describes a Russian doctor by the name of Nicolas Notovich who broke his leg while traveling in Tibet and ended up recuperating in the Tibetan Buddhist monastery of Hemis in the city of Leh. It is claimed one of the monks showed him document(s) in Tibetan titled “The Life of Saint Issa” of which Notovich translated 200 of the 224 verses. Nicolas Notovich documented his travels in a book he wrote in 1894 titled “The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ” which is available online.  One source can be downloaded at the link below:

The website says the lama stated the following about Jesus:

“...one lama explained to Notovitch the full scope and extreme level of enlightenment that Jesus had reached.”

Issa [Jesus] is a great prophet, one of the first after the twenty-two Buddhas…”

He is greater than any one of all the Dalai Lamas, for he constitutes part of the spirituality of our Lord…”

***Remember these descriptions of Jesus as we look at some of the verses from the Tibetan document that was supposedly translated***

The article also says that Jesus was tutored by Vedic scholars in the sacred Buddhist texts from the age of 13 to 29. It seems odd that Vedic scholars, those who study the Hindu Vedas, would be tutoring Jesus for 16 years in sacred Buddhist texts.

The article goes on to say that Jesus didn’t die from crucifixion, returned to the regions of India, Afghanistan and Tibet and lived there until he was 80 years old. It is believed He is buried at the Roza Bal shrine at Srinagar in India-controlled Kashmir.

Interestingly, on page 14 of his book “Jesus in India“, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad says:

“...he [Jesus] died at the age of 120 years at Srinagar, Kashmir, where his tomb is still to be found in the Khan Yar quarter.

That’s quite a difference in the age that Jesus died. Which is it, 80 years old or 120 years old?

Image result for roza bal in srinagar

A picture of the Roza Bal shrine is shone above, and a Wikipedia entry states the following:

The Roza Bal or Rauza Bal or Rozabal is the name of a shrine located in the Khanyaar quarter in Downtown area of Srinagar in Kashmir. The word rauza means tomb, the word bal mean placeLocals believe a sage is buried here, Yuzasaf or Yuz Asaf (or Youza Asouph), alongside another Muslim holy man, Mir Sayyid Naseeruddin.

The shrine was relatively unknown until the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, claimed in 1899 that it is actually the tomb of Jesus. This view is maintained by Ahmadis today, though it is rejected by the local Sunni caretakers of the shrine, one of whom said “the theory that Jesus is buried anywhere on the face of the earth is blasphemous to Islam.

I don’t have time to delve into the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam here, but it has an interesting history and its adherents are considered “kafirs” or heretics by many Muslims. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has written a book titled “Jesus in India”.

Image result for jesus in india mirza ahmad

We will look at some of the translated verses below from the Buddhist documents that are referenced in Nicolas Notovich’s book:

Issa denied the divine inspiration of the Vedas and the Puranas,…” (V, 12)

Issa denied the Trimurti and the incarnation of Para-Brahman in Vishnu, Siva, and other gods...” (V, 14)

“The great creator has divided His power with no other being; far less with inanimate objects, as you have been taught to believe, for He alone is omnipotent and all-sufficient. (V, 17)

“Those who deprive their brothers of divine happiness will themselves be deprived of it; and the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas shall become the Sudras of the Sudras, with whom the Eternal will stay forever.” (V, 23)

Pray not to idolsfor they cannot hear youhearken not to the Vedas where the truth is altered...” (V, 26)

“Even as a father shows kindness toward his children, so will God judge men after death, in conformity with His merciful laws. He will never humiliate his child by casting his soul for chastisement into the body of a beast.” (VI, 11)

Nicolas Notovich has a section in his book after the translations titled “Resume” where he expands on various things. He mentions there were two manuscriptswritten in Tibetan that the Lama read from about Issa or Jesus. These manuscripts were originally written in Pali with the details about Jesus supposedly given by merchants arriving from Judea in the same year “his death occurred“.  He further says:

“The details concerning Jesus, given in the chronicles, are disconnected and mingled with accounts of other contemporaneous events to which they bear no relation.”

“They seem to have been written during the first years following the death of Jesus…”

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.”

They “seem to have been written”???

He then acknowledges the contradiction between the Buddhist manuscripts and the Gospel accounts of Jesus in the New Testament. He goes on to say:

“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 contemporarieshas 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.”

Hmmm….why should we assume this to be true or trust and agree with Mr. Notovich? We know nothing about the supposed eye-witness merchants who may have heard stories and rumors about what had happened.  Further on he talks about Jesus spending six years in Djagguernat studying the “language of the country and the Sanscrit...”  He adds:

0“He (Jesus) 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…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.”

“…he (Jesus) attacked the very life of Brahminism, its system of gods, its doctrine and its “trimurti” (trinity), the angular stone of this religion.”

Mr. Notovich goes on to discuss the Trimurti consisting of the gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva as well as other Hindu gods and goddesses such as Lakshmi, Kali, Ganesa, Indra, Rama and Krishna. He then says:

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.”

Let’s summarize what the Jesus is recorded to have said in these Buddhist documents as well as what Mr. Notovich wrote in his “Resume” section.

  1. Issa denied the divine inspiration of the Vedas and the Puranas,…” (V, 12)
  2. Issa denied the Trimurti and the incarnation of Para-Brahman in Vishnu, Siva, and other gods...” (V, 14)
  3. “The great creator has divided His power with no other being; far less with inanimate objects, as you have been taught to believe, for He alone is omnipotent and all-sufficient. (V, 17)
  4. “Those who deprive their brothers of divine happiness will themselves be deprived of it; and the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas shall become the Sudras of the Sudras, with whom the Eternal will stay forever.” (V, 23)
  5. Pray not to idolsfor they cannot hear youhearken not to the Vedas where the truth is altered...” (V, 26)
  6. “Even as a father shows kindness toward his children, so will God judge men after death, in conformity with His merciful laws. He will never humiliate his child by casting his soul for chastisement into the body of a beast.” (VI, 11)
  7. He (Jesus) found much to blame in Brahminical laws and usages, and publicly joined issue with the Brahmins,…the Brahmins had obscured the great principle of monotheism by misinterpreting Brahma’s own words
  8. ...he (Jesus) attacked the very life of Brahminism, its system of gods, its doctrine and its “trimurti” (trinity)…
  9. Jesus denied the existence of all these hierarchic absurdities of gods, which darken the great principle of monotheism

These are damming things said against the religion of Hinduism attributed to Jesus who is supposed to have been a highly enlightened prophet. He also appears to speak negatively of being reborn as an animal. This not only speaks negatively against Hinduism but Buddhism as well.

If people want to use this book to support the claim Jesus traveled to India and surrounding regions, they also need to use it to support the claim that in His HIGHLY ELIGHTENED state He believed many things taught in Hinduism to be false. 

***Especially if you are a Hindu, this is the last book you would want to endorse or use as evidence of Jesus coming to India or the surrounding region*** 

Is the New Testament truly silent on what Jesus did between the ages of 13 and 29? 

See below for various verses that I believe address this subject:

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. Luke 2:51 (NIV)

  • At the age of 12 Jesus went back to Nazareth with his parents and was subject to them. Other translations say “obedient to them.”  There is nothing to infer that he left Nazareth and went to India.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read,Mark 4:16 (NIV)

  • Since Jesus had a custom of entering into the synagouge, this had to have been ongoing and it is reasonable to infer this had been going on during his time in Nazareth from the age of 12 to 29.

Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’” Luke 4:23 (NIV)

  • Jesus uses the quote from Proverbs to refer to His hometown of Nazareth —(i.e. where he had been living)

Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Mark 6:3 (NIV)

  • Here read of Jesus again in His hometown of Nazareth and people in the synagogue saying “Isn’t this the carpenter?” They didn’t say Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?  They knew Jesus had taken up the trade of his father and worked in Nazareth until the start of His ministry. If Jesus supposedly left for India at a young age and had been away from Nazareth for about 17 years, upon His return it doesn’t make sense to then refer to Him as a carpenter. 

Jesus was a Jew, not a Buddhist

There is lots that we do know about the life and beliefs of Jesus from the Gospels, which are agreed upon by historians to be anywhere from generally reliable to perfectly reliable. When we look at what Jesus believed about God. Here are some things the red letters reveal to us about the identity of God:

1. God is a personal being

By personal we don’t mean that God is a human being, or is embodied in some sense.  What we mean is that the Father is an individual consciousness that is self-aware, rational, endowed with freedom of the will and volition.  These are typically seen to be the sufficient conditions for personhood.

Let’s contrast that with an impersonal force such as the force of gravity, a microwave, or a beam of light. These forces are not self-aware, are not rational in their nature, and do not have a will or volition.

God has a will:

“YOUR KINGDOM COME, YOUR WILL BE DONE.” – MATTHEW 6:10

“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” – Matthew 12:50

“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” – John 6:40

God can act on His free will:

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:11

“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” – Matthew 18:19

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father,” – Luke 10:22

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

God has knowledge.  In order to have awareness of facts about reality, you must have a rational, personal mind.

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” – Matthew 12:36

“For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.” – Luke 12:30

“Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” – John 10:15

God verbally speaks:

“and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:17

He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” – Matthew 17:5

“Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” – John 12:28

God is called a person by Jesus:

“Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” John 8:16-18

2. The Father is a transcendent being, located in Heaven

God is not only personal, but is outside of the universe, residing in Heaven.  God is not the energy of nature or the universe, God is described by Jesus to be a personal being who exists outside of our space-time reality.

“OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN, HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME.” – MATTHEW 6:9

“but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 10:33

“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” – Matthew 12:50

“So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” – Matthew 18:14

3. This personal, heavenly being is the God of Israel, the God of the Jews of the Old Testament:

“But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” – Luke 20:37

“In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.” – Luke 13:28

“JESUS ANSWERED, “IF I GLORIFY MYSELF, MY GLORY IS NOTHING. IT IS MY FATHER WHO GLORIFIES ME, OF WHOM YOU SAY, ‘HE IS OUR GOD.” – JOHN 8:54  

The Pharisees were a sect of Jews who held to the Old Testament, and Jesus is saying here that the one whom they call their God is actually His Father.  Yahweh, the monotheistic deity of the Old Testament, is the Father of Jesus according to Jesus himself.

4. God gave the commandments in the Old Testament

“And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.” – Matthew 15:3-6

This comes from Exodus 20:12 which is one of the Ten Commandments, and Jesus calls this commandment the “Word of God”.

This is also recorded in Mark 7 where Jesus tells the Pharisees “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!  For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God) then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” – Mark 7:8-13

“AND AS FOR THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD, HAVE YOU NOT READ WHAT WAS SAID TO YOU BY GOD: ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’? HE IS NOT GOD OF THE DEAD, BUT OF THE LIVING.” – MATTHEW 22:31-32

So we can clearly see from Scripture that the Father is the personal, transcendent God of the Old Testament who revealed Himself to the Jewish people.  This stands wholly apart of the fundamental beliefs about God held by both Buddhists and Hindus. In no sense was Jesus a Buddhist monk.

This article was originally featured on the website of Eternal Perspectives and was republished with permission, with an addition made starting at the divider line and the subsequent title : “Jesus was a Jew, not a Buddhist”.

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George has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and has worked in the Aerospace industry for over 30 years. He completed the Christian Apologetics Certificate Program through Biola University, and the online Apologetics class through the Southern Evangelical Seminary Lay Institute. He has attended a 3.5 month online Comparative Worldview course from the Wilberforce Academy, and completed online Worldview teacher training through the Anchors Away Program. He has have completed an online graded course on Christianity & Hinduism from Nations University as well as a Continuing Education course on Comparative Religions from Tyndale Evangelical Seminary. He is currently enrolled in the Truett Seminary Certificate of Ministry Program. I taught a Bible Study class at my church for three years, and led two Apologetics Bible Studies with church members for 3.5 years and 1 year. I have a passion for Apologetics with an interest in Eastern religions focusing on Hinduism, Worldviews and Gnostic/New Age cults.