‘Did Jesus live in India?’ – a response


By Dr. Kamal Wickremasinghe

The extraordinary rant titled "Did Jesus live in India?" in last Saturday’s The Island demands a response for two main reasons: the faulty methodology used to attack an idea the writer obviously did not like, and the source of the diatribe being a ‘bhante’ -literally meaning "Venerable Sir". The focus here will be on the first facet.

The virulence of bhante’s attack on the idea that Jesus may have spent his ‘missing years’ in India, living and learning Buddhism, is intriguing indeed. The tone of the article deviates greatly from respectful disagreement with a point of debate or the people who are making it; Worse still, the weaponry used to ‘knock’ the idea at issue do not include any evidence against it other than repeatedly calling it "myth-making".

To summarise the vituperation of Bhante Dhammika, he seems to reject all the evidence presented since 1869 - to the 1960s by French, Russian and other intellectuals in support of the theory that Jesus may have lived in India. Extraordinarily, he rests his rejection entirely on not having seen any evidence that Jesus ever left Palestine - he probably means "apart from the evidence presented in the many writings" he has quoted!

Bhante Dhammika’s method of refutation is clearly outside the norms acceptable in intellectual debate in that it is not based on evidence for any counter argument; nor is it based on logic or on exposition of discrepancies of the opposing argument. The methodology is not even close to the ‘gold standard’ charter of free inquiry the Buddha enunciated in the Kalama Sutta.

In the absence of any evidence of his own to refute that Jesus lived in India, the bhante appears to rely on the result of colonial undermining of the idea for longer than a century to rubbish it. He refers to Victorian "scholars and scientists"- "big guns"as he calls them - brought to bear on it. He cites Max Muller (one of the most despised men by Indian historians as a man on the payroll of the East India Company) as"one of the most widely known and respected scholar of his generation". The citing of Muller in aid of an argument concerning India will be received with derision by the Sri Lankans who have had first-hand experience of a century and a half of British colonialism. As an argument in favour of his view, it is "short horse soon curried".

Addressing bhante’s particular gripe takes us to the evil history of the colonial enterprise that is only surpassed by the dishonest and deceptive methods the colonisers used to justify and perpetuate this vicious system of economic plunder and exploitation of labour. In parallel with their blood-sucking venture, the colonisers engaged in a determined campaign to rewrite world history. The objective was to erase the linguistic, cultural and technological achievements of advanced civilisations outside Europe from recorded history.

The colonialists painted a history of the world that gave Europe predominance over all other civilisations with clear undertones of racial and cultural superiority. Baseless lies such as Monotheism appearing first in the Middle East and democracy in ancient Greece propagated under academic pretensions and attributing all discoveries and inventions in science, mathematics, and philosophy to Europeans formed the core of this conspiracy.

The utility of the Eurocentric world history to the colonialists of course was to rationalise colonialism as the means of transmitting the benefits of this supposedly ‘superior’ culture to the "heathens" in Asia Africa and Latin America.The colonial writer, Rudyard Kipling, colourfully described this "duty"as ‘the white man’s burden’ in his 1899 invitation to the US to take over the world.

These lies of colonialism did not end with the departure of the coloniser and colonial conspiracies continue to undermine indigenous belief systems cultural practices and traditions more pointedly than ever. One of the most sinister strategies they began to deploy starting in the 1950s was aimed at destroying indigenous religions and cultures from ‘within’ by embedding agents within those institutions: the philosophy of universal ‘metta’in Buddhism and Hinduism provided them with many opportunities to undermine these great philosophical systems through agents planted within, under the pretext of being its disciples, including by taking up robes. Such agents continue their task of denigrating the core indigenous belief systems as ‘mythical’ - a description they readily apply to any narrative other than European. While they may grudgingly accept that some systems - like Buddhism - may have been‘good’ in the past, they allege that these systems are now ‘broken’. There are many ‘Trojan horses’ of this kind operating in so-called meditation centres in Sri Lanka and other Buddhist countries, attempting to attack and demolish any belief system that might pose even a vague threat to the colonisers’ narrative.

Now we come to the fitting of bhante’s hero Max Muller in to this picture: the strategy of the colonial plots to undermine indigenous civilisations was to establish a class of so-called ‘experts’ on local languages, religion and customs. These bogus experts were either paid agents of the British India Company or administrators sent by Queen Victoria, minted through ‘The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge’ that had been formed in 1663.There is no other example that demonstrates the use of this devious technique better than the British efforts to undermine the advanced civilisation of India they encountered.

India offered the British colonisers a challenge unlike anything else they had encountered before: they soon discovered that the advanced religious, philosophical, mathematical and cosmic knowledge India possessed decisively negated all theories that justified colonialism. They were clearly astonished by the sophistication of the deeply introspective nature of the ancient IndianVedic thought summarised in the Upanishads that formed the foundation of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. This complex knowledge system had been accompanied by massive development of the Sanskrit language - the primary tool of philosophical thought - with guidance on the use of speech in ritual contexts and "rules for interpretation"in masterpieces such as Pânini’s the Ashtâdhyâyî (Eight-Chapters).

The differences between Indian philosophy and what they referred to as Western philosophy could not have been more striking. Contrary to the West, philosophical schools did not rise and fall in India. Diverse systems of thinking coexisted beside each other for centuries, competing for adherents. Unlike Western philosophy which is presented chronologically as a series of individuals known to have advanced certain views, Indian philosophy developed a distinct, consistent theme, with no recognition sought by, or granted to, individual contributors except mention as one among many.

Appreciation of Indian philosophy had been made in the pre-colonial days by Greek Christian theologians such as Titus Flavius Clement of Alexandria (150-215), who admitted that "we the Greeks have stolen the philosophy of Barbarians". Significantly, almost every reference to Clement in English, Christian literature describes him as an "inferior" theologian; T. S. Eliot wrote that the great philosophers of India "make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys"; Arthur Schopenhauer wrote in the preface to his book "The World as Will and Representation" that one who" has also received and assimilated the sacred primitive Indian wisdom, then he is the best of all prepared to hear what I have to say to him".

The British colonisers’ response to this challenge, however, was to groom a band of young, ambitious (and mostly poor and mostly Jewish) men as "experts" on Indian language, religion and social systems, and simply pay or employ them in India as administrators with a charter to disseminate their "half-baked"theories.

They started by propagating the now discredited "Aryan invasion theory"that attempted to explain Indian advances as left-overs from an "Aryan" invasion that took place around 1,500 BC: In other words, it was too good to have been developed by "coloured indigenous heathens" of India!A corollary to this lie aimed at facilitating"divide and rule" suggested that North India at the time was inhabited by Dravidians - Post-colonial excavations in the Indus and Sarasvati valleys have proved no evidence of an invasion and the distinctive "Dravidian" culture formed an integral part of India’s cultural continuum throughout history.

Dubious characters such as Max Muller and William Jones, touted as "Indologists" and "philologists" with expertise in the Sanskrit language were typical of the agency of this fraud. Herbert Hope Risley, another such expert appointed to the Indian Civil Service introduced the caste system to British Indiain the 1901 census by classifying Indians into "Aryan"and "Dravidian" races, and to seven castes - using the ratio between the width and height of the nose!

Max Muller was the most dubious of such characters: Friedrich Max Müller was born in 1823 in eastern Germany. He claims to have studied at the Leipzig University up to doctoral level, earning a PhD on Spinoza’s ethics in 1843. Indian researchers, however, have failed to find any records of a Max Muller at the Leipzig University. Müller applied for the Professorial Chair of Sanskrit at Oxford in 1860 and was passed over. His campaign for a professorial chair was finally acceded to by Oxford by creating a new Chair of "Comparative Philology" in 1868.

Known to have been a poor itinerant German who journeyed through France and England, he claimed to be an expert on subject matter he had little or no understanding of and tried to translate complex Sanskrit texts into English-another language foreign to him. Indian research has revealed that Max Muller had never visited India or learnt Sanskrit from any acknowledged linguists. The only Sanskrit tutoring he is known to have received has come from his Jewish mentor Eugene Burnouff, whose expertise was in Persian cuneiform (an early system of writing based on wedge-shaped marks by a blunt stylus on clay tablets). Indian academics discard Muller’s vain, attempted translations of the Upanishads and the Vedas out-of-hand, due to his lack of mastery of the complexities of Sanskrit grammar and the use of idiom and metaphor, which have reduced them to absurd stories.

Muller’s first contact with the British East India Company has been in 1846, to use the stolen Indian manuscripts in their library in London. Muller’s desperation for a job with the looting East India Company was so great that upon receiving it, he wrote to his mother in Germany, on 15 April 1847: "I can yet hardly believe that I have at last got what I have struggled for so long … I am to hand over to the Company, ready for press, fifty sheets each year; for this I have asked £200 a year, £4 a sheet. They have been considering the matter since December, and it was only yesterday that it was officially settled."

Such shaky foundations of knowledge of India did not deter Max Muller from his attempts to help the empire by devaluing the significance of the Vedas in human history by assigning a recent date of their compilation. Muller attempted one of the greatest frauds in history when he deliberately assigned the oldest Rg Veda to a date circa 1200 BC underestimating their true date by over 5,000 years. Muller based the ‘dating’ entirely on his reading of the literary style adopted by the Vedic seers to compose Vedic hymns. His response to challenges of accuracy was: "Whether the Vedic hymns were composed 1,000 or 1,500 or 2,000 or 3,000 years BC, no power on earth will determine."

The above account shows the background to the reasons why the truth about Jesus’ whereabouts were not allowed to surface: it had more to do with Christianity than about concealing the physical whereabouts of Jesus; the colonisers simply could not accept that ‘their’ religion (the Eastern religion they had made their own) had been influenced in anyway by an Indian philosophy, an influence all too visible and that had been nearly removed from the St. James version of the Bible. They risk the undermining of the rationalisation of colonialism irrevocably. It is ironic that the bhante is trying to make virtue of this fraud.

It is also worth remembering that "mythologies are rationalisations of natural phenomena", and attempts to reveal Jesus’ travels during his missing years and subsequent to "resurrection" can hardly fall into the category of natural phenomena, but travel details, thus ruling themselves out of the field of mythologies.

It may be worth quoting bhante’s hero Max Muller himself in conclusion, just to emphasise that Buddhism needs to be "practised" in order to gain from it: "If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant, I should point to India’’.

Yes, Jesus lived in India.

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