Sunday, April 08, 2012

BBC Documentary - Jesus was a Buddhist Monk

Greco-Buddhist Sculpture (1st or 2nd Century CE)

I do not really believe in this version of Jesus' life - that he did not die on the cross and then wandered to Asia and became a monk, Buddhist or otherwise. Another popular version of this story is that he did not die on the cross, and he married Mary Magdalene and had children.

There is also the suggestion in another video (presented below) that Jesus was educated by Buddhist teachers during the lost years, perhaps traveling to India during that time. More likely, to me, is that he did leave Palestine and traveled north to one of the philosophical centers, where he encountered and integrated some Buddhist teachings (including reincarnation).

The second thesis makes the most sense to me. The teachings of Jesus, at least the ones considered most accurate (The Gospel of Thomas), contain elements of Buddhist thought filtered through a Jewish worldview. This makes more sense than other versions - there was a considerable interplay between Greek culture and Buddhism following Alexander the Great's conquest of India in the 4th century BCE. It's not at all out of the question that Jesus was exposed to these ideas before beginning his teaching career.

Here is a little history from Wikipedia:
In 326 BCE, Alexander invaded India. King Ambhi, ruler of Taxila, surrendered his city, a notable center of Buddhist faith, to Alexander. Alexander fought an epic battle against Porus, a ruler of a region in the Punjab in the Battle of Hydaspes in 326 BCE.

Several philosophers, such as Pyrrho, Anaxarchus and Onesicritus, are said to have been selected by Alexander to accompany him in his eastern campaigns. During the 18 months they were in India, they were able to interact with Indian ascetics, generally described as Gymnosophists ("naked philosophers"). Pyrrho (360-270 BCE) returned to Greece and became the first Skeptic and the founder of the school named Pyrrhonism. The Greek biographer Diogenes Laertius explained that Pyrrho's equanimity and detachment from the world were acquired in India.[3] Few of his sayings are directly known, but they are clearly reminiscent of eastern, possibly Buddhist, thought:
"Nothing really exists, but human life is governed by convention"
"Nothing is in itself more this than that" (Diogenes Laertius IX.61)
Another of these philosophers, Onesicritus, a Cynic, is said by Strabo to have learnt in India the following precepts:
"That nothing that happens to a man is bad or good, opinions being merely dreams"
"That the best philosophy [is] that which liberates the mind from [both] pleasure and grief" (Strabo, XV.I.65[4])
Sir William Tarn wrote that the Brahmans who were the party opposed to the Buddhists always fought with Alexander.

These contacts initiated the first direct interactions between Greek and Indian philosophy, which were to continue and expand for several more centuries.
Pyrrhonism, or Pyrrhonian skepticism, a philosophy attributed to the philosopher Pyrrho, who was with Alexander in his conquest of India, is based on the recorded teachings of Pyrrho and these contain a definite Buddhist flavor (perhaps a good insight into Theravada Buddhism in its early years):
It is necessary above all to consider our own knowledge; for if it is in our nature to know nothing, there is no need to inquire any further into other things. […] Pyrrho of Elis was also a powerful advocate of such a position. He himself has left nothing in writing; his pupil Timon, however, says that the person who is to be happy must look to these three points: first, what are things like by nature? second, in what way ought we to be disposed towards them? and finally, what will be the result for those who are so disposed? He [Timon] says that he [Pyrrho] reveals that things are equally indifferent and unstable and indeterminate (adiaphora kai astathmêta kai anepikrita); for this reason, neither our perceptions nor our beliefs tell the truth or lie (adoxastous kai aklineis kai akradantous). For this reason, then, we should not trust them, but should be without opinions and without inclinations and without wavering, saying about each single thing that it no more is than is not, or both is and is not, or neither is nor is not (ou mallon estin ê ouk estin ê kai esti kai ouk estin ê oute estin oute ouk estin). Timon says that the result for those who are so disposed will be first speechlessness (aphasia), but then freedom from worry (ataraxia); and Aenesidemus says pleasure. These, then, are the main points of what they say (Aristocles in Eusebius PE 14.18.1–5 = DC53; tr. Bett 2000 with changes) 
 The best evidence for the Buddhist ideas in some of Jesus' teachings comes from the Greek philosophers who were influenced by Buddhist teachings and from the almost certain presence of Buddhist "missionaries" in the Mediterranean region, including what was then Palestine.

BBC Documentary - Jesus was a Buddhist Monk

This BBC 4 documentary examines the question "Did Jesus Die?" It looks at a bunch of ideas around this question until minute 25, where this examination of ideas takes a very logical and grounded turn with surprising conclusions that demonstrate...

The three wise men were Buddhist monks who found Jesus and came back for him around puberty. After being trained in a Buddhist Monastery he spread the Buddhist philosophy, survived the crucifixion, and escaped to Kashmir, Afghanistan where he died an old man at the age of 80.

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Mysteries of the Bible - The Lost Years of Jesus

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