John Wonder writes: "Speaking of Jesus as a first name, about two
years ago I as waiting to speak to one of the assistants whose name was
"Issa Aryanpure". I was naturally curious about his name and he told me that
Issa meant Jesus in Afghanistan. I tried to look it up on the internet but I
came across the following interesting passage:
Lost Years of Jesus
I'm sure the Orthodox Church thought they had that book buried a long time ago,"
Richard Bock told me as he handed over a copy of The Unknown Life of Christ.
His interest in the lost years of Jesus began with this travel diary recorded
in 1887 by Nicolas Notovitch, a Russian doctor who journeyed extensively throughout
Afghanistan, India, and Tibet.
Dick Bock took the
same tour in 1975 and produced a documentary film on the lost years. It includes
impressive testimony by John C. Trevor, director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project,
and a nuclear physicist named Ralph Graeber. But the most convincing evidence
comes from a little Buddhist monk who appears halfway through the film.
"Lord Jesus..." The old man shows one particularly shiny tooth as he speaks.
His voice is high, like a tiny child. I remember the impact of seeing
a character like that on camera. I looked at his dark face, his saffron robe,
and all those grimacing gods with too many heads and arms and legs. And I wondered
how such a man could whisper with so much reverence the holy name of Jesus.
"... Lord Jesus was in India during what are known as the lost years of Jesus,"
Lost years? I called to mind the mimeographed chronology of my Sunday-school
coloring book and marginal notes in a New Testament college text. He's right,
I thought. The Bible records Jesus age twelve in the temple. Then age thirty
at the river Jordan. That leaves eighteen years unaccounted for. But in India?
It was hard to imagine my carpenter-of-Nazareth Jesus bathing in the Ganges,
for instance. How can this strange little man possibly know whether Jesus
Christ ever set foot in India?
"Lhasa." The monk describes inhospitable territory that is traversed by a solitary
road leading to a Tibetan monastery. Here, he says, there are records originally
written in the Pali language-"ancient scrolls," he explains, curling his blunt
fingers as if to open the rigid parchment before my eyes. "Near Srinigar
in the Happy Valley of Kashmir we find the legend of an extraordinary saint
known to the Buddhists as St. Issa," says the monk. "Events in the life of Issa
closely resemble that of Jesus Christ, revealing what are thought to be the
lost years of our Lord."
It was a surprise to me that Jesus could have spent half his life in the Orient.
It was a surprise that I had never wondered where the Master was all that time.
To me he was simply "about my Father's business," as Luke wrote.
But what surprised
me most was that this Buddhist acted like he knew Jesus. Not so much historically
or theologically. But personally. To hear him speak of "Lord Jesus"-it felt
just like Christmas when it suddenly seems appropriate to think of the Mighty
God in an intimate and deeply loving sort of way. I'll never forget Richard
Bock's documentary starring the little Buddhist Christian. It changed my image
of Jesus-and it began to change my image of myself. That's what I told Mr. Bock
when I went to him for research. He said that he had shared the same experience.
Isn't it true, we agreed, that our outer search for the lost years of Jesus
is reflective of something going on within each one of us. When we look to find
truth in ourselves, we are encouraged "by coincidence or fate or God," as Bock
put it, to search for the truth of Jesus' life.
When I began to read Dick's dog-eared copy of The Unknown Life of Christ, I
realized that Notovitch had followed nothing more than a childhood hunch that
there was something "majestically colossal" about India. His book tells of the
startling discovery of the Issa legend-very much by coincidence, no doubt by
fate, and most certainly by the hand of God. It's a great story. The aristocratic
Dr. Notovitch and his coolies. "Sahib, take the gun!" Notovitch wandered through
the picturesque passes of Bolan, over the Punjab, down into the arid rocks of
Ladak, and, "as curiosity led me," beyond the celebrated Vale of Kashmir into
that inviolable secrecy of the Himalayas. Land of the Eternal Snows.
During his investigation of this "marvelous country," Notovitch learned that
there existed in the library at Lhasa ancient records of the life of Jesus Christ.
In the course of a visit to the great convent Himis, he located a Tibetan translation
of the legend and carefully noted in his carnet de voyage over two hundred verses
from the curious document known as "The Life of St. Issa."
Leh, Ladak. Altitude
14,500 feet. The great convent Himis is situated in the environs of the town.
There Nicolas Notovitch, Nicholas Roerich, and Swami Abhedananda viewed ancient
manuscripts decumenting the life of Jesus in India and in Tibet.
The legend recorded by Dr. Notovitch appears to be a collection of eyewitness
accounts, a book of tales told by indigenous merchants arriving from Palestine
where they had happened to be on business during the controversial execution
of a man known as the "king of the Jews." This type of word-of-mouth news service
is still popular in the fantastic bazaars of Calcutta and Bombay. One of the
narratives tells of an Israelite by the name of Issa, "blessed by God and the
best of all," who was put to death by Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea.
Another detailed account traces the lineage of Issa and closely parallels Matthew's
scrupulous chapter-one genealogy of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Notovitch never doubted the authenticity of these chronicles, diligently
recorded in the Pali tongue by the Brahmanic and Buddhistic historians of India
and Nepal. He determined to publish a translation of the Issa legend in at least
one of the European languages and addressed himself enthusiastically to a number
of respected ecclesiastics, "begging them to revise my notes" and give him an
Cardinal Rotelli opposed the publication of the legend for the ostensible reason
that it would be premature. Meeting in Paris, Rotelli told Notovitch that "the
Church suffers already too much from the new wave of atheistical thought." In
Rome, Notovitch showed the Himis manuscript to a cardinal who was au mieux with
the pope. "What would be the good of publishing this?" said the prelate. "You
will make yourself a crowd of enemies. If it be a question of money which interests
you..." The cardinal did not succeed in bribing Dr. Notovitch. But to
this day nobody has ever heard of St. Issa. I wondered why. (I would have loved
to color Jesus riding a painted elephant.)
There was, as Notovitch put it, a "picturesque situation" at the Himis gonpa
the day his caravan arrived. "The doors of the convent opened wide, giving access
to some twenty persons disguised as animals, birds, devils, and monsters of
every kind." It was a religious mystery play. Culture shock for a Russian orthodox.
"My head was in a whirl," Notovitch confessed. "Young men, dressed as warriors,
came out from the temple. They wore monstrous green masks. Making an infernal
din with their tambourines and bells, they gyrated round the gods seated on
the ground…." The prolonged spectacle was rewarded by an invitation from the
chief lama for a drink of "tchang" in honor of the festival. Notovitch
seated himself on a bench opposite the venerable lama. "What signification have
all these masks, costumes, bells, and dances-?" he asked diplomatically.
The lama outlined for Notovitch a short history of Tibetan
Buddhism, ending with a keen indictment of the priest class, so-called Brahmans,
who had made the holy doctrine a matter of commerce. "Our first holy prophets,
to whom we give the title of Buddhas, established themselves of old in various
countries of the globe," he said. "Their preachings aimed before all at the
tyranny of the Brahmans..." Here Notovitch seized an opportunity to broach the
subject so near at heart.
RH: Much has been written about the missing years of Christ. I have heard the
story told here in Russia and in South Africa. In the third century BC
the Emperor Asoka, after converting to Buddhism, propagated it, and in
due course missionaries reached the Mediterranean. The story goes that
Christ then went to India and after the missing years brought Buddhism back
to the Middle East, where it became Christianity. John the Baptist was also
influenced by Buddhism, purification by water being an Indian ritual.
According to this story, Christ did not rise to heaven, that being an invention
of the apostles. He escaped to India, where he spent the rest of his life.
However reasonable this version may be, it is unacceptable to most Christian
groups. Incidentally, some Americans have the first name Issa.