The fellow who blows his horn the loudest is likely in the biggest fog. [American]
In the fog of vagaries and horribly biased claims
Don't forget to distrust. - Greek proverb
In the case of Jesus, where is the evidence that he went to Japan at fifty and had three daughters and his tomb there, as Japanese sources say? An interesting tale is not made truer or deeper for being strange or old or told.
There are about eighteen years in the life of Jesus that the Bible does not tell of. That leaves room for speculation. Claims are many. The enterprising Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952), for example, says that Jesus spent many formative years in India, where Jesus allegedly visited the wise men who had followed a "wandering star" at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew. A wandering star? Well, all stars are wandering outwards in the universe, but that is probably not what is meant, considering the remarkable behaviour of the bible star. Consider whether the star that Yogananda talks of, is a fabrication.
A folktale suspicion. Geza Vermes holds that the tale of wise men and a wandering star in the first two chapters of "Matthew" (written about 80-90 CE when the apostle was rather likely gone) is a folk tale that is missing in the Gospels of Mark and John, and appearing in a radically different form in Luke, where there is no mention of a star, wise men or Herod, nor of the murder of the innocents and Jesus' escape to Egypt. (Vermes 2010:84)
Further, Matthew's Gospel was written for Christians who were not Jewish.
A contemporary of Matthew, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37–c.100 CE), reports, and later rabbinic literature confirms, a folk tale which was in circulation in New Testament times. It relates to the birth of Moses and his miraculous escape from the hands of Pharaoh of Egypt. (Vermes 2010:84, 85)
Mysterious former lives go into the plot. Where does this information leave Yogananda, who in his dictated Bhagavad Gita commentary said his gurus had been the three wise men, and in another places that he himself had been in the stable at the time too? Were SRF gurus such as Yukteswar, Lahiri Mahasaya and the mysterious Babaji parts of Bible folklore? "Kva gjer ikkje tysken for pengar? sa mannen; han såg ein apekatt." (Proverb) "What the Germans will do for money, said the man; he saw a monkey." [Aasen 1881:230-31]
In a book where Lahiri Mahasaya talks of former lives of his, there is no mention of any wise man of the Bible among them. "In Satyayuga Lahiri Mahasay was born as Satyasukrita, in tretayuga he was Munindra; in dwaparayuga Karunamaya; and in kaliyuga he was Kabir [a 15th century mystic and poet]. Later, he became Shyama Charan [1828–95]." [In Satyeswarananda. Babaji Volume Two - Lahiri Mahasay (The Polestar of Kriya. Chap. 13, ◦No. 70.]
"In murky water, get out of it." Either Shyamacharan Lahiri got it right, or he did not. He says nothing of wise men in a fabricated tale, but he might have had other former lives apart from the four he says he had . . . Or he thought being one of the wise men who unwisely led King Herod to Jesus and extensive baby-slaughter in Rama in an old tale was nothing, nothing to go into.
Yugas are eras, long time periods, as etched out in Manu Samhita 1:68 ff, the Laws of Manu. The four yugas Lahiri Mahasaya speaks of, correspond more or less to the Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age of ancient Greece, as told of by Ovid in his Metamorphoses. And Kabir is known for many poems. (Tagore and Underhill 1915) So far, so good?
To be satisfied with less that fair evidence is a sign of an inferior person. Yogananda was a disciple of Lahiri's disciple Yukteswar, and in America he spoke of hidden records that show that Jesus visited a Buddhist monastery in Tibet when he was young, records that were unavailable to the public and to scholars alike. There are snags here. For one thing, there was no Buddhist monastery in Tibet at the time of Jesus. Another thing is that Yogananda was well satisfied with using a hoax book by a Notovich when he told his tales. Some have investigated the book better than Yogananda.
I hope you can learn something from what they dug up around it, and that you slowly or quickly learn not to trust tale-bringers when good evidence speaks contrary to their tales.
Childlike trust - that sort of faith - needs to be dealt with. Being eaten by worms and believing marring tales without sound evidence could both work harm in a life. There are those who think that recent claims that Jesus was in India, is proof that he was there. Not so. Several authors have claimed that certain manuscripts have been found in India and Tibet, manuscripts that support the belief that Jesus was in India during the eighteen years in the life of Jesus are not accounted for in the New Testament. However, "Modern mainstream Christian scholarship has generally rejected any travels by Jesus to India, Tibet or surrounding areas as without historical basis". [WP, s.v. "Unknown years of Jesus"]
❋ Uncertainty breeds faith, and by a barren faith a lot of people are made fools of. With a fruitful faith it is different. Look for a fruitful faith, then -
Handle tales with care and see what you can find out
Go for or ask for evidence where it is fit. Adjust to Bible experts first, and others later, if at all. Disregarding such a policy, some authors have claimed "found manuscripts" to sustain a kind of lay belief that Christ was in India. Also, there are preposterous hearsay makers around, and others cite them. However, without solid and publicly available proofs, stories of Jesus in India get no substantial backing among scholars. All who believe vagaries and claims without sound proof may not be fooled completely by it, but many will probably be made fools that way.
To escape falling victim to blunt assertions, try to get facts first, ask for needed evidence, and remain tentative for the lack of evidence, so as to preserve mental clarity at least. To study the evidence fairly could be productive. And let us not forget to compare with New Testament findings of textual Bible scholars, as for example Geza Vermes and Bart D. Ehrman. have to say. For it is good to have scholarship on your side. It is also good to bear in mind that it is fit for good living and science alike that the burden of proof lies with the asserting claimers.
❋ Claims without decent proof breed faith and become burdens to all too many.
If faced with no good evidence, refuse to believe as told, and conclude well. If claimants do not supply good evidence, it is good to dismiss their claims as unworhty for you, at least for now, in the light of the current state of affairs, and so on. "Unworthy" covers a whole range of expressions, such as failed support, failed evidence, or lack of good substantiation. "Insufficient evidence (so far)" is a gentle expression, whereas "tendentious verbiage" is another.
It is wise to conclude as justly as can be on top of carefully had evidence, and not before. If the material does not allow for any firm acceptance or dismissal, be tentative and keep the conclusions in suspense (at bey) so far.
Alluring claims do not make one proof. Study the evidence first, if you find any worth inspecting, and sort and weigh that also. Such procedures should lead to less ill-founded and even more professional-like assertions or opinions. Looking for facts to build on, albeit tentatively, see what Wikipedia writes on the subject. Also, Buddha shows how to deal with teachings and teachers: [Kalama Sutta]
Also consider that stories may have a loose foundation, but there could be truth in them, somewhere, somehow. However, many claims do not make one solid proof, and I for one am weary of the gross cavalcade of claims and what this and that fellow have thought up - for different versions do not all agree - far from it.
❋ Tendentious evidence is no good sign.
Food for thought is here:
One of the foremost Bible scholars, the late Dr Geza Vermes, sums up some things thus:
During his days of preaching, Jesus of Nazareth addressed only Jews, "the lost sheep of Israel" (Matthew 10:5-8; 15:24). His disciples were expressly instructed not to approach gentiles or Samaritans (Matthew 10:5-8). On the few occasions that Jesus ventured beyond the boundaries of his homeland, he never proclaimed his gospel to pagans, nor did his disciples do so during his lifetime. The mission of the 11 apostles to "all the nations" (Matthew 28:19) is a "post-Resurrection" idea. It appears to be of Pauline inspiration and is nowhere else found in the Gospels (apart from the spurious longer ending of Mark [Mark 16:15], which is missing from all the older manuscripts). Jesus' own perspective was exclusively Jewish; he was concerned only with Jews. (Vermes 2012)
The missionary command at the end of the gospel of Matthew - where Jesus allegedly reaches out to the gentiles - is a later-added forgery that was added to serve the growing church and its thinking, tells Joseph Wheless, and presents a convincing case for it. Let us say:
The demagogy approach that says Jesus went to India and Tibet and back, does not go well along with his own "for Jews only" - his teachings, salvation, Kingdom and healing ministry - for Jews only. In the light of the strict instructions of Jesus against addressing other than Jews, there is reason to calculate a little - considering that being hopeful with little ground for it is nothing new, and that rabble-rousers are many.
Some are misled to become victims of a faith by verbiage that overlooks or disregards ample and good sources.
❋ Victims of faith are nothing new.
There Are Many Murky Plots in Life
It is fair to consider such as: "How likely is it that Jesus has anything to do with the later-evolved Christianity for gentiles he did not want to have his teachings as long as he lived? What interests or ulterior motives could be served or fostered by deranged doctrine?" There are plots that serve much pampering of those who tell others what to think.
It may be far better to think well about such matters early than to become a herded guy, bewitched or indoctrinated far and wide, to the end of pampering some of the bosses.
❋ The end of many "faith-sellers": being pampered a whole lot.
Instead of building castles in Spain, some story-tellers build Buddhist monasteries in Tibet long before Buddhism was establised there.
In 1887 the Russian Nicolas Notovitch published The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ in Russian. An American translation followed in 1890. [The book] The book tells of Buddhist monasteries in Tibet from a time when there were none there (Berzin 1996). Should we dismiss the rest of the book or get consumed by errors?
Where facts are not found, it helps long-range soundness to refrain from believing, for the duped may become sheep-like. An antidote to tough falls and blind submission to airy and faulty beliefs "up there in the clouds" should be watchful, even-handed and rational inquiry, which includes sound skills in handling information. There is much to gain from it, and much to lose for the lack of it. Rational inquiry is fit in Buddhism and proper research and is considered good for sound mind-development.
There are some basics of such mental skills interspersed below, adapted to the topic "Jesus visited India and we say so".
❋ Better a bitter truth than a sweet lie. [Finnish]
A delicate war about where Jesus got his teachings from and where he had possibly been
Eighteen years in the life of Jesus go unmentioned in the Bible, and this opens up for many claims. Legend-mongers have sent the young man Jesus to Egypt, to Britain, and to India, Persia and Tibet. Such modern Jesus legends have gained quite a readership. But the Bible does not say that Jesus had been in India. And the Jewish leaders never accused him of teaching anything he had assimilated in the East either, if the four canonical gospels have got these things right.
When good evidence is missing, we should agree it is possible that Jesus was in India during parts of those eighteen unreckoned for years, but is it likely? There were trade routes. This fact lies at the bottom of several claims that Jesus visited India and Tibet in his day. For example, Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) and Swami Satyananda both tell that Jesus spent fifteen years in India and Tibet. But what evidence did they show for their case?
It is said that when he [Jesus] reached the age of fifteen, his family sought to arrange a marriage for him, as was the custom; but he chose to leave home, and went to India and Tibet, where he passed fifteen years with the masters. I have told you this before. You will recall that there were three Wise Men from the East who came to visit Jesus at his birth. He returned their visit during those years for which the Bible gives no record of his activities. Then he returned to Jerusalem. [Yogananda, in Dr 258-59]
Why be stupefied, why hoaxed?
It is a question of whether the emperor wears any clothes (it is a theme of a fairy tale made known by Hans Christian Andersen). Do the Yogananda claims wear any good documentation (clothes) at all? Are they bluffs?
He talked against the spreading of rumours in other settings:
To a disciple who was prone to gossip the Master once said: "You don't realize how rumors spread! . . . We once had a man here who started a false rumor about someone else. As soon as it got to me I started a false rumor against him. At last he heard about it, and very indignantly he came to me and I told him, 'Now you know what somebody else felt like when you started a false rumor against him. . . . I started that rumor myself." (Yogananda 1952:32. Cf. Yogananda 1980:77)
Yogananda - once a rumour spreader to teach others not to do as he did - wanted others not to spread rumours, he clarified.
The three points above will be elaborated on in the following, and evidence of many sorts are given.
"It is said" – by whom? Either the teller (Yogananda) furnishes the evidence, or you have to seek other sources if the issue matters greatly to you. Yogananda does not. His publishers have later sought to prop him up by selective and biased information – but see whether their information counts, really counts, and is fair enough for the grey matter of the brain. In science and among able scholars it is the one who makes claims who is to furnish the fit evidence. As a matter of fact, the Bible scholar Geza Vermes thinks the first two chapters of Matthew are based on a Hebrew folktale. Bluffs are many in "Bible-land", and cynical exploiters are many, many. It should help to get rid of the bluffs and stand firm.
The Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke . . . are not perfect sources . . . Mark (composed c. 70 CE), Matthew and Luke (between 80 and 100 CE) reflect considerably older traditions though. These Gospels do not depict Jesus as divine; on the contrary. (Vermes 2010:45: 20; 46; 163)
Geza Vermes (1924–2013) was a renowned Bible scholar, described as the greatest Jesus scholar of his time. Based on study, he questions the basis of some Christian teachings on Jesus. For one's own good one should make it a point to go to renowned scholars first, to avoid the many frauds or cheats around. (Wikipedia, "Geza Vermes")
Try not to get burdened in such matters, but handle things well: You are not obliged to furnish the evidence if you do not claim something. Where no good evidence is given, try to keep the claims or issues in suspense (at bay) at the very least. That is, do not settle on conclusions or gulp up opinions of others based on "presentation farting" or worse, for such a nasty road leads into folly faith, sheepish adjustments and worse in some cases. The Bible does not say there were three wise men or where they came from. Moreover, there is no mention in the Bible of such a return visit that Yogananda speaks of. Also, the teachings of Jesus do not give any particular evidence of influence from outside the Jewish faith – from such a mental universe. The New Testament was written much closer in time to the events, so it is part of the "game" to check such a blend of texts, too. Neither Jesus nor Acts nor letter-writing apostles said anything at all about him going further abroad than to Egypt with his parents, although the gospels do not agree fully with each other on that one.
As "a drowning man will clutch at a straw", there are some who clutch a hoax book to gain by duping others – at least not furnish ample or fit evidence. To say Jesus visited Buddhist Tibet may seem more credible than a tale like this one:
The coal tale
"Jesus walked on foot to Norden where he was taught to walk on water by first walking on ice, then thin ice, thinner and thinner. Finally he could walk on water, and then he walked on, chasing the midnight sun, till he came to Spitzbergen. There he stayed for many years in a dark cave. In the end he tired of the dark, grabbed a black rock lying there, said, "Give light!" And the stone started to burn in his hands, so he put it on the floor and said, "That's better." He was further taught hibernation among ice bears. He could therefore manage to hibernate-survive for three days in the tomb when the time came to repeat it."
Jesus in Buddhist Tibet at a time when Buddhism had not arrived there, is it really more credible than Jesus walking on Arctic water?
There is something wrong with a tale that purports to be true when the facts do not follow suit: Consider, for example, that Tibetans at the time of Jesus were no Buddhists. Buddhism arrived in Tibet only hundreds of years later and the story which Yogananda draws on, tells of documents about Jesus visiting Buddhist monasteries in Tibet when there were none. Are we facing a tragic soup?
❋ Duping for gains is not much to boast of, and not classy.
From this sourced survey we learn: There was not even one Buddhist monastery in Tibet at the time of Jesus. There should be no doubt about that. Facts before hearsay -
Points from a Satyananda Satsanga discussed
When other Hindu swamis tell about the same tale as Yogananda in the matter, do many similar claims without fit evidence make one proof? I think not. It does not matter who claim it, so long as they do not furnish promising evidence. And it is foolish to make drivel a matter of faith. Believe as little as you can, and you will be taken in less in the long run. That could be good for mankind. And you should be allowed to inspect and think your own thoughts. Everybody should be allowed that.
In the work Early Teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati, there are recordings from a satsanga (gathering, class) [Satyananda 1988:100-110] he held with prospective teachers of his line of yoga. Satyananda renders among other things that "in India some people say that the story of Christ is actually the story of Krishna which must have emigrated from India to the Middle East." Note that "some people" is too loose to count as any valid reference if nothing more is added.
Satyananda (1923-2009) also observes,
"Christ was crucified on the cross, but he did not die ... The soldiers came and put a spear into his body. In the Bible it is written, ". . . and the water flowed out." ... It means to say Christ was not dead, because water or blood does not flow from a dead body.
It may be a good point against what the four gospels agree on. Jesus probably had plenty of time to give up his ghost as described [Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46]. In the gospel of John, it is also said that Jesus first died, and that blood and water flowed from his body when it was pierced with a spear 19:33-35]. Also, "Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross," is maintained in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA. Here is more:
It remains unsettled whether Jesus died of cardiac rupture or of cardiorespiratory failure ... Clearly, the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between his right ribs, probably perforated not only the right lung but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured his death ... Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge." 
Satyananda goes on: "Christ's disciples knew very well that he was still alive. So they came to the cave at night to dress his wounds and nurse him. By the third day he was alright and he left the cave."
Where did Satyananda get that from? It is not exactly what the four gospels say, som he should furnish some evidence, or at least a shred of evidence. Look for your own sake into wild claims from far away in time and space, and you could end up having a freeer fare than those who succumb to "being told" - Learn to ask: "Is that so, says who, on what grounds - and what is the evidence?" are fit, eye-opening questions to apply to many a claim, to avoid being made a dummy. Just observe that the swami claims "they say that Christ rose from the dead, but what it actually means is that he regained his senses." May this modification of Harold Laswell's formula assist you: Who says what to whom along which channel and with what intent?"
The now dead swami rallies opinions, but furnishes no firm evidence of anything at all so far. And the swami goes on to tell that after a few days in the grave, Jesus found he was wasting his time on his disciples (sic). And
"Then he left Jerusalem, the place of his birth, and came to Kashmir ... After reaching Kashmir, he died ... So, Christ preached the Gospel not only to the people of Jerusalem, he preached it also to his kinsmen in Kashmir [and] Christianity was first preached in India and then it went outside. [Satyananda 1988:103]
Since traditional Christianity is due to those disciples and the Holy Spirit working through them, it seems a bit off the mark to say Jesus wasted his time on them. But who knows? And if he travelled away from there only to die from his wounds and strenuous travels another place, his purported travel to Kashmir was worse than a waste of time, for that matter.
But the Kashmir claim can also be considered in the light of a Japanese claim to the tomb of Jesus: in 1935, Kiyomaro Takeuchi discovered a 1900 year old document stored in the Ibaraki Prefecture. We are told it contained evidence that Jesus (Joshua), born in Bethlehem to virgin Mary is buried in Herai Village in the Aomori district of Japan ... The document also contained the will of Jesus. He wanted his brother's tomb next to his. We are further told he "left his parents at 14 to travel with his 12 years old brother Ouriki to Burma, India and China. Eventually he arrived in Japan at the age of 50. He got married there, and had 3 daughters." 
So far, apart from unfounded claims and stands at odds with the New Testament's message in such matters, the stories of Satyananda and many others suffer from lack of fit documentation. The Japanese story has there was authentic documentation until the last World War, and that what is left now, after the bombing of Tokyo, are the copied documents.
Be that as it may, some people get problems from being told a lot to accept by blind believing, and what if Satyananda and Yogananda work to make Jesus "their own" somehow by putting the Bible's Jesus into some Hindu frames of reference? An counter-demagogy tale – such as a Jesus-visited-Svalbard tale, could come in handy here, and why not a Japanese twist to things too, for balance? It surely is not wise to get many to believe a tell-tale without evidence, you have a following, and so much the worse for them – and probably for yourself in the long, long run, in a karmic perspective.
Opinions are many and may differ a lot; facts may be few and far between; and what is presented as "facts of yesterday" often gets disputed and gradually abandoned among scholars and scientists as well. It should naturally be reckoned with.
Satyananda seemingly gets nearer to evidence:
We have two references to Christ in Indian books. One is in the ancient records of Nalanda University ... The university had an enormous library containing hundreds of thousands of texts which was destroyed once ... and again by the Hindus. Twice it was burned to the ground and thousands of ancient texts were lost.
He says "we have evidence", but there is none publicly available at all. The fact may be, rather, "We have sayings that we have evidence."
In the quotation above, Satyananda gets towards being specific, but he is not quite there. A fit reference makes it possible for others to look up in the referred-to sources and look for themselves.
I have searched for the Nalanda sources that Satyananda speaks of, but have not found them. This does not have to mean the information is not there, but it shows that Satyananda does not deliver according to set norms of scholarship and fit presentation for grown-ups: His task, and Yogananda's, was to furnish such references that any scholar may get to them and inspect them. As it is, they are bordering on or into something Yogananda talked against by "Refrain from gossip and the spreading of rumors ... Give a lie a twenty-four-hour start and sometimes it seems to become immortal [Yogananda 1980:76]."
Satyananda thinks the four wise men from the east were Indian astrologers who followed the star of the horoscope of Jesus and that the philosophy of Christ was a happy blending of Hindu faith and Buddhist ethics, which he came across in Nalanda, in Varanasi [Banaras], and in Nepal, when he went to study at these three places. "He went to India because this was the land of spiritual culture." [Satyananda 1988:106-7]
Satyananda goes on to tell that Jesus went back to Jerusalem and preached what he had learnt in India, but that the people there did not understand him and crucified him. [Satyananda 1988:108] Now scholars tell that Jesus did not teach anything that lies outside the Jewish culture. And maybe he got crucified because the Jewish leaders did understand him, and dealt with him according to a Law of Moses for Jews. That's in the Bible.
In another talk, Yogananda says this:
The parallelisms of Christ's teachings with Yoga-Vedanta doctrines strongly support the records known to exist in India, which state that Jesus lived and studied there during fifteen of the unaccounted-for years of his life – no mention is made of him in the New Testament from his twelfth to thirtieth year. Jesus journeyed to India to return the visit of the three "wise men from the east" who came to pay homage to him at his birth...
Again, there is no place in the Bible where Jesus teaches outside of the Jewish faith, so look with much calm for any "strong support" that Yogananda speaks about. Do the records of belief that Yogananda speaks of exist? The stand of most scholars in the matter seems to be this: There is no generally accepted evidence around that Jesus spent eighteen years in India and Tibet.
❋ It is recognised to be widely better to refrain from blind belief than to submit to "claim authority" and blunderbuss sayings.
From The Yoga of Jesus by Yogananda
In Yogananda's book The Yoga of Jesus (2007) we find "a very strong tradition in India, authoritatively known among high metaphysicians in tales well told and written in ancient manuscripts, that the wise men of the East ... were, in fact, great sages of India ... he reciprocated their visit." [Op.cit 11]
Now ask for evidence for Yogananda's claims. Note how he props up his tale-telling by "authoritatively known", "high metaphysicians", "great sages", and such means. If unsubstantiated, they form part of demagogy. One of Yogananda's durable errors in America was going for impressing audiences without sticking to tenable evidence, and here is an example.
"Hidden away in a Tibetan monastery priceless records lie (Yogananda 2007:12)."
Did they and do they? And where is the evidence? There is more about that crucial issue further down. Unsubstantiated claims does not solve the matter well. Besides, it is all right to ask for facts and go for facts without getting swollen, and warm talk of India can be in its place too. But there are limits to many things.
❋ Stick to rational handling instead of getting caught by credibility play at any rate.
From Yogananda's The Second Coming of Christ
Yogananda's book The Yoga of Jesus contains extracted parts of his massive two-volumed The Second Coming of Christ. In it we are told in a note that "India's spiritual influence extended not only west, but east." Strictly speaking, Buddhism spread far and wide into Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tibet, China Korea and Japan, for example, while and Hinduism expanded eastward as far as Java.
The publishers also cite a professor Singhal who claims that ancient American cultures were of Asian origin, and that this is seen from the monuments, hieroglyphs, and institutions of America. "The traces of Hindu-Buddhist influence in Mexico . . . correspond in kind precisely to those cultural elements which were introduced by Buddhist monks and Hindu priests in Southeast Asia," Dr Singhal thinks. And much depends on the seeing eye (read: mind).
COMMENT. Buddhism spread throughout central Asia and East Asia. The said connection to ancient American culture is embraced by Dr. Gauri Mahulikar in his Effects of Ramayana on Various Cultures and Civilizations, but I find substantial evidence to be meagre if it is there at all. All will probably not be well with mankind if we refrain from speculation, massive speculation, and unfounded dogmatism, but some things may get better, actually. [◦Link].
There have also been efforts to support a thesis that the Chinese discovered and explored the western United States hundreds of years before Norsemen came to its eastern parts around 1000 AD – at a time when Buddhism influence was growing in China.
The publishers of Yogananda books also count in the Dead Sea Scrolls, citing the Reverend Dr. Charles F. Potter who says Gnosticism had come to the Jews from the East, from India and Persia and Babylon, that Gnosticism was Egyptian Christianity, and that the first parts of the Gospel of John are Gnostic. (Yogananda 2004:83n-84n)
COMMENT. Speaking of Gnosticism, "it now seems clear that traces of Gnostic systems can be discerned some centuries before the Christian Era. [Wikipedia]" Predating Jesus Christ, Gnosticism existed in the Mediterranean and Middle East in the Second and Third Centuries. There was a Syrian-Egyptian school of Gnosticism and a Persian Gnostic school. The Hebrew Cabbalists took many core Gnostic ideas and used them to reinterpret earlier Jewish sources according to this new foreign influence.
I have not found any claims of Indian influences on Gnosticism in other academic sources than Dr Potter's claims. The Encyclopaedia Britannica, for example, informs that Gnosticism drew from and influenced in turn many traditional religions. It was diverse as to theology, ethics, and ritual, and thus defies strict classification. "The origins of the Gnostic world view have been sought by scholars in the dualism of Iranian religion, the allegorical Idealism of the Middle Platonic philosophers, and the apocalypticism of certain Jewish mystics. There are analogies also with Egyptian and Mesopotamian thought." Thus, the alleged Indian influences on Gnosticism that SRF cherishes, is not part of current, main thinking about it.
In conclusion so far, it appears that the SRF editors have chosen to quote persons with a definitive bias for the sake of propping up Yogananda's sayings on this and that, citing a lot when convenient, but without being well in line with mainstream scholarship in the fields in question, and far from furnishing ample and good evidence. It may mount up to a prop-up kind of biased plot, I feel. I think we get a truer presentation of Gnosticism in the two encyclopaedias Wikipedia and Britannica, for one thing.
❋ A fit informational presentation is not greatly biased, and does not have the bottom attitude of defending any cherished leader's views without considering evidence and materials that go against his or her dictums.
The Unknown Life of Christ
Now, what do you prefer, have someone pinch your nose or be misguided? In any case you should know how to defend yourself for your own thriving. Against being misguided by imposing figures that become authority figures in cults and the like, we must learn to "believe not, but make sure". Asking for top-notch evidence is a fine way towards making sure. For the lack of these few mental self-defence stands, many succumb to tall tales and demagogy.
We will look into the evidence that Jesus was in India from his puberty till about three years before the crucifixion. What proper and fit evidence do we have?
The source of much novel rumour that Jesus went to India is a book by the Russian Nicolas Notovitch, who in his time was exposed as a fraud. He published ◦The Unknown Life of Christ, which is said to be a travelogue of a trip through India, into Kashmir, eventually reaching Ladakh in Tibet. At Ladakh a lama allegedly informs him that Jesus, under the name Issa, is known to some Tibetan Buddhists. Notovitch goes on to tell that an ancient manuscript was read to him about Issa-Jesus going to India to study the Vedas and Buddhism. Jesus stirred up a caste war and had to leave India. he left and preached against Zoroastrianism in Persia – all according to Notovitch.
Now, is Notovitch a reliable controversial source in this? Hardly:
Dare to think that Notovitch's Unknown Life of Jesus was a hoax.
❋ To study all the most weighty evidence before you conclude in a matter, reveals proficiency, which is needed for handling life too.
A little more
Hefty and repeated claims that Jesus travelled through India in his youth has appeared in many books and websites. The story took off after the Russian scholar and orientalist Nicolai Notovitch in 1894 published a book where he claimed to have discovered monastery texts showing that Jesus had travelled through India and Tibet during his teens and early twenties. This view has recently been taken up by the German Holger Kersten in Jesus Lived in India [which I don't consider worth reading on the basis of "Many "if's" don't make proofs"].
In 1887 Notovitch came to Kashmir during one of several journeys to the Orient. At the Zoji-la pass Notovitch was a guest in a Buddhist monastery, where a monk told him of the bodhisattva saint called "Issa", who died and was buried in a tomb in Kashmir itself.
However, the monastery Jesus allegedly is to have studied at in India, was not built until the 1500s, and there is no independent evidence confirming the story.
Maybe Notovitch's Unknown Life of Jesus was fictional: Intimidated by a refutation by the highly esteemed F. Max Müller, Notovitch backed down and changed his story, he began to back-pedal.
Not only Max Muller, but also J. Archibald Douglas, and ◦Edgar J. Goodspeed have all refuted the legend. Below are details.
❋ Tales and legends that are repeated in a culture, may or may not have a historical basis. Tales in themselves offer little proof - for they need to be substantiated. And this pertains to the said tomb of Jesus in Kashmir too. As long as good documentation or evidence is lacking, duck! (Keep such a faith item well away from yourself even if it is played, as not all play is fair play).
F. Max Müller
In October 1894 the great Orientalist Max Müller, editor of the epoch-making Sacred Books of the East, published a refutation of Notovitch in The Nineteenth Century, a scholarly review. He shared a letter (June 29, 1894) from an English woman who had visited Leh in Ladakh, including the Hemis lamasery, where she checked out Notovitch's story. She reported that, according to the abbot, "There is not a single word of truth in the whole story! There has been no Russian here. No one has been taken into the Seminary for the past fifty years with a broken leg! There is no life of Christ there at all!" [Goodspeed, p. 11].
Among other things Muller also questioned the great liberty Notovitch took in editing and arranging the alleged verses. Muller said this is something no reputable scholar would have done.
J. Archibald Douglas
J. Archibald Douglas, Professor at Government College in Agra, India, took a three-month vacation from the college and retraced Notovitch's steps at the Himis monastery. He published an account of his journey in The Nineteenth Century (June 1895), the bulk of which reproduced an interview with the chief lama of the monastery. The lama said he had been chief lama for 15 years, which means he would have been the chief lama during Notovitch's alleged visit. The lama asserted that during these 15 years, no European with a broken leg had ever sought refuge at the monastery.
When asked if he was aware of any book in any Buddhist monastery in Tibet pertaining to the life of Issa, he said: "I have never heard of [a manuscript] which mentions the name of Issa, and it is my firm and honest belief that none such exists. I have inquired of our principal Lamas in other monasteries of Tibet, and they are not acquainted with any books or manuscripts which mention the name of Issa." When portions of Notovitch's book were read to the lama, he responded, "Lies, lies, lies, nothing but lies!"
The interview was written down and witnessed by the lama, Douglas, and the interpreter, and on June 3, 1895, was stamped with the official seal of the lama.
However, several people have gone to Hemis, where several monks purportedly have confirmed that the documents alleged by Notovitch existed. Such takes are far from official, though, compared to the attested or verified ones.
Edgar J. Goodspeed
The credibility of The Life of Saint Issa by Notovitch was damaged by Douglas's investigation. Yet Notovitch's book was printed again in 1926 by an American publisher. And it was discredited once again by ◦Goodspeed's book of 1931, called Strange New Gospels. In it, he describes the rise and fall of Notovitch's claims in the decade following the publication of his book. He outlines how it was rejected by the academic community at the time too.
But the stories have surfaced again in New Age circles, and gurus too have taught that he did visit -
Did Jesus visit Tibet? Well, as said above, it is possible, assertions are many, but there is little significant evidence that has come down to us.
"Anything is possible, but what is probable?" – F.C. Baur.
In Yogananda's society, members greatly believe in him, so when the Leader and his later management teach that Jesus went to India or that the book "The Life of Issa" is a true story, they believe it, and may refuse to think otherwise and twice. That could perhaps be expected of cult lowers.
Now the Life of Issa is hardly a true story at all. By way of example, the book tells there were Buddhist monasteries in Ladak at the time of Jesus, but there were not. Buddhism had not been introduced to Tibet at the time of Jesus. It arrived there many centuries later. Enjoy this sample for the hoax book of Notovitch:
At last he reached the pass, and in the Ladak city, Leh, he was received with favour by the monks, the merchants, and the men of low estate.
A Tibetan historian informs, however:
Buddhism did not take hold in Tibet until the reign of Srong Tsen Gampo, middle of the seventh century. There was no Buddhist temple in Lhasa when Jesus was alive.
The first Buddhist monastery in Tibet, Leh, was built in 637-647 AD.
Yogananda did not disprove Notovitch's story, which was disproved even when Notovitch was alive ... The guru is biased, out of key with scholars, and definitely keen on allying Jesus with gurus. He was surrounded by very gullible people.
❋ Ladakh Buddhist temples did not exist at the time of Jesus, no matter what tales Notovitch and his champions tell about them.
Paramahansa Yogananda quotations and extracts
"It has been definitely proven that Jesus was connected with the High Initiates and the Masters of India. In the "Unknown Life of Christ," by Nicholas Notovitch, – the Russian author tells how he went to Tibet, hoping to study Tibetan literature ... a strange miracle happened. Just when he was returning fruitlessly to India, he fell from a cliff and broke his leg -" Paramahansa Yogananda
"While the injured man was recovering, the h[e]ad Lama asked him what he wanted. He said: "Read to me the papyrus scrolls!" From these sacred scrolls, he secured conclusive evidence that Jesus ... conferred with the Masters on Yoga and great problems of human upliftment, living with them at the Monastery [that was not there]; but at the age of fifteen, it is said, they tried to get Him married, so he fled. I don't blame him." – Paramahansa Yogananda, monk
"The sacred scrolls further revealed that as Jesus Christ was visited by the Wise-Men of the East, so He paid them a return visit to Tibet, and conferred with the Great Masters. Jesus then went to India to commune with the Masters there; and after preaching the Message in India, he went to Asia Minor." – Paramahansa Yogananda
"Jesus Christ gave His secret message in India, first of all. If you love Jesus, you must have some consideration for the Orientals ... We should not be proud of being Americans". – Paramahansa Yogananda
"Hidden away in a Monastery of Tibet, priceless records lie." – Paramahansa Yogananda
The Yogananda quotations above are from Yogananda's lecture "Oriental Christ", delivered at his Mt. Washington Center and published in East-West March-April, 1930 Vol. 4-4, and later also in the collection Man's Eternal Quest [Ak]
❋ When an authority figure like the guru of Self-Realization Fellowship vouches for a hoax, many followers succumb to authoritarian-based indoctrination with its possible "cult-enhancing dumbening".
Conclusion: Yogananda Draws on a Hoax
1. The issue of "flawless wisdom"
Yogananda recounts made-up stories, presenting them as true. Such doings are not marks of a gentleman, and seldom good enough. How wrong can it be when his fellowship adds to the misery by an attitude that comes to the fore in a recently notarised letter, that they find no fault with his guidelines and that his wisdom flawless? Such a pitiful stand is a hallmark of a cult, and not proper among scientists.
Yogananda definitely vouches for a hoax book of Notovitch, and draws on it. But we should not, for the sake of fairness.
❋ Yogananda – monastic leaders of his cult regrettably claim his guidelines are infallible. That makes matters much worse. Groggy ones are easily mislead. And you cannot afford to be made groggy, can you?
2. Learn to weigh the evidence
Weighing evidence is rather easy, once you get to know how and get used to it. Try to deal with each key issue first, and as even-handedly as you are up to.
First, assemble the points that you find worth considering, and try to be fair when you choose them. Include both pros and cons. Formulate each of the points as an assertive statement.
Consider what proof you have gathered. Keep proof-gathering open-ended; you may include more later. Master the common, initial mental scanning of sources. Go for sources where authors have great credentials. They are often found among doctors, Ph.D.s, and professors. Their works are published in reputable books and journals, for example university publishers. There are lots of others. See what critics have said about the books too. The "good guys" seek to be unbiased, gather relevant and valid information, and may also (try to) keep it interesting.
Go toward the key sources if that is possible, and discern among them. That is helpful too, in some circumstances, if you can afford it.
To weigh the points you come up with and select above all the rest, you can mark such statements on a Likert scale (by a set of responses, for example five). It is far better than the emotionally meagre "yes or no" alternatives. You can easily use five alternative ways of responding, and number them. You may help the weighing by looking at the palm of your hand and think "5 for thumb up", "4 for the index finger", "3 for the middle finger", and so on.
Note that "3" (middle finger) is what is called AHEM, HUM, OF TWO MINDS, NEUTRAL, UNSETTLED, AMBIVALENT TOO PERHAPS, and that the forefinger (index finger) means "YES", and the thumb means "OH YES, INDEED!" (a strong affirmative response).
Here is an example. Form the statements so that the "yes" side is consistently either of pros or cons in any of them; such structuring makes the weighing easier. By studying the information available to you where you are, you may then set up weighing lists too.
The book as a source
The following example shows the same weighing by bars.
Weighing stands, not only evidence
If you get proficient in "using your fingers" to refine your responses to a lot of things from the somewhat crude "yes-no" to a five-partitioned way of responding, the chances are you may handle life better, eventually.
The five points or statements are thus responded to by marking off the most appropriate stands you muster along the vertical lines. It should work far better than just wincing from the delicate problems involved for cult members, for example.
I think my total score – suming up the allotted weights of the five grouped statements – is about 22 points, but not (5 x 5 = 25) points. Whether I keep my judgement (evaluation) to myself as a private matter or speak of it, is my own business, through freedom of thought and so on. If I have settled on a conclusion, I prefer to remain open to forthcoming evidence that goes against what I have settled on so far.
If I get 20 points, I am affirmative – in this case I think it is a fraud and a hoax, but I don't swear it is. I do not have to conclude things in public, but I tend towards debunking Yogananda's claims in this matter.
If my total score is 15 points – five middle fingers in average – I am unsettled, and do well in refraining from concluding in any way, for such as health reasons. The lesson of keeping issues in suspense, unsettled, is ofter underrated. It is much valuable. It is better than being made a victim of odd beliefs also. And bear in mind: The burden of proof is on the one who claims a thing – Yogananda and his publishing fellowship in the example. Satyananda's publishers in the quite similar case further above.
If you get 10 or 5 points, you may dislike rational handling. Try to relax and think twice to improve on your future. Be sincere with yourself and the data, as "Sincerity will save you," said Yogananda. "Honesty may help you further" is another pretty-looking saying, but learn to take care and handle things well also.
I have tried to show how to make up your own mind about a certain book – a hoax book, I figure. Add your points and divide by five (in this case), to see your average. If you get more than 20 points, on the whole you affirm that in your judgement the book is not reliable.
Also, take a deeper look into the scores that deviate much from your had average, and see if there is anything you can do in such matters, and try to find out whether such activity is called for. Maybe it is, maybe it is not.
The next step is to compare your sincere, personal evaluation with such as Yogananda's assertions on top of the Notovitch book and other poorly substantiated or wholly undocumented claims. Note what his documentation is, and be just. Unlike a lama and various experts, he does not debunk the Notovitch book. Nor does he comment on the unhistorical, untrue Buddhist monasteries in the book. Nor is he alarmed that Notovitch changed his story. Instead Yogananda makes use of it to support dangerous claims – dangerous because they are so very inadequately substantiated, and his publishing fellowship wants others to belive his teachings are gospel truth, if not above it. But the Notovitch book and claims based on it are hardly good evidence among scholars.
So there you have it.
What else goes into it when a guru that is claimed to be an avatar (divine incarnation) and the like, states that his good source of information is his intuition? Intuition may be right or wrong – it shows up if you check the intuitions. For example, much of Yogananda's claimed, intuitive understanding of the Rubaiyat looks clownish and more than suspect. The evidence that he "swims in dangerous and deep water" about his claims there, is in the little collection just referred to.
Don't find Yogananda's outpoourings reliable; they are foolery propped up by claimed avatar status and hailings in a cult. If your sincere evaluation differs from this or his, remember he says somewhere, "Sincerity will save you". You don't really have to believe every detrimental thing he maintains through fear and what "cloister combattants" would have you believe -
❋ Reclaim your rationality if the guru or his cult has violated it, since much is at stake for your future fare if you renounce a rational mind far and wide and get subjected to gross lies or hearsay. Further, if you are not helped by such pinpointing as on this site, you can seek other things that assist you on and up, since "There are many roads to Rome".
Berzin, Alexander. The History of the Early Period of Buddhism and Bon in Tibet. The Berzin Archives, 1996. Online.
Kapstein, Matthew T. Tibetan Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 20134.
Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. Early Teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati. Paperback ed. Munger, Bihar: Bihar School of Yoga, 1988.
Tagore, Rabindranath, and Evelyn Underhill, trs. One Hundred Poems of Kabir. London: Macmillan, 1915. Online.
Vermes, Geza.The Authentic Gospel of Jesus. London: Penguin, 2005.
Vermes, Geza. The Real Jesus: Then and Now. Minneapolis, MI: Fortress Press, 2010.
Vermes, Geza. From Jewish to Gentile: How the Jesus Movement Became Christianity.Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) 38:06, Nov/Dec 2012.
WP: Wikipedia Encyclopedia.
Yogananda, Paramahansa. Man's Eternal Quest. New ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1982.
Yogananda, Paramahansa. Sayings of Paramahansa Yogananda. 4th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1980.
Yogananda, Paramahansa. The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You. 2 Vols. 1st ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2004.
Yogananda, Paramahansa. The Yoga of Jesus: Understanding the Hidden Teachings of the Gospels. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 2007.
Yogananda, Paramhansa. The Master Said. Los Angeles, CA: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1952.
Aasen, Ivar. Norske Ordsprog samlede og ordnede af I. Aasen. 2. utg. Christiania (Oslo): Mallings Boghandels Forlag, 1881.
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