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Monday, October 25, 1999

Tell the Pope how Hindu he is

Francois Gautier  


The Pope is arriving in India on the 5th of November. Does he know that he may be stepping on a land from which Christianity originated? Indeed, over the centuries, numerous historians and sages have pointed out that not only has Hinduism had a predominant influence on Christianity, but that many of the Christian rites could be directly borrowed from Buddhist and Hindu India.

French historian Alain Danielou had noticed as early as 1950 that "a great number of events which surround the birth of Christ - as it is related in the Gospels - strangely remind us of Buddhists and Krishnaites legends".

Danielou quotes as examples the structure of the Christian Church, which resembles that of the Buddhist Chaitya; the rigorous asceticism of certain early Christian sects, which reminds one of the asceticism of Jain and Buddhist saints; the veneration of relics, the usage of holy water, which is an Indian practice, or the word 'Amen', which comes from the Hindu 'OM'.

Another historian, Belgium's Konraad Elst,also remarks "that many early Christian saints, such as Hippolytus of Rome, possessed an intimate knowledge of Brahmanism". Elst even quotes the famous Saint Augustin who wrote: "We never cease to look towards India, where many things are proposed to our admiration". Unfortunately, remarks American Indianist David Frawley, "from the second century onwards, Christian leaders decided to break away from the Hindu influence and show that Christianity only started with the birth of Christ". Hence, many later saints began branding Brahmins as "heretics" and Saint Gregory set a future trend by publicly destroying the "pagan" idols of the Hindus.

Great Indian sages, such as Sri Aurobindo or Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living, which is practised in more than 80 countries, have often remarked that the stories recounting how Jesus came to India to be initiated, are probably true. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar notes, for instance, that Jesus sometimes wore an orange robe, the Hindu symbol ofrenunciation in the world, which was not a usual practice in Judaism. "In the same way", he continues, "the worshipping of the Virgin Mary in Catholicism is probably borrowed from the Hindu cult of Devi." Bells too, which cannot be found today in synagogues, the surviving form of Judaism, are used in church and we all know their importance in Buddhism and Hinduism for thousands of years. There are many other similarities between Hinduism and Christianity: incense, sacred bread (prasadam), the different altars around churches (which recall the manifold deities in their niches inside Hindu temples); reciting the rosary (japamala), the Christian Trinity (the ancient Santana Dharma: Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh), Christian processions, the sign of the cross (Anganyasa), and so on.

In fact, Hinduism's pervading influence seems to go much earlier than Christianity. American mathematician, A. Seindenberg, has for example shown that the Sulbasutras, the ancient Vedic science of mathematics, constitute thesource of mathematics in the antique world, from Babylon to Greece: "The arithmetic equations of the Sulbasutras were used in the observation of the triangle by the Babylonians, as well as in the edification of Egyptian pyramids, in particular the funeral altar in form of pyramid known in the Vedic world as smasanacit."

In astronomy too, the "Indus" (from the valley of the Indus) have left a universal legacy, determining for instance the dates of solstices, as noted by 18th century French astronomer Jean-Sylvain Bailly : "The movement of stars which was calculated by Hindus 4,500 years ago, does not differ even by a minute from the tables which we are using today." And he concludes: "The Hindu systems of astronomy are much more ancient than those of the Egyptians - even the Jews derived from the Hindus their knowledge ". There is also no doubt that the Greeks heavily borrowed from the "Indus".

Danielou notes that the Greek cult of Dionysius, which later became Bacchus with the Romans, is a branch of Shaivism: "Greeks spoke of India as the sacred territory of Dionysius and even historians of Alexander the Great identified the Indian Shiva with Dionysius and mention the dates and legends of the Puranas".

French philosopher and Le Monde journalist, Jean-Paul Droit, recently wrote in his book The Forgetfulness of India that "The Greeks loved so much Indian philosophy that Demetrios Galianos had even translated the Bhagavad Gita".

Many western and Christian historians have tried to nullify this Indian influence on Christian and ancient Greece, by saying that it is the West, through the Aryan invasion, and later the onslaught of Alexander the Great on India, which influenced Indian astronomy, mathematics, architecture, philosophy -- and not vice versa. But new archaeological and linguistic discoveries have proved that there never was an Aryan invasion and that there is a continuity from ancient Vedic civilisation to the Saraswati culture. The Vedas, for instance, which constitute the soul ofpresent day Hinduism, have not been composed in 1500 BC, as dear Max Mueller arbitrarily decided, but may go back to 7000 years before Christ, giving Hinduism plenty of time to influence Christianity and older civilisations which preceded it.

Thus, instead of protesting the Pope's visit, the VHP and other Hindu organisations should rather point out to him the close links which exist between Christianity and ancient India, which bind them into a secret brotherhood.

This article gives the gist of Gautier's forthcoming book, 'The Indian Origin of Things

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