Far East Influence on Christian Development

Throughout the Roman occupation of Palestine c. 40 BCE there were living in that country a number of missionary Buddhist monks. This fact is indisputably evidenced by a number of clay figurines that these monks carried into Palestine dating from this general timeframe. Buddhist monks industriously traveled far and wide in their avid pursuit of converts. Palestine, as a commercial crossroad between nations, was a natural target area in a Buddhist missionary appeal that was aggressively aimed to convert others away from the many competing and indistinguishable faith systems simmering there.

Earth had just entered into the Age of Pisces, and the majority of cultures in this pivotal age were content to quietly tend to their own beliefs, practicing an illuminated tolerance of “live and let live.” Perhaps each small sect or mystery school may have been calmly convinced that the rest of the population was destined for spiritual oblivion, but they did not feel duty-bound to rush out to imposed their teachings upon others, or even offer a prospect of salvation for the price of conformity. The concept of active recruitment, introduced among the western cultures by the Buddhist monks, was viewed as not only strange and aggressive, but as an inexcusably offensive intrusion into other people’s personal affairs.

Pagan understanding was that spiritual attunement is highly personal and was meant to be experienced by each person individually. The reason why Pagans were not encouraged to actively solicit others to join any particular spiritual quest was the belief that the impulse for spiritual enlightenment must originate within the person himself. Such an inner longing for enlightenment was not viewed as a commercial project. The Pagans knew that the first place of one’s spiritual preparation had to germinate from within each being’s heart. Spiritual preparation, they understood, was not something acquired through exterior pressures. To the Pagan, regardless of what small sect or mystery school he or she might ascribe to, it was always accepted that those in any leadership-counselor positions were like elder brethren who, just as the postulants, were sharing in a similar search for divine enlightenment. Attainment of enlightenment was understood to be attained through personal effort, not through watching priestly theatrical performances.

How different from the western world’s rivalling solicitation-faith systems with their hierarchical structuring and constant clamoring for monetary donations and political clout and which, as a result, promote precious little in personal spiritual advancement.

To the Pagans, no bribery in Creation could cancel out or alter a seeker’s personal responsibility of proceeding at one’s own pace and standing totally responsible for self at all times. To attempt otherwise was simply a futile attempt to bury the truth of one’s personal relationship with the universe and their consequential responsibility under the carcass of a fictional scapegoat. Destined also to influence Christian practice (primarily Catholic) was how the Buddhists, from the earliest periods, had utilized relics that were claimed to have produced miracles. The origin of Buddhist relic worship, some scholars have suggested, can be traced back to the story that at his death the bones of Buddha’s limbs had been scattered over the world. This is not too dissimilar to myths surrounding such revered holy ones in other cultures such as the Egyptian god Osiris, the Greek god Zagreus, etc. The prime duty of Buddha’s descendants and followers was professed to be for them to search out and collect the scattered relics and entomb them.

The aggressiveness with which the Buddhist monks had approached the western cultures in Palestine did not go unobserved by the officials and aristocrats of the Roman Empire—especially since that foreign spiritual credo had managed to carry on in the region of Palestine where the Jews were routinely a source of conflicts with Roman authority. Through the course of time reports of contacts with Buddhists would filter into Rome from centers of commercial trade–Antioch, for example–and curiosity of the Far East would lure adventurers to investigate. Apollonius of Tyana, Cappadocia (early first century CE) was one who traveled widely, particularly in India where he was initiated into the doctrines of the Brahmans. This is noted here because Apollonius would translate a story about the Hindu god Krishna, son of the god Indra, which he altered somewhat according to his own philosophy while retaining all the major story components. That literary work became widely discussed among the Roman aristocrats and literati, and elements of the work would influence the author of the book of Mark, the first Gospel to be written.

By the later timeframe, c. 75 CE, within the struggling faith sect that would become Christianity, the Buddhist type activity of recruitment became a requirement even before its basic faith-articles were defined! Thus Christianity was founded upon the aggressive concept of a proselytizing religion–one which seeks out to convert others into their formulated manner of faith. This mania for drawing everyone they could into a religio-club-like atmosphere for practicing prescribed manmade formulas of devotional practices has infected the western world ever since.

It was this commitment to active religious competition as Christianity muscled it way into a position of broad material power which came to influence other cultures to also engage in similar competitive tactics of spiritual pretense. Personal spiritual integrity, so highly prized by the Pagans, became crucified upon practices of prejudice and rivalry. Abandoned and lost was the truth that acive recruitment into a religious affiliation is itself an act of premeditated aggression and is nothing more than a devotional practice of intolerance.

[This post was abridged from Time Frames and Taboo Data, pages 153-155 and 184. All posts are under copyright.]

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