Terah, Eastern Judaism and Buddhism
4th-century mosaic of Jesus as a Teacher
The lack of artifacts from the Palestine area that can be linked to
Jesus has dismayed historians of early Christianity. Albert Schweitzer
wrote in a despairing tone,
Modern Christianity has to face the possibility that the
Jesus could be revealed any time.
Before the 17th century Jesus Christ was perceived solely through the mirror of faith, but gradually this gave way to a more rational outlook that is skeptical and cold. It may be recalled that early writers on Buddhism also did not consider Gotama Buddha as a historical figure. Skepticism and questioning are essential ingredients of science but doubt is antithetical to faith. Skeptics have been seen in sinister light by the custodians of faith. Sukumari Bhattacharji holds that rudiments of doubt are present in the 'sacred' text RigVeda. The empiricist Roger Bacon was jailed for 'doctrinal digressions'. The anger of the Church is evident from that the Italian monk G. Bruno was burned alive for supporting Copernicus' Heliocentric theory and even the great Galileo incurred the wrath of the Church for trying to interpret biblical passages in a scientific way. The spirit of enquiry also led the poet John Milton to envision Jesus as a human being. The yearning to rediscover the true sayings of Jesus hidden beneath the reverent periphrases of the holy texts motivated the hapless Protestant theologians of Tűbingen who were ostracized by the society for their lack of faith.
The literature on early Christianity is vast and formidable but widely divergent in outlook. The earliest Christian texts are the letters of St. Paul, which date from about 50 AD but Paul is an unreliable source as he never met Jesus and received his theology, not from Jesus or his disciples, whom he hated, but through a mystical communion with a Risen Christ. The great influence of Mithraism on Christianity can be gauged from the fact that Paul or Shaul was from Tarsus which was a great centre of Mithraism.
The generally accepted sources for the life and message of Jesus are the New Testament Gospels, the earliest being Mark (AD 60–80), followed by Matthew, Luke, and John (AD 75–90). The Gospel of Thomas, at times called the fifth Gospel, was found in 1945 at Nag Hammadi in Egypt and is a document of a very different vein. Its date is uncertain, scholars like E. Pagels have favoured an early date (50-100 AD) but others have ascribed it to the 2nd century, yet it is believed that this Gospel may, in fact, contain some actual sayings of Jesus.
Prophet Abraham is said to have started his trek in the middle of the 18th century B.C. which was a time of world turmoil. This coincides with the fall of the Indus cities and Sumer and probably also with the Bharata war which ended an epoch and started another - the Kaliyuga (the dark age). Just as the Yahdus became scattered into the Diaspora, the Yadus also vanished from Indian history after the Bharata war(~1750 B.C.). Yudhisthira started a westward journey to Meru which may have been continued by Abraham. Mount Meru which was in the north-west. The early Yahdus may have been from Indus-Saraswati. A careful study shows that Abraham was from Babil or Kapilavastu in Seistan, which was an abode of Prophets.
E. Herzfeld rejected the local tradition of Kuh-e Khwaja that it was the abode of Ibrahim but this may have been an oversight. His father Terah may be Yadus-Tera or Yudhisthira of the Epic Mahabharata. Yudhisthira's cousin was the great Yadu (Yadava) hero Krishna who may have been an Eastern 'Jew'. His son Yaudheya also appears to be a Yadu. The name Jaddua of the high-priest at the time of the second temple echoes Yadu. D. P. Mishra noted the uncanny parallels between the Indian and the Judaic traditions (Studies In The Proto-History of India, p. 126).
The biblical authors were only dimly aware of the socio-political background of the Patriarchs. This can be seen from the confusion regarding Shinar which is equated with Sumer without proper warrant. In Gen. x. 10 the beginning of Nimrod's kingdom is said to have been "Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar." Two points are to be noted here. Firstly Nimrod (Nim=great) of the Old Testament is the divine archer Rudra of the RigVeda which clearly suggests a location in Indo-Iran. Secondly Babel need not be Babylon but can be Kapil or Babil in Seistan. Shinar is clearly the Sineru of the Buddhist texts. In Gen. xi. 2, Shinar is the site of the tower of Babel which has to be reconsidered in view of the great discoveries in the Jiroft area.
Terah is said to have been an idol-maker and a pagan but the Indian evidence shows him as a righteous king (Dharmaputra). Modern scholars on Judaism like R. J. Zwi Werblowsky, E. S. Gruen and S. Shaked consider Judaism to be only a product of Egypt and Palestine and disregard the evidence of the Mahabharata. On the other hand, the eminent Sanskritist Nicholas Sutton notes the clear traits of monotheism in the religious doctrines of the Mahabharata which offers insights into the religion of Terah.
The Book of Ezra (V: 3,6) states that Tattenai the Persian governor of 'Eber Nari' led an investigation into the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem about 519 B.C. He sent a report to Darius, who ordered the work to proceed. Tattenai was clearly Tathagata or Gotama Buddha. Why was he so interested in the affairs of the Jews? Gotama's interest in the affairs of the Jewish temple again reveals the close relation between Judaism and Buddhism.
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan writes that many of its features like the potency assigned to letters, the use of charms and amulets, the theory of emanation as opposed to creation ex nihilio, the doctrine of the correspondence between the macrocosm and microcosm, belief in rebirth and a definite pantheistic tendency, are alien to the spirit of Rabbinic Judaism and akin to that of the Indian Upanishads and Tantrism. The roots of Tantrism go back to the earliest phases of human civilization and can be seen in 3rd millennium B.C. Sumer. Werblowsky writes in The Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths (p. 26),
Of course Kabbalah is not the same as Jewish mysticism, of which it is merely one phase, though the most important and far-reaching in its effects. In spite of its name which means '[esoteric] tradition' and in spite of the Kabbalist's sincere belief that they only revived the old mystical teachings of Moses and and earlier sages, there can be no reasonable doubt that the system as such evolved in the thirteenth century in Southern France and Spain.
This scepticism is shared by the majority of Judaic scholars but is very short-sighted. Werblowsky wonders in vain,
How must one explain the resurgence of myth in the midst of what is usually considered to be the moral enemy of mythical religion? By what channels or mechanisms did mythical and Gnostic symbols reassert themselves in medieval Jewry? What is the relation of the old, Oriental Gnosticism and the almost explosive reappearance of similar ideas ........ For our present purpose we can ignore these questions .... .
Ignoring the question is understandably a safe option and reminds one of the proverbial ostrich but sadly Werblowsky's equipment allows for no other alternative. The answer has to be sought in the Eastern Judaism of Terah. A. Edrei and D. Mendels have written about the split between the eastern and Western Diaspora but their Eastern Jews are only from Babylonia and Russia. Had they been aware of the crucial import of the Indian tradition, writers like Werblowsky and E. S. Gruen would not have missed the link of the term Kabbala with Kaivalya of the Jainas and Moksha of the Hindus. Mani used a similar term Kephalia.
Significantly, Seistan was the home of Gotama and also Abraham and Zoroaster. The common origin of Gotama and Abraham suggests that Buddhism is linked with Judaism. Jerusalem, in fact, is less ancient than Kuh-e Khwaja near ancient Shahr-e Shokhta which was larger than contemporary Ur in Sumer. It was called Uri-Salem in the Amarna letters which echoes the name Shilavati or Shilahatta of the birth-place of Joshaphat or Gotama. It can be recalled that many of the early Indian texts were translated by learned Jewish scholars.
It is stunning to realize that this humanistic Eastern Judaism was the cradle of Buddhism. Gotama's name Buddho-Dana reminds one of Daniel and hints at some link between the Jews and the Buddhists. This is supported by the Persepolis inscriptions. Due to the Nepalese forgery it has been overlooked that Sudda -Yauda-Saramana cited in numerous Persepolis tablets was not only an eastern Yahdu but also the father of Siddhartha who is Sedda-Saramana of the tablets (Sedda-arta). Sedda-Saramana is the Sethar of the Book of Ezra. The conflict between Orthodox Jews and Eastern religion is evident from the history of Nebuchadrezzar and the clashes between Tattenai (Gotama) and the Palestinian Jews. If Josephus' data that Alexander the Great had prostrated before the high priest Jaddua is true, he may have known about a very different brand of Judaism. The search for the roots of Jewish Mysticism leads one to ancient India part of which was in modern Iran. In the Asokan era Hellenistic and Buddhistic ideas made inroads into Palestine.