In 1894, Nicolas Notovich, a Russian aristocrat, published a book in French titled The Unknown Life of Jesus, which claims that during his unknown younger years, Jesus left Galilee for India where he studied with Hindus and Buddhists before returning to Galilee.
Nikolai Aleksandrovich Notovich, also known as Nicolas Notovich (1858 - 1916), was a Jewish journalist and adventurer from Crimea. He also wrote books on the role of Russia in war.
Sometime after the Ottoman-Russian War (1877 - 1879), Notovich set out on a journey to explore the Middle East and Far East. In 1887, he reached India, Nepal and Tibet. During his time in Tibet, Notovich learned there were several sets of scrolls of the Life of Jesus in India during his teenage years.
During his journey through northern India, Notovich broke his leg and was recovering from the injury at the Hemis monastery, a few miles outside of the city of Leh in the Ladakh region of northern India. The monastery is in a location some 11,000 feet above sea level.
While there, Notovich was shown a copy of an ancient Buddhist manuscript that described the life of Jesus, from his teenage years to the age of 26, describing his life in Tibet and India during this period. The chief lama at the Hemis Monastery told Notovich of the manuscript, which was then read to him, through an interpreter.
The manuscript (Life of Saint Issa, Best of the Sons of Men) referred to Jesus as "Issa" which resembles the Arabic name "Isa" written in the Koran that is the name of Jesus in Arabic (the language of Jesus) to refer to Jesus -- in Sanskrit, "Isa" means "The Lord."
The Tibetan version of the Life of Issa had been translated from the Pali, the native language of the Indian subcontinent, also the language of early Buddhism, into the Tibetan language. It consisted of detached verses -- Notovich wrote his account of the early years of Jesus in 24 chapters, consisting of 244 short paragraphs.
The Life of Issa, written 3 to 4 years after the death of Jesus, based on the accounts of wandering merchants who witnessed the Crucifixion and reports of Tibetans with local knowledge of Jesus in the area, contains the following scenario:
- The deliverance of the people in Egypt by Moses
- The conquest of Palestine by the Romans:
- The birth of Jesus
- At age 13, rather than take a wife, Jesus leaves home to travel with a caravan of merchants to the Sindh region of western India where he spends 6 years living among the Buddhists, learning the Pali language and mastering their religious texts.
- Jesus spends 6 years studying and teaching at Jaganath and other holy cities. His actions create a conflict with the priests (Brahmins) and the warriors (Kshatriyas) for teaching the Vedas (holy scriptures, composed in Vedic Sanskrit) to the lower classes of laborers and farmers (Sudras and Vaisvas) who were only allowed to hear the Vedas during festivals and judicial processes. The Brahmins (priests) objected to allowing Jesus to teach the holy scriptures to the lower classes, compelling Jesus to preach against the Brahmins and Kshatriyas, who then plot the death of Jesus. Warned by the Sudras, Jesus leaves Jganath and travels to the birthplace of the Buddha at foothills of the Himalayan Mountains in southern Nepal.
- At age 29, Jesus returns to his own country and continues preaching for 3 years. He visits Jerusalem, where he falls in disfavor of the Jewish leaders and incurs the wrath of Pontius Pilate. Jesus is arrested for blasphemy by claiming to be the son of God and crucified on the cross.
Notovich's story of his journey and the text of "The Unknown Life of Jesus" was published in French is 1894 and later translated into English, Italian, Spanish and German.
Soon thereafter, as often happens when someone publishes new information about Jesus Christ or any other religious dogma, controversy ensued. Historians and religious figures assumed that either Notovich was a fraud or a liar or was duped by Buddhist monks as a victim of their jokes.
Historian Max Muller wrote a letter to the head lama at the Hemis Monastery, inquiring about Notovich's story and the manuscript about the missing years of Jesus. The head lama replied that there had been no Western visitor at the monastery in the past 15 years in which the lama had been there and that there were no documents relating to Notovich's story.
In 1922, Swami Abhedananda visited the Hemis Monastery to investigate the Notovich claims which he had learned of the previous year in the USA.
The lamas indeed confirmed that Notovich had been brought to the monastery with a broken leg and was nursed there for a month and a half. The lamas also confirmed that the manuscript about Jesus was shown to Notovich and the contents were interpreted so he would be able to translate the text into Russian.
Swami Abhedananda also learned that the original manuscript was in the Pali language at the monastery at Marbour, near Lhasa. The manuscript preserved at the Hemis Monastery was in the Tibetan language and translated for Notovich. Swami Abhedananda was shown the manuscript, which had 14 chapters, containing 223 slokas (Hindu prayers or couplets) and he included some of the verses in his travelogue.
Upon his return to Bengal, Swami Abhedananda asked his assistant to prepare a manuscript of the travelogue, based on the extensive notes he had taken during his journey. The manuscript was published in a monthly series in a publication of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Samiti and subsequently published in book form in Bengali.
The fifth edition of the book in English was published in 1987, which includes an Appendix containing the English version, translated from French, of Notovich's Life of Saint Issa.
In 1951, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, William O. Douglas, travelled to Hemis and wrote of his experience, substantiating Notovich's claims.
Edward F. Noack, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London and author of Amidst Ice and Nomads of High Asia, has made 18 expeditions into the Tibetan, Bhutan, Ladakh region since 1958 whereby he was told by a lama at the Hemis Monastery that a manuscript relating to the story of Jesus on a pilgrimage to the region was locked in the storeroom.
In 1975, Dr. Roberrt S. Ravicz, professor of anthrpology at California State University, was told by an eminent Ladakhi physician and friend that there were documents at the Hemis Monastery confirming that Jesus had been at the monastery.
There are 112 parallels between the teachings of Buddha and the teachings of Jesus. Plus, the major parables attributed to Jesus are all also found in the teachings of Buddha.
Thus, there seems to be validity in the existence of the manuscript.
A spiritual life, which is all around us at all times, leads us deeper into it.
Religion is belief in someone else's experience -- Spirituality is having your own experience.
Religion is for those afraid of going to hell -- Spirituality is for those who have already been there.
May the Force be with you.
Quote for the Day -- “Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.” Joseph Campbell
Bret Burquest is the author of 11 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and where the Promised Land is everywhere.