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An essay donated by Jeffrey Small, author of "The Breath of God"

Was Jesus influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism?

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Sponsored link.

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A quick quiz:

Name this religious figure: A shimmering spirit appears to a young wife in a dream, tells her that she will give birth to a son who will change the world, and then enters her womb. When the boy is born, wise men proclaim that the child will grow into a religious leader. As a young man, he retreats to the wilderness where he sits in deep contemplation until the devil appears to tempt him from his path. He resists the temptations and then begins a ministry in which his disciples give up their worldly possessions to follow him. He heals the sick, some proclaim him to be a god, and on his death, his followers believe that he will return again.

Are you thinking about Jesus of Nazareth? Actually, the above is part of the legend surrounding Siddhartha Gautama, the man known as the Buddha, who lived five centuries before Jesus. The parallels go even further: for almost every one of Jesus' teachings, we can find a similar lesson from the Buddha. Digging deeper into ancient India, we can uncover Hindu scripture (a group of writings known as the Vedas), which contain parables that sound eerily like those told by Jesus centuries later. For example, in one oft-recited parable, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed. Similarly in the Chandogya Upanishad, the ancient Sanskrit text tells of the master who asks his student to open the Banyan tree fruit, extract the tiny seed, and then break it in half, revealing a hollow center. When the student notices that the seed is empty, his teacher replies that from that emptiness comes the great Banyan tree, and, he continues, that same creative essence is in the student too. Why do we see these parallels between the religions of the East and the teachings of Jesus, who was considered a subversive in his Roman and Jewish community? Why do the contemplative practices of Jesus, which seem to confuse his disciples, seem so similar to Eastern meditative techniques? My debut suspense novel, The Breath of God, explores this ancient mystery.

We actually know very little about the life of Jesus, a fact not often discussed by church leaders. As told in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, his ministry only lasted a single year. Leaving aside the story of his birth, the only information we have about the younger years of Jesus comes from Luke who describes an occasion when a precocious twelve-year-old Jesus speaks in the temple, impressing his elders. The Bible is then silent about the following twenty year period of Jesus' life until he reappears on the scene around the age of thirty when he is baptized by John and begins his ministry.

What happened during these missing years of Jesus' life? What experiences might have shaped Jesus into the man he became? Could a clue to these missing years come from a controversial discovery over a century ago by a Russian journalist? In The Breath of God, I examine the implications of this journalist’s historical discovery through a fictional story of suspense, mystery, and mysticism.

In 1887, Russian journalist Nicholas Notovitch discovered evidence in a remote Himalayan monastery in Northern India that Jesus, during his teens and twenties, traveled with a merchant caravan along the spice route to India where he studied the teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism -- teachings that, when combined with his Jewish upbringing, molded him into the man we know today. After Notovitch published his discovery in 1894, he was condemned for the heresy he proposed, and later, the evidence of his find vanished from the monastery.

The protagonist in The Breath of God, present-day graduate student Grant Matthews, journeys to the Himalayas in search of this ancient mystery. He must confront those whose cherished beliefs are threatened by the possibility that their religion may be based on other faiths, while he struggles with how his own spirituality is affected by the ancient revelations he encounters.

Although The Breath of God is fiction, the research behind it is historical and raises the question of how we think about inter-faith dialogue in today’s interconnected world. Could Jesus have been influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism? What might this connection mean for us?

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Author bio:

Jeffrey Small, author of The Breath of God, graduated summa cum laude from Yale University and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School.  He holds a master's degree in the study of religions from Oxford University.  Jeffrey is an acclaimed speaker on the topics of rethinking religion in the twenty-first century and the common spiritual themes in the world's religions. He is active in the Episcopal Church, USA but has also studied yoga in India, practiced Buddhist meditation in Bhutan, explored the ancient temples of Egypt, and journeyed throughout the Holy Land.

For more information please visit and follow the author of Facebook and Twitter

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About the book:

book cover imageJeffrey Small, "The Breath of God," a novel of suspense. Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store. It is also available in Kindle ebook format.

Some book reviews:

  • "The Breath of God is a spectacular thriller that spans the world, history, and the limits of imagination; an epic adventure that left me yearning for more"
    —Rich Doetsch, author of The Thieves of Darkness and The 13th Hour

  • "As with many contemporary thrillers revolving around a spiritual quest, the novel contains chases, murder, and romance. Verdict This tale is for fans of Dan Brown's thrillers as well as readers who enjoy visionary fiction."
    —Library Journal

  • "This meticulously researched, thought-provoking masterpiece is filled with high adventure and intrigue. Based on an actual document from 1887 claiming to have seen controversial religious texts, Small’s stunning debut reveals the impact of such a find."
    RT Rating: 4 1/2 stars TOP PICK!
    —RT Book Reviews

  • "Jeffrey Small explodes on the writing scene with his first novel and this book has Best Seller written all over it! The Breath of God is a riveting novel that grips the reader from the first chapter and does not let go until the last paragraph. Fans of the Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield), and Conversations with God (Neale Donald Walsch) will place The Breath of God right alongside these books in their library!"
    —FeatureMe2 Reviews

  • JEFFREY SMALL, a Harvard/Yale/Oxford-educated speaker on religion and spirituality, makes an impressive literary debut ... Small’s themes, such as the common ground of the world’s religions, are timely.
    —Atlanta Magazine

  • Amazon customers' rated the book 5 stars out of a maximum of 5!
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Copyright © 2011 Jeffrey Small.
Initial posting: 2011-MAR-25

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