When a movie promises a lot in its trailers only to disappoint when you watch the real deal, you are left not only with anger but with a certain sense of frustration and deep after-thought that it could have easily been better, only if the movie maker took some obvious points into consideration. Such was the feeling I had when I read the book, Jesus lived in India by Holger Kersten. So much of promise, but yet a disappointment.
This book, contrary to many negative reviews, does not portray Jesus Christ in a negative manner. It does not question his existence, it does not ridicule his teachings, nor does it weaken the power of the Christian world. What it tries to deliver instead is an interesting insight into the history of Jesus Christ’s existence especially during the undocumented years of his life as a young man. It takes history in a direction that no other historian or religious authority (obviously!) took before.
In a very sequential description of a set of events, the author shows the strong parallel between the teachings of the Buddha, his disciples and those of Jesus. This unfortunately didn’t find favor with many critics of the book, who felt that the greatness of Christianity is lost when compared with other religions of the World, especially the religions of the East, given that the Church and other political establishments of the West carefully herded us people into the belief of superiority of the Christian religion and its privileged followers over the years. The humanizing of colonial misdeeds through the lens of religion is lost when the epitome of it, the Lord himself, is portrayed as a beneficiary of intellectual and spiritual wisdom from the unworthy East.
The author talks about how Jesus might have traveled across the trade corridors of the past that connected the West with the East. Through a series of narratives picked from tales across different countries like Turkey, Afghanistan and so on, the author shows how Jesus, Yesu, Isa and so on were one and the same. This is all convincing evidence that does show how Jesus might have truly walked these lands and been part of the life over there in the past. The author gets to also talk about how Jesus traveled to India, to either gain wisdom or impart wisdom (things get confusing in the author’s perspective here) and reached Kashmir, lived there and possibly traveled far and wide within India too. This is all possible except that the stories the author collects to explain Jesus’s presence would rather be classified as folk tales that many modern, educated historians will blindly dismiss. The biggest disappointment for me was however that the tales of Jesus in India is ridiculously very limited and the author comes to discussing it only towards the tail end of the book.
So, the rest of the book ended up being a painfully, detail oriented explanation of how the shroud of Turin was indeed that of Jesus Christ and his blood stains were suffered as part of the elaborate punishment that the spiritual leader truly endured. I loved the points the author makes to prove that the critics of the shroud are missing the truth and hence dismissive of Jesus’s existence. My frustration came from the fact that enough pages were spent on this topic that the book was turning into a mockery of the title – Jesus lived in India. It could have served a better purpose if it read something like “The Shroud of Turin – the true possession of Jesus Christ”.
Just when I lost hope with where the book was taking me towards, the chapter on Jesus’s presence in India was taken up. Unfortunately, this is where the after-thought about how things could have been better came up in my mind. A very limited prose on what Jesus might have done in India is hurriedly explained. The topic that I really loved to explore, the tomb of Jesus in Kashmir was abruptly explained and closed with the statement that the government of India did not allow the author to get into the tomb. Couldn’t you wait to get there before writing the book!? Maybe not, given that it is the Indian Government and the Kashmiri Administration, both tough and unreachable democratically elected bodies to deal with, that we are talking about here.
But, what could have sealed the deal in Jesus Christ’s favor of living in India is killed like a dream that is far fetched from reality. Now, I didn’t wish to learn that Jesus lived in India as there were very many saints who lived and thrived in this ancient nation. But, when someone promises the moon, only to deliver a pittance, it makes you feel bad. Having said that, it was indeed interesting to learn something about the teachings of Jesus Christ that is long lost and buried in the stories of the Bible. The goodness of human existence don’t have different variations in History or Religion. It is all about the difficult job of being “nice” in life for human beings. Buddhism that tried to refine the corrupted form of Hinduism preached it. So did Jesus and his Christianity that tried to refine the corrupted form of Judaism and other Western practices of that time. We will continue to see very many more “religions” and saints walking among us, trying to save us, and leaving us with a hope that good does exist in a world of evil. Unfortunately, we don’t learn from History as we don’t know what our History truly is!