SWAMI ABHEDANANDA, the illustrious apostle of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansadev, visited London for the first time in the year 1896 at the clarion call of his brother-disciple Swami Vivekananda. After twenty-five years of spiritual ministration in England, America and many other European countries, he returned to India in the Year 1921 for serving his motherland till the end of his eventful life.
While in America the Swami came across the book The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ by the Russian traveller Nicolas Notovitch, which revealed the fact that Jesus Christ lived in India during the sixteen years of his unknown life, i.e., from 13 to 28 years of his age. Materials of the book was stated to have been collected by the writer from a manuscript on the life of Jesus Christ in the Himis Monastery in Ladak, where he happened to stay for some time for treatment by the Lamas. In order to check up the truth, Swami Abhedananda immediately on return to India started his journey to Tibet through Jojila Pass on the 14thJuly 1922, from Belur Math, when he was the Vice-President of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, Belur. He returned to Belur Math on December 11, 1922, after a highly successful journey. While in the Himis Monastery Swami Abhedananda discovered an ancient manuscript in Tibetan language which unravelled the unknown chapter in the help of a local Lama interpreter he had the same translated in parts, which have been included in Chapters 12 & 15 of this book.
Swami Abhedananda made it a rule to jot down in his diary the details of all that happened in course of his journey to Kashmir and Tibet. In this book, in Bengali, Swami Abhedanander Kashmir-O-Tibbat Bhraman he incorporated the said details along with matters, both cultural and historical, relating to the countries like China, Japan, Korea etc. while correcting and improving the manuscript for the book, of which this is the published English edition.
The account given by Swami Abhedananda about the unknown life of Jesus Christ in Chapters 12 & 15 corroborates the extracts from the book The Unknown life of Jesus Christ by N. Notovitch One of this book. Appendix Two gives the full text of the Himis manuscript on 'Life of the Saint Issa' by Nicola Notovitch as translated from the French by Violet Crispe (1895)
In 1922 Swami Abhedananda, the author of this book, undertook a long and strenuous journey across a highly difficult terrain from the plains of India to snow-capped Tibet. It is not necessary here to make any detailed observation on the nature of this journey. A perusal of the pages that follow will make it clear to the reader.
It was the policy and effort of the British Government to promote commerce between India on the one hand and Tibet and Sikkim on the other. The result was the discovery of a few routes leading to Tibet unknown till to most people.
When Lofd Dufferin was the Governor General of India (1884-1888) British merchants felt tempted to undertake an expedition through the unknown territory of Ladakh to initiate trade in wool with that country. They had already informed the British Government of their purpose in view and it came to be decided that a mission led by Lord Macaulay should be sent to Tibet. But the Chinese authorities ledged a vehement protest against this move. The British, too, had their doubts as to the wisdom in sending such a mission. None-the-less they felt it necessary to come to an understanding with Kashmir and Tibet. It was decided, however, to postpone sending the mission in view of the Chinese intransigence and other political reasons. But the veteran diplomat-cum-explorer, Prejevalsky, decided on undertaking a tour of Tibet with a view to promoting Russia's interest. This move engendered a feeling of suspicion in the mind of Lord Curzon who apprehended a Russian incursion into that country. As a result the British thenceforward concentrated their attention on Tibet. They felt that strong action was necessary and decided on a military solution to the problem at hand. Accordingly British troops were dispatched to Tibet under the command of Colonel Francis Young husband and Mr. Ramsay Macdonald. The King of Bhutan acted as an ally of the British in this expedition and guided them on their way to Tibet. The British Government was thus enabled to extend their rule over that country. In 1904 the British Government and the Government of Tibet entered into a peace treaty and trade pact. These developments contributed largely to the discovery of more than one route from India to Tibet.
One may approach Tibet either via Kalimpong or via Darjeeling. The first takes one from Kalimpong to Pedi in fifteen days across Pedong, Gangtok, Yatung Farijang (14200 ft.), Syamada, Rangilo, Giangsi or Jnanatse and Kalsa. One can also reach Yatung from Darjeeling by taking a different route along eighty-three miles which takes five days to cover on foot. To do this one treks from Darjeeling to Jeleppa pass from where a zig-zag road leads to Yatung on the border of the Chumbi Valley. From Yatung one has to go to Giangsi and from there to Lhasa covering a distance of two hundred seventy-four miles. From Yatung there is again a two - hundred-fifty mile trade route called Khongmar extending upto Lhasa. The entire distance from Kalimpong to Lhasa on the back of a mule can be covered in three weeks' time.
Besides these there trade routes, each two hundred fifty miles long, from Sikkim to Tibet. These routes are called 'Lantok-Nathula', 'Jeleppa-la', and 'Kangra-lama' or 'Lochen'. Mules are only means of conveyance along these routes. The trade link between India and Tibet is maintained only through these routes across Sikkim. Travellers fro India can use these routes to reach Ladakh and Tibet.
Swami Abhedananda went first to Kashmir and then to Tibet. His journey through Kashmir over, he started for Tibet along the bank of the Indus. The story of the Swami's travels is both interesting and full of historical references. The book is replete with detailed information regarding the spread of Buddhism in Tibet, China, Japan and Korea. It also gives us a vivid picture of the life, manners, customs and social as well as monastic habits of the lamas. Along with these details the book covers themes like games and sports and also medical treatment as prevalent at that time in Tibet. The work has been further enriched by the inclusion of the unknown life of Jesus Christ in India hitherto unpublished.
Jesus Christ, when thirty-three, was accused of heresy by the Jews in Jerusalam and capital punishment was meted out to him by the Roman ruler, Pontius Pilate. He was crucified along with two other culprits. Christians believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross. But according to some historical and archaeologists Jesus did not die as a result of crucifixion. Some of his devoted disciples rescued him from the cross in a state of unconsciousness and restored him to life through nursing and attendance. His wounds were healed through application of juice from some medicinal herbs. Accounts of these startling facts are to be found in the now-rarely available book, The Crucifixion by An Eye-witness, the manuscript of which was found in Alexandria. Many, however, hold that the facts narrated in the book are not historically correct. But there are western scholars who believe that Jesus survived his ordeal on the cross, came to India and was kept in hiding to prevent his arrest by those opposed to him. Weighty arguments are not lacking in support of this view.
In May 1893 an article was published in The Statesman, an English daily. This article says that there is a tomb and altar believed to have been set up by St Thomas in a suburban locality, a few miles away from Karachi. Some people there still take pride in introducing themselves as Christians whose forefathers had been converted by St Thomas himself. They further claim that Christ lies buried beneath the said tomb. Every Sunday they make floral offerings to the tomb, light lamps and burn incense before it in the evening and hold a special prayer service at the end of which they dance and clap their hands. While doing so they repeatedly say, "Victory to Jesus Christ". The fact that Jesus Christ had not really been done to death through crucifixion and that he came to India after his recovery from the injuries therefrom finds its most eloquent corroboration in the following words in the speech delivered by the great saint, Swami Ramatirtha, under the caption The Spiritual Power that Wins:
" Now, Christ regained this union with the spirit before his death. You know that Christ did not die when he was crucified. This is a fact which may be proved. He was in a state called samadhi, a state where all life-functions stop, where the pulse beats not, where the blood apparently leaves the veins, where all signs of life are no more, where the body is, as it were, crucified. Christ threw himself into that state for three days and like a Yogi came to life again' made his escape and came back to live in Kashmir. Rama (Swami Ramatirtha) had been there and found many signs of Christ having lived there. Up to that time there was no Christian sect in Kashmir. There were many places called by his name, where Christians never came. Cities were called by the same names as many of the cities of Jerusalam through which Christ passed. There is standing a grave of nearly 2000 years. It is held very sacred and called the 'Grave of Eash' (Isha), which is the name of Christ in Hindusthani language, and 'Eash' means 'prince'. So there are many reasons to prove that He (Jesus) came to India, the same India where he learned his teaching.
"Again the people of India have a kind of magic ointment which is called the 'Christ Ointment' (Malam-i-Isha), and the story which the people, who prepare this ointment, tell is that the ointment Christ used to heal his wounds after he came to life and that ointment really heals all sorts of wounds miraculously."
There is a second book called The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ by Nicolas Notovitch which also contains some startling facts about Christ's life. It was written out of the authoritative manuscripts preserved in the Himis monastery in Tibet. We have it from Notovitch that Jesus Christ left Jerusalem and came to Sindh in India on foot in the company of some professional traders while he was only fourteen years old. As Notovitch writes:
"When Issa had attained the age of thirteen, when an Israelite should take a wife, the house, in which his parents dwelt and earned their livelihood in modest labour, became a meeting place for the rich and the noble, who desired to gain for a son-in-law, the young Issa, already celebrated for his edifying discourses in the name of the Almighty.
"It was then that Issa clandestinely left his father's house, went out of Jerusalem, and, in company with some merchants, travelled toward Sindh.
"In the course of his fourteenth year, young Issa, blessed by God, journeyed beyond the Singh and settled among the Aryas in the beloved country of God."
The reasons and proofs advanced by Notovitch in support of his contention are to be found in the appendix at the end of this book. Swami Abhedananda, like the Russian traveler Notovitch, discovered an ancient manuscript in Tibetan language in the Himis monastery. This manuscript unravels an unknown chapter in the life-story of Jesus. The Swami, with the help of a local lama interpreter, had it translated in part which has been inserted in Chapters 12 and 15 of this book. He also discovered a tomb' dedicated to the memory of Jesus Christ at a place called Khana-yari in Kashmir. This fact together with a photo of the tomb has been incorporated in the book.
Swami Abhedananda's book Journey into Kashmir and Tibet, though primarily an account of his travels, offers many historical facts of inestimable value to seekers of truth. The Swami came to Belur Math (the world famous Ramakrishna Mission Monastery) on his return from America towards the end of 1921. On 14thJuly, 1922 he went first to Benares with a view to proceeding on a tour of Kashmir and Tibet. While at Benares he put up at Sri Ramakrishna Sevashram where the revered Hari Maharaj (Swami Turiananda) was then confined to bed with a carbuncle. The two were meeting after a gap of twenty-five years. It was a sad meeting no doubt, actually their last meeting, for Hari Maharaj did not long survive the surgical operation on his carbuncle made soon afterwards. With a heavy heart the Swami took leave of Hari Maharaj and left Benares on his way to Lahore.
Swami Abhedananda made it a rule to jot down in his diary the details of all that happened in course of his journey in Kashmir and Tibet. On completion of his travels he returned to Belur Math on n11th December, 1922. Brahmachari Bhairab Chaitanya accompanied him as his constant attendant. The Swami asked him to prepare the draft of a manuscript giving the story of his travels in Kashmir and Tibet. The Brahmachari wrote a long account of the travels on the basis of the diary written by the Swami. While doing this he also consulted, whenever necessary, Rajatarangini, Tourists' Guide to Kashmir and some other books on Kashmir and Tibet. Due to various preoccupations Swami Abhedananda did not get any opportunity to go through the manuscript as prepared by the Brahmachari. Afterwards he chose Calcutta as the centre of his activities. He first set up his Ramakrishna Vedanta Samity at Mechuabazar, Calcutta. Subsequently it was shifted to 11, Eden Hospital Road. In May, 1927 (Baisakh, 1334 B.S.) Visvavani, a monthly, acting as the mouth - piece of Ramakrishna Vedanta Samity came out for the first time. The account of the Swami's travels in Kashmir and Tibet as written by the Brahmachari started getting serially published in this journal. Later when Swami Abhedananda was requested to bring out the account in the form of a book he set about making changes and corrections in the travelogue as serialised in Visvavani. While doing this he consulted his diary and various other writings on travels in Kashmir and Tibet. The matters incorporated in the book, both cultural and historical, relating to countries like China, Japan, Korea etc were additions made by the Swami himself. The improved and enlarged manuscript thus prepared by the Swami came out in book-form in its first edition with the title Paribrajak Swami Abhedananda in the month of Bhadra, 1336 B.S. The title of the book was later changed to Kashmir-O-Tibbate (Bengali). Nearly about twenty-four years after this the second edition of the book came out in a more modified and enlarged form. Although the first edition could be published. We are now bringing out the fifth edition of the book, thanks to the interest shown by scholars and admirers and their goodwill. A new appendix has been added with extracts from The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ by Nicolas Notovitch, the Russian traveller. These extracts corroborate the account given by Swami Abhedananda.
We are now indeed very happy to bring out a new English edition of the Bengali book under the caption journey into Kashmir and Tibet with the intention to extend the scope of its study by the English-speaking people all over the world. Let us hope readers will find the book to be of interest and value.
A few words about the translators. Shri Ansupati Dasgupta is at present Head of the Department of English, Surendranath College (formerly Ripon College). Shri Kunjabihari Kundu teaches at the same institution and belongs to its Department of Economics. Their work has been a labour of love undertaken at my request. I am more than happy to be able to put on record here my deep appreciation of the sincere task done by them amidst heavy preoccupations.
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