Aland (Matters India)): Christian missionaries had converted many Japanese people telling them that the Buddha was originally a Christian, alleges an expert on Buddhist art and architecture.
Monika Zin, a research fellow, says the missionaries had used the translated version of the Panchatantra (five principles), an Indian collection of animal fables in their conversion works.
Delivering a lecture at the Central University of Karnataka at Kadaganchi in Aland taluk in Kalaburagi district, the Japanese scholar traced the root of a beautiful, early third century Buddhist relief found during excavations in the Amaravathi sites to the Jataka Tales in the Panchatantra.
Zin is an associate professor of Indian Art History in the Department of Asian Studies, Institute of Indology and Tibetology at Ludwigs-Maximilian Unversitat Munchen in Munich in Germany. She said that the relief found at the Nagarjunakonda Museum in Telangana has striking similarities in the figures shown in the Panchatantra translated into Pahlavi language and later into Arabic and other languages.
She said that the beautiful relief, which is still intact, shows an unidentified king, initially looking angry, being prevented by a couple of women from attacking a sage and later, paying obeisance to the sage. It has an interesting scene of a man hanging over a well holding onto two branches of a tree over which are a tumbling elephant and a white and black mice. In the well below, there are four figures of serpents creeping up and another with its fangs open.
She said that the picture of a man hanging from two branches of a tree over a well is found in all translations of the Panchatantra in other languages, The Hindu reported.
The Panchatantra tales were first translated for the Persian royals in Pahlavi language in the sixth century and later, into Arabic in the eighth century. In both these translations, the sequence of this relief is brought out in a pictorial form with all the details. It was the translation of the Panchatantra first to Pahlavi language and later to Arabic language that led to the translation of the tales into other languages.
However, the translation of the Jataka Tales by John of Gapna in the 13th century to Latin language was significant as it also carried the details of the relief in pictorial form.
The Greek translation in the 10th century of the Panchatantra titled “Barlaam and Josephat” was used by the missionaries working in Japan to claim that the Josephat in the tale was the original Buddha and that he was a Christian, leading to conversion of a large number Japanese to Christianity.