Adventures on an Indian Visa (week 22): Ladakh

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Day 148

I woke up with the extremely excited feeling of wanting to explore the places, in my immediate vicinity, that I had been reading about; now only a ten rupee ride away across the pleasant green waters of the Dal lake. Me & VP resolv’d upon a plan to circumnavigate the impressively beautiful Dal lake, which forms the liquid heart of the city, beginning with the pyramid-like peak of the sensational & evocative Zabarwan Mountain that towers over the lake. Upon it stands the ‘Temple of Solomon’ – & we went up, & it was pretty enough, tho’ a bit busy with tourists, & yielding some spectacular views of Srinigar & the mountains to the east. This ancient site is venerated by three faiths: to the Saivites it is Shankaracharya, to the Muslims it is the Throne of Solomon, and to the Buddhists it is known as the Jyesteshwara temple.

So… an approximate date for the arrival of Jesus in Kashmir may be identified in a passage by the 15th century Persian scholar, Mulla Nadiri. The text describes inscriptions etched into the stonework of the Throne of Solomon. The inscription, recorded by Nadiri, provides a date – the year ‘fifty and four’ – which Professor Hassnain correlates to the Christian era’s 78 AD;

‘During this time Hazrat Yuz Asaf having come from the Holy Land to this holy valley proclaimed his prophethood. He devoted himself, day and night, in prayers to God, and having attained the heights of piety and virtue, he declared himself to be a Messenger of God for the people of Kashmir… It was because of this Prophet’s orders that Sulaiman, whom Hindus called Sandeman, completed the repairs of the dome. Year Fifty and four.’

Further, on one of the stones of the flankwalls encasing the stairs, Sandeman inscribed, ‘in these times Yuz Asaf proclaimed his prophethood,’ and on the other stone of the stairs he also inscribed that ‘Yuz Asaf was Yusu, Prophet of Children of Israel.’ Leaving the shrine, we then proceeded to the NE corner of the Dal Lake, where a curious passage in a 12th century Kasmiri history called the Rajatarangini seems a garbled account of the Crucifixion;

Samhdimati’s guru, Isana, came to perform funeral rites, found Sam’s skeleton still attached to the stake, and noticed an inscription on the skull which predicted: “He will have a life of poverty, ten years’ imprisonment, death on the stake, and still thereafter a throne.” Isana wondered about this, but later, in the middle of the night, smelled incense, heard bells ringing and drums beating, and saw witches outside on the burial ground. Isana pulled out his sword and went outside, and saw the witches rebuilding the body with their own limbs and flesh, then calling Samhdmati’s spirit back to the body. Thereafter, they covered him with ointments and “enjoyed themselves with him…to their full desire

Next up, & just a couple of miles away, a kind local led us through pleasant forestry to the ruins of a Buddhist Temple, built by the Kushan Emporer, Kanishka, in the first century AD. During my conversations with Professor Hassnain, he had suggested it had been the site of the great 4th Buddhist Council c.78AD & that Jesus had probably been there as an old man. It was at this council that a new branch of Buddhism was accepted called Mahayana, or ‘the Great Vehicle.’ My studies have been leading me to a certain Asvaghosha, the founder of Mahayana Buddhism, who I’m starting to believe was also Jesus, the Indian Jesus, that is. Here’s how the names all interconnect.

Hazrat    Yuz           As   af

                Jes            us             

                                 As    v  aghosha

Both Christianity & Mahayana Buddhism had sprung up at roundabout the same time, & how these new religions were wrapped around a saviour-figure who preached love & compassion – in Mahayana Buddhism his name is Avoleketisvara. With Jesus being buried in the same place as where Mahayana Buddhism was launched, the connection has become too tangible to ignore, & I feel a deeper investigation of ‘the great vehicle’ is in.

Luckily, the chief centre of this faith is in Ladakh, only a 16-hour taxi ride away through the mountains, skimming along the LOC (Line Of Control), the de facto border line between Pakistan & India that is often used as target-practice for the mortar shells of Pakistani militants. Anyway, we’ll be setting off there in a couple of morning’s time

The day was heading to a close, which included a trip to the state museum, after which I saw the most horrific of sights. Round these parts, everyone’s getting ready for Eid, at the end of Ramadan, & loads of chickens are being slaughter’d in the streets. They are all in cages, then they get taken out one by one, a little water forc’d down their beaks, & then their throats cut there & then – it is not a nice sight, believe you me!


Up in Srinigar the nights are cold and the days are warm. That’s how the Autumn goes in Kashmir. So, this morning, the sun was shining on our palatial houseboat and it was time to get back on the hunt for Jesus. We began by heading out for an arduous climb up a nearby mountain on top of which sat a Hindu temple where there were some inscriptions of great significance to Damo’s work.  According to him, Jesus had also been spotted nearby in a Buddhist monastery around the beginning of the first century AD at the fourth Buddhist council. Where he had invented Mahayana Buddhism or something. The ruined monastery lay nestled in the bosom of Kashmir’s green hills and, though there was little left, what there was seemed to satisfy Damo’s curiosity.

We were then off to another dusty Indian Museum. The 50 rupee entrance fee barely justified the poultry two rooms of exhibits. Some fairly ordinary ancient Hindu carvings and the Norman Bates taxidermy room did little to lift my spirits. But I’m happy to say Damo’s heated debate with the sceptical curator of the museum did.

Once Damo had inevitably won the argument, he soon had something else to show me, namely the gruesome sight of chickens getting their throats cut while there sisters stared blankly on. The stench of the guts and feathers that lay strewn in a hideous pile was almost too much to bare and the thousand yard stare of the slaughterers was deeply unnerving. But was it enough to turn me Vegie?

Day 149

That Jesus/Yuz Asaf dotaged thro’ a long twilight in Kashmir is suggested by Muslim tradition, in which a seventh century cleric, Ibn Umar, reports in the Hadith that Jesus lived for a hundred and twenty years. This lifespan lies just within the limits of modern human longevity (122 is the known record), and we may acknowledge Jesus was a healthy man, living in an era far from the cancer-causing fatty toxicity of the chemicals which permeate our modern foodstuffs. As the Gospels portray, Jesus was a consummate master of medicine, whose knowledge of long-lost herbal remedies would have added to his personal life-span. Interestingly, this same figure of 120 years appears in the same Siddha tradition of South India, of which Agastya who founded who believe that if we generally take fifteen breaths a minute (21,600 a day), we could live for a period of at least 120 years.

For my last day in Sringar I was ready to visit the actual tomb of Jesus, & we hopp’d in a rickshaw for the short ride to Rozabal, & the fairly innocuous, but colourful square shrine of Yuz Asaf. Here are some historical notifications attesting to the matter;

The angel, therefore, guided {Yuz Asaf} to leave the country… and then leaving Sholabeth (Sri Lanka) he proceeded on his journey… after roaming about in many cities, reached that country which is called Kashmir.
The Persian History, the Ikmal-ud-Din by Shaikh Al-Said-us Sadiq

{Yuz Asaf} travelled in Kashmir far and wide and stayed there and spent his remaining life there, until death overtook him, and he left the earthly body and was elevated towards the Light.
The Persian History, the Ikmal-ud-Din by Shaikh Al-Said-us Sadiq

At the approach of death, he sent for his disciple, Babad. He was used to serving him and protecting him during his old age. He was perfect in all matters. Yuzu-asaph made a will, saying: As such, you should safegaurd your duties and never deviate from the righteousness, and absorb yourself in prayers. He then gave directions about preperation of sepulchre for him, at the very place where he breathed his last. He then stretched his legs towards the west, and kept his head towards the east. He then turned his face towrds the east, and breathed his last
The Persian History, the Ikmal-ud-Din by Shaikh Al-Said-us Sadiq

In a work by a Hindu it is said that this Prophet was in reality Hazrat Issa, the Soul of God – on whom be peace and salutations. He had assumed the name of Yuzu Asaph during his life in the valley. the real knowledge is with allah. After his demise, Hazrat Issa, on whom be peace & salutations, was laid to rest in the tomb in the locality of Anzimar. It is also said that the rays of prophethood used to emanate from the tomb of this prophet.
Mulla Nadiri (in 1420)

Sepulchre of the prophet, so illiuminating! Whosoever bows before it, received inner light, solace and contentment. Legends say that here was a prince, most accomplished, pious and great, who recived the Kingdom of God. He was so faithful to the lord that he was raised to the status of prophet. Through his grace he became the guide to the people of the valley. Here lies the sepulchre of that prophet who is known as Yuz Asap
Mir saas ullah shahabadi (1790)

The tomb contains the body of a prophet, who was sent by God to the people of Kashmir, and the place is known as the shrine of the prophet. I have seen in books on history that he was a prince who came to Kashmir from a distant land
Khwaja Mohammad Azam Diddimari (18th century)

On arriving at the shrine I found it painted green & white – the colours of Islam. Indeed, Srinagar is 96 percent Muslim, who after appropriating the shrine for themselves, have declared taking photographs of the shrine strictly forbidden, a matter which seriously irked the locals after I innocuously shot the shrine.

We were just departing from the shrine, when passing an open window I saw the very tomb of Yuz Asaf inside the shrine, covered with a velvet blanket. It seemed such a harmless act taking a swift snap, driven by my need to leave no research stone unturn’d, if you will.

However, only a second or two after taking the shot, I was accosted in the street by an angry, begrizzled man in his forties, demanding my camera with loud shouts & manhandling me to the ground. Victor quickly rushed to my rescue, putting his forearm against the guys neck & pushing him off me. At this moment saving the camera was more important, & I gave it to Steve with a swift, sly back-hand.

A small crowd was now beginning to form, & things were getting tense, but a potential tragedy was averted by the arrival of a young, clean, white-shirted gentleman, who diffus’d the situation at once

“It is an international dispute,” I was told by a tall, unpleasant looking fellow. Turns out some Australian tourists had taken a little masonry from the shrine a few years ago, compelling the Muslims who now control the shrine to clamp down hard on access rights. Anyway, I was proper freak’d out now & grabb’d Steve & scuttl’d off some side-alley & into the nearest rick-shaw. Speeding away, I looked down at my shirt & realised that in the kerscuffle the bounder had ripped the second top button off my new shirt!

“Driver, we must go back…”

“No,no,” piped in Victor, “Keep driving!”

“But I must give the scoundrel my tailor bill!” I retorted with the passionate elan of the hard done by.

“Nonsense, my friend… you know those two men we were observing cutting the throats of chickens near the shrine.”


“Well, I observed them running down the street towards us… they were still holding their knives.”

That’s not quite how it happen’d, but potential mob assaults were rampaging round my head by this point. The incident reminded me just how many millions have died for their faith over the millennia, & I knew that following my skirmish, I would have to curtail my inbuilt northern swagger when handling such a sensitive subject as human religion. The photo, by the way, was fucking blurr’d, anyway.


Today’s Jesus mission was the most controversial mission so far. There is a fairly innocuous but colourful yellow and green building in a dodgy ghetto of Shrinigar where is housed the alleged tomb of Jesus. But don’t tell anyone. The Muslims get very angry about it. As was proved when Damo tried to take a few snapshots. We were swiftly accosted by a local militant who tried to grapple the camera phone from Damo’s sweaty grip. For some reason I saw fit to intervene. And, while not succeeding in kicking the Muslims head in I did manage to rescue the camera phone. Thankfully a helpful local intervened and prevented the situation from escalating, allowing me and Damo and the camera phone to make a hasty retreat.

Day 150

I’ll always be beautiful in Ladakh – apparently Damo means ‘beautiful’ in Ladakhi…. bangin! The best way to describe the region is a 40,000 foot high beach surrounded by mountains. An arid desert of a place, it’s amazing how humanity survives up here; the roads in & out are closed 8 months of the year – but luckily Victor & I got in just in time.

Our journey here set off from Srinigar before dawn, leaving behind the perfect serenity of the water village. There was an anxious wait for me in the twilight, still obsessing about a potential lynching after my cultural faux pas with the shrine photo. VP was well relax’d, smoking a ciggy, telling me to chill out. It didn’t work, like, & I was well reliev’d to see the taxi jeep come, driven by a wee, wiry Tibetan looking geezer, who inform’d us the journey would take less than 12 hours on near empty roads, reflecting the low population of Ladakh.

We soon were driving into the rising sun, which turn’d the mountains gold on both side of the narrow valley we were passing through. At first I felt elated, but these feelings soon turned to absolute terror as I experienced what was up that moment the worst hour of my entire life thus far.

Our jeep was rising up a road – or half-a road should I say – zig-zagging a mountain often a meter or so from the precipice. In the great tradition of Buddhism, I felt several lives flash by as down below in the ever growing valley-ravine I would see the occasional vehicle, & at one point an upturn’d bus.  Our driver was even overtaking on bends, & at one point my nerve broke. The mentalist had parked up at the edge as he let a convoy of trucks pass us & I just had to get out & walk up the road to a safer spot. Even the normally stoical, unphaseable Victor felt his toes curling.

Still, I survived the experience, & from that moment on the journey was a wonderful passage through a landscape of such majesty, it was as if the gods themselves had painted them. The mountains were jagged like porcupine, or gnarled like tree-stumps, or rising into white-haired grey beards, beautiful Himalayan druids that ruled over all.

Shorn of trees, Ladakh offers a lunar landscape to the erstwhile traveller who dares reach this northernmost part of India. Also on display are the aquamarine waters of the great River Indus, here its infancy before it flows into Pakistan & down to the Arabian Sea. The proximity of Pakistan was made evident in the Kargil sector – named after a charming little town we passed through in a heartbeat – for here & there were scattered memorials & cemeteries of the Indian Army, who fought in the infamous three-month Kargil War of 1998.

And so, to Leh, the capital of Ladakh, where we have taken a great room for a few days. We have also bought flights to Delhi. My first plan was to travel by road towards Dharamshala, the refuge of the Dalai Lama, but after my recent harrowing experience on mountain roads, I’m like ‘I aint doing that again, fuck off!’

So, when I say capital, Leh is really just the size of a small town in Britain, something like an Indian Barnoldswick. Its situation is one of immense charm, surrounded on all sides by a grey, arid desert which bleeds into a great chain of mountains ringing the wide valley. There is a decidedly end-of-season atmosphere – many hotels & restaurants are clos’d, & only the hardiest of trekkers are in town in order to tour the region. There were a couple, tho’, including a sound Canadian lass named Maia (Berangere Maia Parizeau), & another Candian call’d Tony. We got on well & set off on an evening mission by taxi to some nearby famous temple. We had a great time before dining come evening on some delicious quasi-Tibetan food.

So Ladakh is wicked & it has been decided that tomorrow, VP’s going go trekking into its hinterland for a couple of days & leave me to my studies in peace.  I’d lov’d to have gone with him, but the Central Institute of Indian Studies is just on the edges of Leh, & that’s where I’ll be for a few days, burrowing thro’ the books.


After yesterday’s shenanigans, Damo was shaken by the experience, but I wasn’t not unduly concerned about a possible Fatwa. Anyway, at 6am we were off to Ladakh and, more specifically, the town of Leh deep in the foothills of the Himalayas. The taxi drive was the most spectacular and, at times, toe curlingly and butt clenchingly terrifying, I have ever been on. Beginning with dense, richly forested alpine valleys rising into a baron, unforgiving, harsh alien landscape of dusty yellows, blood reds, dirty silvers and shimmering golds. Broken up in great ominous bolders or folded over in velveteen desert lumps. In the shadowy distance the black and white of the distant snow capped mountains rose like great sharks teeth. And still the signs of humanity remained. Surely the most adaptable of all God’s creatures.

Leh itself is a welcome Oasis of calm in the chaos of India. Only the Indian touts hassle you and so far I have yet to spot a single beggar. The ostracised Tibetans and native Ladakians seem to exude an aura of Zen like calm and their food is delicious. Here’s the bit I think Mandy will appreciate.

So far I have tried a Tibetan pasta dish called Thawkum (or something). Kind of a pasta soup with chicken that a splash of sawyer sauce brings delightfully to life. Then there was Yak cheese. Kind of a dry cheddar with a nutty, gamy (if cheese can be such) taste. Although it doesn’t melt well and I wouldn’t recommend it with toast. And finally a mint Lassi that tasted like fresh mint not the choc chip variety we get at home.

So, all in all things are looking up. Damo’s found a Buddhist library to study in and I’ve found a laundry and lots of good places to eat. I’m also going to squeeze in a bit of trekking tomorrow in the Sham Valley that will include a stay in a local village and no doubt lots of poetic panoramas to write paragraphs about. It’s all very organised and safe and above board and it will be nice to give Damo a bit of breathing space for his studies for a couple of days.

We’ve also been mixing with the local traveller dudes, you’re never alone with a Damo in tow. They are both Canadians – Maia and Tony – although they don’t know each other. There’s Mia, a Canadian film maker who’s mother was the sole survivor in a plane crash over Haiti. She fell from the plane while it was at full altitude and was rescued by a tree (!). There is also Tommy, who seemed a little intense at first but after stuffing his face with paneer and a little of me and Damo’s collective (if slightly eerie) charm he soon warmed up, and the gay jokes and chai were flowing.

We finished the day with another spectacular taxi drive (this time with a driver who actually seemed to value his and his passenger’s lives), with Mia and Tony in tow, to an ancient monastery. Mantras cluttering the trees like laundry, the effigies on the walls, though cracked and grimy, retaining their auspicious detail and bright reds, blues and yellows and great technicolour giants of the various Buddhist deities towered over us. Mia snapped it all eagerly with her fancy camera while Tony ambled coolly around and Damo threw leaves at cows. There was also a shed packed to the rafters with dried cow shit. Say no more.

Day 151

This morning VP set off early doors on his trek & I had the room, & the actual state, all to myself. A remote and scarcely populated land, there is a wonderful austerity to the place, although modernity is slowly seeping into its ancient fibres. Its capital seemed a suitable place to stay during my hunt for Jesus, where several fellow travellers had placed Jesus in these obscure & far-flung reaches of the Himalayas. One would imagine that the following tiny slices of Jesus’ life has never been preached in a Christian church – but does that really make it any less valid a biographical anecdote?

{The legend of Jesus} spread widely through Ladakh, Sinkian and Mongolia… the Hindu postmaster of Leh, and several Ladakhi Buddhists told us that in Leh not far from the Bazar, there still exists a pond near which stood an old tree. Under this tree, Christ preached to the people, before his departure to Palestine

In Leh is the legend of Christ who is called Issa… where he was joyously received and where he preached
Lady Henrietta Merrick

They keep sculptured representations of departed saints, prophets and lamas in their temples for contemplation. Some of these figures are said to represent a certain prophet who is living in the heavens, which would appear to point to Jesus Christ.
Meer Izzut-oolah

Semi-autonomous Ladakh is more affectionately known as ‘Little Tibet,’ a moniker reflected in the faces and food which permeate the region. After the Chinese invasion of Tibet in the 50′s, thousands of refugees streamed over the border into India, including the Dalai Lama himself, who currently resides in exile at Dharam Sala, a few hundred K to the south of Ladakh. The Indian government have warmly received the Tibetans, housing some of them 5 miles from Leh in the townlet of Choglamsar. It is there one can find the Central Institute for Buddhist Studies (CIBS), whose library I wish’d to avail myself of.

The journey to CIBS is made by sharing one of the many jeeps that work the route, costing a meagre 20 rupees one-way. The Institute is a pristine & modern affair, with clean, well-built buildings gleaming under the bright sun, with a backdrop of mountains that must be so conducive to academic endeavour. The spacious grounds are dotted with young claret-cloaked monks reading books, schoolgirls chatting about life & studies, while pupils of both sexes carved statues of the Buddha, all wrapped in a peaceful serenity.

On arrival, I was warmly received & given use of an excellent library, whose speciality books on Ladakh & Mahayana Buddhism I could have only really discovered in this very library. This was erudition at its most natural, & as I read, a professor noticed my studies & after a brief conversation, placed a great pile of his own books at my desk. A charming man & an excellent scholar, his books were to prove a valuable asset to my work.

I also was introduced to a professor of Comparative theology, & the institute’s best speaker of English. I spent 20 minutes with him at 11.40 this morning, in the gap between lessons, reading through the copy of Philostratus I have on my laptop. Philostratus was a Roman writer describing what would have been to him the strange dooings of Indian sages, one of whom was call’d Iarchus, whose name definitely sounds like Jesus. To a modern-day Indian scholar, these doings & names are all familiar, & have names & such-like. Thus, it was with the help of his ever-beaming smile that I am able to elucidate Philostratus with a truer & wiser angle.


I also had a major breakthro’, today, which basically goes like this. Notovich’s Jesus was call’d Issa, of whom he writes;

He spent six years in Djagguernat, in Radjagriha, in Benares, and in other holy cities. The common people loved Issa, for he lived in peace with the Vaisyas and the Sudras, to whom he taught the Holy Scriptures.
They taught him to read and to understand the Vedas, to cure physical ills by means of prayers, to teach and to expound the sacred Scriptures, to drive out evil desires from man and make him again in the likeness of God.
The Brahmins and the Kshatriyas told him that they were forbidden by the great Para-Brahma to come near to those who were created from his belly and his feet;
That the Vaisyas might only hear the recital of the Vedas, and this only on the festal days, and That the Sudras were not only forbidden to attend the reading of the Vedas, but even to look on them; for they were condemned to perpetual servitude, as slaves of the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas and even the Vaisyas.
“Death alone can enfranchise them from their servitude,” has said Para-Brahma. “Leave them, therefore, and come to adore with us the gods, whom you will make angry if you disobey them.”
But Issa, disregarding their words, remained with the Sudras, preaching against the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas.
He declaimed strongly against man’s arrogating to himself the authority to deprive his fellow-beings of their human and spiritual rights.
“Verily,” he said, “God has made no difference between his children, who are all alike dear to Him.”

The Jesus described in Notovich’s ‘Life of Issa’ is an independent thinker, branching out into his own dogmas and preaching universal acceptance to all who wished to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Just as the Sanhedrim reacted badly to Jesus in Judea, Issa’s radical new message was met with indignance by those who held the religious status quo in India, and his death was similarly ordered by the Brahmin priesthood. The main point of offence was Issa’s rejection of the caste system, and his pronouncement that, ‘God has made no difference between his children, who are all alike dear to Him,’ a notion which neatly reflects the Gospels’, ‘Jesus pronounced many ‘woes’ to the scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites… For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.’ (Matthew 23:13)

A highly similar, anti-establishment, god-loves-us-all message to that preached by Issa is found in a Sanskrit text I studied today called the Vajra Suchi.

All that I have said about Brahmans you must know is equally applicable to Kshatriyas; and that the doctrine of the four castes is altogether false. All men are of one caste… whoever in this life ever does well, and is ever ready to benefit others, spending his days and nights in good acts, such an one is a Brahman; and whoever, relinquishing worldly ways, employs himself solely in the acquisition of Moksha, such an one also is a Brahman; and whoever refrains from destruction of life, and from worldly affections, and evil acts, and is free from passion and backbiting, such an one also is a Brahman… and whoso has read all the Vedas, and performed all the Tirthas, and observed all the commands and prohibitions of the Sastra, such an one is a Brahman! and whoso has never injured a sentient thing by act, word or thought, such a person shall instantly be absorbed (at his death) in BRAHMA.

Of the discovery of the text, the 19th century British scholar, BH Hodgson, was a polymathic civil servant of the British Empire who enjoyed studying the anthropological natures of Indian religions. In his introduction  to the Vajra Sucha, he writes;

A few days since my learned old Bauddha friend brought me a little tract in Sanscrit, with such an evident air few of pride and pleasure, that I immediately asked him what it contained. “Oh, my friend!” was his reply, “I have long been trying to procure for you this work, in the assurance that you must highly approve the wit and wisdom contained in it; and, after many applications to the owner, I have at length obtained the loan of it for three or four days.

It consists of a shrewd and argumentative attack, by a Bauddha, upon the Brahmanical doctrine of caste: and what adds to its pungency is, that throughout, the truth of the Brahmanical writings is assumed, and that the author’s proofs of the erroneousness of the doctrine of caste are all drawn from those writings. He possesses himself of the enemy’s battery, and turns their own guns against them.

We all know that the Brahmans scorn to consider the Sudras as of the same nature with themselves, in this respect resembling the bigoted Christians of the dark ages, who deemed in like manner of the Jews. The manner in which our author treats this part of his subject is, in my judgment, admirable, and altogether worthy of a European mind.

The Bauddha Treatise commences in the sober manner of a title page to a book; but immediately after the author has announced himself with due pomp, he rushes “in medias res,” and to the end of his work maintains the animated style of vivâ voce disputation. Who ASHU GHOSHA, the author, was, when he flourished and where, I cannot ascertain. All that is known of him at Nepal is, that he was a Maha pandit, or great sage, and wrote, besides the little Treatise now translated, two larger Bauddha works of high repute

Its attribution to the pen of a certain Ashu Ghosha raises the distinct possibility that its author was in fact Notovich’s Issa, whose name is actually pronounced ‘Isha,’ from the Sanskrit of īśa.




Ashu Ghosha


In the above extract from the introduction to his translation, we may discern how Ashu Ghosa’s, ‘shrewd and argumentative attack… upon the Brahmanical doctrine of caste,‘ has a direct match in the anti-brahmanical, ‘discourse to the Sudras,’ as given by Issa in Notovich’s ‘Life’. Support for the correlation comes from Issa’s declaration of there being ‘no difference‘ between god’s children, which matches Ashu Ghosha’s statetment that, ‘all men are of one caste.’ It makes sense that Ashu Ghosha was the same man as Issa/Jesus, for in the Gospels Jesus is seen breaking Jewish taboos by dining with prostitutes and touching ‘lepers,’ who like the bottom-caste sudras of India were considered to be ‘untouchables.’

Analyzing the etymology of Ashughosha’s name, the ‘ghosha’ epithet means ‘speech,’ with the author of the Vajra Sucha possessing a fully-translated name of ‘Speech of Ashu/Ashva.’ The name ‘Asva’ element derives from ‘Ashavan,’ which means ‘the possessor’ of the Zoroastrian ‘Asha.’ This knowledge lifts the veil from an obscure passage in the Book of Revelations, the last book of the New Testament. In it we learn that Jesus possessed a name rather like ‘the speech of Ashu.’

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.

Ashu Ghosha  is more commonly known as the Zoroastrianesque Asvaghosha. Little is known about the man. His life story contains only a smattering of biographical material that has been left to posterity through scattered Tibetan and Chinese traditions. In these, & every other account of Asvaghosha, his birthplace and parentage differ widely, flung across India from top to tail; a confusing collection which leads one to think that his true origins were actually unknown. The problem has been analyzed in great detail by Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki (1870–1966), the great Japanese scholar of all things Buddhist, who states;

Among the Chinese traditions the Record of the Triratna (Li tai san pao chi) as well as the Accounts of Buddha and the Patriarchs (Fo tsu tung chi) agree with Târanâtha in placing Açvaghosha’s native land in the East {of India}; but the Life of Vasubandhu makes Açvaghosha a native of Bhâshita, while in Nâgârjuna’s work, the Mahâyânaçâstravyâkhyâ (Shih mo ho yen lun), he is mentioned as having been born in Western India… The Record of Buddha and the Patriarchs Under Successive Dynasties (Fo tsu li tai t‘ung tsai) agrees with neither of the above statements, for it says (fasciculus 5): “The twelfth patriarch, Açvaghosha Mahâsattva was a native of Vârânasî… A further contradicting tradition is pointed out by Prof. S. Murakami in one of his articles on the history of Buddhism, quoting the Shittanzô (fas. 1), which makes Açvaghosha a man of South India… A few more details about Asvaghosha can be obtained from oriental sources, but only serve to confuse the real man.

Varanasi is also known as Benares, & I’ve already shown how Issa spent time in that sacred city. This offers no clear proof, of course, but all the general confusion about Asvaghosha’s origins imply he could well have born outwith India, offering convoluted support for him being the Judea-born Jesus.


My trek began with a two hour taxi drive, in which (whether to wind me up or not is unclear) my guide, Rigzin, was constantly pointing out the dullest looking valleys in view and declaring this would be where we were trekking. And they always seemed to be twenty minutes away. Happily when we did arrive at the destination it was fairly spectacular. A great sandy gash in the rocks that was instantly reminiscent of a thousand Sergio Leon films. I hummed the theme from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” as we sauntered ever deeper into the craggy ravine. All we were missing was the token luggage bearing donkey.

After a pleasant downhill amble the path soon reminded us that with every down must come an up and, after a brief stop at a delightful stream where Rigzin washed his face and I was told off for attempting to drink the water, came the brutal scramble to our first pass. Ladakh, incidentally, means “Land of Passes”. I reached the top in a single attempt, however (all those trips up Arthur’s seat apparently paying off) and was greeted by a spectacular panorama of jagged, viscous browns and yellows, peppered with the occasional light green of a poplar tree or those strange purple, flint like rocks. All framed by the ever present shark tooth peaks rising in the distance.

It was only a brief stroll down the welcome tarmac of a “Proper” road and we would arrive at our first village and the close of the first days trekking. The gentle pace of this final stretch gave me the ideal opportunity to get to know Rigzin a bit better. It turned out we had quite a bit in common. Not only was he into films but he was also a musician and producer who had his own band. He was also currently at a crossroads in his life, as he had been offered production work in Belgian and was afraid of leaving his simple country life in search of the fame and fortune and bright lights of….Brussels. I told him it was nothing to worry about but he was convinced it would be the ruin of him. Oh Brussels, you dark, malignant whore of a city. How often I have feared your vipers grip. But no, he was convinced a trip to Brussels would be an instant entry into the Devils Bargain. And, what did I know? I had myself many years ago given up the wholesome, loving arms of Kendal in pursuit of the seductive din and empty promises of that neon siren, Barnsley. But I digress. He is a lovely man and I wish him every luck whatever disission he makes.

When we arrived at the village it was barely mid day and the choice was soon made to, once we’d munched our tuna sandwiches, keep buggering on (as my Gran would say) and do the second days trek that day. After all there was little to entertain in this village, where as Rigzin assured me the next village had a lot more going for it, not least the fact that it was the birth place of his Mother and home to a good part of his family. So on we pressed. Rigzin stating telling me what we were doing was known as double trekking and only 5 in one hundred trekkers were capable of it. Again I was dubious of the truth of this allegation but none the less took it in good spirit  and upwards again we climbed.

A punishing hour later we arrived at the highest pass of the trek. Four thousand five hundred metres above sea level. To put it in perspective that’s about one and a third Ben Nevis’s. The view was understandably spectacular but I was nearly dying so it was hard to appreciate. Rigzin persuaded me however, to take one final scramble up the final rocky peak and lay a stone on the piles that had been placed there by my fellow conquerors.

When we arrived at the village it was still far from nightfall and I had plenty of time for a cup of tea made by Rigzin’s smiling cousin and a read on my comfy double bed that adjoined the white square big windowed construction of the guest house. All rickety fences, walls of strange pots and pans and cooking implements, red patterned mats to sit cross legged on, roof packed with hay for the winter, strange smells and baskets of cow shit picked like fruit as fuel for the fire.

Around seven I was invited to join the family to help them make the pasta shapes known as donkey ears for the evening meal. We were joined by the mother, dressed in the traditional red and black thick dress of the region, the grandmother with her peculiar tall winged woolly hat and ever spinning hand prey wheel, and Rigzin’s uncle with his constant offering of butter tea. Kind of a savoury tea where salt replaces sugar to flavour. All in all the food was a somewhat stodgy but well filling affair that I’m sure works well with the harsh physicality and climate of the region. The evening was spent watching TV as Rigzin fiddled with his mobile phone, as it is in homes all over the world. He played me some of his tunes which were indeed excellently produced. He has a bright future ahead of him if he’d get some of these Faustian ideas out of his head.

Day 152

Today was an unusual day. On the way to CIBS, just down the road from my hotel, I receiv’d a rather rude shock from a stray street dog. As I was walking up an alley, the bitch pass’d me by, then a few moments later bit my lower left leg in a vicious attack from behind. It turns out she was protecting her new pups who I had inadvertently wandered close to. Within the hour I had hobbled to the local hospital, where I was prescribed a course of anti-rabies jabs – 3 at first & two more of the dog dies within ten days – plus a tetanus boost.

So, I’d call’d off my studies for the day, & I was breakfasting away in the street when the sound Canadian lass we’d mee the other day, Maia, bluster’d into town rather upset. Turns out this guy who’d driven her 150 k away & then back the next day was a right sleazebag. There’s something about being British, like, which defines you as a moral international policeman, & being a chivalrous soul I thought I’d help her out. So, we march round to his office where he was indeed a bit of a scumbag – a big bully basically. Anyhow, I got the police involved & not long after me, Maia, the nobhead & the chief of Ladakhi police are all sat in a room thrashing it out. We could have brought the guy down, but being emotionally unattached to the case I managed to calm Maia down enough for her to accept an apology from a now very humbled bully & a little financial renumeration. Leh is a small town & I think the guy will think twice before behaving dodgy again – public humiliation is a powerful (she was screaming he was a pervert in the street for example) & there’s no need for the guys wife & kids to suffer for the sleazy dad!

After this, me & Maia hopped in a taxi 40K to the amazing Buddhist monastery at Hemis. On the way she told me about how her mum was the only survivor of a plane crash in Haiti, & as she was a film-maker she made a documentary of the story. Our destination was Hemis, hidden in a mountainous fold of the Himalays, where all the Jesus-in-India ‘ressurrection,’ let’s say, began. Way back in the 1880′s, Nicolas Notovich found himself laid up in the monastery with a broken leg, being read extracts from an unknown life of Issa, i,e. Jesus, such as;

When Issa was thirteen years old, the age at which an Isrealite is expected to marry, the modest house of his parents became a meeting place of the rich & illustrious, who were anxious to have as son-in-law the young Issa, who was already celebrated for the edifying discourses he had made in the name of the All-powerful. Then Issa secretly absented himself from his father’s house: left Jerusalem, & in a train of merchants, journeyed towards the Sindh.

The rest of Notovich’s controversial book, published in 1894 as ‘The Life of Issa,’ it describes how after Jesus travelled to India as a teenager, he pursued an intense programme of study in the sacred scriptures. The most significant feature of Notovich’s book is that, for the first time, the two traditions of Jesus are reconciled into one seamless text, in which Jesus is presented as spending time in both Judea and India. The sources, as Notovich tells us, were ancient Tibetan scrolls that had been translated to him at the Hemis monastery, ‘compiled from diverse copies written in the Thibetan tongue, translated from rolls belonging to the Lassa library and brought from India, Nepal, and Maghada 200 years after Christ‘ That Notovich visited the monastery was confirm’d in the 1960s, when the following diary entry was discovered at the Moravian Mission in Leh;

When I visited the Lamasery [Monastery] at Hemis, and together with the Lama Ishe Tundup and Mr. Stobden interviewed the ‘Manager’ (The young head Lama being in Tibet studying), the other Lamas who also were present belonging to the Monastery immediately said that their older monks did remember an Englishmen being injured and brought to their Monastery and that some manuscripts were shown to him.

In the 1920s, Swami Nirmalananda Giri describes how Swami Trigunatitananda, ‘not only saw the manuscript in Himis, he also was shown two paintings of Jesus. One was a depiction of His conversation with the Samaritan Woman at the well. The other was of Jesus meditating in the Himalayan forest surrounded by wild beasts that were tamed by His very presence.’ Then in 1939, a Swiss matron named Elizabeth Caspari visited the Hemis monastery. Caspari reports how the chief librarian at the time showed her the scrolls, which he allowed her to examine while declaring, ‘these books say your Jesus was here.’

The claims made by Notovich caused a great deal of consternation throughout the Christian world, while the beautiful and tranquil idyll of Hemis suddenly became the eye at the centre of an ideological hurricane. This growing furore seems to have startled the monks into hiding the scrolls, for after 1939 these precious scraps of paper seem to have vanished completely. This lack of hard evidence inevitably led to a growing sense of academic indifference to the text, treating it at best as an unprovable curio, and at worst a complete fraud. Despite this, the legend of the scrolls had been firmly established, and throughout the twentieth century a series of scholars made the trek to Hemis hoping to see them at first hand. One of these hardy spirits was the young Holger Kersten, author of the widely-read, ‘Jesus Lived in India,’ who describes his experience as follows,

With an understanding smile, the wise lama instructed me first to find the Truth for myself, before attempting to convert the whole world… Finally, the old man informed me that the scriptures in question had already been looked for, but nothing could be found.

Roll on four decades and it seems that somebody at Hemis had found the scrolls. This vital reference is found buried in an Indian newspaper’s story concerning a Buddhist spiritual leader called Kyabje Thuksey Rinpoche.

We have a hand written manuscript of Jesus Christ in our secret library but we have not yet got the opportunity to make it public to the world
The Hindu Times – June 23rd 2013

In the middle of deriding the Indian government’s attitude to Buddhism, Rinpoche rather innocuously slips in the statement: ‘We have a hand-written manuscript of Jesus Christ in our secret library but we have not yet got the opportunity to make it public to the world.’ If the top lama of Hemis monastery, a man very much in the know, admits to possessing such controversial scrolls, who are we to claim any different? Unfortunately for my investigation, Rinpoche was in Delhi on religious business, but I didn’t mind, just being here was buzzing.

Back in Leh, Berangere decided she didn’t want to be alone that night. So stay’d with me – in my bed. She was cute, like, & on another day I might have made a move, but making a pass at someone who’d just had a difficult sleazy situation with another guy just didn’t feel right, so the English gentleman in me kiss’d her on the forehead & slipp’d into a Ladakhi dream.


As I’d double trekked the previous day we had a day to chill out and enjoy the sights of Rigzin’s village. Admittedly there wasn’t much to see but I did get a nice philosophical discussion about money and power with Rigzin and I did get to watch his Granddad, who had a face as cracked and lined as the surrounding landscape, make a traditional spiritual drum out of animal hide, wood and metal. In the evening I helped make tea again. Only this time it was the far easier on the stomach Mu Mu’s which are kind of like Tibetan dumplings served up with some cream of vegetable Knors cup-a -soup.

A previous trekker had left some reading materials for people like me, and I read a beautiful book of poetry and photography called simple “Ladakh” and a couple of articles in an Indian magazine called New Frontier. It turns out the Baba’s of India are just as depraved as our own catholic priesthood. Only add to the regular tales of sexual abuse an added layer of corporate corruption prevalent in many of India’s ashrams. There are a brave gang of Atheist crusaders from Kerala, however, who are combating this exploitation. Even proposing a law to ban superstition itself. India is, as ever, a land of extremes.

Then it was TV again, only this time with the full family compliment and the obligatory power cuts, and bed.

Day 153

This morning I headed back to CIBS, where not long after arriving I was taken from the library & introduced to a Sanskrit scholar. We sat in the sunshine, a small gaggle pupils observing our conversations, & I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to test out one of the chief tenets of my blossoming theory. In essence, I said that not only did Jesus survive the Crucifixion, but he went on to compose seminal texts in India which would form the fundamental pillars of Krishnaism & Mahayna Buddhism. Part of the theory is conflating two Indian poets into the same person – the anonymous author of the Bhagvad Gita & Asvaghosa. I didn’t get that far into my theory, though, I just wanted to see what an Indian expert thought. He straight away denied its possibility, & of course I thought I’d set him straight. The difference between conventional academics & the chispologist, is where the academic merely brushes the surface & accepts the work of his peers past & present to be gospel, the chispologist looks a hell of a lot deepr. Suffice it to say, after challenging his arguments with rational thoughts & fresh insights, he began to pace up & down & slap his forehead in confusion.

‘Asvaghosha,’ he said, ‘could never have compos’d the Bhagavad Gita, he is a poet.’

‘But Professor,’ I replied, ‘the Bhagavad Gita is a poem.’

I took heart in this, my theory had pass’d its first serious academic test – & my journey to Ladakh has not been in vain!


So, here’s where I am so far with my studies. I’ll begin with a text known as the Tarantha, which reads;

The “outsiders” know him as the Isvara. But the “outsiders” have no basis for this. The “insiders” [Buddhists] consider him as Avalokitesvara. This is based on the prophecy of the Manjusri-mulatantra: “Panini, the son of a brahmana, will certainly attain the sravaka-bodhi. I have predicted that he would be the great lokesvara by his own words.

Here we have the Jesus/Issa-esque Isvara connected with Avalokitesvara, themain boddhisatva godhead of Mayahayna Buddhism. These are then connected by the Isvara/Ashva phonetic. The Mahayana, or ‘Greater Vehicle,’ Buddhism was created in the age of Jesus (first century AD) as a breakaway branch from the more traditional Theraveda  Buddhism. Teitaro Suzuki declares Asvaghosha as, ‘a prominent, if not the principal, actor, who, so far as is known to us, practically initiated this great spiritual and intellectual movement in India,’ The seminal Mahayanan text, the ‘Treatise for Awakening Faith’, was composed by Asvaghosha. A Christian link to the treatise was discerned by Samuel Beal;

There is one book, the K‘i-sin-lun, or ‘Treatise for Awakening Faith,’ which has never yet been properly examined, but, so far as is known, is based on doctrines foreign to Buddhism and allied to a perverted form of Christian dogma… The differentiation of enlightenment into two distinct qualities, wisdom and action, or, according to the terminology of later Mahâyânists, wisdom and love, constitutes one of the principal thoughts of the Mahâyâna Buddhism and shows a striking similarity to the Christian conception of God who is considered to be full of infinite love and wisdom.

In the Mahayana, there are a number of angel-like astral deities known as the Bodhisattva. These divine savior-figures are considered as enlightened (bodhi) existence-beings (sattva), said to have attained Buddhahood in order to help all sentient beings. Postponing entrance into the Nirvana in order to alleviate human suffering, the notion rings remarkably close to the core tenets of the Christian belief. Arthur Llewellyn Basham writes;

 The Bodhisattva was thought of as a spirit not only of compassion but also of suffering. In more than one source we read the vow or resolve of the Bodhisattva, which is sometimes expressed in almost Christian terms… The idea of the Suffering Saviour might have existed in some form in the Middle East before Christianity, but features like this are not attested in Buddhism until after the beginning of the Christian era. The Suffering Bodhisattva so closely resembles the Christian conception of the God who gives his life as a ransom for many that we cannot dismiss the possibility that the doctrine was borrowed by Buddhism from Christianity.

Among the Bodhisattva, Avaloketisvara seems to have come straight from the creative poetical fermentations of Jesus. A seventh century Chinese explorer called I Tsing describ’d hymns composed by Asvaghosha being chanted in the name of Avaloketisvara at the evening service of the monasteries. Just as Jesus was known as the son of god, so Buddhists describe Avaloketisvara as being born from the Amithaba, a father-figure said to rule over a heavenly ‘Pure Land‘ established for the salvation of man. Itshould be no coincidence that Mathura was one of the first cities in India to take up the Mahayanan doctrine, where archaeological finds suggest that the classical university there was the area’s centre for worshipping the ‘Pure Land’ heaven of the Amitabha.

Another aspect of Avaloketisvara is the ‘Guanyin,’ said to be a saviouress, and considered to be the ‘Mother of all Buddhas.’ In Chinese art and sculpture she is represented as holding a child, just as Christians depict Mary, the Madonna, bearing the infant Jesus. There is also a concise connection between the Gospels & the Mahayana can be found with Luke’s ‘Parable of the Prodigal Son’ and an extremely similar story found in a key Mahayanan text, the Saddharmapundarika Sutra / Lotus Sutra.

Just as Notovich’s Issa was described as a student of both Vedic and Buddhist literature, according to Kumārajīva, Asvaghosha ‘gained an extensive knowledge of the myriad scriptures, thoroughly understanding both Buddhist and non-Buddhist teachings. His ability as an expositor was without match, and the four groups of Buddhist disciples all revered and submitted to him. The king of India greatly valued him and held him in high esteem.’

During the time Jesus seems to have been in India, the region was rul’d by an emperor known as Kanishka, which leads us to the following two passages, which I excavated from boosk in the library at CIBS;

The king of Tukhâra was very powerful. He was called Candana Kanishtha. Being very ambitious and bold, and far superior in courage to all his contemporaries, every country he invaded was sure to be trampled down under his feet. So when he advanced his four armies towards Pâaliputra, the latter was doomed to defeat in spite of some desperate engagements. The king demanded an indemnity of 900,000,000 gold pieces, for which the defeated king offered Açvaghosha, the Buddha-bowl and a compassionate fowl, each being considered worth 300,000,000 gold pieces. The Bodhisattva Açvaghosha had intellectual powers inferior to none; the Buddha-bowl having been carried by the Tathâgata himself is full of merits; the fowl being of compassionate nature, would not drink any water with worms in it,–thus all these having merits enough to keep off all enemies, they are on that account worth 900,000,000 gold pieces. The king of Tukhâra was greatly pleased at receiving them, and immediately withdrawing his army from the land went back to his own kingdom. The Fu fa tsang yin yüan ch‘uan

{Kanishka} sent a message to Açvaghosha to come to his kingdom, who, however, owing to his old age, could not accept the invitation, but sent him a leading disciple of his called Jânayaça, accompanied with a letter treating the essential points of Buddhism. The Blue Annals

Kansihka was very much a new Asokha, being both a peace-loving advocate of Buddhism and an incredibly powerful conqueror. The Kushana Empire which he founded was spread out across great swathes of land through the modern regions of north India, eastern Pakistan and southern Afghanistan. In The Blue Annals passage, we see the name of the apostle John transchispered into Jânayaça, here a disciple of Ashvaghosha. An analysis of the Book of Revelations finds it steeped in Indian mysticism. Revelations is the one book in the New Testament that seems to have slipped under the radar of quality control. It is a curious poetic prophecy about the endtimes & the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus is depicted Jesus as riding a white horse and bearing a blazing sword, an image which either inspired, or was inspired by, the Hindu depiction of Kalki, the future and final incarnation of Vishnu in this current age.

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.

The Book of Revelations

The ascetic prince Lord Kalki, the Lord of the universe, will mount His swift white horse Devadatta and, sword in hand, travel over the earth exhibiting His eight mystic opulences and eight special qualities of Godhead. Displaying His unequaled effulgence and riding with great speed, He will kill by the millions those thieves who have dared dress as kings. Bhagavata Purana

The Book of Revelations is a curious storehouse of esoteric knowledge, obscured by wonderful allegorical imagery, in which we can identify the presence of the spiritual process known as Kundalini. The Book of Revelations is full of references to the number seven; spirits, stars, candlesticks and especially the churches of Asia, which seem to be a metaphor for the seven chakras. Revelations mentions a sacred book with seven seals, which can only be opened by the personal sacrifice of the Lamb. In the Buddhist story, ‘The Perfection of Wisdom,’ a book was sealed with seven seals, which drove the Maitreya to sacrifice himself in order to become worthy.  This leads us to the Kundalini, in which a process of inner focus and deep meditations by the mystric draws a ‘serpent’ upwards through seven energy zones known as chakras. Each of these is ruled by a planet, and the entire system of chakras are meant to be a reflection of the solar system, i.e. there is a universe within us all. The kundalini serpent is said to be coiled three and a half times about the bottom of the spine, a number which turns up frequently through the text.

11:2/13:5 – Forty and twenty months = 3.5 years

11:3/12:6 – One thousand two hundred and three score days = 3.5 years

11:9/11:11 = Three and a half days

The attainment of the Sahasara chakra seems to be described in Revelations as, ‘when he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.‘ The sensation of the serpent bursting out into the Sahasara chakra is described as attaining an inner nirvana, which echoes the words of Jesus, who stated that the Kingdom of Heaven was to be found within us.

Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom ofGod was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21

To all extents and purposes the Second Coming of Christ is the same as a spiritual being in the Mahayana canon known as the MAITREYA, Only a short philochisp from the Christian word ‘Messiah.’ In the first century AD, the worship of this new Boddhisattva sprang up throughout the Kushana Empire. According to I-Tsing, Asvaghosha wrote hymns about the Maitreya, while the first images of this boddhisattva date from Asvaghosha’s era, appearing simultaneously in Kanishka’s Gandhara and the Mathura of Iarchus. In an excellent thesis by Yu Min Lee, ‘The Maitreya cult and its art in early China,’ Lee states, ‘We have enough evidence in sculptural tradition to prove the existence of the popular cult of Maitreya in the early Buddhist community, at least from the beginnings of the Kusana period.’ As the Judo-Christian Messiah is waiting for the end-of-times up in Heaven, the Buddhist Maitreya is said to currently dwell in the Tusita, the Pali name for heaven. Yu Min Lee tells us ‘the ultimate goal of worshipping Maitreya in China is the wish to be reborn in Maitreya’s paradise after death,’ which strongly reflects the Christian desire to join Jesus in the afterlife.

Back in the modern age, Victor Pope return’d quite happy from hi trek today, & tomorrow we leave Ladakh. It is a hardy place for hardy souls, & after a few days I am beginning to feel the effects of such a high altitude. While I am slowly getting into breathing difficulties, my hands are literally cracking in the dry air. With these physical diminishments, coupled with the completion of my studies at CIBS, it’s time to move on from this wonderful region.


After a suitably stodgy breakfast of omelette and flat bread we left Hemis (the village in question) and headed back off into the mountains. The first pass was fairly gentle and allowed us to discourse a little, but Rigzin promised a surprise for the next pass. Sure enough when we reached the top we were greeted by a great rocky basin, up one of witch’s steep dessert sides we apparently had to climb. It seemed they’d saved the toughest until last. Not the highest however. Hell, they even had public conveniences at this hight.

When we did arrive at the climb it didn’t look so bad. But I should have been forewarned when Rigzin put on his headphones and recommended I do the same. I declined. Instead favouring to feel the real now of the moment. I just about made it half-way up before I collapsed in a panting, sweaty heap. Rigzin gave me a knowing grin before I attempted the final furlong. One more rest and we finally made it to the painful peak. The panorama didn’t disappoint and from here it was downhill all the way.

The taxi was late, which added another two hours to our trek, but pretty soon we were blasting at suicidal speeds. The beautiful scene of a green, emerald lake snaking through the hills only marginally marred by the drivers apparent death wish. After a quick stop for the best samosas in Ladakh, I arrived back from my trek alive and relatively unscath’d. Save a little sun burn on the back of my ears. And this was in no small part down the exceptional guidesmanship of my highly amiable guide Rigzin. After saying goodbye to him it was hello again to Damo, who had been comforting our new friend Mia after she’d had a slightly dicey incident with her own, somewhat more sleazy, tour guide. He said he felt like a regular Richard Geere, and who was I to argue?

After a quick (one hour) game of snooker in a nearby snooker hall with Damo. A tense snooker match of 3 frames between me and Damo with Damo (naturally) winning 2 games to 1, but the final game was knife edge close. Only a blue ball and our nerves between us. Damo’s hand, however, proved the steadier, after which it was time to settle down to another night of TV & a chill-out well deserved.

Day 154

Before I left Leh, I gave the slightly tatty green mod parker jacket I got in Almora to a nice shopkeeper, whose wife was hopefully going to tailor back into full health. A couple of hours later, after dragging ourselves through numerous security checks, we were zooming south over the epic peaks of the Himalayas. The flight to Delhi took just over an hour, & it was a pleasure to step once more into the duvet-heat of lowland India – I definitely won’t be needing that parker any more.

Back in the capital it was a chance to hook up with Phil, who was on some kind of paragliding shopping trip. He was with his pal, Duncan, another India-head I met back on the Andamans, who was just about to set off on a year-long round-the-world tour. To pay for it they were in Delhi buying handbags (for £3) to send to Australia where they would sell them on at £25 each. Cue copious amounts of beers diced with colonial chat, from our hotel roof-top. to a swanky New Delhi bar. Then, in a druken daze we said our farewells until the next time life would have us all cross paths.


Mia has just left and tomorrow so will Tony and, indeed, me and Damo. On a ten thirty flight to Delhi, from whence we make for Mathura (back on the quest for Jesus) and Agra (for a little something for me – the Taj Mahal at dawn). So, for the time being at least, it’s the end of our little love gang (as Damo put it), though we may see Mia again in Goa. Then it will be only a month until I see all you guys again. But for now, thanks for reading and,



After taking a plane across the Himalayas that wasn’t half as scary as any of the taxi rides we arrived in Delhi some time around midday. The intention was to fire straight through to Mathura, but Phil and Duncan, some friends of Damo, were in town so we decided to stay a night for a little high jinx. This involved a fifty course meal from the hotel chef and lots of beer. It was good to get wasted for the first time in a month and the two guys, plus an additional Irishman, proved to be great fun. Indian hand massages, deep philosophical chats, valuable travel advice (don’t ride the mopeds in Goa) all dissolved by 1am into incomprehensible nonsense. But it was well worth it and we had our first experience of an Indian bar. Cowgate eat your heart out!


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