Saturday, August 15, 2009

Oops-- St. Buddha?!!!

Barlaam and Iosaph the Allegory of the Tree (c. 1200, but I'm guessing here)

So, this is the wackiest bit of info I have come across in a while.

Seems that, in the later days Byzantine Empire (this would be around 1080--the Byzantines, centered in Constantinople/Istanbul lasted from about 300 to 1400), a monk set down the story of Barlaam and Iosapha, in which Iosapha, a seeker of wisdom, comes across Barlaam, who, thorugh a long series of 10 parables, converts him to Christianity.

The story first seems to appear in Christian lore around the 3rd or 4th century AD, with variants on it showing up around 700 as well.

Eventually, both Barlaam and Iosapha, while never formally "cannonized", were recognized as saints by both the Eastern (Orthodox) adn Western (Roman Catholic) branches of the church, and given their own days in the calendar.

What's CRAZY about it, though, is that the story is actually just a western twist on the story of the Buddha, with Iosapha's name being a Eurpeanized version of "Boddhisatva" (one who is on the path to enlightenment or Buddha-hood), and the ten parables Barlaam teaches him being barely changed variants on ancient Hindu life, death, and rebirth stories that formed part of the Buddha's teaching.

So, weirdly, Buddha is actually a Christian saint as recognized by the Church and, presumably, the church either doesn't know this, or chooses to ignore it.

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