Hindu-Buddhist Origin of Catholic and Orthodox Ritual Practices

“Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not;Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?  Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh” (Col 2:20-23).

“It has been known for a long time and noted by many scholars that there are several overlaps between Christian and Hindu-Buddhist ritual practices.

The rosary beads used by Christian saints are the japamala used by Hindu-Buddhist monks.  The holy water used by the Church priest for baptism and blessings is the sanctified water called amrita used for purification Hindu-Buddhist rituals.  The use of religious icons and their worship by lighting candles and incense sticks by the Orthodox Christians is similar to the Hindu mode of worship.  The dress of the Buddhist lamas is similar to the manner in which the Apostles are painted, while the headdress of the Dalai Lama resembles the mitre worn by the Pope.  The ascetism, celibacy, prayer, chanting, singing, fasting, poverty, processions, relic worship and other elements of the monastic life of the Church priests are similar to that of Buddhist monks.

And, it is hard to ignore that some of the Eastern Orthodox monasteries, perched on the top of steep cliffs, difficult to access and far away from the vestige of civilisation, are reminiscent of the Buddhist monasteries of the Himalayas.

These commonalities in ritual practices suggest a Buddhist influence on Christianity in a nascent growth stage.  This could have resulted from the presence of Buddhist monks in the countries around the Mediterranean, particularly in Alexandria, where some of the most active early centres of Christianity were established.

What is, perhaps, not so well known is that some religious icons of the Orthodox Church depict Jesus, Mary, and the saints performing hand gestures which correspond exactly to specific yoga mudras.

Yoga Mudras in Orthodox Art

Before proceeding further, let me briefly explain the concept of yoga mudras.  Yoga mudras are a set of hand gestures performed during meditation, which direct the flow of the vital energy called “prana” to the different parts of the body through the invisible energy channels called “nadis”.  This helps to balance the five elements called “Pancha Marabhutas” in Ayurveda (the Vedic system of medicine) that make up the human body.    These five elements are fire, air, ether, earth, and water.  In Ayurveda, it is believed that wherever there are imbalances in these five elements, it results in various types of disease.  Yoga mudras, therefore, are a simple and effective healing mechanism.

When I started to look at the Orthodox icons, I could identify at least 11 different yoga mudras.  There could be many more waiting to be found.  The images displayed on this page and pages 69-70 [Prithvi Mudra; Prana Mudra – the Mudra of Life; Apana Mudra; Shuni Mudra; Surya Mudra (Agnis Mudra); and Anjali Mudra (Namaste)] describe these yoga mudras found in Orthodox art, along with their physical, emotional and spiritual healing benefits.

The term “Orthodox” means “right belief”, and Orthodox Christians consider themselves the inheritors of the true faith and Church passed on in its purest form.  They claim to have maintained the original teachings of Jesus and the Apostles.  If that is the case, then it implies that meditation using yoga mudras must have formed a core part of the spiritual practices propounded by the early Church…..

…..Most Byzantine icons were created from the 3rd century CE till the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 CE.  Therefore, the knowledge of these yoga mudras may have persisted within the Orthodox Church till the 15th century CE, after which it was forgotten. 

In the present day, however, most Christian scholars do not seem to be aware that these hand gestures are yoga mudras and instead refer to them generically as signs of blessing.

The relative abundance of the different yoga mudras in Orthodox art reveals that particular emphasis was placed on two specific mudras – the Prithvi Mudra and the Prana Mudra – for they appear in the largest number of icons.  While the Prithvi Mudra strengthens and heals the body, the Prana Mudra strengthens the immune system, which gives the body resilience to heal itself.  Both mudras activate the root chakra, which promotes a sense of tranquillity, stability, and self-assurance.  Since both Prithvi Mudra and the Prana Mudra are effective healing mudras, we can deduce why they have been accorded so much importance in Orthodox art” (from an article in New Dawn (Special Issue) magazine Vol. 17 No 1).

The evidence elsewhere discussed

In “The Lost Years of Jesus” by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, the Translator’s note to “The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ” by Nicolas Notovich, which is contained in Prophet’s book, says, “I venture, however, to supplement the brief reference made by Mr Notovich to the curious resemblance which exists between the Catholic and Thibetan religions” (Crispe, V, p. 93).

In her Translator’s note, Crispe recounts the efforts of Christians to prove that Buddhist ritual and practice was taken from Christianity.  But the efforts of these (Catholic) Christians were clearly made in ignorance (and probably more than a little bigotry) of the facts because Buddhism originated in the late 6th century BCE by Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha).  But Hinduism, from which Buddhism had its origin, dates back centuries before Buddhism (see further details below). 

In Crispe’s discussion (only part of which is extracted here), she quotes from Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 20, 1810, “It is an old notion that the religion of Thibet [older spelling of Tibet] is a corrupted Christianity, and even Father Desideri, the Jesuit, who visited the country about the beginning of the century (the eighteenth), thinks he can resolve all their mysteries into our own, and insists with a truly mystical penetration that they (the Thibetans) have certainly a good notion of the Trinity [no – theirs is a false notion of the Trinity] ….The truth is that the religion of Thibet, from whatever source it sprung, is pure and simple; in its source, conveying exalted notions of the Deity, with no contemptible system of morality, but in its progress greatly altered and corrupted by worldly men”

“Du Halde translated from the letters of Hippolyte Desideri from Italian into French, and in one dated from Lassa, April 10, 1716, the priest writes: ‘As to their religion, they call God Konchok, and seem to have a notion of the Trinity, for sometimes they name Him Konchokchik, or the One God; at other times, Konchoksum, or the Trine God.  They use a kind of beads, on which they repeat Om, Ha, Hum.  Om, they say, implies intelligence, or the arm – i.e. power; Ha, the word; and Hum, the heart, or love; and that these three words signify God’”

 Crispe continues (I think – I’m finding it difficult to determine which quotes are Crispe’s and which are from Encyclopedia Britannica): “Grueber the Jesuit and Horace de la Penna, head of a Capuchin mission, pointed out the resemblance between the religion of the country and their own.  Their conjectures were founded upon: (1) the dress of the lamas, which is not unlike that of the apostles in ancient paintings; (2) their subordination, which has some likeness to the ecclesiastical hierarchy; (3) the resemblance between certain of their ceremonies and those of the Roman ritual; (4) their notion of an incarnation; and (5) their maxims of morality.

Gerbillon mentions some of their ceremonies, as : (1) use of holy water, (2) singing services, prayers for the dead, and adds: ‘Their dress is like that in which the Apostles are painted; they wear the mitre like bishops; and, further, their Great Lama, among them, is nearly the same as the Sovereign Pontiff among the Romanists.

Grueber goes much farther: he affirms that although no European or Christian was ever there before, yet their religion agrees with the Romish in all essential points.  Thus they celebrate the Mass with bread and wine, give Extreme Unction, bless married couples, say prayers over the sick, make processions, honor the relics of idols (he should have said saints), have monasteries and nunneries, sing in the service of the choir like the Romish monks, observe divers fasts during the year, undergo most severe penances – among which whippings – consecrate bishops, and send out missionaries, who live in extreme poverty and travel barefoot through the deserts as far as China.  ‘These things’, adds Grueber, ‘I was an eyewitness of’.

Even this wonderful combination of similarities is not all.  Friar Horace de la Penna – who is not, however, so much to be trusted – says:

‘In the main the religion of Thibet is the counterpart of the Romish.  They believe in one God and a Trinity, in paradise, hell, and purgation; make suffrages[?], alms, prayers, and sacrifices for the dead; have a number of convents filled with monks and friars, who, besides the three vows of poverty, obedience, and charity, make several others.  They have confessors, who are chosen by their Superiors, and receive their licences from a Lama or from a bishop, without which they cannot hear confessions or impose penances.  They use holy water, crosses, and beads’.

Monsieur Huc, who travelled in Thibet in 1844-46, refers to the affinities between the Lamanesque worship and Catholicism:

‘The cross, the mitre, the dalmatica [a long, full, closed, white gown with an opening for passage of the head, and with long, full sleeves]; the cope, which the Grand Lamas wear on their journeys; the service with double choirs; the psalmody, the exorcisms; the censer, suspended from five chains; the benedictions, the chaplet, ecclesiastical celibacy, spiritual retirement, the worship of the saints; the fasts, the processions, the litanies, the holy-water – all these are analogies between the Buddhists and ourselves’”.

On the Hindu priesthood (which is essentially the same as the Catholic priesthood), Jo Durden Smith in their study “The Essence of Buddhism” (2004, p. 11-13), writes: About a thousand years before the Buddha’s birth, a race of nomadic herders, commonly known as Aryans, had migrated into northwest India from the central Asian steppe and there they had encountered the last remains of a civilisation that had once rivalled the Egypt of the Pharaohs: the so-called Indus River Civilisation, which seems to have been egalitarian and matriarchal and to have practised an early form of Hinduism….The Aryans, who spoke an early form of Sanskrit, gradually spreading out from the Indus Valley….carrying with them a system of beliefs and social structures that were variously imposed, rejected, modified and adapted to produce the multiplicity of beliefs and practices of later Hinduism and the ordering of Indian society….now known as the Vedic Age (c. 1500-500 BC) for the Aryans brought with them a rigid form of society (varna), in which different classes were divided from each other according to their level of ritual purity.  Sacrifice was absolutely central to the religious life of the period, yet the rituals could only be undertaken by a priest of the highest class, the hereditary Brahmin priesthood, which jealously guarded its secrets” (emphases added).

The conclusion that must be drawn

All of this helps us to understand why the Pope can pray in fellowship with Buddhists and Hindus, and demonstrates that the Catholic Church is a corrupt version of Christianity which is based on good works to merit salvation, and makes the finished work of Christ redundant, and faith in Him alone a heresy.  Catholic practices, by the admission of their own priests, originate from a false religion; a religion which condemns its adherents to a futile life of striving for mastery over self in order to be free of the burden of reincarnation (see Heb 9:27).


New Dawn (Special Issue) magazine Vol. 17 No 1.  Full article title “The Lost Year of Jesus in India: Following the Trail of Evidence” by Bibhu Dev Misra.  Copyright 2023 New Dawn Magazine and Bibhu Dev Misra.  ISSN: 1839-7085.  Back issues of articles and magazines can be viewed online or purchased from: New Dawn: The World’s Most Unusual Magazine – Website for New Dawn Magazine

Extract from: Prophet , Elizabeth Clare, “The Lost Years of Jesus”: Translator’s note to “The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ” by Nicolas Notovich, p. 94-98, which is contained in Prophet’s book.  Pub. Summit University Press, 1984, 1987, Livingstone, MT.

Smith, J. D. “The Essence of Buddhism”, copyright Arcturus Publishing Ltd., 2004, pub. Eagle Editions Ltd., Hertfordshire, UK.