Note: This article was originally published on Mysterious Universe (MU)

The Gospels contain surprisingly scanty information about the early life of Jesus. Only four out of the eighty nine chapters in the Gospels – two each in Matthew and Luke – describe Jesus’s life prior to his ministry. As per Matthew, the family fled to Egypt when Jesus was an infant, and returned to Nazareth after the death of Herod in 4 BCE.[1] 

A brief vignette in Luke records that, when Jesus was twelve years old, Joseph and Mary had gone to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. While returning back to Nazareth, they realized that Jesus was not with them. They went back to Jerusalem looking for him, and found him “sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.”[2]

And that is the last we hear of Jesus’s childhood. The next time he appears in the Gospels, he is already thirty years old, when he travels from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. Absolutely nothing is known of what happened during those 18 years, from twelve to thirty, the so-called “lost years of Jesus”. A single line in Luke sums up the activities of Jesus during those years, “And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.”[3]

Scholars generally assume the Jesus may have lived around Nazareth during this period, and did nothing noteworthy to report. That is very unlikely. Someone like Jesus would have easily stood out in a crowd during the prime years of his life. Besides, one simply does not perform astonishing healings and other miracles, without having learnt from one or more teachers. Surely, Jesus would not have wasted the prime learning years of his life pottering around his father’s carpenter’s shed, when his mind was clearly set on acquiring wisdom.

In 1894, the Russian journalist Nicolas Notovitch created quite a sensation when he published a book called The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, in which he claimed that, as per ancient Buddhist manuscripts in the Hemis monastery in Ladakh, India, Jesus had traveled across India and Nepal during his lost years, learning from the Hindu and Buddhist masters and preaching to the people. 

Notovitch’s account was later backed up by the eye-witness testimony of Swami Abhedananda who went to Hemis by foot in 1922. A few years later, the Russian archaeologist, artist and philosopher Nicholas Roerich, embarked on a wide-ranging expedition across Central Asia from 1924-1928, when he came across many variations of the legend of Christ recounted by the people in Kashmir, Ladakh and Central Asia.

This grand saga of exploration and discovery in the cold, barren, upper reaches of the Himalayas, spanning nearly half a century, has been documented in riveting detail by Elizabeth Clare Prophet in the book The Lost Years of Jesus (1984).[4] Let us look at the some of the textual evidences of Jesus’s sojourn in the East, as documented by Clare Prophet, before moving on to other lines of evidence.

The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ

Nicolas Notovitch, a Russian-born journalist, had a long-standing interest in exploring the culture, customs and mysterious past of India. With that in mind, he embarked on a journey in 1887, and reached Ladakh by way of Afghanistan, Rawalpindi and Kashmir in the same year. 

On the way to Leh, he visited the Mulbekh monastery in Kargil, which is dramatically located on top of an isolated rock. There, a lama told him about the prophet Issa (Isa was the name for Jesus in Arabic, while Issa was his name in India) in whom the spirit of God was incarnate. “It is he who has enlightened you, who has brought back within the pale of religion the souls of the frivolous, and who has allowed each human being to distinguish between good and evil. His name and his acts are recorded in our sacred writings,” the lama said. 

On further enquiry, the lama clarified that the principal scrolls containing the story of Issa were compiled in India and Nepal in the Pali language, and are kept in Lhasa, Tibet. Some of the chief monasteries contain copies of these scrolls in Tibetan. The conversation had greatly stirred Notovitch’s curiosity, and he had made up his mind to travel to Tibet at some point to extract more information about the visit of Jesus to these remote regions.

Figure 1: Srinagar is the capital of Kashmir. Hemis is a trek of 441 kms, and the road passes through the Mulbekh monastery in Kargil. Source: Google maps.
Mulbekh Monastery in Kargil, Ladakh, India
Figure 2: Mulbekh Monastery in Kargil, Ladakh, India. Credit: Mulbekh / FB
The famous rock-cut Chamba Statue in Mulbekh village
Figure 3: The famous rock-cut Chamba Statue in Mulbekh village, depicting a standing Maitreya Buddha, or Buddha-to-come, early centuries CE. Credit: Kondephy CC BY-SA 3.0

On reaching the Hemis monastery in Ladakh – which is tucked away in a hidden valley some 11,000 feet above sea level - Notovitch asked the chief lama if he had ever heard of Issa. The lama said that the name of Issa is held in great respect by the Buddhists, but only the lamas who have read the sacred scrolls know about him. He clarified that the Hemis monastery has a number of manuscripts, and,

“among them are to be found descriptions of the life and acts of the Buddha Issa, who preached the holy doctrine in India and among the children of Israel and who was put to death by the pagans, whose descendants have since embraced the tenets he then propagated, which we believe to be yours.”
The lama, then, went on to say, “When the holy child was still a boy, he was taken to India, where until manhood he studied the laws of the great Buddha who dwells eternally in heaven.” The lama also told Notovitch that a copy of the life of Issa lies somewhere in the Hemis monastery, and he would be happy to show it to Notovitch if he visits the gompa again.

Hemis Monastery, Ladakh.
Figure 4: Hemis Monastery, Ladakh. Credit: Michael Day CC BY 2.0  

Hemis Monastery, Ladakh
Figure 5: Hemis Monastery, Ladakh. Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Reach4avik CC BY-SA 3.0

Notovitch did not want to display too much eagerness and arouse the suspicions of his host. He left the Hemis monastery, planning to return at a later date. But, as luck would have it, on his return journey, he fell from his horse and fractured his leg, and used his injury as an excuse to return to Hemis for proper treatment. His recovery took nearly 6 weeks, during which time he made several requests to the chief lama, who finally assented and produced “two large bound volumes with leaves yellowed by time”, and from them, read to Notovitch the biography of Issa, which was composed of isolated verses scattered out of sequence throughout the scrolls. Notovitch’s interpreter translated the story from Tibetan, which the Russian journalist wrote down in his notebook. He published the biography of Issa with the title, “The Life of Saint Issa: Best of the Sons of Men”, and included it with the account of its discovery, in the book The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ.

Although The Life of Saint Issa is an incredible document, the events leading up to the birth of Issa in Israel does not deviate much from the Old and New Testament. The plot thickens in Issa’s thirteenth year, the age when, according to Jewish custom, an Israelite should take a wife. Many rich and noble men arrived at the doorsteps of his parents’ humble dwelling, wishing to have as their son-in-law the young Issa, who was “already famous for his edifying discourses in the name of the Almighty.” Issa, however, was intent on “perfecting himself in the Divine Word and of studying the laws of the Great Buddhas.” So, he secretly left his parent’s house in Jerusalem and departed towards India with a caravan of merchants. The journey would have taken him along the Silk Route, and by the time he reached Sind he was fourteen years old. 

The Overland Silk Route
Figure 6: The Overland Silk Route. Source:

Issa, crossed the breadth of India and reached the temple of Lord Jagannath (Krishna) in Puri, on the Eastern shore, where the priests joyously welcomed him. “They taught him to read and understand the Vedas, to cure by aid of prayer, to teach, to explain the holy scriptures to the people, and to drive out evil spirits from the bodies of men, restoring unto them their sanity.” He spent six years in the holy cities of Puri, Rajagriha and Benares (Varanasi), and everyone loved him. 

In course of time, he had a fallout with the Brahmin priests who forbade Issa from preaching the Vedic doctrines to the lower castes (Sudras), for, as they said, the Sudras were to serve in perpetuity as slaves to the upper castes. But Issa would have none of it. He told the Brahmins, “God the Father makes no difference between his children; all to him are equally dear”. “Those who deprive their brethren of divine happiness shall be deprived of it themselves,” he admonished them. 

Jagannath Temple, Puri, India
Figure 7: The towering spires of the Jagannath Temple, Puri, India. Credit: Kalyanpuranand CC BY-SA 4.0
Figure 8: Varanasi (also called Benares or Kashi) has been a sacred place of Hindu pilgrimage and spiritual learning for centuries. Credit: Marcin Bialek CC BY-SA 3.0

It came to Issa’s knowledge that there was a danger to his life, and he escaped to the birthplace of the Buddha at Lumbini (Kapilavastu) in Nepal, near the foothills of the Himalayas. He perfected himself in the Pali language, applied himself to the study of the Buddhist sutras, and in six years became a perfect expositor of the sacred writings. 

During this time he traveled far and wide across the Himalayan ranges, and must have visited Kashmir and Ladakh as well, because of the persistent whispers of Issa having taught there. Some believe that he visited Tibet during this time, which, in my opinion is unlikely, since Buddhism reached Tibet only in the 7th century CE, and there could be no other reason for Jesus to undertake the extremely difficult trek to Tibet.

Jesus' route in India
Figure 9: The likely route followed by Saint Issa in India, as per the account of Nicolas Notovitch. Credit: Bibhu Dev Misra

After six years, Issa descended from the mountains to the plains of Rajasthan, from where he went westwards, preaching all the time against idol worship, animal and human sacrifices, and inspiring men to supreme perfection by doing good to one’s neighbor. “And Issa further taught the pagans not to strive to see the Eternal Spirit with their eyes but to endeavor to feel him in their hearts and by purity of soul to render themselves worthy of his favors.” Issa must have taken the Silk Route through Persia to return back to Israel, since the manuscript states that he ran afoul of the magi in Persia by preaching against the worship of the sun and fire sacrifices. 

Quite clearly, Jesus was quite the rabble rouser, preaching constantly against the superstitions and injustices of the priestly class – something that he continued to do on reaching Israel in his twenty-ninth year. Thus, his sixteen year sojourn in the East – from the age of thirteen when he left home till the age of twenty-nine – came to an end. And it would not be a mistake to state he was a vastly transformed person by this time; a saint who had attained the peak of his mental and spiritual capabilities, and was able to preach, heal and work miracles like no other. 

According to Notovitch, it was probably the Indian merchants who witnessed the crucifixion in Palestine who brought the rest of the story of Issa’s life to India. In my estimation, however, it is more likely that the Buddhist missionaries, who were preaching in the countries around the Mediterranean during the time of Christ, were the main protagonists, who brought back the stories from Palestine, and then collated them with the stories of Issa in India, which were probably kept in some of the monasteries. In Rock Edict 13, the Indian Emperor Ashoka (reign c. 268 – c. 232 BCE) had written that he had sent Buddhist missionaries to the kingdom of the Greeks, which is corroborated by the discovery of Buddhist gravestones, decorated with the Dharma Wheel and Trishula, from the Ptolemaic period (305 BCE – 30 BCE) in Alexandria. It would be in keeping with the Buddhist tradition to seek out and collect information about Issa’s life in Palestine and record it for posterity.

Notovitch’s account created quite a stir, to say the least. While some accepted that his story was “not improbable”, and worthy of attention, others such as Max Muller were apparently not pleased to hear of Jesus’s Oriental connections, and brazenly attacked Notovitch, accusing him of being a liar who never visited Hemis and fabricated the entire account, or at the very least, was naive enough to be fooled by the lamas who enjoy mystifying inquisitive travelers. In those days it was very difficult to reach the Hemis monastery, which required an arduous trek of many days through challenging mountain terrains, and, thus, it was difficult to corroborate if the manuscript truly existed. The problem of verification was compounded by the fact that the lamas tend to issue a flat denial if they have the slightest misgivings.

Notovitch mentioned in the introduction to his book that the lamas are wary of Westerners, thinking they have come to carry off their manuscripts. “The lama says to himself “If these manuscripts are asked for, it is to carry them off,” so he naturally holds aloof and refuses any explanation…I knew how to approach from afar the question which interested me, whilst everybody now asks point blank questions.” This is a valid point, for a great theft of artifacts had taken place during the colonial rule, and the lamas are naturally on their guard.

Notovitch dropped another bombshell in the introduction to his book. He wrote that he met a cardinal of the Roman Church (whose name he did not disclose) who told Notovitch, “The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ is no novelty to the Roman Church…the Vatican Library possesses sixty-three complete or incomplete manuscripts in various Oriental languages referring to this matter, which have been brought to Rome by missionaries from India, China, Egypt and Arabia.” Imagine that! If this is true, it would explain why the Catholic Church maintained a stoic silence after Notovitch had published his book. And also why the lamas are so wary of their books being carried off!

Swami Abhedananda’s Testimony

Fortunately, a corroboration of Notovitch’s account came many years later from an Indian monk called Swami Abhedananda, who was a direct disciple of the saint Ramakrishna. Abhedananda’s credentials are such that it immediately commands respect. He spent ten years as an ascetic, traveling the length and breadth of India by foot, depending on alms and visiting the holy pilgrimage sites, before setting off for the United States where he became the head of the Vedanta Society of New York. He spent the next 25 years of his life preaching the wisdom of the Vedic texts and that of his guru Ramakrishna. 

After returning to India in 1921, he crossed the Himalayas by foot, first going to Tibet to study Tibetan Buddhism, and then arrived at the Hemis monastery in 1922, with the specific intention of verifying Notovitch’s account. 

Abhedananda recorded the events of his journey in a Bengali travelogue titled Kashmir O Tibbate (In Kashmir and Tibet), which was published in 1929. It was composed partly by Abhedananda and partly by his assistant who worked from his notes and diary. As a result, Abhedananda is often referred to in the third person as “Swamiji” in the text. As per the book, after Abhedananda had been shown around the monastery by a lama, he asked the lama about the veracity of Notovitch’s account and he learnt that the account was indeed true.

“The lama who was showing Swamiji around took a manuscript [about Issa] off the shelf and showed it to Swamiji. He said that it was a copy and the original was in a monastery at Marbour near Lhasa. The original was written in Pali, but this was a translation into Tibetan. It consisted of 14 chapters and 224 verses. With his help, Swamiji got a part of it translated.”
The lama translated the Tibetan manuscript into English, which Abhedananda later translated into Bengali and published in Kashmir O Tibbate. Abhedananda’s description of Jesus’s journey to India is aligned with that of Notovitch’s to a great extent, with the exception that Abhedananda’s account is more concise. This is understandable, since Notovitch had mentioned that his verses were translated from two separate manuscripts, while Abhedananda’s source was a single manuscript. The fact that Abhedananda got access to the manuscript merely by asking about it, unlike Notovitch who had to literally beg for it, reveals that the lamas felt a sort of kinship with Abhedananda, who just like them, was a monk who had forsaken material attachments and devoted his life to spiritual pursuits, and could, therefore, be easily trusted. 

Abhedananda added an interesting detail in his account which highlights the popular appeal of Jesus amongst the common people. He wrote that, on his way back to Israel, “Jesus halted at a wayside pond near Kabul to wash his hands and feet, and rested for a while. That pond still exists. It is known as Issa-pond. To mark the event, every year a fair is held at this place. This is mentioned in an Arabic book, Tariq-A-Ajhan.” 

Abhedananda also backed up Notovitch’s claim regarding the manner in which the manuscript was compiled: “The reverend lama said…three or four years after he [Jesus] left his body, the original manuscript was compiled in Pali from the descriptions of all those Tibetans (i.e. Buddhists missionaries) who met him at that time, as well as from descriptions of traders who, with their own eyes, witnessed his crucifixion by the king of his country.”

Abhedananda’s testimony is an important validation of Notovitch’s claim, and, given the stature and credibility of Abhedananda, it virtually confirms the existence of the manuscripts beyond any reasonable doubt. 

An intriguing twist in the tale took place soon afterwards – the Issa scrolls suddenly disappeared from the Hemis monastery. In an interview with Richard Bock, Abhedananda’s disciple Swami Prajnananda said, “I heard from his own lips that he [Abhedananda] saw the scrolls [at Hemis] and he translated from them. Years afterwards he inquired, but they said the scrolls were no longer there. I also requested to see the scrolls, but there is nothing. There are no scrolls. They have been removed, by whom we do not know.” Very strange indeed! Where were the scrolls taken? Were they deliberately hidden? If so, why and by whom? 

While visiting Hemis in 1974-75, Tibetologists David Snellgrove and Tadeusz Skorupski were told that in the Hemis monastery, “there is certainly a considerable collection (of treasures) locked away in a safe room, known as the ‘Dark Treasury’…which is said to be opened only when one treasurer hands over to a successor.” This basically implies that the Dark Treasury is never opened. Is this where the Issa scolls were hidden away from the prying eyes of curious visitors? Quite possibly so, as the experience of Nicholas Roerich reveals.

Nicholas Roerich’s Himalayan Expeditions

The Russian-born Nicholas Roerich was not only a Harvard trained archaeologist and a Professor at the Imperial Archaeological Institute, but also an internationally acclaimed painter and poet. Between 1924 to 1928, Roerich, along with his wife Helena and son George led an expedition through Central Asia to create a pictorial record of the lands and peoples of these regions and to gather information about the culture, religion, monuments, archaeology and language of inner Asia. “Perhaps no traveler from the West has been better equipped, in knowledge, spirit and psychology to travel in the East,” wrote Dr.Garabed Paelian in his study Nicholas Roerich

Throughout the expedition, Roerich came across persistent murmurings about the sojourn of Saint Issa in these regions, which he recorded in a series of books: Himalaya (1926), Heart of Asia (1929) and his travel diary Altai-Himalaya (1929). He first came across the legend of Christ in Kashmir, India, at the very beginning of his expedition. In Heart of Asia, he wrote, “In Srinagar we first encountered the curious legend about Christ’s visit to this place. Afterwards we saw how widely spread in India, in Ladakh and in Central Asia, was the legend of the visit of Christ to these parts during his long absence, quoted in the gospel.” 

The legend of Issa cropped up again when Roerich reached Leh, the capital of Ladakh. In Heart of Asia he wrote,

“In Leh, we again encountered the legend of Christ’s visit to these parts. The Hindu postmaster of Leh and several Ladakhi Buddhists told us that in Leh not far from the bazaar, there still exists a pond, near which stood an old tree. Under this tree, Christ preached to the people, before his departure to Palestine. We also heard another legend of how Christ, when young, arrived in India with a merchant’s caravan and how He continued to study the higher wisdom in the Himalayas. We heard several versions of this legend which has spread widely throughout Ladakh, Sinkiang and Mongolia, but all versions agree on one point, that during the time of His absence, Christ was in India and Asia.”

Leh city, Ladakh
Figure 10: Leh city seen from the Shanti Stupa. Credit: Anirvan Shukla CC BY-SA 3.0

What an odd coincidence it is that, not only was there was an Issa-pond in Kabul, as mentioned in the writings of Abhedananda, there was one in Leh as well. Apparently, Jesus liked to conduct his teaching sessions next to water bodies! 

Roerich, quite naturally, visited the Hemis monastery when he was in Ladakh, since he was acquainted with the work of Notovitch. Unfortunately, however, he could not get access to the manuscript. Apparently, by that time, the relevant scrolls had already been hidden away in the “Dark Treasury” that Tibetologists Snellgrove and Skorupski had mentioned. In Himalaya (1926), Roerich wrote,

“Regarding the manuscripts of Christ – first there was complete denial. Of course denial first comes from the circle of missionaries. Then slowly, little by little, are creeping fragmentary reticent details, difficult to obtain. Finally it appears – that about the manuscripts, the old people in Ladakh have heard and know…And such documents as manuscripts about Christ and the Book of Chamballa (Shambhala) lie in the darkest place…and how many other relics have perished in dusty corners?”
Elizabeth Clare Prophet mentioned another gentleman in her book, by the name of Edward Noack, of Sacramento, California – who was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London –  and had traveled eighteen times to the different Himalayan kingdoms, including four times to Leh itself. He confided to Elizabeth that, during his stay at Hemis in the late seventies, “a lama at the monastery told him that a manuscript describing Jesus’s pilgrimage to Ladakh was locked in the storeroom”. 

It appears from these testimonies that the Issa scrolls have been transferred to the “Dark Treasury” of Hemis for good, and it is unlikely that anyone will set his eyes on it in future. The lamas at Hemis seem to have made up their minds that enough has already been revealed about the texts, and it is now up to us what we want to do with the information. 

In Altai Himalaya (1929), Roerich had penned down an account of the pilgrimage of Issa to India, which corresponds to that of Notovitch’s to a great extent. However, Roerich did not specify the source of his information. Since he had reported that he did not get access to the Hemis scrolls, it is not clear if he had borrowed from Notovitch’s account with which he was clearly familiar, or he had relied on oral traditions, or, perhaps, copied from some unknown manuscript. In the absence of a clearly specified source, Roerich’s biography of Issa’s journey to India cannot be regarded as a confirmation of the Hemis scrolls. What is of greater significance, however, is the realization how far and wide the legend of Issa had percolated in the Himalayan kingdoms. That, in itself, strongly suggests that the work of Notovitch was not fictional, and he merely provided the textual basis of these tales that have been circulating for centuries.

This is the primary textual evidence about the journey of Jesus to India during his lost years, which I have presented from Elizabeth Clare Prophet’s book, The Lost of Years of Jesus. Now, I shall explore another line of evidence based on my own research – which is the clear influence of yogic spiritual practices in the Gospel accounts and Orthodox Christian icons. 

It has been known for a long time, and noted by many scholars, that there are a number of overlaps between Christian and Hindu-Buddhist ritual practices. The rosary beads used by the 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 in 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 asceticism, celibacy, prayer, chanting, singing, fasting, poverty, processions, relic worship and other elements of the monastic life of the Church priests is 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 vestiges of civilization, are reminiscent of the Buddhist monasteries of the Himalayas.

Figure 11: Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Meteora, Greece. Credit: Bernard Gagnon CC BY-SA 4.0
Figure 12: Tiger's Nest Monastery in Paro, Bhutan. Credit: Afifa Afrin CC BY-SA 4.0

The commonalities in ritual practices is suggestive of a Buddhist influence in Christianity, when it was in a nascent stage of growth. 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 centers of Christianity were established. What is, perhaps, not so well-known is that there are some religious icons of the Orthodox Church which 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 Mahabhutas 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 whenever 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, which I have described in an earlier article. There could be many more waiting to be found out. The following images describe each of these yoga mudras found in Orthodox art, along with their physical, emotional and spiritual healing benefits.

Prithvi Mudra

Prana Mudra

Apana Mudra

Karana Mudra

Shuni Mudra

Surya Mudra

Dhyana Mudra

Anjali Mudra

Abhaya Mudra

Varada Mudra

Ardhpataka Mudra

This is a rather long list of yoga mudras depicted in the religious icons of the Orthodox Christian Church. The term “Orthodox” means “right belief” and Orthodox Christians consider themselves to be 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.

The question is, how did Jesus and the Apostles become aware of yoga mudras? Did Jesus learn about yoga mudras when in India during his lost years? That seems to be the most likely possibility, since in the ancient times, the knowledge of yoga was always transferred from a guru to his student in a monastic environment.

Most of the 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 yoga 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 the resilience to heal itself. Both the mudras also activate the root chakra which promotes a sense of tranquility, stability, and self-assurance. Since, both the Prithvi Mudra and the Prana Mudra are very effective healing mudras, we can deduce why they have been accorded so much importance in Orthodox art. The Gospel accounts tell us of the presence of a multitude of sick people in Palestine during the time of Jesus, and how they were brought in great numbers to Jesus to be healed. It is possible that, not only did Jesus heal the sick people, but he also taught them about yoga mudras, so that they could keep themselves healthy and energetic even when he was gone. 

In addition to yoga mudras, another aspect of yoga is reflected in the Gospel accounts, and that is yoga siddhis - which are various supernatural or magical abilities acquired by advanced yogic practitioners through their penances or sadhana.

Yoga Siddhis in the Gospels

There are supposed to be eight classical siddhis or magical powers, and a yogi who acquires one or more such powers is called a “siddha yogi” i.e. a perfected yogi or spiritual adept. Such persons transform their body and mind through their spiritual practices, and live in a pure state of god consciousness. Even though the siddhis unfold naturally along the path of Self-realization, one needs to learn from a master how to manifest and handle such powers responsibly. As per the Srimad Bhagavatam [5] the eight classical siddhis are as follows:

  • Anima: Shrink the body size to the smallest particle
  • Mahima: Make the body very heavy
  • Laghima: Make the body weightless like a feather
  • Prapti: Manifest any desired object
  • Prakamya: Fulfill any desire
  • Isitva: Lordship over the forces of nature to create or destroy
  • Vasitva: Control over the five great elements (pancha mahabhutas)
  • Kamavasayita: Assume any form at will

In the Gospels, we find Jesus manifesting quite a few of these siddhis or miraculous powers. He fed around five thousand men with only five loaves of bread and two fish,[6] which demonstrates a mastery over the siddhi called Prapti, in which you can manifest whatever you desire. 

Jesus walked on the waters of a lake to reach the boat in which his disciples were traveling.[7] As incredible as it may sound, this can be accomplished if one has mastery over the siddhi called Laghima in which the body becomes weightless. 

Jesus also healed the sick and diseased people of Palestine, who were suffering from all sort of ailments - seizures, paralysis, leprosy, fever etc. -  as well as many who were deaf, dumb or mute. This indicates a mastery over the Vasitva siddhi, in which you can control the five elements (Pancha Mahabhutas) which constitute the human body, and all things in the universe. Any imbalance of the five elements within the body manifests in the form of diseases. So, someone who has mastery over the five elements can heal with ease.

The portrayal of yoga mudras in Orthodox icons and the demonstration of yoga siddhis in the Gospel accounts are clear indications that Jesus was familiar with the yogic techniques that lead to Self-Realization; which tells us that the Hemis monastery scrolls, describing Issa’s sojourn in India during his lost years, are very likely to be authentic. 

Even in his teachings, Jesus shared the same kind of wisdom that can be found in the philosophy of Vedanta. When Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you,”[8] he was relating the Vedantic principle, “Atman is Brahman” i.e. the Soul is Divine, or, the Soul is of the essence of the Creator. 

A person who connects with his Soul or Self, in the depths of meditation, radiates the virtues of the Soul and acquires supernatural powers or siddhis. Jesus told his disciples much the same: “Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I am doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”[9] Which means that, those who listen to Jesus’ teachings with faith and follow the spiritual practices he has given them, can acquire the same siddhis i.e. miraculous powers, as Jesus himself, and could end up doing greater works. 

This is why, in the yogic tradition of India, Jesus has always been regarded as a Self-realized yogi. Such Avatars and Prophets appear from time to time to remind us of our own divine heritage so that we are inspired to follow their paths and become channels through which the divine grace can come into this world.


[1] Matthew 2:13 - 23
[2] Luke 2:42 - 49
[3] Luke 2:52
[4] Elizabeth Clare Prophet, The Lost Years of Jesus, Summit University Press, 1984
[5] Srimad Bhagavatam 2.2.22
[6] Matthew 14:13-21
[7] Matthew 14:22-33
[8] Luke 17:21
[9] John 14:12

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Bibhu Dev Misra

Independent researcher and writer on ancient mysteries, cultural connections, cosmic wisdom, religion and science. Graduate of IIT and IIM with two decades of work experience in different fields

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  1. Great article Bibhu! Thank you!

  2. Was Jesus really an historical figure!!! - 🤔