The Christian churches having obviously failed to get historical imprimatur to their much trumpeted St. Thomas tradition of Kerala, their loyalists have come up with new arguments to establish a possible earliest Christian tradition of Kerala. This is what is seen reflected in a recent article in Indus Scrolls titled How Buddhism influenced Christianity in Kerala by CI Issac. The said article from alfa to omega is stuffed with statements which are nothing but travesty of truth, and is artfully couched in so judicious a style as to make one believe, Christianity has heavily drawn from the Buddhist practices. A lay Hindu would definitely feel proud of his rich tradition as the one of which Christianity is an offshoot. That Christianity is an offshoot of the Hinduism and Jesus Christ had his spiritual education at the feet of Indian preceptors – the Buddhist teachers of the Lamaseris of Leh and Ladak – has already been an established fact by the researches of Nicholas Notovich, Faber Kaiser and others notwithstanding, the usual type of Christian writers’ maintain a salutary neglect to it. To accept that Hinduism is the mother of Christianity is somewhat a matter of shame to this group who claim, their roots lay elsewhere i.e. somewhere other than India. To them there is nothing more shameful than accepting that Christianity is wholly a product of India however much they eat its salt.
These writers, however, continue to harp on the theme that Christianity came to India in general and Kerala in particular much earlier so as to be influenced by the Buddhism which did not last after the third century AD. This propaganda that falls wide off the truth would makes one believe that Christianity came to Kerala the time Buddhism was a living religion there i.e. at least during the third century AD, or though not exactly during the time which the Christian propagandists theorized as of the St. Thomas’ visit to Kerala, but at least quite near to it. They are hell bent to establish a very remote antiquity for Christianity in Kerala. Or how could Buddhism, a religion that ceased to exist in Kerala by the third century AD influence Christianity which came to Kerala coast only during AD 16th century? It is good to imagine a great grandfather who lived and died in the third century of the Christian era lullabying the child born after thirteen hundred years. The imagination, though untenable, is amusing.
The said author’s thesis on the Buddhist background of Christianity is nothing but another attempt to gather more people from the Dalits for the Christian Church. The argument simply implies, as the early Dalits had once found asylum in the casteless Buddhist faith, they could now join the Christianity which according to the author is an evolved form of early Buddhism. A studied cunningness.
This arguments, however, seem to have been substantiated by no evidence, literary or archaeological. The author for instance connects many Tamil words with those of Malayalam. He connects the Margapilla with Mappila. The word marga is Sanskrit. It was no innovation of the Buddha. After all what is the difference between what are called Hinduism and Buddhism? While the Gita speaks of the path of salvation that lies in between the good and evil (ubhe sukrutadushkrute), the Buddha offers the middle path (madhyamika marga) to attain nirvana. The path of total unattachment that lies between attachment and detachment is highlighted both by Lord Krishna and Lord Buddha. While the former insisted his devotees to seek asylum in the undifferentiated consciousness or bodha (budhausaranamanvischa krupanaphalahetava) the later taught his followers chant ‘may I take refuge in the bodha or buddham (buddham saranam gachhami). The word used here again is sarana which in some other context is also interpreted idiotically as connected to the chant of sarana in the temple of Sabarimala. The word, like marga, is again sarana. See how Kalidasa describes forest as saranyam sarvabhutanam (asylum to all beings). The words marga or sarana were never the Buddhist exclusives as the author tries to falsely convince. Etymology and semantics appear to be far beyond his remit. Citations are made in regard to the migration of the Tamil words like angala, pengal, elemma, muttappan, muthiamma etc. Anyone with knowledge in the history of ancient Kerala which formed the part of Tamilakam knows vividly that the present Malayalam is a mix of Sanskrit and Tamil. It is therefore not unnatural that there are Tamil words in Malayalam. It has nothing to do with Buddhist contribution to Christianity as the author like to make the reader believe. Again, the argument that the places in Kerala with their names ending in palli were the Buddhist centers holds no water. There are so many places like Monipalli, Mariyapalli, Kanjirapalli and many such ‘palli’s like Karthikapalli, Karinagapalli, etc. But from none of these places came any evidence to trace its Buddhist connection. Archaeology is fully silent in the matter. There is again the word tidapalli for the room attached to the sanctum of the temples. That the word palli is Buddhist in origin is predicated on no worthy premise. The lack of historical evidences make such arguments illogical and hence untenable. Palli and salai were the names of educational institutions in ancient and medieval Kerala. There were traditional Asanpallis and Pathasalas imparting knowledge, and nowhere is it recorded that they were the Buddhist centers. Any type of argument must be substantiated with valid proofs and minimum reasoning. Illogical and untenable argument would not go into make the readers believe what the author wants. On the whole the write-up intents two things, one to establish an early existence of Christianity in Kerala and the other to rope in more Dalits to Christianity projecting it as having all the Buddhist traits which down the centuries have been attracting the Indian downtrodden. The author’s thesis also endorses the recent church-KCHR view that Brahmanism came to Kerala only centuries after the Christianity came and converted the Buddhists. This view was first aired out by a Leftist Christian who is Director of a leftist TV channel. Whether Leftists or Rightists, they are all the mouthpieces of the same hidden agenda. A straight forward exhortation for proselytization instead of resorting to the waste hard sweated academic exercise would have served the cause more. It is high time the Hindus identified these ‘golden deer’ at the saffron hermitages. Beware, it is so wily that it camouflaged even Lord Ram.