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Undoubtedly these barbarians must have been so struck by the
pomp and grandeur of the ceremonies of Catholic worship that they
took back with them to their deserts an ineffaceable remembrance
of them. We know also that about the same time priests of
various orders undertook long journeys to introduce Christianity
into Tartary ; they must at the same time have penetrated into
Thibet and reached the Si-fan people and the Mongols on Koko-nor.
Jean de Montcorvin, Archbishop of Peking, had established a choir
in which numbers of Mongolian monks practised daily the recitation
of Psalms and Catholic rites. When we remember that Tsong
Kapa lived at the time when Christianity gained an entrance into
Central Asia, we shall not be astonished that there are such striking
resemblances to Christianity in reformed Buddhism,

And can we not say something still more positive ? May not
those legends of Tsong Kapa which we collected ourselves at his
birthplace, hearing them direct from the lamas, serve to support our
view ? After eliminating all the extraordinary details which the
imagination of the lamas has added to the narrative, we can affirm
that Tsong Kapa was a man pre-eminent by his genius and perhaps
by his virtues ; that he was instructed by a stranger who came from
the West ; that the pupil after the death of the master moved west-
wards, and that he remained in Thibet where he promulgated the
doctrines he had been taught. Was not the stranger with the
large nose a European, one of the Catholic missionaries who at that
time penetrated in large numbers into Central Asia? It is no
wonder that Lamaist traditions have preserved the memory of that
European face, of a type so different from the Asiatic. During our
stay in Kum-bum we heard lamas remark more than once on the
strangeness of our appearance, and they said without hesitation
that we must be from the country of Tsong Kapa's teacher. We
may assume that an early death prevented the Catholic missionary
from completing the religious education of his pupil, and that the
latter, when he wished afterwards to become an apostle, thought
only of introducing a new liturgy, whether because he possessed
only a defective knowledge of Christian dogmas or because he had
fallen from the faith. The slight resistance his reforms encountered
appears to indicate that the progress of Christian ideas in those


countries had severely shaken the foundations of the Buddhist cult.
There remains only to be investigated the question whether the
numerous points of contact between Buddhists and Catholics
are helpful or unfavourable to the spread of the faith in Tartary
and Thibet.

These similarities apply of course only to forms of
worship. Referring to doctrine Hue says in Le Chris-
tianisme en Chine (Paris, 1857, vol. iv. p. 11) :

Father Desideri, in our opinion, has very extravagant notions
on the points of contact he thinks he has discovered in dogma
between Christianity and the Lamaist teaching. It is true that in
Thibet are found astonishing reminders of the great primitive tradi-
tions and unmistakable traces of the Catholic missionaries of the
Middle Ages ; but it is not true that the Buddhists have any clear
and definite idea of the Holy Trinity, the salvation of men, the
incarnation of the Son of God, and the holy eucharist. The germs
of all these dogmas may possibly underlie their creed, but they are
certainly not firmly established.

In another passage of the same vi^ork Hue exclaims :

La coincidence des lieux, celle des epoques, les temoignages de
I'histoire et de la tradition, tout d^montra done jusqu'a I'^vidence
que la hierarchic et le culte lamai'ques ont fait des empruntes con-
siderables au christianisme.

The amiable Abbe C. H. Desgodins, vi^ho lived in the
extreme east of Tibet for a generation, endeavoured to
explain away the resemblance between the two religions.
In his work, Le Thibet dapres la correspondance des inis-
sionnaires, is a special rubric on the subject, " Hierarchie
lamaique compar^e a celle de I'eglise catholique," in which
he says :

Certain writers have gone even so far as to compare the Lamaist
hierarchy to the Catholic church, its Pope, its cardinals, its primates,
its archbishops, and its bishops. The comparison is more than
clumsy, for in Catholicism the hierarchy is among the secular clergy,
from the Pope down to the lowest pastor ; the fundamental hier-
archy of the church and its religious societies are nothing but useful
though not indispensable auxiliaries. In Tibet, on the other hand,
the whole hierarchy is entirely monastic, and there is not the
{slightest trace of a secular clergy.

I In fact the organization of religious bodies in Tibet is fundamen-
jtally far more similar to Protestantism than to Catholicism (!). On



both sides we find a striking parallelism in the independent rival
sects, very little cohesion among the clergy of each sect, and the
association and interference of the civil power in the sphere of
religion and in religious affairs. The only similarity common to
Lamaism and Catholicism we find in the form of monasticism,
which in the Catholic church is a secondary matter, but in Tibetan
Buddhism is fundamental. If we go back to the 13th century we
find that history throws a light on the previous development of
this form, and we hope that it will finish its work and yield us
infallible proofs that the form of monasticism as well as many other
ceremonies in the outward rites of worship are simply borrowed
from Christianity.

An anonymous w^riter in the Calcutta Review (1877,
vol. Ixiv. p. 115) says of George Bogle's description of the
ceremonies in Tashi-lunpo in the year 1774, that some of
them " irresistibly lead us to comparisons between the
Buddhism of Tibet and the Roman Catholic religion. The
mind reverts to the scene at St. Peter's on Easter-day, as
we read of the Teshu Lama seated under a canopy in the
court of the palace and a vast crowd around awaiting his
blessing." After enumerating a host of points of contact,
in the spirit of Hue, he instances the analogy between the
Buddhistic system of incarnations and the dogma of the
apostolic succession. He gives the preference to the Bud-
dhist invention. The idea of letting the spirit of a deceased
lama pass without human intervention into the body of a
child, he considers much more elevated and purer, as well
as more in harmony with the feelings, than to let this
transference be decided by the votes of a college of

About the same time as the ambassador Bogle, John
Stewart expresses in the Annual Register {^1"]"]%, "Char-
acters," p. 36) his astonishment that the Dalai Lama "often
distributes little balls of consecrated flour, like the pai7i
b^nit of the Roman Catholics." And he reckons up a
number of resemblances, and thinks that it is no wonder
that the Capuchins thought they could detect among the
lamas of Tibet every trait of their own worship.

In the notes to the French edition of Carl Peter
Thunberg's narrative of travel ( Voyages de C. P. Thunberg
an Japon [Paris, 1796], iii. p. 248) L. Langles makes some


profound reflexions on Buddhism and Christianity. In
Buddhism he finds counterparts of the saints and the
canonized Popes of the Catholic church. He quotes also
the passage in the Histoire du Japon of the Jesuit Charle-
voix where it is said : " The remarkable circumstance is
that in the midst of this formless chaos of religion we find
traces of Christianity, that we have scarcely a mystery, a
dogma, or even a precept of charity, that apparently are
not known already to the Japanese." The illustrations in
the work of Father Georgi show, as Langles remarks, a
striking similarity between the dress of the lamas and
the clothing of Catholic priests. All this, according to
him, is quite comprehensible if we take " Tibet or the
plateau of Tartary " to have been the cradle of all

Perhaps I have already wearied my readers with all
these quotations. Well, there are only a couple more.
The subject is very absorbing, and it has drawn under its
yoke even men like Napoleon and Voltaire, for a few
minutes at least. The latter does not, indeed, mention
our analogies, but he makes a droll remark about the
Dalai Lama, wherein he has certainly not hit the mark
any more than in his reflexions on Charles XII. Thus
he says in his Essai sur les mceurs et r esprit (Paris, 1775,
ii. p. 143) : " It is certain that the part of Tibet where the
Grand Lama rules belonged to the empire of Jinghis Khan,
and that the high priest was in nowise molested by the
monarch, who had in his army many worshippers of this
god in human form." Abel Remusat replies to this
[Melanges Asiatiques [Paris, 1825] vol. i. p. 129 et seq.)
that Jinghis Khan never had an opportunity of manifesting
such respect for the high priest, " for in the time of Jinghis
Khan there was no Dalai Lama in Tibet."

Napoleon's grand personality passes only by pure
chance before our eyes. Captain Basil Hall landed at
Jamestown in August 11, 1817, and two days later had an
audience with Napoleon. Hall quotes from the con-
versation that he " appeared well aware of the striking
resemblance between the appearance of the Catholic priests
and the Chinese Bonzes ; a resemblance which, as he


remarked, extends to many parts of the religious cere-
monies of both. Here, however, as he also observed, the
comparison stops, since the Bonzes of China exert no
influence whatsoever over the minds of the people, and
never interfere in their temporal or external concerns."
(Compare Fremeaux, Les deriiiers jours de r E77zp^reur.)

The great Sanskrit scholar H. H. Wilson says, with
regard to the men of the Capuchin mission in t\\Q Journal
of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland
(1843, vol. xi. p. 293): " They all agree in the resemblance
between the religion of the Lamas and Christianity."
This remark occurs in a note to the account of Mir Izzet
Ullah of a journey from Ladak to Yarkand, in which the
Mohammedan dares to make the following impertinent
statement : " There is likewise an obvious affinity between
the Lamas of Tibet and the monks of Christian countries."
Mir Izzet Ullah made this journey by order of the
Manasarowar explorer, Moorcroft, who, at his visit to
Daba in 181 2, observed that on the death of a rich Tibetan
a considerable part of his fortune escheated to the church,
and an idol had to be presented to those priests who
prayed for the repose of the soul of the deceased, just
as in the Roman Catholic church. (Compare Asiatick
Researches, 18 18, xii. p. 437.)

The bishop Dr. Nicholas Wiseman (afterwards cardinal)
delivered in Rome in the year 1835 twelve lectures, which
were published with the title Twelve Lectures on the
Connection between Science and revealed Religion. In the
eleventh lecture Wiseman discusses the religious conditions
of Tibet, saying :

When Europe first became acquainted with this worship, it was
impossible not to be struck with the analogies it presented to the
religious rites of Christians. The hierarchy of the Lamas, their
monastic institutions, their churches and ceremonies, resembled
ours with such minuteness, that some connection between the two
seemed necessarily to have existed.

Relying on the authority of Abel Remusat and two
other scholars, Wiseman comes to the following conclusion :

At the time when the Buddhist patriarchs first established
themselves in Thibet, that country was in immediate contact with


Christianity. Not only had the Nestorians ecclesiastical settle-
ments in Tartary, but Italian and French religious men visited the
court of the Khans, charged with important missions from the Pope
and St. Lewis of France. They carried with them church orna-
ments and altars, to make, if possible, a favourable impression on
the minds of the natives. For this end they celebrated their worship
in the presence of the Tartar princes, by whom they were permitted
to erect chapels within the precincts of the royal palaces. An Italian
Archbishop, sent by Pope Clement V., established his see in the
capital, and erected a church, to which the faithful were summoned
by the sound of three bells, and where they beheld many sacred
pictures painted on the walls.

Nothing was easier than to induce many of the various sects
which crowded the Mongol court to admire and adopt the rites of
this religion. Some members of the imperial house secretly em-
braced Christianity, many mingled its practices with the profession
of their own creeds, and Europe was alternately delighted and
disappointed by reports of imperial conversions and by discoveries
of their falsehood. . . . Surrounded by the celebration of such
ceremonies, hearing from the ambassadors and missionaries of the
west accounts of the worship and hierarchy of their countries, it
is no wonder that the religion of the Lamas, just beginning to
assume splendour and pomp, should have adopted institutions and
practices already familiar to them, and already admired by those
whom they wished to gain. The coincidence of time and place, the
previous non-existence of that sacred monarchy, amply demonstrate
that the religion of Thibet is but an attempted imitation of ours.

Wiseman, then, defends the view that the Lamaist cult
was imported into Tibet from Europe. Most, however,
of what he has to say on the subject is borrowed from the
works of Abel Remusat. The latter says in his " Discours
sur I'origine de la hierarchic lamaique" {Melanges AsiatiqueSy
Paris, 1825, vol. i. p. 129):

The first missionaries who came into contact with Lamaism
were not a little astonished to find in the heart of Asia numerous
monasteries, as well as solemn processions, pilgrimages, religious
festivals, the court of a high priest and colleges of lama superiors,
who elect their chief, the prince of the church and spiritual father
of the Tibetans and Tatars. But as faith in their creed was in no
small degree a virtue, they did not think of concealing these points
of contact but, in order to explain them, regarded Lamaism as a
degenerate kind of Christianity, and in the details which seemed
to them so surprising they saw traces of a former intrusion of the
Syrian sects into this country.



Abel Remusat shows that just at this time when
ambassadors and Catholic monks travelled from Europe
to the East, the new residences of the Buddhist patriarchs
were established in l^ibet, " Is it to be wondered at if
they, in the desire to increase the number of their ad-
herents and to lend their religion greater lustre, adopted
certain liturgical practices and something of the foreign
pomp which imposed on the masses ? "

Abel Remusat seeks, then, to prove that the purely out-
ward resemblances that exist have arisen owing to Lamaism
having in later times adopted part of the splendid ritual of
the Catholic Church. Accordingly he is opposed to the
view that Lamaism is a degenerated Christianity. Among
those who have maintained this opinion he mentions
Th^venot, the Abbe Renaudot, Andrade, Delia Penna,
Georgi, Deguiques, Lacroze, "and many others." How-
ever the resemblance between the two churches may be
explained, it is evident from Abel Remusat's exposition
that such a resemblance has really been observed by a
large number of Catholics.

Henry T. Prinsep, in his little book Tibet, Tartary,
and Mongolia (London, 1851, pp. 5, 12, 136, 141, 165, etc.),
says of Lamaist Asia :

The extraordinary similitude in many parts of the doctrine, and
of the books, and ritual, and forms, and institutions of this religion
with those of Romish Christianity, which was remarked by the
Jesuits who visited Tibet in the seventeenth century, and even by
Father Rubruquis in the thirteenth, might lead to the belief that
they had been borrowed entirely from this latter. . . . The discip-
line, the habits, and even the ritual of these monasteries of Tibet and
Tartary, havealso a remarkable resemblance to those of the churches
of Rome and Constantinople in the middle ages.

Prinsep refers also to Turner's astonishment at the
Tibetan antiphonal singing between the priests and people,
and its similarity to the grand ceremonies of the Romish
Church. Csoma de Koros has translated some of the
Tibetan church canticles, and Prinsep says of them that
he is himself astonished at their resemblance in spirit and
tone to parts of the litany and the psalms which are sung
or recited in the same manner in the Catholic Church.


In the Gdographie Universelle of Malte-Brun, published
in Paris in i860, I find (vol. iii. p, 255) the following
sentence :

Rome and Lhasa, the Pope and the Dalai Lama, present to us
very interesting points of contact. The Tibetan Government,
which is entirely Lamaist, seems to be to a certain extent a copy
of the ecclesiastical administration of the States of the Church.

In conclusion one more quotation from Koeppen's
noted book Die lamaische Hierarchie und Kirche (Berlin,
1859), p. 116^/ seq.:

Older and later travellers who have penetrated into the Land of
Snow, or into one of the countries converted by it, have often ex-
pressed their astonishment at the numerous relations between the
forms of the Catholic and Lamaist cults, the similarity, nay,
identity of the ceremonies, priest's dress, sacred utensils, etc. In
the times of gross superstition this circumstance was ascribed to
the author of all evil, Satan. The Devil — it was said — the " Ape of
God," had imitated even the Christianity of the Lord God, and
founded a church which outwardly mimicked the Catholic, but was
essentially and truly nothing but a heathen creation of the Devil.
The Capuchin missionaries of last century put in the place of the
Devil the heresiarch Manes, whom they identified with Buddha, and
made the founder of Lamaism. The latest emissaries of the
Propaganda who visited Lhasa arrived at the conviction that all
the analogies of Lamaism and Catholicism, even the pontificate, the
celibacy of the clergy, the adoration of saints, confession, fasts,
processions, etc., as well as the use of exorcism, holy water, and
lastly, bells, rosaries, mitres, and croziers, etc., were all borrowed
from Christianity, and were first introduced into the Lamaist
ritual in the train of the innovations of the doctor bTsong kha pa.
. . . Itishardly possible to discuss more closely the question exactly
what Lamaism has borrowed from Christianity, and what on the
other side Catholicism has borrowed from Lamaism or Buddhism ;
we will only remark that it is a mistake to ascribe to bTsong
kha pa such far - reaching reforms that he first created the
whole Lamaist cult as it now is, and that it is, on the other hand,
quite uncritical and unhistorical to consider primitive Buddhist
institutions and usages, such as celibacy, confession and fasting,
which are all demonstrably older than Christianity, as innovations
and, moreover, imitations of Catholicism.

The rosary, too, is older in India and even Tibet than
in Europe. Koeppen (on p. 319) says :



The home of the rosary appears to be India, whence Muslim,
and through them probably Christians, have received it, for we
cannot well credit the human brain with having twice invented this
peculiar implement.

On baptism he says (on p. 320) :

Baptism, that is, the custom of sprinkling children with water
immediately or soon after birth, or dipping them in it, and at the
same time giving them a name, is not exclusively a Christian
sacrament, but is to be found in many so-called heathen religions,
even among quite rude Shamanist peoples, and expressly as an act
of religious consecration and expiation, as a spiritual purification.
That the Lamaist Church observed the rite is a matter of course
with its hierarchical tendency.

As regards marriage Koeppen points out a difference
between the two churches (as on p. 321) :

According to the decisions of Catholic councils a man is cursed
v/ho maintains that the status conjugalis is as pure and holy as the
status virginitatis. It is, therefore, a glaring inconsistency that the
celebration of marriage, that is, the act whereby two persons pass
from a more holy to a less holy state, should be held to be a
sacrament in the Catholic Church.

Koeppen also has his opponents. Thus W. L. Heeley
in The Calcutta Review (1874, Hx. p. 139) says of him that
he is evidently a freethinker, has a bad opinion of the
priests and their ways, and "hates the lamas because they
remind him of the Catholic Church as much as some of the
Catholic missionaries hate them because they parody the

In the first volume of Adrien Launay's Histoire de la
Mission du Thibet (p. 23) I find the following :

In the seventeenth century Indian caravans reported that there
were Christians in Thibet ; they had no doubt been misled, like
some historians, by the similarities between the Catholic and
Lamaist ceremonies.

One of the men of the time most renowned for his
knowledge of Buddhism, Dr. T. W. Rhys Davids, concludes
his excellent little handbook, which has run through many
editions, BMddhis??i : being a Sketch of the Life and Teach-


ings of Gautama, the Buddha (London, 1903, p. 250), with
the following words :

Lamaism, indeed, with its shaven priests, its bells and rosaries,
its images and holy water and gorgeous dresses ; its service with
double choirs, and processions and creeds and mystic rites and
incense, in which the laity are spectators only ; its worship of the
double Virgin, and of saints and angels ; its images, its idols and
its pictures ; its huge monasteries and its gorgeous cathedrals, its
powerful hierarchy, its cardinals, its Pope, bears outwardly at least
a strong resemblance to Romanism, in spite of the essential differ-
ence of its teachings and its mode of thought.

In the first volume of my book I have only slightly
touched on some similarities between the two churches.
Now I have shown by all sorts of quotations that not only
Protestant students of religion, but also a large number of
Catholic missionaries, who have lived for years in Tibet,
have gone much further in their comparisons than I. Let
the reader decide for himself whether I am the one who
has committed a sin against religion, or whether the
Catholics who have poured forth the vials of their wrath
over my head should not be reproached for having permitted
themselves serious deviations from the paths of truth.

We have been lured aside into long bypaths from the
majestic valley of the Sutlej by Father Antonio de
Andrade's successful missionary journeys to the old king-
dom of Tsaparang. It is now time to take up again the
thread of the narrative. We leave the dying village to its
dreams of vanished greatness beside the roar of the royal
river, and prepare to depart from a country where once the
first Christian bells in Tibet rang in clear tones over the
desolate heights.



The height in the camp at the foot of the monastery-
terrace of Totling was only 12,140 feet. We were
decidedly going down. A pleasant feeling, after years of
sojourn at immense elevations, to descend again into
denser layers of air ! Two years in the highly rarefied air
16,000 to 19,000 feet above sea-level is about as much as
a European can endure. His heart and lungs are not
adapted to the scarcity of oxygen which is found up on
the borders of interstellar space. When the Dalai Lama
travels to Calcutta, he is perhaps troubled by the heat, but
he must feel the increase of the oxygen in the air agreeable.
It is otherwise with the European. When he leaves half
the atmosphere below him, the muscles and the beating of
his heart are excessively strained ; he is afflicted day and
night with the languid feeling of a convalescent after a
serious illness, which is not driven off by ten hours' rest in
the night.

I noticed the following symptoms in my own case : the
temperature of the body fell a couple of degrees below the
normal, the respiration and the pulse were quicker than
usual, and the slightest movement produced shortness of
breath ; I became at last indifferent to everything, except
the road to India; the two meals of the day I regarded as
a punishment for my sins ; hot tea and ice-cold water I
always liked, and tobacco was an indispensable companion
during the terribly long hours of solitude. A limitless

Online LibrarySven Anders HedinTrans-Himalaya; discoveries and adventures in Tibet (Volume 3) → online text (page 28 of 37)