Wednesday, August 12, 2009


The story of Barlaam and Iôasaph or Josaphat is the legend of Buddha retold in a Christian setting which was translated into Greek and Latin and other European languages and which first became popular in the Middle Ages and remained so for at least fifteen hundred years. The Introduction to the Book Baralam and Yewasef, which is the Ethiopian version of the Christian recension, translated by E. A. Wallis Budge (1857-1934) and quoted below, shows how religious ideas are borrowed and transmitted. You will also notice in the translation a definite statement to the effect that St. Thomas, one of the Twelve Apostles, preached the Gospel of Christ in India and converted the Indians to Christianity. This statement is also found in the Greek and Syriac texts which have been edited, translated and described by Bonnet, Wright and Lipsius, and in the Arabic translations which were made from Syriac or Coptic.

Barlaam and Josaphat, from Speculum Historiale of Vincent of Beauvais, (13th century).
The Book of Barlaam and Iôasaph is a Christianized version of a very ancient “spiritual romance,” which was composed in India and first written down in an Indian language by Buddhist propagandists in one of the centuries that immediately preceded or followed the beginning of the Christian Era. It is written in Greek and has been commonly thought to be the work of St. John Damascene. Like the Fables of Bidpai, with which it appears to be contemporaneous, the Book of Barlaam and Iôasaph has for at least fifteen hundred years been a popular work in the West as well as in the East. More than sixty translations, versions or paraphrases of it have been enumerated. Where it has appeared it has been warmly welcomed by men of every great creed for untold generations. Its aesthetic, moral and religious teachings have won the approval of Indians, Chinese, Persians, Arabs, Syrians, Armenians, Jews, Egyptians, Ethiopians, and other Oriental peoples. And the manuscripts and versions of it in Greek, Latin, German, Italian, Slavonic, Servian, Czech, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Danish, Icelandic, English, Irish, etc., testify to the esteem with which the Book was regarded among European peoples. As it stands now it is a strange mixture of parable and fable, and folklore and history, and romance, in which shrewd worldly wisdom is mingled with the highest and greatest religious truths in such a way that the perusal thereof will increase the piety of the godly, the wisdom of the wise, and the pleasure of those who seek amusement and instruction in the writings of teachers of olden time.

The contents of the Book of Barlaam and Iôasaph in the form in which it captivated the learned of Europe may be briefly summarized thus:

After the preaching of the Gospel of Christ in India by St. Thomas the Apostle, many monasteries were established in that country and as the result of the example and teaching of the monks who lived in them the religion of Christ spread abroad in the land, and Christianity became established there so firmly that the native rulers were alarmed at its progress, and the priests of idols urged them to take steps to arrest it. A certain district had for its king one Abenner, or Avennir, a great and powerful ruler, who loved pleasure and hunting and pageants and amusements of every kind, and who possessed almost everything that health and wealth could give a man. But he had no son, and he lamented continually that his family consisted of daughters only; day and night he longed for a son, and it seems that the priests of idols suggested to him that if he persecuted the Christians and paid special honors to their own gods, a son would be given to him. Therefore he began to persecute the Christians, and to torture them and burn them alive, and to drive them out from among this people; and the monks were obliged to forsake their monasteries, and to take refuge in the deserts and mountains where large numbers of them perished from thirst and hunger and cold and wild beasts. Whilst the persecution was at its height a son was born to Abenner, and he celebrated his appearance with extravagant rejoicings. He heaped gifts upon the priests, and greatly enriched their temples, and sacrificed to the gods thousands of cattle and sheep. He called his son “Iôasaph,” and among those who flocked to the birth ceremonies were great numbers of astrologers, diviners, soothsayers, and all kinds of men who were skilled in the art of working magic. In answer to the king’s enquiries all but one of them declared that the boy will become a very great king, a king more powerful and richer than his father. The one exception was an aged astrologer who held quite a different opinion from that of his fellows, for he foretold that the young prince would become a Christian.

When Abenner heard these words he determined to prevent the fulfillment of this prophecy. He therefore had a palace specially built for his son in a remote part of the country, and he furnished it most luxuriously, and surrounded it with high walls, and then sent Iôasaph to live there. He set his trusty servants to watch over the child, and he had him surrounded with happy children, who rejoiced in games and amusements of all kinds. No sad or sick person was allowed to enter the palace, and no one was allowed to tell the child anything that would interfere with his happiness and his guardians and teachers took care that he should have no knowledge whatsoever of the want, misery, pain, sickness, disease and death that were in the world. When Iôasaph was grown up he persisted in begging his father to allow him to go outside the palace and see the world. Abenner at length consented, and the prince with a suitable escort rode out into the city; but he was only allowed to ride through the streets that had been specially made ready to receive him. His outriders took care to clear out of his way all beggars and undesirable folk, but one day, by accident and in spite of all their care, he met a blind man, and a leper, and a dead man, and a very aged man who was infirm and helpless. His escort tried to hurry him on, but he insisted on stopping and asking them questions about these men, and he learned for the first time that there is disease in the world, and that the end of prolonged sickness and old age is death. His natural intelligence and shrewdness of mind enabled him to understand the fleeting character of all things in this world, and he was assailed by doubts and difficulties which no amusements or gay companions could drive out of his mind.

But the all-seeing Eye of God was watching him, and the Lord of the Universe decreed his salvation, and selected an agent to bring this about. This agent was a certain holy ascetic who lived in the desert of Sennaar and was called Barlaam. To him God revealed the state of Iôasaph’s mind, and Barlaam made ready to go to India and win his soul for Christ. He marched to the coast, took ship, and in due course arrived in India, where he disguised himself as a merchant, and set out for the city where Iôasaph dwelt. He found means to make acquaintance with one of the prince’s teachers in the palace, and he begged him to introduce him into his master’s presence so that he might show him a most wonderful gem, the like of which had never been seen by man. This gem could only be seen by the man who had a pure heart and pure eyes. At length the teacher was persuaded to bring Barlaam into the presence of the prince, who listened with joy to all that the hermit had to say about the gem and its wonderful beauty. Barlaam paid many visits to Iôasaph, and little by little he unfolded to him the doctrines of ascetic Christianity. By degrees the prince fell under the influence of the hermit, who reasoned with him and showed him the futility of idolatry, and answered his questions, and Barlaam made his discourse both entertaining and instructive by means of ancient parables and fables. He showed him the beauty of the life which the saints of God led as monks and anchorites in the desert, and at the same time described to him the hardships which they must perforce endure, hunger and thirst, cold and heat, the attacks of wild beasts and, what was far worse, the temptations and assaults of the Devil and his fiends. Pointing to his own ragged apparel and to the marks that scores of years of fasting and exposure had left upon his emaciated body, he warned Iôasaph that he was not at that moment capable of enduring the strenuous life of the ascetic, but urged him to cast aside idolatry and to accept Christ. In many long conversations Barlaam explained to him the doctrines of Christianity, the Trinity, the Eucharist, Christian Baptism, etc. He found Iôasaph a ready and willing convert, and having taught him the Nicene Creed, and baptized him, and lovingly admonished him as to his future life Barlaam departed to his cell in the desert of Sennaar.

When Abenner the king heard of the conversion of his son to Christianity and of his baptism, he sent out men to search for Barlaam so that he might slay him, but the holy man had left India, and they failed to find him. Abenner then took counsel with one of his friends who advised him to summon a general council, and to let representatives of the Christians and of the idolaters hold a debate on Christianity and paganism before them in public. The king and his friend persuaded a pagan called Nachor to personify Barlaam, and arranged with him to pronounce an oration in favor of the worship of idols, instead of an argument in which all the beauties of the Christian Religion would be clearly demonstrated. They hoped by this means to convince Iôasaph that Barlaam had apostatized, and expected that he would abandon the Christian Religion. On the day of the great debate Nachor stood up, but instead of extolling the power and glory of the heathen gods, he pronounced the wonderful discourse on behalf of Christianity which is now known as the famous “Apology of Aristides.” The king in his wrath would have slain Nachor, but Iôasaph had him conveyed out of the city secretly by night, and Nachor departed to the desert, where he repented and became a monk.
Barlaam and Josaphat, Catholic Saints, November 27.
Abenner was in despair at the unlooked for result of the public debate, and he sent for Theudas, or Theodas, a great magician, and asked him to show him a way by which he could crush the obstinacy of Iôasaph, and bring him back to the worship of the gods. Theudas was greatly skilled in all that appertained to magic, and myriads of fiends and devils were believed to be under his authority and to perform his will. After hearing the king’s wishes he recommended that Iôasaph’s palace should be filled with women servants, and that a number of young and beautiful girls should be made his companions by day and by night. When the king had selected the loveliest maidens in the city and dressed them in splendid apparel, he sent them to Iôasaph with instructions to seduce him physically and mentally. As soon as they had begun their ministrations to the prince Theudas summoned the evil spirits and sent them into the maidens so that they might inflame their passions and overthrow the chastity of the prince. But all their efforts to this end were in vain, and Iôasaph triumphed over them and over the devils that Theudas had sent in them and with them. Abenner’s grief at their failure was very great, and his chagrin was increased when he saw Theudas himself converted to Christianity; Theudas lost all faith in his devils and he went and burned all his books of magic.

Abenner’s next act was to divide his kingdom, and half of it he gave to his son to rule over. Iôasaphat promptly destroyed the temples, smashed the images that were in them, and built churches to which the people flocked from far and near. Under his enlightened rule his half of the kingdom flourished, whilst that of his father decayed. Abenner, seeing that he was powerless to stay the advance of the Christian faith, became a Christian and retired to a monastery where four years later he died. Iôasaph buried his father with all the pomp and ceremony that befitted his rank, and then having returned to his capital, where he was welcomed with great joy by all the people, he abdicated his kingdom, and appointed one Barachias, a man with whom he had been long on good terms, to be his successor. Free at last from the care of the kingdom, he stripped off his royal apparel, and in the garb of a mendicant monk made his escape to the desert, where he began to lead the life of an ascetic in real earnest. He fasted and prayed and suffered great tribulation, he resisted the attacks of devils in every shape and form, he fought with wild beasts and overcame them, and he conquered the Arch-Devil Satan, who attacked him under many forms. Meanwhile his wish was to find Barlaam, and he wandered about for two whole years before he found him. At length master and pupil met, and they lived together and fought the spiritual fight with great content. At length Barlaam fell sick, but before he died he urged Iôasaph to continue to live in the desert and work out his salvation. Barlaam died in the arms of Iôasaph, who buried him with great sorrow, and then lived alone for many years in that same desert. He was found dead one day by a fellow monk, who buried him side by side with Barlaam. In due course the news of his death reached King Barachias, who came to the tomb and transported the bodies of Barlaam and Iôasaph to the church which Iôasaph had founded, and miracles were wrought at their tombs.

It is easy to understand that the “spiritual romance” summarized above would become very popular among Christians of every denomination, and that it would be read with great avidity by all who were occupied with the ascetic life. The author’s main object was to exalt the life of the monk, and his work would be especially acceptable in monasteries, and would form one of the principal books chosen to be “read for edification” privately in the cells and at meal times in the refectories. But the Christian dogmas and homilies which fill so large a space in the narrative would not account for the great polarity of the Book of Barlaam and Iôasaph among the Chinese, the Persians, the Arabs and the Jews, and the reason for this must have been due to some other factor in the work. This factor is not far to seek. The universal popularity of the romance was due to the series of Fables, or Parables, or “Apologues” as they are generally called, which Barlaam quoted in the course of his conversations with Iôasaph. These are not of Christian but Indian origin, and may be enumerated thus:

Mythical Creatures.

  1. THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER. A sower sows seed of which some is trodden under foot, some is eaten by the birds, some is blown away, some falls among the rocks and withers after germination, some falls among thistles and its growth is choked, and a very little falls on good earth, where it grows and brings forth fruit. The Sower is the sage, and his seed is wisdom. There is a Buddhistic parallel for this Apologue, but the details in Barlaam are taken from the New Testament (Matthew 3:3; Mark 4:3; Luke 8:5). For the Greek text see Barlaam, VI.39, and for Parallels see Jacobs, Barlaam, London, 1896, p. cxi; Sutta Nihata, translated by Fausböll, pp. 1-5; Carus, Gospel of Buddha, § 74.
  2. THE GEM. (Barlaam, VI. 35 ff.) Barlaam, a hermit, inspired by heaven, leaves the desert of Sennaar, disguises himself as a merchant and sails to India. He tells Iôasaph’s tutor that he has a marvelous gem which he wishes to show to the prince, for the sight of it will fill him with wisdom; but the sight of it can only be borne by one whose eyes are pure. The tutor was persuaded, and brought Barlaam into the palace and obtained for him an audience of the prince.
  3. THE TRUMPET OF DOOM. (Barlaam, VI. 41, 42.) A great king driving in his chariot meets two hermits, and leaps down and makes obeisance to them. His escort are amazed and ask the king’s brother to ask the king not to demean himself by such conduct. The brother rebukes the king for his unseemly conduct and returns to his house. When the king wanted to announce to any noble malefactor that he had condemned him to death he sent a herald to blow a special trumpet before the door of his house, and when the wretched man heard it he prepared himself for death. On the evening of the day of the rebuke the king sent his herald to blow blasts of the trumpet before his brother’s house; the brother understood and spent the night in tears and preparing for death. In the morning he appeared at the palace with his wife and children, all dressed in black, and the king received him and explained to him that he had only sent the herald with the trumpet of death to rebuke his folly in censuring him for greeting the heralds of God, the mere sight of whom warned him of his death and of the meeting to come with his Master Whom he had so greatly offended. He comforted his brother, gave him a gift and dismissed him, and then set to work to rebuke the nobles who had incited his brother to remonstrate with him. The original form of this Apologue is thought to be the legend of Asoka’s brother Vitasoka.
  4. THE FOUR CASKETS. (Barlaam, VI. 43.) The king had four wooden caskets made. In two of them he placed the bones of dead men, and in the other two gems and precious stones; the first two caskets he covered with gold and provided with gold fastenings, and the second two he daubed over with pitch and tar and bound round with hair ropes. He then sent for the nobles who had incited his brother to rebuke him, and when they arrived he asked them to appraise the value of the caskets. They thought the caskets covered with gold were the more valuable, and those covered with tar of lesser value. The king ordered the gold caskets to be opened, and their contents presented a hideous sight and gave forth an evil smell; but when the tar-covered caskets were opened all present were amazed and delighted at the beauty of the gems contained therein. Then the king said that the dead men’s bones symbolized the wicked nobles who were arrayed in splendid apparel, and that the gems were emblems of the humble and vilely dressed men, to whom he had bowed down, and the priceless beauty of their souls.
  5. THE NIGHTINGALE AND THE FOWLER. (Barlaam, x. 79.) A fowler caught a nightingale and took his knife to kill her, meaning to eat her. The bird said that she was too small to fill his belly, and promised to tell him three useful things if he spared her life. The fowler agreed to spare her and the bird said, 1. Never try to attain the unattainable. 2. Never regret the thing past. 3. Never believe the word that is unbelievable. When the bird was set free she told the fowler that he was a fool to let her go because she had inside her a pearl as large as the egg of an ostrich. The fowler, being filled with grief that he had set her free, tried to recapture her but failed. Thereupon the nightingale told him he was a mighty fool, for he was regretting the past, and trying to attain the unattainable, and was believing that she had inside her a pearl as large as an ostrich egg, which was bigger than her whole body.
  6. THE STORY OF THE UNICORN. (Barlaam, XII. 112.) A man chased by a savage unicorn falls half way down a pit, and only saves himself by clinging to the branches of a shrub which was growing at the side. As he hangs there he sees two mice, one white and the other black, gnawing at the root of the branch, which they had almost gnawed through, and looking down he perceives an awful fire-breathing dragon at the bottom of the pit waiting for him to fall. From the side of the pit, quite close to him, he sees heads of four asps projecting. From the upper branches of the shrub honey drops down upon him, and in enjoying the sweetness of that honey he forgets all about the raging unicorn, which is death, the pit, which is the world, the tree, which is a man’s life being eaten away by the two mice, which are day and night, the four asps, which typify the four unstable elements of his body, and the fire-breathing dragon, which is hell. The honey, of course, typifies the fleeting pleasures of this life. For the Indian originals of this Apologue, see Mahabharata, XI.; Avadanas, vol. I. pp.12, 191 ff., etc.)
  7. THE MAN AND HIS THREE FRIENDS. (Barlaam, XIII, 114). A man had three friends. Two of these he adored and flattered and hazarded his life for their sakes, and the third he treated with condescending arrogance. One day the man was arrested for a debt of 10,000 talents, and in his distress he applied to his friends for assistance. The first denied that he was the applicant’s friend, and telling him that he was engaged to feast with friends gave him some old clothes and dismissed him; the second friend said that he himself was also in trouble, and could not help him; the third friend received him graciously and went to the king and pleaded his cause, and saved him from his enemies. For Derivatives and Literature, see Jacobs, Barlaam, p. cxiv.
  8. THE KING FOR A YEAR. (Barlaam, xiv. 118.) The citizens of a certain state were in the habit of electing a stranger or a foreigner who knew not their customs, to be king for one year. During that year he had absolute power, and lived in a state of great luxury. At the end of the year the citizens deposed him and banished him to some island where, having made no provision since he was ignorant of what was to befall him, he lived a life of want and died miserably. One man who was elected king discovered the custom of the citizens, and he secretly sent up to the island much gold and silver by the hands of trusty servants, and when he was banished to the island he was able to live as luxuriously as before. Moreover he had no state cares to trouble him. The kingdom is the vain world, and the citizens are the powers of the devils who rule this world. The wise counselor who informed the king of the year of the custom of the citizens was some man like Barlaam. The Indian parallel to this Apologue is given in Dhammapada, 25, p.235-8, and see Matthew vi. 19, 20. Etc.
  9. THE PAGAN KING AND HIS BELIEVING WAZIR. (Barlaam, xvi. 135). A king and his Wazir went out into the city to see the sights and noticing a light shining through a shutter of an underground chamber they looked in. There they saw a man in rags and his wife mixing wine for him; whilst the man drank the woman sang and danced to him. The king thought the manner of life of the couple wretched and horrible, but the Wazir told him that the manner of life even of the noblest and richest seemed to God like that of the man and woman. See Kuhn, op. cit. p. 22, note.
  10. THE RICH YOUNG MAN AND THE BEGGAR’S DAUGHTER. (Barlaam, xvi. 139.) A rich man wanted his son to marry a maiden of high rank and wealth, but the young man refused and went into exile. On his way he stopped at the house of a poor man to rest and refresh himself during the hour of noon, and saw the man’s daughter who, whilst engaged in some handicraft praised God and gave thanks to Him. In answer to a question of the young man she told him that she blessed and thanked God for small mercies, and hoped for greater ones. Moreover she had learnt to know God, and the gate of Paradise was open to her. The young man was so charmed with her that he asked her father to give her to him in marriage, but the beggar objected, saying that a rich young man could not marry a beggar’s daughter. The young man insisted that he wanted to marry her, and then the beggar said he could not let her leave him, for she was his only child. Then said the young man, I will abide here with you and live as ye live. When the beggar was convinced that the young man’s love was genuine, he gave him his daughter together with a sum of money that was larger than the young man had ever seen. Jacobs (p.cxx) quotes as a parallel King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid.
  11. THE TAME GAZELLE. (Barlaam, xviii. 157.) A certain man had a tame gazelle, which when grown up strayed frequently in the desert. One day she found a herd of gazelle grazing, and went off with them and grazed with them all day, but returned at night. This she did until at length her owner missed her and sent out men on horseback to seek her and bring her back. They found her and brought her back, but before they returned they killed several of her wild companions, and ill-treated the others.
  12. Apologue of Theudas. THE PRINCE WHO HAD NEVER SEEN A WOMAN. (Barlaam, xxx. 268.) A son was born to a certain king, and the physicians told his father that the boy would lose his eyesight if he saw the sun or a fire before he was twelve years old. Thereupon the king made the child to live with his attendants in a rock-hewn house full of dark chambers, and for twelve years the boy never saw the light. At the end of this period the king ordered his servants to take the prince out into the town and to show him everything—men, women, gold, silver, precious stones, gorgeous apparel, splendid chariots and horses, golden bridles and purple harness, soldiers in armor, oxen, sheep, etc. in answer to his questions the servants told the prince the names of each of these, and when he asked what women were called, they said, “Devils that lead men astray.” When the prince returned the king asked him which of the things he had seen pleased him most, and he replied, “The devils that lead men astray.” For the Indian originals Jacobs (p. cxxxi) quotes the story of Kshyasrnga in Mahabharata, iii. 9999; and Ramayana, I. ix.; etc. Among the many Derivatives may be mentioned Boccaccio, Decameron, Day IV, Introduction, and the Exempla of Odo of Cheriton in Arundel 231, vol. I. fol. 203b.
Now although the book of Barlaam and Iôasaph in the form described above existed in manuscripts written in Greek (and perhaps also in Syriac and Pehlevi), in the seventh century of our Era, and probably earlier, it did not gain the great popularity which it subsequently enjoyed until the ninth or eleventh century. This popularity was due entirely to the Latin translation, which was carried rapidly into all the countries of Europe. The first Latin translation was made by Anastasius, a papal Librarian, in the second half of the ninth century, and the second by J. Billy (born 1535, died 1581), Abbot of St. Michel in Brittany. Both have been printed in editions of the works of St. John Damascene. The popularity of the Book of Barlaam was further increased by the abridgements of it which were printed in the thirteenth century by Vincent de Beauvais in his Speculum Historiale Lib. Xv. Capp. 1-64), and Jacobus de Voragine in his Legenda Aurea. It is possible that here and there some scholar may have had doubts about the accuracy of its ascription to St. John Damascene, and many, no doubt, hesitated about accepting it as a historical work. But copies of it were multiplied, as the extant manuscripts prove, and several translations of it were made into European languages other than Latin before the end of the fifteenth century. Barlaam and Iôasaph were treated as Saints in the Legenda Aurea, and likewise in the Catalogus Sanctorum of Peter of Natalibus (died about 1370). And they were so regarded during the rest of the Middle Ages, though it seems that they were not fully canonized until the time of Gregory XIII, when that Pope sanctioned a revised edition of the Martyrologium Romanum, in a license dated 14 January 1584, or according to Cosquin in 1583. Their day was fixed as the 27th November. No one seems to have troubled to enquire who Barlaam and Iôasaph were, or when they lived. As their names had something of the sound of the old Hebrew names of Balaam and Jehosaphat, it is possible that readers of the Book of Barlaam believed them to have been natives of Palestine who were in India carrying on the work of the evangelization of India, which is said to have been begun by Thomas the Apostle.
Among the first to hear the narrative given in the Book of Barlaam when freed from its Christian additions and interpolations was Marco Polo, the great Venetian traveler, who set out on his voyage to China in 1271. In the course of his travels he visited the Island of Seilan (Ceylon), and there on the top of a very high mountain (Adam’s Peak) he saw a building which the Muslims regarded as the house or tomb of Adam, and the “Idolaters” (i.e. the Indians) believed to be the tomb of Sagamoni Borcan, who was “the best of men, a great saint in fact, according to their fashion, and the first in whose name idols were made.” The natives told him that this saint was the son, as the story goes, of a great and wealthy king. “He was such an holy temper that he would never listen to any worldly talk, nor would he consent to be king. And when the father saw that his son would not be king, nor yet take any part in any affairs, he took it sorely to heart. And first he tried to tempt him with great promises, offering to crown him king, and to surrender all authority into his hands. The son, however, would have none of his offers; so the father was in great trouble, and all the more that he had no other son but him, to whom he might bequeath the kingdom at his own death. So, after taking thought on the matter, the King caused a great palace to be built, and placed his son therein, and caused him to be waited on there by a number of maidens, the most beautiful that could anywhere be found. And he ordered them to divert themselves with the prince, night and day, and to sing and dance from before him, so as to draw his heart towards worldly enjoyments. But ‘twas all of no avail, for none of those maidens could ever tempt the king’s son to any wantonness, and he only abode the firmer in his chastity, leading a most holy life, after their manner thereof. And I assure you he was so staid a youth that he had never gone out of the palace, and thus he had never seen a dead man, nor anyone who was not hale or sound; for the father never allowed any man that was aged or infirm to come into his presence. It came to pass however one day that the young gentleman took a ride, and by the roadside he beheld a dead man. The sight dismayed him greatly, as he had never seen such a sight before. Incontinently he demanded of those who were with him what thing that was? And then they told him that it was a dead man. “How then,” quoth the king’s son, “do all men die?” “Yea, forsooth,” said they. Wherefore the young gentleman said never a word, but rode on right pensively. And after he had ridden a good way he fell in with a very aged man who could no longer walk, and had not a tooth in his head, having lost all because of his great age. And when the king’s son beheld this old man, he asked what that might mean, and wherefore the man could not walk. Those who were with him replied that it was through old age the man could walk no longer, and had lost his teeth. And so when the king’s son had thus learned about the dead man and about the aged man he turned back to his palace and said to himself that he would abide no longer in this evil world, but would go in search of Him Who dieth not, and Who had created him.
“So what did he one night but take his departure from the palace privily, and betake himself to certain lofty and pathless mountains. And there he did abide, leading a life of great hardship and sanctity, and keeping great abstinence, just as if he had been a Christian. Indeed, an he had but been so, he would have been a great saint of Our Lord Jesus Christ, so good and pure was the life he led. And when he died they found his body and brought it to his father. And when the father saw dead before him that son whom he loved better than himself, he was near going distraught with sorrow. And he caused an image in the similitude of his son to be wrought in gold and precious stones, and caused all his people to adore it. And they all declared him to be a god; and so they still say. They tell moreover that he hath died fourscore and four times. The first time he died as a man, and came to life again as an ox; and then he died as an ox and came to life again as a horse, and so on until he had died fourscore and four times; and every time he became some kind of an animal. But when he died the eighty-fourth time they say he became a god. And they do hold him for the greatest of all their gods. And they tell that the aforesaid image of him was the first idol that the Idolaters ever had; and from that have originated all the other idols. And this befell in the Island of Seilan (Ceylon) in India.
“The Idolaters came thither on pilgrimage from very long distances and with great devotion, just as Christians go to the shrine of Messer Saint James in Gallicia. And they maintain that the monument on the mountain is that of the king’s son, according to the story I have been telling you; and that the teeth, and the hair, and the dish that are there were those of the same king’s son, whose name was Sagamoni Borcan, or Sagamoni the Saint. But the Saracens (i.e. Muslims) also came thither on pilgrimage in great numbers and they say that it is the sepulcher of Adam our first father, and that the teeth, and the hair, and the dish were those of Adam.
Sagamoni, or more correctly Sakya Muni, or Sakiya Muni, means “the Sakiya sage,” and Borcan, or more correctly Burkhan, means “divine,” and was used by the Mongols as a synonym of the Buddha. It is almost incredible that some member of Marco Polo’s party did not tell him that the man, the narrative of whose life (which he describes so carefully) made such a great impression upon him, was the Buddha himself.
The next person who has written on the subject was the famous Portuguese traveler Diogo do Couto, who visited Ceylon in the second half of the sixteenth century, about three hundred years after Marco Polo. He refers to Marco Polo’s visit and mentions that the natives told him that the building on Adam’s Peak was the tomb of our father Adam, and that they connected it with the son of a great king who once lived on the mountain.
He calls this son “Sogomombarcão,” who is, of course, the Sagamoni Borcan of Marco Polo. He goes on to say what he had heard, how a certain king who was married, but had no son, longed for a son, how God gave him a beautiful male child, how the astrologers declared that he would renounce the kingdom and become a hermit, how the king shut him up in a palace so that he could never see anything of the world, how he surrounded him with guardians who never let him go outside the palace gardens, how at length he allowed him to go forth with a strong escort, how on various occasions the prince met a blind man, a lame man, a paralytic, and a dead man, how when he learned that all men must die he was seized with melancholy, how a saint appeared to him in a vision and advised him to renounce the world, how he succeeded in escaping from the palace, how, disguised as a monk, he departed into the desert where he lived the life of a hermit, how at length, having wandered over several deserts, he came to Ceylon with many disciples, how he lived there for many years, how the people worshipped him like God, how, when he decided to depart from Ceylon, his disciples urged him to leave them some memorial of himself, and how, in answer to this petition, he left on a flat part of the mountain the impression of his foot, which is reverenced to this day. To this name the Gentiles in all India have built great and splendid pagodas.
Diogo do Couto then goes on to say that he asked some aged men there if their writings contained any account of Saint Josaphat who was converted by Barlaam, who is represented as the son of a great king of India, and who was brought up in the same way and of whom are told the same stories as he has been told of the life of the Buddha. When do Couto went to Salsette in the country of Bassein to see the famous Canara Pagoda (i.e. the Kanhari Caves, which he describes at length) he asked an old man there who had carried out the work. The old man told him that it was the father of Saint Josaphat, and that the Pagoda was intended to be the place where the prince was to be brought up in seclusion. As Josaphat was the son of a great king of India do Couto concludes that he may have been the Buddha, of whom such as wonders are related—“E como nós temos della, aque for a filho de hum grande Rey da India, bem póde ser, como ja dissemos, que fosse esto o Budão, de que ells contam tantas maravilhas.” Remembering the work of Thomas the Apostle in India do Couto seems to suggest that the stories told of St. Josaphat, or the Buddha, have a Christian origin.
Thus it is clear that before the end of the sixteenth century the relationship of the story of Josaphat to that of the Buddha was recognized, but it is equally clear that the recognition of this fact was not general. The popularity of the Book of Barlaam and Iôasaph in no way declined, and new translations and versions of it in European languages made it even more and more widely known. Thus the matter remained until Benfey was enabled to study the fine collection of Nepalese manuscripts, which had been brought to Paris early in the nineteenth century, when he rediscovered that the fact of the Oriental origin of the Book of Barlaam and Iôasaph, which Diogo do Couto published in 1612. In his Introduction to his work on the Pantschatantra, published in 1859, he pointed out the Buddhistic characteristics of the Apologue of the man pursued by a “Unicorn,” and in his Appendix he stated that his views had just been confirmed by two Chinese versions of the same Apologue, translated by Stanislas Julien in Les Avadanas, 3 vols. Paris, 1859 (see vol. I. pp. 132, 191). The eminent Hebraist Steinschneider had suspected that the Book of Barlaam was of Indian origin several years before, but he did not prove it. Five months after Benfey wrote his Preface (which is dated February 18, 1859) E. Laboulaye contributed two articles on Les Avadanas to the Journal des Débats (July 21 and 26), and in the second of these he mentioned the two Chinese versions of the Apologue concerning the man pursued by a Unicorn. And he went on to show that the framework of the Book of Barlaam and Josaphat is taken from the Legend of the Buddha, and finally declared that “cette histoire si caractéristique, ces rencontres si particulières, c’est le roman meme de Josaphat.” In the following year Saint-Hilaire published his work Le Bouddha et sa Religion, and the life of the Buddha which it contains is chiefly compiled from several versions of the Lalita Vistara written in various Indian dialects, Chinese, etc. in the same year (1860) Liebrecht published his famous article entitled Die Quellen des Barlaam und Josaphat (in Ebert’s Jahrbuch für Romanische und Englische Litteratur, Bd. II. Pp. 314-334), and he proved by quotations from Saint-Hilaire’s work and the recension of the German version of Barlaam and Josaphat, which he had published in 1847, the truth of the assertions made by Laboulaye and Saint-Hilaire. In 1880 M. E. Cosquin published a valuable article on the origin of the Book of Barlaam and Josaphat in the Revue des Questions Historiques (La Légende des Saints Barlaam et Josaphat, son origine), tom. XXVIII. pp. 579-600, and produced a few new facts which supported Liebrecht’s contentions. Finally must be mentioned Jacob’s excellent essay on the whole subject (Barlaam and Josaphat, London, 1896), in which the conclusions of the eminent Oriental scholars quoted above are cleverly and convincingly applied. (Baralam and Yewasef, Wallis Budge.)

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