Paul Davids: I prefer to make films on controversial topics, pushing the envelope in ways that are sure to make people think and examine their assumptions and beliefs. Associate producer Robert Rotstan, Jr., introduced me to a book by Edward T. Martin, a Texan who was raised as a fundamentalist Christian but who stumbled over the dilemma of the missing years of Jesus that are not discussed in the New Testament. A trail of reported evidence led him to believe Jesus had spent years in India, which it turns out is a prevalent belief among Hindus (and some Buddhists) in India. I had also been intrigued by the writings of Paramahansa Yogananda, specifically AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI. In some of his works, Yogananda claims that Christ was in India part of his life.
When it became clear to me that several explorers of high reputation had reported seeing an ancient manuscript about Jesus in India at the Hemis Monastery in Ladakh, India, high in the Himalayas, I felt there was the making of a strong story. This was especially true because Edward T. Martin had become an outcast in his church for his beliefs about Jesus in India, and all of my films up to that point had been about gifted or unusual men who had become outcasts, including ballet artist Nijinsky, Roswell witness Major Jesse Marcel, “acid guru” Timothy Leary, Vincent van Gogh, a shaman in Sedona named Rahelio, and even science-fiction pioneers Forrest J Ackerman and Ray Bradbury, who were considered weird in the 1930’s because they seriously believed man would set foot on the moon in their lifetimes. Therefore, I went with Ed Martin to India, traversing 4,000 miles in search of evidence about Jesus in India, and it became the feature documentary “JESUS IN INDIA” which was shown repeatedly on the Sundance Channel and then played around the world on cable TV, thanks to Universal International Television.
I am very proud of this film, which I think accomplished things that have never been done before, including bringing together an important group of religious leaders in one film. Unfortunately, the Religion reviewer for the Wall Street Journal called the film “A Cavalcade of Crackpots” (was she including the Dalai Lama and Princeton Professor Elaine Pagels who were both in the film – or the professors of Georgetown and Loyal University, or the Apostelic Nuncio of John Paul II?) But upon reflection, it’s a very curious remark because in fact all of my films are “a cavalcade of crackpots” from an establishment point of view. That’s what I do as a filmmaker – I highlight the “underdog,” the so-called “crackpot” rejected by society, who has a message I think worthy of our attention. The establishment often misses the boat about such people but then catches up decades later or centuries later. Jesus himself would be one example. Look at the Catholic church and Galileo as another example. Consider Vincent van Gogh as yet another example… scorned and rejected in his own day, unable to sell but one painting, today the commercial worth of his paintings probably exceeds two billion dollars.
What is some of the proof evidence wise that Jesus actually visited India?
Paul Davids: Proof is too strong a word. What author Edward T. Martin likes to say is “where there’s smoke, there may be fire,” so our documentary film “JESUS IN INDIA” follows the smoke signals. The questions arise because the New Testament has only one sentence (in Luke) about Jesus’ years from age 13 to 30, and it simply makes the general observation that Jesus increased in knowledge and wisdom and favor with God and man during those years. In the 1890’s, Nicolas Notovitch, a Russian explorer, published THE UNKNOWN LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST revealing Notovitch’s experience at the Hemis monastery in Ladakh, where Buddhist monks showed him a document in the Tibetan language that filled in the missing years of Jesus and detailed Jesus’ travels in India. That document was reported to be a copy of a much older manuscript from the Pali language. Although the document was reported to have been seen and read by several other travelers through the decades, it has not surfaced today for scientific examination. It was translated a second time by a Hindu scholar, Swami Abhedananda.
One of the reasons it is so fascinating is that it depicts Jesus interacting with Hindu society much as he did with Jewish authorities in Judea. He was seen as a troublemaker who challenged the orthodox rules and Brahman rulers and favored the “Untouchables,” much as he later was a healer of lepers. Our film followed the trail in search of the document, not finding it but obtaining a curious response from authorities at Hemis monastery. We take the questions to world authorities and leaders of major religions including Hinduism and Buddhism. We examine evidence of ancient Hindu texts that are known. We also consider how Jesus would have traveled to India and the known facts of Saint Thomas’ presence in India after the crucifixion, as well as the ancient Jewish presence in India and Kashmir. Also considered is the claim that the tomb of a prophet in Kashmir (Yuz Asaf) might actually be the historical tomb of Jesus who some believe survived the crucifixion and then journeyed to Kashmir, site of a Jewish lost tribe and much Jewish heritage including a temple of Solomon.
Did you get any resistance from those in the Christian community about the film Jesus in India? Or mostly positive?
Paul Davids: Some Christians have been vocal opponents of the theory of Jesus in India ever since Notovitch published his translation of the Tibetan text that fills in the missing years. There are websites that attempt to debunk Notovitch, many of which use spurious arguments that are easily shown to be false as they claim Notovitch was a hoaxer. There is solid evidence Notovitch did not invent his story or contrive a document, as some fundamentalists claim. Though our film was shown on the Sundance Channel and went on to major cable broadcasts around the world (Germany, Brazil, Australia, etc.), I would say that it was mainly ignored by the larger Christian community. There have been no comprehensive replies or critiques. We expect the film’s launch on TV in India soon. At the time we made the film (2007 completion, filmed in 2005) there was some strong resistance in India even to allowing dissemination of evidence and speculation about the tomb in Kashmir. However, since then, a great deal of information about the tomb has been released, and the debate about the question has “gone mainstream” in India and I would say is no longer suppressed. I can say this because there was Indian government support for another documentary that delved into the questions about that tomb. Our film does not claim to have any final answers, but it raises perplexing questions and follows arguments of the debate, and therefore it should not be of objection to Christians. It features at least five separate Catholic authorities (including two professors) as well as those who disagree with them.
Paul Davids also made the Showtime movie Roswell with Martin Sheen and talks about many more of his projects here at Examiner including his own personal UFO Sighting click here for more