In page 32 of The Pagan Christ, Tom Harper writes:

"The Buddha, when he prepares to depart, promises (like Jesus) to send the Paraclete, "even the spirit of truth which shall lead his followers into all truth.""

I followed the footnote and found the footnote simply adds other information about other claims, but does not refer to the source of the claim. I also googled and didn't find original source material supporting this claim. I think the difficulty is I don't know he exact words to search for. Perhaps a knowledgeable person here would know where this claim comes from.

  • Re. "exact words", would you like to add a direct quote to this question?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Feb 13, 2021 at 19:00
  • 1
    That's just it, I don't know the exact words spoken by the Buddha. That's what I'm trying to find out. If you mean Tom Harpur's words, they are: "The Buddha, when he prepares to depart, promises (like Jesus) to send the Paraclete, "even the spirit of truth which shall lead his followers into all truth.""
    – Calicoder
    Commented Feb 13, 2021 at 19:05

3 Answers 3


I think the short answer might be "no" -- more-or-less as argued in this review of the book:

Oh no! I found some errors in scholarship here. Tom Harpur's "Pagan Christ" is based on the idea that Christianity borrowed beliefs from paganism. Many scholars have argued in favor of this during the Victorian era and even into the early 1900's.

Many thousands of books by scholars later, the idea has been soundly refuted. [etc.]

Buddha "promises to send the Paraclete" (p 32). Buddhism began as a religion without a god, let alone a paraclete.

To post a longer answer I'll try to reference Buddhist scripture and find some parallel in it.

I think of the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta (translated here and elsewhere) as narrating what the Buddha said "when he prepares to depart".

The closest approximation I remember to "sending the Paraclete" is this passage:

(The Buddha’s Last Words)

Then the Buddha addressed Venerable Ānanda:

“Now, Ānanda, some of you might think: ‘The teacher’s dispensation has passed. Now we have no Teacher.’ But you should not see it like this. The teaching and training that I have taught and pointed out for you shall be your Teacher after my passing.

So it's "the teaching and the training" -- the dhamma-vinaya, the law and the discipline -- that's to be the teacher. And not new dhamma-vinaya -- to be revealed in the future -- but rather the dhamma-vinaya which the Buddha had already taught.

Apparently the word paraclete means "helper" or "consoler" -- I guess you could argue that (and especially in context) that's analogous to what the Buddha was saying there -- that the dhamma-vinaya would be teacher, and helper, and consoler.

Furthermore I think that according to the Christian doctrine it's the Holy Spirit that allows Man to understand the teaching (of Christ and of the Church). There might be some Buddhist equivalent to that -- e.g. that there is a doctrine and a belief, which can and should be understood, and that doing so is a bit super-mundane. I think that if you read more of DN 16 you'll see the Buddha is saying that he has already taught, and in fact that the monks listening to him had already understood (and not saying he was going to send more in future).

There other other schools of Buddhism, e.g. with another version of the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra which I won't try to analyse here.

And some of them might appear to be making promises of future aid, see e.g. Maitreya.

If Tom Harper's footnote isn't helpful then perhaps it's impossible to know what reference his claim is based on, if anything.

There is for example a book from 1896 titled The Gospel of Buddha. Its account includes,

And Ānanda, suppressing his tears, said to the Blessed One: "Who shall teach us when thou art gone?"

And the Blessed One replied: "I am not the first Buddha who came upon earth, nor shall I be the last. In due time another Buddha will arise in the world, a Holy One, a supremely enlightened One, endowed with wisdom in conduct, auspicious, knowing the universe, an incomparable leader of men, a master of angels and mortals. He will reveal to you the same eternal truths which I have taught you. He will preach his religion, glorious in its origin, glorious at the climax, and glorious at the goal, in the spirit and in the letter. He will proclaim a religious life, wholly perfect and pure; such as I now proclaim."

Ānanda said: "How shall we know him?"

The Blessed One said: "He will be known as Metteyya, which means 'he whose name is kindness.'"

So possibly the author got his statement from a source like that.

I think we're lucky, now a century or so later, that people have continued to translate the primary texts, so to some extent we can have translations that are more accurate or more literal and not just paraphrased to such an extent as before.

There are also modern teachers who give lectures or "dhamma talks" or who write books for a modern audience, but people can read the original scriptures too in translation (there was also a time when people's couldn't read the Christian Bible in their vernacular).

I think that that some of the early effort to bring Buddhism to the West was made by a group of people or learned society -- Theosophists -- who tried to find and teach what all religions had in common; which I guess might be nice, but some of the people closely involved with that effort decided that was at the expense of altering or misrepresenting specific religions, and so split from the group in order to promote the study of Buddhism itself.

  • It should be noted that the author of "The Gospel of Buddha" took great liberties in presenting what he believed were the Buddha's teachings. Also worth noting is that the Buddha referenced Hindu gods such as Indra and Brahma, spoke of heavenly abodes, etc., Western attempts to paint the Buddha as free from super-naturalism notwithstanding. Commented Feb 14, 2021 at 6:11
  • @MathKeepsMeBusy I don't doubt you. Yet it (e.g. the Sermon at Benares) is recognisably similar: not exactly the same text but a close adaptation (like a movie adaptation of a book, that tells more-or-less the same story while rephrasing a lot of the text). To me the most jarring bit in the Sermon at Benares chapter is perhaps at the end: "the kingdom of righteousness" stands out as Christian jargon (though, now that he mentions it, perhaps there is some parallel that justifies the phrase). What do you think are the greatest liberties? And do you know what Carus' source materials were?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Feb 14, 2021 at 9:06
  • I suppose that, in context, one of the "great liberties" you were referring to might be the passage I quoted -- promising a future teacher with a similar doctrine -- which contemporary readers might have understood as being a possible reference to Christ or Christianity?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Feb 14, 2021 at 9:57
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    "Carus did not hesitate to alter the texts when necessary in order, as he put it, to bring Buddhism “up to date.” Indeed, in addition to “modernizing” many of the passages, Carus added six original chapters of his own. Not surprisingly, The Gospel was panned by scholars at the time" tricycle. I found this to be true when searching for original sources for things I had learned from Carus as a child, and unable to find such sources. Not particularly the passage you refer to. Commented Feb 14, 2021 at 14:04

There used to be a publication called "GOSPEL PARALLELS FROM PÂLI TEXTS." An edition can be read here from 1901:


Here is a picture of the linked document: enter image description here

Notice how the text subtly implies a connection to the Book of Revelations and these passages from Pali texts? This was translated by a certain "Albert J. Edmunds." Also, it was actually rather common way back in the day to see "deva" translated into English as "angel." I believe there are translations by Rhys Davids that do this too. If anything, I think the connection with Jesus/"the Paraclete" comes from those practices stemming from loosely the 1890s when translators used to draw very open parallels between what they were familiar with, the Bible, and what they were unfamiliar with, these new texts coming out of Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.

Incidentally, Mani, the founder of the Manichaean religion, believed that he had a divine syzygy in the form of the Paraclete sent by Jesus. Later on in his career, Mani reinvented himself various times -- sometimes as a Zoroastrian reformer, sometimes as a Buddha. So there actually was a man historically who claimed to be both the Buddha and the Paraclete, oddly enough. Did the Buddha send it? No. Parallels of the Buddha supposedly predicting Jesus or the Holy Spirit are based on, in addition to the old translations that say "angel" etc., mis-reading "Maitreya" as a generic deity of "loving-kindness."

  • hi Caoimhghin. did u like my answer? thanks Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 5:14
  • I agree with Calicoder that the parallel is vague if you are unfamiliar with the so-called “person of the Holy Spirit.” If, like Venerable Nhất Hạnh, we believe that participation in “the kingdom of God” was Jesus’s way of naming nibbāna, then when “the spirit” dwells in Christians, that could be taken as a euphemism for nibbāna as a (blissful) object of the mind, i.e. fellowship with God as a blissful mental object. We know that Christians will eventually practice deep solitary meditations, like the contemplations of breath in the Philokalia that lead to the “luminous place” of the mind.
    – Caoimhghin
    Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 18:07
  • Perhaps they are dhyāna-inducing? Who can say. If not dhyāna, then at least the anāgamya samādhi (called “access concentration” in Theravāda). The problem is that Christianity as currently practiced is entirely predicated upon the saving power of the external father figure. We are not liberated through our own efforts in Christianity. It is always through another. Because of this, because God is a “person who acts,” he acts for the practitioner. This is incoherent impossibility in Buddhism. Perhaps Jesus taught it different, but that’s how things stand now.
    – Caoimhghin
    Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 18:07
  • Leaving mainstream Christianity, Jesus teaches in the Gospel of Thomas that that which is the kingdom of God is precisely that which is “of your inside and of your outside” at any given moment. So I agree with some senses of your interpretation and think that it is an insightful and not-irrelevant observation, but also agree that the parallel is loose at best in light of the doctrinal positions of modern mainstream Christianity.
    – Caoimhghin
    Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 18:08

Before his passing away, it is reported the Buddha is to have said:

In whatsoever Dhamma and Discipline, Subhadda, there is not found the Noble Eightfold Path, neither is there found a true ascetic of the first, second, third, or fourth degree of saintliness. But in whatsoever Dhamma and Discipline there is found the Noble Eightfold Path, there is found a true ascetic of the first, second, third, and fourth degrees of saintliness. Now in this Dhamma and Discipline, Subhadda, is found the Noble Eightfold Path; and in it alone are also found true ascetics of the first, second, third, and fourth degrees of saintliness. Devoid of true ascetics are the systems of other teachers. But if, Subhadda, the bhikkhus live righteously, the world will not be destitute of arahats.

DN 16 Maha-parinibbana Sutta: Last Days of the Buddha

One of the culminations of the the Noble Eightfold Path is Anapanasati; which is the manifestation of a special breath awareness (when there is right mindfulness) that leads to purification, enlightenment & liberation.

The breath is the spirit. The Bible reports Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit onto his disciples:

Again Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so also I am sending you.” When He had said this, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. John 20.22

Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French, from Latin spiritus ‘breath, spirit’, from spirare ‘breathe’.

Therefore, it appears The Buddha promised to send a Paracelet (comforter) or Holy Spirit to those who practise the Noble Eightfold Path. The Buddha said:

If a monk should wish: 'May neither my body be fatigued nor my eyes, and may my mind, through lack of clinging, be released from fermentations,' then he should attend carefully to this same concentration through mindfulness with in-&-out breathing.

Dipa Sutta

  • 2
    That so-called parallel is really far fetched. I am surprised anyone with a PHD, i.e. Tom Harpur would have drawn such a connection. There's a world of difference between the idea of a mere instruction to breathe in and out, and leaving behind a conscious supernatural spirit-being that will aid the disciples of a religion. As an atheist I wonder what motivates people to draw such connections that are at best, loose and at worst, not real.
    – Calicoder
    Commented Feb 14, 2021 at 19:19
  • How can you claim to know what is "real". Obviously, atheists don't know much about meditation & the profundity of breathing meditation. My answer was incredible and amazing!!!!!!!!!!! Jesus said, "Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all. [And after they have reigned they will rest.]" Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 5:24

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