Is the Buddha a recognized Christian saint?

Saint Siddhartha Gautama, pray for us!

Sure, I’ve recognized the Buddha as a saint for years, but imagine my surprise when I received an email from a reader today pointing out that “Saint Josaphat” is a figure derived from the story of Siddhartha Gautama.

I decided to check it out, and found these links:

Check out the Wikipedia article on Saint Josaphat.

Still, I was wondering if this might be Christo-Buddhist wishful thinking, until I saw this article in the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia, which simply affirms that the story of Josaphat is a Christianized version of the Buddha’s story. The article nowhere calls Josaphat a saint, which leads to the question, did he actually become a Catholic saint or not, and if so, is he still?

The email I received stated that the Catholic Church “proclaimed” him a saint, and he was later reaffirmed as such by St. John of Damascus (aka the Hermit, aka Damascene) who died in the mid-8th century. Technically speaking he certainly wasn’t “proclaimed” a saint. Proclamation, the culmination of the rigorous process of canonization, had not yet been developed by the Church. Saints in the first millennium were recognized by popular acclamation, and it does seem he was regarded as a saint, with a feast day of November 27. And here at the Online Medieval and Classical Library is the story of Barlaam and Ioasaph, attributed to St. John of Damascus.

Apparently his feast day was removed from the Catholic liturgical calendar in 1969, but that technically does not “de-saint” a saint—it merely de-emphasizes them. (And sometimes not very successfully; just google St. Philomena or St. Christopher to see that devotion to those saints persists contrary to Church efforts.)

Of course, all this ultimately is irrelevant. Is the Buddha a saint? Duh!

8 thoughts on “Is the Buddha a recognized Christian saint?

  1. How can Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) is Saint John of Damascus who died in the mid-8th century, if Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) was born about 500 years before Lord Jesus Christ? I knew that God is before everything, but when God came down from heaven to save our sins He came 500 years after Buddha? It makes nonsense at all. I believe that Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) was a Saint but He was not Saint John of Damascus.


  2. Destin, I think you missed something in the post. No one is confusing the historical St. John of Damascus with Gautama. It’s just that the legendary St. Josaphat was based on on the Buddha, and St. John had affirmed the sainthood of “St. Josaphat.”

  3. Hi Jon,

    This is such an interesting post. I love it.

    I tried to send you the following text in an email, but the email address I found on your Biblical Panentheism website bounced back. Here is that email.

    I have enjoyed and benefited greatly from your site, as it confirms and explains my experience of the Sacred in ways that are not commonly understood.

    I attended a wedding several years ago that was officiated by a rabbi. The service was held outdoors late in the day.He opened his service by talking about the meaning and value of marriage. Suddenly he stopped talking, and remained silent for an uncomfortably long time. People started to wonder if he was alright. Finally he spoke, and he said, “Isn’t it amazing that anything at all exists”. I had never heard anyone say that out loud, except within my private thoughts I had said it to myself a million times.

    The Sacred is everywhere, all the time. One has to work so hard not to notice. It is not subject to doctrine, nor is it bound to a system of belief, and how could it be.

    Blessings, Bob

  4. The Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches must recognize The Buddha as a Prophet there are documents in China and Sacred txt on Cambodia that have written Buddha’s confession of The One who will come to savemsavemsn from their sins. The Golden Boat as he said. Praise to the prophet Buddha.

  5. Which I read some years ago, St. Christopher was the Buddha… Now I’m trying to gOogle it again, and found this another story 🙂

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