Byzantine icon of Saints Barlaam and Josaphat
Today the Greek Orthodox Church venerates the Buddha and his successor as Christian saints. In the Middle Ages they were venerated throughout Christianity, thanks to the Golden Legend of Jacopo da Varagine.
It was thanks to the Manicheans that the Buddha was also known by Christians, from India through Persia to Europe in the Middle Ages.
A prophecy hangs over the Indian prince Josaphat: he will convert to Christianity. Thus his father keeps him away from the miseries of the world, wrapped in the most unbridled luxury of the royal palace: but luxury is not happiness. So when Josaphat came out of his palace he met a leper, a blind man and an old man, spiritual decadence, spiritual blindness and spiritual death. It was then that he met the hermit Barlaam who converted him. Josaphat returned to the palace and converted the court and even his father.
The name Josaphat comes from Bodhisattva, as does the name Barlaam from Buddha himself. This indicates that the spiritual current of Buddhism, after the union with Christianity occurred in the spiritual worlds, returns to the current of the time of history to accomplish this union on Earth.
In Luke’s Gospel it is described as the Buddha’s nirmanakaya, surrounded by angels, announces the birth of the Nathanic Jesus, the heavenly soul of Adam, to the shepherds capable of imaginative knowledge. It is then that the Buddha wraps the paradisiacal soul to allow it to reach the encounter with the Solomonic Jesus of the Gospel of Matthew when at the age of 12 there was Presentation in the Temple.
Rudolf Steiner describes how once Gautama Buddha ascended Nirvana he passed the title of Bodhisattva to his successor, the one who will become the Maitreya Buddha. Barlaam is a mysterious Master who allows the union of the Buddhist current with the Christian one in external history, sanctifying what had already happened in the spiritual worlds.