Ram Bomjon - the New Buddha?

Tuesday November 22, 2005

Nepal

In the Bara district of southern Nepal, pilgrims are heading into the jungle to pay homage to a fifteen year old boy who is being hailed as the new Buddha. The boy, Ram Bomjon, has apparently been sitting in the shade of a pipal tree and meditating for the past six months, and during this time has had neither food nor water.

The boy’s fame has grown rapidly, drawing increasing numbers of devotees. Recently, after visitors started prodding the boy, a fence was built around the pipal tree. Now a second and third fence are planned by the committee who are responsible for dealing with the growing number of pilgrims, and there are plans to build a coach-park in the jungle. Local doctors have been called in to give a bit of scientific credibility to this marvel, although they were not permitted to come any closer than five meters from the boy, in case they might disturb his meditation. Then to top all this, only last week Ram Bomjon was reportedly bitten by a snake, but he refused all medical treatment saying that he could be cured by meditation alone.

Meanwhile, this remote piece of Nepalese jungle is rapidly turning into a spiritual supermarket. If devotees want a memento of their visit to the forest, five rupees will buy them a picture of Ram Bomjon with light emanating from his forehead, a little more will buy them a sacred amulet. As the stalls and sideshows proliferate, the jungle is slowly drowning in mounds of litter.

Call me a killjoy, but I have to admit I’m sceptical of this kind of spiritual circus. Committee? What’s all this about a committee? As far as I recall the Buddha didn’t have a committee. And – leaving on one side the extremely dubious nature of the claims being made concerning Ram Bomjon’s abstinence from food and water – what about the financial aspects of this latest marvel? Somebody somewhere is making a lot of money out of Ram Bomjon. Coach-parks, after all, do not come cheap. Local businessman Prakash Lamsal, soberly refusing to get caught up in the frenzy, told the press that “These lamas are going to build mansions out of this. If I wasn’t a bit embarrassed I’d take a van down there and set up a stall.” Here at thinkBuddha we’ll be keeping an eye on the boy Buddha of Nepal, and we’ll let you know if there are any developments.

Read the Telegraph for the full story.

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#1 · jez

23 November 2005

Are you buddhist? No fasceciousness intended, but if so, should it not be entirely feasible to you that the boy could go without water or food by meditating alone? If modern science shows that no-one can go without water or food for more than a few days-even a ‘boy buddha’-then surely religions/philosophies which claim it is possible are ‘outdated’. Of course, I am not ‘au fait’ with all the intricacies of Buddhism, but I am sceptical when believers of one ‘religion’ or another claim it is possible to make their ‘religion’ fit their modern life/knowledge. It’s like when Christians say the Chrurch should be modernised. Surely, Christ’s message hasn’t changed over the years. What do you think?

#2 · Will

24 November 2005

Hi, Jez, thanks for the interesting comment.

You are right to be sceptical of the desire to make a religion ‘fit’ with the scientific world picture. Sometimes the claim is made that traditional Buddhism is entirely in harmony with science, but this is extremely spurious. A lot of Buddhism, from the contemporary perspective, is as implausible as the world-picture in the Old Testament or in the work of Homer, for example.

But I would also say that Buddhism has always been rooted less in orthodoxy – having a particular set of beliefs – than it is in what the scholars like to term ‘orthopraxy’ – having a certain set of practices. Whatever I choose to call myself, Buddhist or not, I do attempt at least to put certain basic Buddhist practices into effect. This does not, however, commit me strongly to a particular set of dogmas or beliefs handed down by tradition. The Buddha himself was sceptical of all traditional claims to authority. Hmmm... looks like I've just argued against reliance upon the authority of tradition by referring to the authority of tradition. But let us allow this to pass.

The fact that many aspects of Buddhist thought – rebirth is one, the idea that a boy could survive on meditation alone is another – seem to me to be highly implausible may make me a curious kind of Buddhist, and some may protest that I’m not a Buddhist at all. That is the reason for the subtitle of this blog: ‘Wayward thoughts on the Buddhist way.’

My own position is that in terms of cosmologies, metaphysical doctrines and the like, the various forms of traditional Buddhism often seem to get it wrong (even if they get it wrong in interesting ways!), and the scientific world picture is by far the best show in town. But in terms of practice, I have found that the practices handed down through the traditions of Buddhism open up real and human possibilities. Whatever your belief system, the practice of sitting quietly, following the coming and going of your breath, and taking note of the mind’s tendency to proliferate with endless, empty ideas is one that I feel can be of value.

I hope this makes some kind of sense.

All the best,

Will

#3 · jez

24 November 2005

Will,

As I wrote in a second comment I left but was lost, I have read your first post. What I wanted to say, was that while it is possible to share certain tenets of a religion (and I’d say Buddhism IS a religion), that doesn’t make one necessarily a follower of that religion. I agree with many christian beliefs, such as not to kill my neighbour(...), but that doesn’t make me a Christian, not least because I don’t believe in a god.

Now, if you say one can be a Buddhist without believing in, say, re-incarnation, who am I to disagree?! It does seem a bit contradictory to me, though.

Jez

#4 · Will

24 November 2005

Hi again, Jez.

Contradictory? Perhaps it is. For a while I said I was ‘Buddh-ish’, meaning kind-of Buddhist, rather than ‘Buddhist’; but in the end this joke wore thin, so I went back to ‘Buddhist’...

By the way your other comment is still there, although you posted it (or a software glitch posted it) to the article above: have a look here: http://www.thinkbuddha.org/article/62/a-buddhist-university-for-birmingham. There’s a reply there…

W

#5 · jez

24 November 2005

yeah, lets stick to the comments on the Bud-Uni post!

#6 · Milo

25 November 2005

don’t poke the buddha.

keeping aside all the negative comments – that one could make about a report like this – it’s worth pointing out that some of it is actually very funny. One line that made me smile was the comment: ‘doctors who recently visited the boy, confirmed that he was alive.’ And the majestic quote from his mother – that we can all recognise after six months without solids or fluids ‘He’s definitely got thinner.’

I’ve always been drawn to his holiness’s laugh – not too much unlike the former Conservative PM Ted Heath – i’ve also noticed they have the same shoulder movement when they ignite with mirth.

PEACE.

Milo.

#7 · Mohit

25 November 2005

Buddha himself never did extremeties in meditation. Remember the ‘Middle Way’? He was never supportive of torturing one’s body by extreme fasting.

Infact it was in fasting only that he decided his way of pursuing enlightenment was wrong and he decided to take food.

#8 · Will

25 November 2005

True, Milo – the article is in fact very funny, although I also find it strangely disturbing… And I’d never made the connection between the Dalai Lama and Ted Heath.

And you are right Mohit that this extreme fasting hardly fits with the idea of a ‘Middle Way.’ Self-torture as a response to suffering? Now that’s a curious idea…

Best wishes,

Will

#9 · Kathryn

25 November 2005

It should come as no surprise that the locals of Bara would take financial advantage of this situation. I believe even Buddhist websites accept advertisers’ dollars, so who is taking advantage of who?

We should rejoice that this is one more sign, on top of several lately, than should give us hope that the Buddha continues to try and reach out to all of us, to bring us to the dharma. Some may feel the Buddha would disapprove of the “circus” environment? Whatever it takes to bring people to the dharma is acceptable.

There is a giant sleeping Buddha waking up in Afghanistan, there is definately something going on. Perhaps the time has come for the Buddha to be, to be.

#10 · Chris

26 November 2005

Thank you Kathryn for your comment. Since hearing about Ram Bomjon I have mentioned it to a few people. I am shocked at the sceptisism around me. This is the most profoundly beautiful thing which has come to me in a long time. Amidst 9/11, bird flu and terrorism the story of a living Buddha, at least a real example of commitment to meditation beyond limitation. We should have no doubt that this body is unreal, and that the energy of mind is creating all varieties of experiences. Whether this is real or not is not the question. Whether this can be real for YOU is the question. I still have some crazy belief in life beyond the limits of this apparent body. One comment about the torrturing the body comment made above. Actually if you are in deep absorbtion you will leave relative time space, so for him he is possibly unaware of how long he has been sitting. To him he may feel he has just started out on his meditation, he may not be feeling tortured or have any concept of hunger at this point. Merely absorbtion in beyond mind. Buddha did try all sorts of practices one of which was extreme, and this he rejected, but he did sit for 49 days. I am sure that for most of us 49 days would be extreme.

Chris

xxx

#11 · shrestha prakash

5 December 2005

Siddarth Gautam, the ‘last buddha’ who lived some 2550 years ago tried fasting untill enlightment and came to conclusion that it is not possible to reach enlightment in ‘empty stomach’; he almost died in the process. It was only with other method of meditation (called Vipassana) that he got enlightment.

However there are lots of literature in old hindu scriptures that after crossing certain level of meditation food is not necessary at all for survival.

Lets see how Ram Bonjon will do… May be he is just another hag or may be he is really ‘next buddha’ ... only time will answer.

Prakash Shrestha

Kathmandu, NEPAL

#12 · Alex

10 December 2005

I think it is important, when reflecting on a situation like the “media circus” surrounding this boy, to remember that buddhism itself is an atheist religious philosophy. The buddha never claimed special powers, and most miraculous or god-like attributes granted him are by latter-day buddhist scholars who were intrepreting Siddartha Goutama Shakyamuni’s revelation about the impermanent nature of reality in the context of their own pre-existing religious traditions. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama himself has acknowledged that the Buddha taught each group appropriately according to their understanding and situations. In his own country, the Dalai Lama acknowledges this is the reason for the many deities in Tibetan Buddhism. Nevertheless, to the Tibetan arhat or boddhisattva, these deities are simply representatives of the five skhandas or the six paramitas. Read, for instance the tibetan book of the dead, and you will at once understand that the stages of death and the deities accompanying them are simply expressions of human emotions and their natural polarity.

My point with all this is not pedagogical or pedantic, but rather I wanted to point out that this sort of display is not at all the essence of buddhism. This is the sort of thing that “gets ‘em in the door”. This sort of story fulfills a need in people for mysticism. This is itself a pathway to the skandhas, attachment, and the retention of the ego! What the Shakyamun percieved so clearly is the absolute empitness of precisely this sort of activity!

#13 · Karen

10 December 2005

“One comment about the torrturing the body comment made above. Actually if you are in deep absorbtion you will leave relative time space, so for him he is possibly unaware of how long he has been sitting. To him he may feel he has just started out on his meditation, he may not be feeling tortured or have any concept of hunger at this point. Merely absorbtion in beyond mind.”

This may be the case here (assuming all the claims are truthful, and there is no deception). If nothing else, our bodies and minds are capable perhaps of amazing things.

There is a story about one of the Budhist mahasiddhas in India, Saraha. He purported to ask his wife would she make him some radish curry, and as she set out to do so he went into meditation… for thirteen years! In deep samadhi, unaware even of the passing of time. On emerging, he asked if the curry was ready yet, apparently unaware of the time having elapsed.

One of the dimesnions of this story is however that, despite his ability to enter into the deep levels of meditative absorption, he was still not free of desires… he still hankered after that curry.

Buddha is said to have accomplished the high levels of meditative absorption, and yet reported that on emerging from those states, there was not lasting change in his awareness. Samsara still rotated on…

Also Buddhist teachings maintain that there are 3 realms of samsaric existence: the desire realm (the one we’re in), the form realm and the formless realm. The desire realm is further divided into the 6 realms: hells, pretas (hungry ghosts), animals, humans, demi-gods and gods. The form and formless realms coorespond with the increasingly high levels of meditative absorption. However, those realms are equally composite, impermanent and subject to birth and death. Becoming acustomed to the highest levels of meditative absorption, according to Buddhist teachings, may result in rebirth in the formless realm, but that is not seen to be the final accomplishment of nirvana (the ending of samsaric experience altogether).

In short then, if the young man is indeed residing in a high level of meditative absorption, this does not mean that he has accomplished Buddhahood or enlightenment; it may simply mean he has a level of yogic powers or siddhas.

And of course, this could also all be a hoax for a gullible media and public. If so a shame, but then again we are also in what is termed the period of the counterfeit dharma according to some teachings…

Just a few thoughts. Interesting website.

#14 · Will

10 December 2005

Thanks for your comments, folks. Glad you mentioned the story of Saraha, Karen, as that has always amused me…

Best wishes,

Will

#15 · gml

16 December 2005

Does it matter if he’s a buddha or not? It seems more important to me that he give so many people hope in a time which is dark for many reasons the very least of which has to do with topics such as terrorism. Our lives have become so abstracted by what has been termed “modern life” that we literally cannot see straight. Chuang-Tzu once said “If the mirror is indeed bright, dust cannot adhere on it. If dust can adhere to it, can it be said to be bright?”. I think this holds true especially in our time. It’s not just that information has become more accessible to us, it’s that we convince ourselves that the simulation is more important than the reality. To the point where we hold the illusion more valuable than the truth. Indeed there are many people in the world who profit from keeping us in the darkness of our abstractions. Whether or not this boy and his entourage are trying to do the same, remains to be seen.

#16 · Sunny

17 December 2005

I think that comparisons between the original Buddha and this boy should be made while remembering the historical difference in communication. When the Buddha lived there was no popular media to spread his story. Instead he taught other people and then it took over 2000 years for it to grow to the size it is now. This boy has something that can either be a great asset to him or a great enemy- the media. I think its true that only time will tell this young man’s nature.

#17 · Jose Padilla

20 December 2005

Just wanted to say that one of the teachings of the Buddha is to think through all teachings received. This means that we should not accept any teaching as given, but should apply insight meditation to arrive at our own conclusions. This boy says he needs 6 years of deep meditation, well thats what he needs. It’s far easier to think he could go for this period of time without eating or drinking than to believe people are gonna let him be. I for one don’t beleive he is the new Buddha but I’m pretty sure he is on his way to becoming an Enlightened One. Peace to you all.

#18 · angie

20 December 2005

this is so sad i can belive it no some can go with out food or a drick

#19 · davanna

22 December 2005

What is the latest on Ram Bahadur Bomjon? I haven’t seen anything newer than December 5 or so.

#20 · jeferey

22 December 2005

why the “new buddha?’ isn’t it just as plausible to regard this young man as who he is, ram bomjon? i find nothing intriguing in this story, nothing extraordinary. just a boy meditating. an old taoist tale tells about finding oneself and ones purpose. ram is just ram, and whatever path he follows will only bring him to where it ends. the uncarved block eh? let us just let this be. we are enlightened as this boy is, we’ve just forgotten to listen. cheers.

#21 · Subhash

3 January 2006

Can anyone help me in guiding me as to HOW TO REACH at this place from Kathmandu since I’ll be there in 2nd wk of Jan

#22 · Rino_lac

4 January 2006

What ever people say that he is a young budha or somkind of torturing his physical body or for the people who was ignorant about meditation macking this boy insulting like piece of thing, he is moving in his meditation because he was alive and well, if he got tortured by himself look at his face totally relax. i think his enjoying what his doing in meditation.
I think is about time to meditate to understand the path of enlightenment.

Enlightenment is not a word or a flower that you pick, after smelling the fragrance then you threw it in the garbage.Enligtenment has to be practice, that is not easy,the practice of non atachment is not easy you have to renunciate all of material things even your parents it is totally surendered to creator of the whole vast of universe.Ram Bahadur Bomjon 15 was chosen to do that. Pls. leave him alone. Let see if he acomplish.

If you could? support him.
I do.

Rino lac

#23 · suresh

7 January 2006

Mr subash
It is very easy to go to Nijghad where this new kid is believed to be meditating since last 7 months without food and water.Once you are in kathmandu you can get help from any people as this boy and the place has been subject talk of every and each Nepali. So it wont be very hard for you to find this place.There are regular buses from kathmandu to Nijghad.So HAPPY JOURNEY

#24 · Dren

1 February 2006

Mediation to high levels can bring intense peace and communion with the higher subtler energies at that point obviates the use of any external breath, let alone food or drink for a person to survive since a person really gets his real energy from the cosmic source.
If Ram has really been sitting even 3 continuous days in a mediative state, he would have definitely contacted that cosmic source. If you non believers want proof, Why not look at the Movie or video some xyZ doctor is making for over 7 months while Ram is sitting. I guess that would be proof enough. Or Even just sit beside him. Put up a tent and monitor him. This is GREAT that in this scientific age of computers South Asia is once again going to come to the limelight in what its best at “Spirituality”

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