For some months now, J. Clifford has been writing on the phenomenon of Ram Bahadur Bomjon, also known simply as Ram Bomjon in the news (links: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5). To recap, Ram Bomjon is a 16-year-old boy born and living in the village of Ratnapur who allegedly is in the process of transforming into the next incarnation of the Buddha. It has been claimed that the so-called “Buddha Boy” has been sitting under a pipal tree in uninterrupted meditation since May of 2005. According to the set of people who surround and control access to Ram Bomjon, he asserted just before sitting down that he was entering into a six-year meditative state in order to attain enlightenment, a la the original Buddha Siddhartha Gautama. According to the same set of people who surround and control access to Bomjon, he:
- has not stirred from his meditation since May 2005,
- has had nothing to eat since May 2005,
- has continued meditating even after being bitten by a snake,
- and has caused two mute people in proximity to him to begin to speak.
Is this true? To date, it has been impossible to say, since those surrounding Ram Bomjon refuse to permit access to him, suspiciously shrouding him from sight at regular intervals. The committee in control of Bomjon say that any close approach or physical contact will disrupt his meditation (although a snake bite apparently could not). In the meantime, photographs clearly show that Ram Bomjon has moved.
And now, more news has leaked out, thanks to Kantipur, the Nepalese news agency. The first piece of news is that the committee controlling access to Ram Bomjon has liberalized their conditions of access to the boy Buddha: although they once did not let anyone come closer than 50 meters (164 feet) away from Buddha, they have since decided that in order to verify that Ram Bomjon is alive, visitors may now come as close to him as… 25 meters! That’s 82 feet, folks. What’s more, visitors may only remain at the 82-foot distance for thirty seconds. Is standing 82 feet away from a person for thirty seconds sufficient to know what’s really going on with that person?
Second, there have been increasing calls for investigation and empirical confirmation that Ram Bomjon has really been living since May 2005 without eating, drinking or moving. In response, the committee controlling access to Ram Bomjon has made a great deal of inviting two scientific teams to observe Ram Bomjon. The first team was allowed to stand within 16 feet of Ram Bomjon for thirty minutes. They saw that he was breathing and moved his eyelashes, but were unable to gather any other information because of the restrictions placed upon them. Team members reported that “He needs to be thoroughly examined” and “Just by examining the glucose level in his blood, it can be easily found out whether he has eaten or not.” These requests were denied. The second team was sent to the site with similar restrictions, and so was unable to complete a report.
Third, a team of seven Buddhist monks has been sent from the Pharping Monastery to observe Ram Bomjon, also from a distance. Their conclusion? Meditation in Buddhism is unextraordinary, there is not currently reason to conclude that Bomjon is the new Buddha, and “his body must be scientifically examined to know whether he has eaten or not.”
Fourth, security officials report that a large majority of income derived from the selling of Ram Bomjon CDs, t-shirts, and photographs at the site go to Maoist rebels in need of funds.
- A group of people claim that a boy has entered into a meditative state in which he has not had anything to eat or drink and has not moved since May of 2005.
- They’re calling him the Boy Buddha.
- This same group won’t let visitors within 82 feet of Bomjon, and only then for thirty seconds.
- This same group has regularly used barriers to remove Bomjon from sight.
- Special investigative teams weren’t allowed to physically examine Bomjon.
- Those teams say they cannot verify the Ram Bomjon claims.
- Buddhist authorities themselves say it’s not approporiate to refer to Bomjon as a new Buddha.
- It appears proceeds from Ram Bomjon sales are going to Maoist rebels.
The Ram Bomjon phenomenon has been referred to by many people as a great mystery. I agree, but perhaps not in the manner they intend. To me, the mystery is not how a boy manages to survive nine months without eating, drinking or moving. To me, the mystery is why people are proving so eager to believe that this is the case when there is no affirmative evidence beyond the claims themselves to support these claims. To me, the mystery is why a committee would refuse to allow multiple teams to test those claims. To me, the mystery is why people aren’t more skeptical about the monetary interests of the people who are in control of access to this “Buddha Boy.” To me, the mystery is why people aren’t paying much attention to the respected Buddhist monks who say there’s no reason to think Ram Bomjon is a Buddha.
I don’t know what the resolution to this mystery is. I do, however, have a suspicion that this matter is much more about the desire of needy people to believe something special than it is about the digestive, meditative and exercise habits of a 16-year-old boy named Ram Bomjon.