Ram Bomjon is back. The boy Buddha that brought fame, and tourist income, to his small village has stepped out of the jungle, where he pledged to meditate in peace for six years, and is doing his public relations schtick once more.
Bomjon’s special appeal is that he sits. He sits and sits and sits, not doing anything else for a long time, convincing people that he is meditating, and achieving enlightenment. His supporters say that he sat for about 8 months straight without eating or drinking or moving at all… although those same supporters refused to allow medical doctors to examine him, and during this supposed 8 month marathon of meditation, Bomjon’s supporters wouldn’t allow anyone to come see Bomjon’s nighttime meditations. They put up screens around him to hide him during these times – for his protection, you understand.
Now that Bomjon is back, he’s got a much fancier get up, with a stage, and colorful banners, and he’s laying his hand onto visitors in a kind of blessing. Ram Bomjon has become something like a shopping mall Santa Claus for Nepal.
The thing that really tickles my fancy about all this is that Ram Bomjon’s devotees claim that he is the reincarnation of the Buddha – Siddhartha Gautama.
The odd thing about the idea that Bomjon is the Buddha reincarnated is that the Buddha’s claim to fame is that he would not be reincarnated. The Buddha said that he had discovered a way out of the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. He regarded existence is inherently painful, and not worth having. A reincarnation of the Buddha is a contradiction in terms. If the Buddha were ever reincarnated, it would be a sign that he had failed in his task.
So, when Ram Bomjon’s supporters say that he’s the reincarnation of the Buddha, they’re unwittingly exposing Bomjon as a sham. Either they’re wrong about Bomjon being the Buddha’s reincarnation, or Bomjon is the reincarnation of a failure.
Besides all that, Ram Bomjon’s supposed extreme asceticism is a repudiation of one of the Buddha’s core teachings – that of the Middle Path between the extremes of self-indulgence and self-denial. The Buddha didn’t suggest going completely without food and water, but said that such efforts were inherently flawed.
Ram Bomjon makes a great sideshow, until you realize that it’s just show. If you don’t accept Buddhist ideology, Bomjon’s act is an obvious hoax. If you do accept the tenets of Buddhist ideology, however, Bomjon plainly fails to make the grade.
Of course, consistency is a hobgoblin of the world outside of faith. If you’re a believer, you can just say hush-hush to the monkey of the mind that tries to make actual sense of the world, and sink into warm tingles of belief for the sake of belief.