10,000 people a day visit meditating youth
BINAJ GURUBACHARYA, ASSOCIATED PRESS - November 24th 2005.
KATHMANDU — A teenage boy has been meditating in a Nepalese jungle for six months, and thousands of people have flocked to see him, some believing he is the reincarnation of Buddha.
Ram Bahadur Banjan, 15, sits cross-legged and motionless with eyes closed among the roots of a tree in the jungle of Bara, about 160 kilometres south of the capital, Kathmandu.
He's supposedly been that way since May 17, but his followers have been keeping him from public view at night.
Sujit Mahat, a reporter for the Kantipur newspaper, said yesterday he spent two days at the site, and that about 10,000 people are believed to visit daily.
Soldiers have been posted in the area for crowd control, officials said. A makeshift parking lot and cluster of food stalls have sprung up near Banjan's retreat.
Many visitors believe Banjan is a reincarnation of Siddhartha Gautama, who was born nearby around 563 BC and later became revered as the Buddha, which means Enlightened One.
Others aren't so sure.
Police Insp. Chitra Bahadur Gurung said officers have interviewed the boy's associates about their claim that Banjan has gone six months without food or drink. Officers have not directly questioned the boy, who appears deep in meditation and doesn't speak.
"We (are) investigating the claim on how anyone can survive for so long without food and water," Gurung said.
Local officials have also asked the Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology in Kathmandu to send scientists to examine Banjan.
Mahat said visitors can catch a glimpse of Banjan from a roped-off area about 25 metres away between dawn and dusk. Followers then place a screen in front of him, blocking the view and making it impossible to know what he is doing at night, Mahat said.
"People only saw what went on in the day, and many believed he was some kind of god," Mahat said.
Buddhism teaches that right thinking and self-control can enable people to achieve nirvana — a divine state of peace and release from desire. Buddhism has about 325 million followers, mostly in Asia.
Nepal's 'Buddha' boy goes missing
A 16-year-old boy who had been meditating and fasting in a Nepal forest for 10 months has been missing since Saturday morning, police say.
Locals and police searched the area in the southern district of Bara but have not been able to locate him so far.
Police have rejected reports that the young boy, popularly known as "Little Buddha", may have been abducted.
His followers say Ram Bomjan may have moved deep inside the forest looking for a quieter place to meditate.
Hundreds of people used to visit the area every day where the young boy was meditating.
Make-shift shops had been set up by the locals to cater to the visitors who came from different parts of Nepal and neighbouring India.
Buddhist flags were erected around the site where Bomjan was meditating.
Booklets carrying his photo and CDs sold like hotcakes in Kathmandu and other parts of the country.
His followers claimed that Bomjan did not take food or even water throughout his t10 month-long meditation.
They refused, however, to allow any independent investigation about the health conditions of Bomjan saying that "it would disturb him."
The authorities also did not intervene to avoid hurting local feeling.
While critics accused Bomjan's followers of fooling people, the young boy continued to hog media headlines.
Tired from the decade-old armed conflict that has already claimed more than 13,000 lives, followers of Bomjan claimed that he was an incarnation of Lord Buddha who was born in Nepal more than 2,500 years ago.
They are still hoping that Bomjan will reappear somewhere deep in the forest and continue his meditation.