Strange case of the missing “Buddha boy”

Buddha boyWriting about Buddhism always baffles me. But I do love reading about it, and the most recent case of mysterious disappearance of a 15-year-old boy, whose followers claim he is an incarnation of the Buddha, is a thriller.

None of the Western news reports I dug into took any time to talk to any independent Buddhists, in an attempt to get beyond the hearsay and rumors that are floating around Nepal, the boy’s home.

Here are the details from the BBC (with even more available at Wikipedia):

A missing Nepalese teenager popularly known as “Buddha Boy” reappeared briefly on Sunday, his followers say.

The committee managing the meditation site of Ram Bomjan, 16, released video of its members purportedly meeting the boy near his village in southern Nepal.

The boy’s meditation and apparent 10-month fast attracted global attention before he vanished in March.

An apparent 10-month fast? The Telegraph has pointed out that the “attraction was closed” to people outside the seven-member committee that manages Bomjan.

Please show a little more journalistic skepticism, BBC. To the BBC’s credit, their article did include the “these claims have not been independently verified” line. How about instead of “apparent 10-month fast” we use the phrase “claimed 10-month fast”?

Other than that, I go back to my first beef: why aren’t Buddhists unaffiliated with Bomjan consulted for some thoughts for these articles? What does the media savvy Dalai Lama have to say about this?

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  • Bartholomew

    Rationalist International’s report included one important detail missed elswhere:

    Observing the boy with a binocular, the rationalist physicians found his breath regular and healthy…They could not observe him eating or drinking during the day. But every evening, the tree is being covered with blankets hiding Bamjon’s niche between the roots, so that nobody can see what is happening there between dusk and dawn.

  • ashibaka

    Missed in news reports, maybe, but not on Wikipedia.

  • Stephen A.

    Call it the “Gere Effect,” but Buddhism often seems gets a “pass” from serious scruitiny from the MSM. And this isn’t even the REAL version – you know, the kind Hollywood practices. (sarcasm)

    If this kid had been a Christian fasting for some Cause, he would have been “exposed” very quickly or held up for ridicule. I read about this a couple of times (Drudge must have linked it) and saw nothing negative written about the circumstances of his supposed remarkable feat.

    (And yes, Christians *have* been known to fast. I read it somewhere.)

  • Mark Vassilakis

    Why doesn’t anyone question the claims of this boy being the reincarnation of Gautama Buddha? If the Buddha attained nirvana, he would escape the cycle of rebirth. I guess this is indeed the soft and fuzzy “Gere” version of Buddhism in particular and “spirituality” in general.

  • HokiePundit

    The “Buddha Boy” doesn’t actually claim to be Siddhartha Gautama, and in fact denied it, but simply claims to be a sage.

    Here’s something to consider: is it possible that someone could, in fact, fast for 10 months? Is it possible that the moisture in the air or something means that he doesn’t need to drink? I think of circular breathing for musicians, where they can play for a long time (I think the record is about 45 minutes) without taking a regular breath. If the kid’s not really moving, then is it possible that he’s in some kind of hibernation, and thus doesn’t need to burn a lot of calories?

  • Dan Berger

    Mark Vassilakis: “a Buddha” is anyone who has attained ultimate enlightenment, as Siddhartha Gautama did. So “an incarnation of the Buddha” doesn’t seem to mean what you seem to think it does.

    Though it could also be sloppy phrasing; perhaps the boy is being called “a Buddha” rather than “an incarnation of the Buddha.”

    HokiePundit, isn’t 10 months just a bit of a stretch? The longest fast I have ever heard of, in which the faster survived or died, whichever, has been weeks, not months. And the boy in the picture shows no signs of undernutrition at all.

    Even if he were “hibernating,” you’d expect him to get thin. Known hibernating mammals do, and they only go four to six months.

  • Camassia

    The idea of a boddhisattva, or Buddhist saint, is that they can escape the cycle of death and rebirth, but they choose not to because they want to enlighten other people on earth. I assume that’s what this boy is supposed to be.

  • not two

    Given that Siddhartha Gautama rejected asceticism (after fasting to the state of collapse and near death) before attaining enlightenment, it seems unlikely that he would be practicing it in a new incarnation. The middle path does not require starving, nor does it endorse gluttony. A ten month fast is a parlor trick to ensnare the superstitious religious. I am reminded of George Bush in ‘Oh God!’ when the judge asks him to prove that he is God. He responds, “What? Oh! You want to see a trick! Pick a card, any card…”

  • http://nil Norbu Tenzin

    ah, one who seeks for right path, every one should beleive him and follow him instead of disturbing. I believe there was no peace for his meditation and he has left the site. So we should pray for his good health and success of his 6 years meditation successfully. I faith on him and pray for his success!!