- The Washington Times - Monday, November 21, 2005

BARA DISTRICT, Nepal — Thousands of pilgrims are pouring into the dense jungle of southern Nepal to worship a 15-year-old boy who has been hailed as a new Buddha.

Devotees say that Ram Bomjon, who is meditating silently beneath a tree, has not eaten or had anything to drink since he sat down at his chosen spot six months ago.

Witnesses say they have seen light emanating from the teenager’s forehead.

“It looks a bit like when you shine a [flashlight] through your hand,” said Tek Bahadur Lama, a member of the committee responsible for dealing with the growing number of visitors from India and elsewhere in Nepal.

Photographs of Ram, available for about 10 cents from his makeshift shrine, have become ubiquitous across the region. “Far and wide, it’s the only topic of conversation,” said Upendra Lamichami, a local journalist.



He said no claim had emerged of Ram breaking his fast or moving, even to relieve himself.

Santa Raj Subedi, the chief government official in Bara District, appealed to the capital, Katmandu, for assistance in dealing with the influx of visitors, and for a team of scientists to examine the case.

Local doctors failed to reach a final conclusion, although they were allowed no closer than five yards from the boy mystic, declaring that they could confirm no more than that he was alive.

The phenomenon has gained popularity partly because it resembles an episode in the life of the historical Buddha, who was born 160 miles away about 543 B.C. The Buddha achieved enlightenment when he meditated beneath a sacred pipal tree for 49 days.

Ram also is sitting beneath a pipal tree, in the same posture as the Buddha is depicted, but his vigil has taken longer.

Ram’s mother, who is called Maya Devi, like the Buddha’s mother, acknowledges anxiety, particularly at mealtimes, but she tells herself: “God took him to the forest and I have faith that God will feed him.”

“He’s definitely got thinner,” she said. “Early in the morning he looks sunken, like there’s no blood in him, but as the sun rises he seems to get brighter and brighter.”

The fervor increased last week when a snake is said to have bitten Ram, and a curtain was drawn around him.

After five days it was opened and he spoke. “Tell the people not to call me a Buddha. I don’t have the Buddha’s energy. I am at the level of rinpoche [lesser divinity]. A snake bit me but I do not need treatment. I need six years of deep meditation.”

Despite his protestations, “Buddha boy” is famous.

A thriving market has grown in the once pristine forest, supplying pilgrims with everything from chewing tobacco and bicycle repairs to incense and religious amulets. The ground is covered with litter.

A fence was built around Ram’s tree to prevent pilgrims from prodding him, then a second, and now a third is planned, as well as a bus park, leaving Ram at the center of an ever-growing circle of commerce.

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