Nepal’s “Buddha Boy” begins three-year meditation in bunker

AFP, March 27, 2007

KATHMANDU, Nepal -- A Nepali teenager dubbed the ”Buddha Boy” has begun meditating for three years in an underground bunker and will neither sleep, eat nor drink any water during that time, supporters claimed on Tuesday.

Ram Bahadur Bomjan, 17, who supporters insist is the reincarnation of the Buddha, shot to fame in May 2005 amid reports he did not need food, water or sleep while meditating.

He has, however, been spotted nibbling on fruit and catching a nap.

“We’ve constructed an underground room with a tiled roof as requested by Bomjan,” said Raju Shah, a member of a village committee set up to support the activities of the young man.

Shah said Bomjam began meditating in the bunker on Monday.

“He has not eaten, slept or taken any water and he plans to continue meditating without food or water for three years there,” Shah claimed.

The cement-walled bunker is seven feet (2.1 metres) deep and is located in the jungle 60 kilometers (40 miles) southeast of Kathmandu, Shah told AFP.

Tens of thousands of people came to visit the teenager at his first meditation site under a pipal tree in the same area.

He vanished from the site in March 2006 after meditating for 10 months.

“This time he does not want visitors — not even his family,” said Shah.

Local authorities, however, have poured cold water on the fasting claims and said the boy was being used by supporters to fleece funds from villagers. They froze the committee’s bank account containing 8,000 dollars — a small fortune in impoverished Nepal.

Bomjam returned to the same area to meditate in December 2006, but disappeared again earlier this month.

“While he was wandering round the jungle, he met a villager and asked him to construct an underground room. We began doing it immediately and he has started to meditate there,” Shah told AFP.

Gautama Siddhartha, who later became known as Buddha or the Enlightened One, is believed to have been born in southern Nepal around 500 BC.

Buddhists believe Siddhartha achieved enlightenment after meditating under a pipal tree.

The media here has reported that Bomjan had told a friend that he is not a reincarnation of Buddha, but merely an “austere sage.”