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Buddhism in the News


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ram Bahadur Bamjan. The "Buddha Boy" Re-Emerges From Forest.

So the Buddha boy has re-emerged from the forest to greet his followers before returning back to the forest for more meditation. I have been skeptical from the beginning that he is the reincarnation of Buddha because from what I know Siddhartha Gautama had broken free of the cycle of birth and death by being transformed by mahaparinirvana:

"Being Buddha means the last birth and the highest level that can be achieved. There can be no reincarnation of Buddha, even though Buddhists believe in life after death," said Rakesh, a Buddhist scholar in Katmandu who goes by only one name.

James: I'm not saying that he isn't a very spiritual being but I am suspicious that this could all be a scam of some kind to take peoples' money in the form of "donations." I also wonder how he can even be compared to Buddha when he hasn't said much of anything in the form of teachings. I keep thinking that this sounds like the beginning of a cult headed by a charlatan wanting to be called a Buddha and followed and adored by people. That said, Buddhism at first was probably seen as a cult and Buddha seen by some as a charlatan but the revelations of Buddha have well stood the test of time and investigation over thousands of years.

I guess some see him as Maitreya (the "next Buddha") who will restore the "pure Dharma" to Earth but there are two requirements before Maitreya could arrive on Earth. First: 1). The Dharma will no longer be taught, which is clearly not evident now as Buddhism is growing faster than maybe since its arrival into greater Asia with converts in the west such as in America, Europe and Australia. And with the invention of the internet the teachings of ordained Dharma teachers are more widely available than perhaps at any time in the history of Buddhism.

The other requirement that needs to occur before Maitreya will arrive is that Buddhism must be completely forgotten, which is clearly not the case right now on Earth. There are also events that must take place such as oceans shrinking in size, which isn't happening. In fact, because of global warming the oceans are rising. Thus, I think it can be safe to assume that "Buddha boy" is not Maitreya.

There is something about this Buddha boy, his "handlers" and "followers" seems very suspicious to me. I'm also curious about the monks seen in the above picture. They seem to wear the robes of Tibetan Buddhist monks and so I'd be curious to hear what their teachers and senior monks think of Buddha boy. I'm curious and will continue to follow this story and see what happens next.

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..... said...

Buddha has attained Nibbana. He will never be reincarnated ever again.

L.B. said...

Bodhisattva, maybe, but certainly not a reincarnation of Siddharta Gautama.

Kamacharya said...

Did you see the "Buddha Boy" on David Letterman?

Below is the transcript from The Late Show website. Quite stupid but amusing none-the-less (and no more ridiculous than the real "Buddha Boy" I reckon).

A teenage boy, who many believe is the reincarnation of Buddha, has emerged from the jungle of Nepal. He was nice enough to stop by and say hello tonight. Dave welcomes Joe Grossman, the Buddha Boy. The Buddha Boy enters and stands center stage, slightly askew.
DAVE: "Thanks for being here, Joe. . . . can I call you Joe?"
BUDDHA BOY: ". . . . Sure"
DAVE: "So, you’re from Nepal?"
BUDDHA BOY: "No, I just live there. I was born in Great Neck."
DAVE: "I see. Explain to us what a Buddhist does."
BUDDHA BOY: "A Buddhist is one who takes refuge in the Three Jewels: The Buddha, the Dharma, and the . . . . something."
DAVE: "You mean you don’t know?"
BUDDHA BOY: "uhhhhh, there’s a lot of stuff . . . . ."
DAVE: "What do people say about you being Buddha?"
BUDDHA BOY: " . . . . I can’t believe it’s not Buddha. "
DAVE: "Buddha Boy, ladies and gentlemen."

io said...

hi everyone. happy to see you'r interested in the subject. have been following it since beginning, this is why i just want to add some info.
this boy never said he was Buddha. he calls himself a 'meditating being' (see wikipedia for more and surf for his precise wording). he said he has much more to learn before considering himself a buddha.
then it is also true that buddhism explains that 'buddha nature' is everyone's basic nature : 'just' have to reveal it to yourself (through maybe years of disciplined practice and meditation). therefore he is a buddha, like you are also dear reader, or better said, he is a potential buddha as you also are...
about the fact that so many folks are gathering to see him and the 'festival' aspects and the 'business' aspects. have you been to nepal or india ? the people there are so spiritualy inclined that it just normal for them to go and visit a possible 'saint'. it gives them hope in their difficult life, especially in this period where their nation is in a process of rebuilding now that the political situation has changed and that war has stopped (this boy's first declared wish). but there is so much still to be done... a little help from prayer time will not be lost - that's just the way they see it. then when you have so many people gathering you have to feed them and offer whatever is needed to stay on the spot, included small souvenirs to bring home. who could throw the stone at some unemployed (or badly exploited) people taking this opportunity - on a personal basis - to make little money to help rising their children back home? we, the 'rich' westerners ? how dare we ??? when all our societies are money driven without any consideration of economic justice and balancing of the world resources... have you seen their real conditions of life ? yes, who is there to blame, who to be blamed...? big question ! let's just wonder.
on the matter of eating or not. please just surf the web on 'inedia'. you will find information on people who don't eat - some for years - some also not drink (rare) -, and record of people having done that in the past too. 'saints', 'yogis', 'tai chi masters'... some even teach how to do so. just try if you feel ready. but be carefull, one has to be minimum prepared and informed : there is also danger lying there... (and it has nothing to do with anorexia, of course).
yet it is very challenging. how something that everyone believes - that we cannot live without material food - could be untrue ? one answer is : these people don't go 'without' food, they just developped the capacity to feed themselves in another way, that is not material : through meditation, prayer, energy work. they feed directly from light, lifeforce, prana, God Love... you'll find the data if you really want.
and finally, just try to sit without movement for a few days, even having someone providing food to you, and you will experience a little of who this person is. not the 'reincarnation' of the historical Buddha (it just easy and media ways to call him that way), but yes, a messenger of some sort of human potential we still have to discover.
wishing you all good discoveries and fullfilment of your most inner sacred wishes.

Kamacharya said...

Have you tried this "non-material" diet Io?
Before Siddhartha Gautama was enlightened he tried all manner of ascetic behavior on the path to realisation. One of his practices was in reducing what he consumed until he was down to one rice grain a day. It is said that he became so emaciated that he could feel his spine through his abdomen.
Eventually he became so weak that he could hardly move. It was then that he realised that the way to truth was not in complete abstinence nor in gross indulgence but a middle way between the two.

Forgive my cynicism Io, but I hardly think that the "spiritual light and magic" fad diet will really catch on.

anonyrod said...

I think that it is more likely that he is a reincarnation of Mother Theresa, come back to rip off more of the gullible. Even Maitreya and Bodhisattvas are simply stories.

Whether it is the son of god,the son of sam, the mystic who comes down from the mountains for his yearly glass of milk, the godman pedophile who sprays colored powder by sleight of hand, or even Sarah Pailin, they are all conditioned realities.

They call him James Ure said...


I didn't see that but from your description it sounds amusing indeed.


First he may not say it but his handlers and other are saying that he's Buddha. Including monks who should know better because even many of us in the laity know that Buddha will never be reincarnated again. These monks are misleading people into thinking that he is something he is not.

Surely "Buddha Boy" has overheard people talking about the comparison between he and Buddha. Yet "BB" says nothing to refute those claims by the monks as far as I know.

If he really didn't want to be compared with the great awakened one then he would surely have spoken up by now.

Yes you are right that we all have Buddha-nature but that is different that being compared to THE Buddha.

I have seen the real conditions of life in the developing world. I spent two years living in the slums and villages of Africa.

So I know well the economic hardships but Buddha Boy's handlers and others are taking these peoples' hard earned, meager money to sell them false hope.

He is most likely just a very advanced meditation practitioner like many monks. Yes I want people to earn a living but not at the expense of other people who have little discretionary spending money.

People have a right to sell or buy whatever they like but what I am saying is that they are buying souvenirs to remember visiting a being that they think is the reincarnation of Buddha. Which is a false hope.

They are taking advantage of their desire for hope and making money off of their delusions. That is not right. That is making money off of exploitation, which I'm very sure the TRUE Buddha would frown upon.

As for not eating and drinking for months and years. We just don't know if that is true for sure because when he is sitting before crowds his handlers don't let worshipers see him at night.

So he could be getting food in the evening. And out in the forest he could be getting food as well. There is no way to tell for sure so until I see concrete medical/scientific information. I doubt it.


Yes, as you said THE Buddha himself didn't even advocate the kind of starvation that "Buddha Boy" is supposedly doing. So why would Buddha being reincarnated as "Buddha Boy" (following the logic of these believers) now be FOR that kind of extreme renunciation?


I agree with you. I see Maitreya and the various other Bodhisattvas as ideals and examples of how to live and not as literal beings. I guess Maitreya could be a reality but it would be so far off from happening (if you believe it will given the "events" that must happen before his arrival) that I just don't concern myself with it.

I concern myself with the present moment and liberating myself from samsara. Maitreya can not do that for me whether he exists or does not. And neither can Buddha or Buddha Boy. My liberation is my task and mine alone. I can and need help along the way but the heavy lifting is my responsibility as it should be.

Mumon said...

I'd say this exactly the kind of Buddha referred to in some of the koans about "meeting the Buddha," but I'm afraid someone might not take it the right way.

Leander said...

Not trying to be offensive, but what puzzles me are the statements on here like "we know Buddha can't be reincarnated" exactly do we know ? Because the scriptures tell us ? We'd have to blindly believe in the scriptures to claim "we know", and being a Buddhist myself, I think it's essential and very much in accord with the teachings of the Buddha to not hold an absolute belief in any kind of scripture...not even Buddhist ones. So if we don' do we know he's not gonna be reincarnated ? Has any of us attained nirvana ? Does any of us have any first-hand knowledge of the "metaphysical mechanics" of reincarnation ? I doubt it.

Having said that, I personally don't think he's Buddha reincarnated...but we gotta be open to the idea. Enjoying your blog very much James - thanks for the work !

anonyrod said...

Good point. However, some people are very familiar with the ‘metaphysical mechanics’ of birth, or rebirth in this case. These people are the fully aware beings who have gone beyond the creation of any further karma (namely, a few bikkhu’s). There is literature on this (Patticcasamuppada, Dependent Origination) but reading it will not really fill in the gaps as you have to be able to see the whole process in your own mind to understand it fully.

Birth is basically dependent upon ignorant attachment to what arises in the mind, and as people let go of these habitual arisings, or primal instincts, then little by little there becomes less of a source for further birth. Once you get onto the third path of Anagami for example then the remaining ignorance is only sufficient for one type of birth, and it is certainly not here in the human realm.

On the first and second paths there are more opportunities for getting back here, but even then you don’t come back as an ordinary being, you come back with the same knowledge or yahn you had in the previous life (and you don’t start behaving like an idiot just to get attention).

There is also more than the possibility of rebirth as one of the supporting conditions in this particular case. There is the ignorant assumption that being in the forest is somehow a mystical place for meditation. This is a myth, the forest is simply suitable for beginners as there are less distractions and the mind generally remains calm. Skillful meditators can meditate anywhere, and fully aware beings don’t even have to meditate. My own teacher loves the forest, but only because it is the one place he can get some peace and quiet and be in natural surroundings.

While people usually think of birth as from life to life, a la Hinduism, Buddhism is only concerned with the present moment, that’s why it is called birth rather than rebirth, and people usually undergo birth millions of times in their lifetime, but it can be exactly the same thing as life to life because for the mind it is continuous, and therefore usually from one existence to another without any break.

In one interesting conversation with my teacher, he told me about some esoteric teachings on karma shown to him by his own teacher, who was a fully aware being. He said that because of their pure mindedness fully aware beings cannot create the usual type of resultant karma dependent upon intent that leads to birth and a change in consciousness, but they can create another kind of karma, instant karma that arises from thought. Meaning that whatever they think comes into being. He said that on quite a few occasions his teacher mentioned things out loud, looked at him in a way signaling that he should pay attention, and then a few minutes later someone would walk up to him and offer what he had thought. He said that his teacher would usually do this while travelling in the city and after a few times he understood.

anonyrod said...

Just a little further clarification on 'instant karma'. No doubt to many people it may appear somewhat airy-fairy. However, it is also the same method commonly used by senior vipassana Ajarns when they put people into fourth jhana, just for the experience (something I have experienced several times).

Also, people may begin to think that it is dependent upon the power of thought, this is not so, it is simply the power of a pure mind. Anyone who cannot do this, and usually does not do this, is not a fully aware being.

They call him James Ure said...



Leander and Anonyrod:

I would also raise the example of the Dalai Lama who has been reincarnated numerous times. He is very familiar with the concept as well as the teachings of Buddha and the masters over the centuries.

And as far as I know the DL agrees with the conventional Buddhist wisdom that Buddha with not be reincarnated again. The idea that Buddha will not be reincarnated again is very logical to me and I combine that with a dose of faith.

Also, if Buddhahood does not result in final liberation via Mahaparinirvana then doesn't that mean that Buddha was a Bodhisattva instead? As Bodhisattvas supposedly put of final liberation to be reincarnated over and over to help others.

And if the founder of Buddhism himself can not be finally liberated from this cycle of birth and death via Mahaparinirvana then what chance do we have of getting out of this cycle? Therefore, why believe in Buddhism?

Riverwolf, said...

I was hoping you would post on this. As always, thanks for an informed and revealing discussion!

Leander said...

Thanks Anonyrod and James for your answers. You raised some good points, and to make this clear - I have a great trust in the Buddhist teachings, as well as in Buddhist authorities much further along the path than me (e.g. the Dalai Lama), with much more understanding of the principles involved than me.

But it's "just" trust. The clarity and inner logic of these teachings invoke trust of that kind in me, but I try to not make them a belief, but a "working assumption". One of the main points that initially attracted me to Buddhism was the idea to question EVERYTHING and to attain first-hand knowledge. So while I trust these teachings, I always try to remind me of what I actually KNOW...and that's not too much, and on some days I'd even say nothing. But that's what keeps me treading the path.

James, about "why believe in Buddhism" - for me it's not about belief, it's a way of life, a method of attaining wisdom - with believing I close doors to attaining wisdom. Mahaparinirvana might lead to liberation of being controlled by samsara, but what do we know about how beings that attained Mahaparinirvana interact with the universe from there on - they could be in a position to pick their incarnations for all we know.

My initial post was motivated by the feeling that the essence of Buddhism is to actually attain knowledge. It's okay to trust sources if their methods of attaining knowledge and their ideas seem reasonable, but what counts is firsthand knowledge. And at least to me personally, one of the most liberating and educating things is to admit that I don't know much, no matter what I trust to be true or not.

I hope I could make myself clear...thanks for the exchange guys.

Kamacharya said...

I agree that openness is a good quality to possess and to nurture in others but we must also retain our caution.
Openness may quickly lead to gullibility which generally leads to exploitation.

The Buddha himself cautioned against blind faith in the Kalama Sutta.

They call him James Ure said...


Thanks!! Yeah I'm fascinated by this story.


I think you make good points. We can not truly no for sure anything about anything!! :) I like your wording of "working assumptions." I agree that some degree of questioning is always healthy.

I like your wording too of saying Buddhism is a way of life. I agree that often too many beliefs can paint us in a close-minded corner.

I think like with much in Buddhism is comes down to balancing our life on the middle path. You raise some great thoughts.


The Kalama Sutra is one of my favorites and one that anchors my understanding of Buddhism. Caution is indeed a good quality too.

anonyrod said...

Couple of points here.
First, the word used for this 'trust' is 'saddha', usually pronounced 'sadt-tah'. It doesn't actually mean trust, it means confidence, in the teachings and in the teachers (some of them anyway). In the West they started translating this word as 'faith', which then opens up a real can of worms. However, the only reason that Buddhism has survived for so long is 'saddha', people's confidence in it.

My teacher says that 'saddha' changes, in that you usually begin with confidence in your teacher but once your practice develops and your letting go saves you from suffering then you develop great confidence in the practice.

He also advised me to be careful about trying to explain esoteric teachings, which are really beyond the realm of words. As he says, you can easily come off the rails because you will eventually run out of words. As for the 'instant karma' feat, he says that the best way of describing it is not as just thought but as using 'pure intent', accompanied by some unbelievable samadhi. He says that in talking about it some people will start thinking that it could be applicable for getting anything you want. This is certainly true to some extent, but the people who have such an ability don't want anything, and they would not be able to get such things as The White House or New Zealand so there are limits. Thus, the range is kept within teaching demonstrations.

I think James explained very well just what a Bodhisatva is. I am not a follower of Tibetan Buddhism, but I do have great respect for H.H. the Dalai Lama because he is always such a good example of how a Buddhist should behave and inspires confidence.

As for the possibility of choices that an enlightened being would have upon death, this only makes sense if you have attachment to the idea of a permanent self.

One thing you do pick up by being around many of the true masters over the years is that there is no one there. They are usually a reflection, to a certain extent, of the people they are interacting with. To experience rebirth you have to have ignorant attachment in the mind, defilements. Part of this ignorance is the desire to be, the desire to exist. Fully aware beings have none of this desire, so apart from teaching (if they do decide to teach) they have no other interest than to be the flame that finally goes out.

dragonflyfilly said...

hmmmmm, i don't know what to say about this...

Hi james, i like your new pic.

cheers for now,

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

Please forgive me, but I have to say that a lot about this reminds me of fundamentalist Christian aquaintances who are so hooked into considerations of when the rapture, the end, armegeddon are coming. (Usually I don't hear anything about this, but unfortunatly Obama's election seems to have convinced a few of the crazier in that camp that God's judgement had come upon us and the end days were here.)

Buddah boy seems completely unconnected to Buddhism. Except perhaps, as you seem to suggest, if people are being made to suffer by the promoters of this person.

Is any hope ever false? I guess it is, even though even false hope can give real comfort.

They call him James Ure said...


You know, it doesn't really have anything to do with Buddhism. It's just a fascinating story to me. In the end your right that it's purely about our present circumstances in our lives.

Hope isn't bad at all. I just don't want to see people mislead but that's my not job to tell people what to think or do. Nor is it anyone's job. I'm just giving my opinion on such a unique story.

I'm just a curious fellow with these kinds of stories. :) Thanks for the great comment. I too do not want to see fundamentalism creep into Buddhism too much.

Balance of the middle path!! :)

Dhamma81 said...

Fundamentalism can't be all bad if you take it to mean "going back to the fundamentals." Of course, so often fundamentalism has been and is so much more then that. I think if we stick to the fundamentals like the Four Noble Truths and other of the core beliefs that all the genuine schools of Buddhism agreee on as being integral then we won't be misled by false prophets and charlatans.

If we get too liberal about things then Buddhism will cease to be Buddhism at all but just a hodgepoge tribal belief system that believes in nothing and falls for everything.

At the same time, if we are too rigid then we could end up doing more harm then good as well. I guess it really is a balancing act.

anonyrod said...

Dhamma81 hit the nail on the head, there are so many cultural influences on Buddhism that there has to be some semblance of ‘fundamentalism’ concerning the teachings. Particularly, ‘The Four Noble Truths’ and the fact that Buddhism is concerned with the cessation of suffering in the complete and total sense and not merely in creating a bunch of people walking around with smiley faces.

While not everyone would take the same perspective as io, he or she does make a very valid point concerning the somewhat capitalistic interpretations of Buddhism in the West.

Asia is the source of Buddhism, and like it or not the true authorities, those who realize the four paths, can usually only be found in Asia at the present time.

Asia does have its problems concerning false teachers and false paths that crop up from time to time. Thailand presently has its own large money cult, but surprisingly it does have a beneficial effect on some within society regarding a moral lifestyle and in teaching some basic samadhi. However, its scope is limited because it does not follow the fundamentals, and like many other cults people will eventually become bored with it.

The West, however, has even greater problems, because much of what has developed so far is merely a blending of Buddhism with Judeo-Christian culture.

People don’t quite get the hang of letting go. In real Buddhism letting go is ruthless, nothing at all is attached to; no intellectual interest in emotions or experiences of becoming one with the universe and other such baloney.

Obviously, this does not appeal to many people, who cannot go beyond the idea of a self and thus want to feel wonderful with nature; despite the fact that this same nature is Darfur and cute little kids being abused and blown into body parts here and there.

Instead, the West has many teachers who teach yet another mild form of insanity, calling it vipassana, i.e. the western version. They earn a living, write many books, and the one giveaway, they are always talking about themselves, simply because they do not follow the fundamentals.

Even most of the monks are like this too, nice people, genuine people, but they often follow ‘one teacher’ (instead of the message), but are fairly clueless as to the fundamentals and are more concerned with rules and regulations, the outward form, and building yet another new and beautiful Wat that costs millions.

Buddhism has nothing to do with collecting money, and nothing to do with buildings.

I note that James has said that he is not a teacher, good, me too, I hope that it stays that way. However, in this backassward world of ours, James, and others like him who offer opportunities for ordinary folks to add their 5 cents, will probably be more valuable to society than most of those who do consider themselves to be hot shot teachers.

Anonymous said...

Hi to all of you beings!
I've read an article here in hungary about "buddha boy". I don't know what is the source of the article, but they say, that Ram repeatedly said that he isn't buddha, he is just a simple ascetic. The page also said, that Ram was examined by buddhist doctors (whatever is this mean), and they confirm, that he isn't a reincarnation of buddha. By the way, interesting posts James, practice doubt of doubt a little more :). no offense
Be good, all of you.

They call him James Ure said...

Thank-you for the compliments and comments Edge. :)

Paul said...

Hi James, stumbled on your blog this morning and was just reading older posts.

Is this relating to the same 'Buddha Boy' who a few years ago apparently never ate for however long it was. I totally tuned out of that. I don't believe it for a minute. The news reports I saw/read specified that he sat in a state of meditation until sunset and was then hidden from view, where in my view he probably downed a Big Mac or two.
I don't personally believe this kid for one minute. Like you I think it is some kind of publicity stunt.

They call him James Ure said...


Yeah it is the same "Buddha Boy."

You said:

where in my view he probably downed a Big Mac or two.

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