Ram Bahadur Bomjon
Ram Bahadur Bomjon (Sanskrit: राम बहादुर बामजान) (born c. 9 April 1990, sometimes spelled Bomjan, Banjan, or Bamjan), also known as Palden Dorje (his monastic name) and now Dharma Sangha, is from Ratanapuri village, Bara district, Nepal. Some of his supporters have claimed that he is a reincarnation of the Buddha, but Ram himself has denied this, and many practitioners of Buddhism agree that the Buddha has entered nirvana and cannot be reborn.
He drew thousands of visitors and media attention by spending months in meditation. Nicknamed the Buddha Boy, he began his meditation on May 16, 2005. He reportedly disappeared from the hollow tree where he had been meditating for months on March 16, 2006, but was found by some followers a week later. He told them he had left his meditation place, where large crowds had been watching him, "because there is no peace". He then went his own way and reappeared elsewhere in Nepal on December 26, 2006, but left again on March 8, 2007. On March 26, 2007, inspectors from the Area Police Post Nijgadh in Ratanapuri found Bomjon meditating inside an underground chamber of about seven square feet.
On 10 November 2008, Bomjon reappeared in Ratanapuri and spoke to a group of devotees in the remote jungle.
- 1 Buddhist background
- 2 Wandering to Bara district
- 3 Meditating in a pit
- 4 Preaching in Halkhoriya jungle
- 5 Claims of inedia
- 6 Reappearance in Ratanpuri jungle
- 7 Non-appearance in 2009 at the Gadhi Mai Mela
- 8 Controversies
- 8.1 The seventeen battered villagers
- 8.2 Capture and torture of two women
- 8.3 The birth certificate forgery
- 8.4 The 2012 violent clash
- 8.5 Bomjon attacks his own family members
- 8.6 Attack on journalists
- 8.7 Buddha Boy's eviction from Halkhoriya
- 8.8 The Sarlahi violence
- 8.9 The ownership dispute of the Halkhoriya Jungle
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Bomjon is a member of the Tamang community.
Bomjon's story gained popularity because it resembled a legend from the Jataka Nidanakatha about Gautama Buddha's enlightenment. This led some devotees to claim Ram was the reincarnation of a Buddha. It is possible that he is a Buddha, another who has attained, or will attain enlightenment. On 8 November 2005 Dorje said, "Tell the people not to call me a Buddha. I don't have the Buddha's energy. I am at the level of a rinpoche." Rinpoche ("precious jewel") is an honorific used in Tibetan Buddhism for a teacher and adept. He said that he will need six more years of meditation before he can become a Buddha.
According to his followers Bomjon may have been or may be a bodhisattva, a person on the path to attaining full enlightenment or Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. According to the founder of Buddhism, Gautama Buddha, there were innumerable Buddhas before him and there are an infinite number of Buddhas to come. Others claim that Bomjon may be Maitreya Bodhisattva, the predicted incarnation of the future Buddha. Scholars doubt the claims of his supporters. Mahiswor Raj Bajracharya, president of the Nepal Buddhist Council, has said, "We do not believe he is Buddha. He does not have Buddha's qualities".
Wandering to Bara district
After about ten months of meditation, Bomjon went missing on 11 March 2006. He gave no explanation, and some believed he had been abducted. His followers theorized that he went deeper into the woods to look for a quieter place to meditate. Police abandoned a search for him after the likelihood of foul play was eliminated. Suspecting money laundering, the authorities froze the bank account of the local committee managing the crowds, which had gathered more than Rs. 600,000, but they found no evidence.
On 19 March, a group of Bomjon's followers met with him about 2 miles (3.2 km) southwest of his meditation site. They say they spoke to him for thirty minutes, during which Bomjon said, "There is no peace here," and that he would return in six years, which would be in 2011 or 2012. He left a message for his parents telling them not to worry.
On 25 December 2006, villagers in Bara district spotted Bomjon meditating. He was carrying a sword for protection in the jungle, reminding reporters that "Even Gautama Buddha had to protect himself," and claimed to have eaten nothing but herbs in the interim. He reiterated his six-year commitment to Buddhist devotion, and said he would allow people to come and observe him, as long as they remained at some distance and did not bother him. When a reporter pointed out that pilgrims to his meditation site would be making donations in his name, he asked for the donations to not be abused or used for commercial purposes. A new wave of visitors came to see him and pray at his new meditation spot. On 8 March 2007 he left Bara district again to find a quieter place to meditate.
Meditating in a pit
On 26 March 2007, news spread of Bomjon meditating underground. Inspector Rameshwor Yadav of the Area Police Post Nijgadh, found Bomjon inside an underground chamber, a bunker-like ditch seven feet square. "His face was clean and hair was combed well," Yadav said. According to him, the chamber had been cemented from all sides and fitted with a tiled roof. Indra Lama, a local deployed as Bomjon's caretaker since the beginning of his intensive meditation, said the chamber was prepared per Bomjon's request. "After granting audience a week ago, he expressed his desire to meditate inside the ground; so we built it," he said.
Preaching in Halkhoriya jungle
On 2 August 2007, Bomjon addressed a large crowd in Halkhoriya jungle in the Bara district of southern Nepal. The Namo Buddha Tapoban Committee, which is devoted to looking after Bomjon, assembled the meeting. A notice about the boy's first-ever preaching was broadcast by a local FM radio station, and the committee also invited people by telephone. Around three thousand people gathered to listen to Bomjon's address. A video was made of the event. According to Aditya Sedhai, a blogger who wrote an article and took pictures of the meeting, Bomjon's message was, "The only way we can save this nation is through spirituality".
Claims of inedia
Bomjon does not appear to break his meditation to eat or drink.
Skeptics point out that claims of surviving after several months fasting are unsubstantiated as he was sometimes unobserved between dusk and dawn; they also note that, besides the lack of proof, such a feat would be physically impossible. Bomjon was observed remaining at the tree at least during the daytime, though no one was allowed to approach him too closely. Under such circumstances, he could have eaten at night when no one could have witnessed his doing so.
Some supporters believe that claims of inedia are less relevant than Bomjon's undisputed ability to remain nearly motionless in the same position day after day, with no regard for extremes of weather including cold winter and monsoon rains. For example, American writer George Saunders visited Bomjon and observed him through a single night, and was impressed by Bomjon's perfectly still stature, even during an evening climate which seemed unbearably cold to the much better clothed journalist.
In December 2005, a nine-member government committee led by Gunjaman Lama watched Bomjon carefully for 48 hours and observed his not taking any food or water during that time. A video recording was also made of this test from a distance of 3 meters. The Nepali government planned a more careful scientific study, but the study was never carried out.
In 2008, Min Bahadur Shakya of the Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods in Kathmandu, stated that Buddhist priests have yet to investigate Ram.
Reappearance in Ratanpuri jungle
On 10 November 2008, Bomjon reappeared and gave blessings to approximately 400,000 pilgrims over a 12-day period in the remote jungle of Ratanpuri, 150 km (93 mi) southeast of Kathmandu, near Nijgadh. His hair was shoulder-length and his body was wrapped in a white cloth. He made two speeches in which he urged people to recognize the compassion in their hearts, and their connection to one another through the all-encompassing soul.
Non-appearance in 2009 at the Gadhi Mai Mela
Palden Dorje planned to give blessings on 18–23 November 2009 at the site of the Gadhi Mai Mela, a Hindu vedic religious festival where hundreds of thousands of animals are sacrificed, something he has condemned. However, alleging 'security reasons', priests were unwilling to allot a space for him.
- "Bamjan's followers kept the Slovak woman Marichi and another woman from Sindupalchowk in captivity. The duo was released after the news regarding them was published across the national media. However, the police are yet to take legal action to Bamjan and his aides."
- "Bamjan, who preaches against violence, hacked a local youth with a sword critically injuring him two years ago. He disappeared after the incident for nine months. Later he was found in Bagjhor forest with a sword, but no action was taken against him."
- "When Bamjan changed his place of meditation after the incident and shifted to Halkhoriya forest, his followers had put up a three-square kilometer wire fence in the national forest. However, District Forest Office failed to take any action."
- "Bamjan had beaten up 17 locals of Bara Manarwa about one-and-half year ago detaining them for 24 hours as they had entered inside his fence in search of wild shoots and fruits. The victims filed FIR against Bamjan, but no action was taken."
The seventeen battered villagers
The BBC quoted a local Nepali newspaper which claimed that Bomjon had admitted to slapping some local villagers after having been physically assaulted by them on July 22, 2010. According to these claims, the incident took place in the Bara district and police have been involved in the investigation after seventeen complaints. Bomjon was quoted as saying that some locals had been interrupting his meditation by climbing onto his platform, mimicking him, and attempting to manhandle him, and that he was "therefore forced to beat them". According to the newspaper, he claims he slapped them "two or three times", while the attackers alleged that they had been assaulted more seriously. Bomjon had been fasting before the altercation.
Capture and torture of two women
At the orders of Dharma Sangha a Slovak woman known as Marici was held captive for three months by his followers. She was tied up in a tent in the forest of Halkhoriya, not far from Dharma Sangha's meditation site, where she was sexually abused by Palden Dorje's follower Darshan Subba Limbu. She was released on March 25, 2012. She later created a website about her experiences. On the same day a Nepalese woman called Maata, who had been held captive for two months under similar circumstances, was released by the followers. The leading Nepali Avenue TV made a documentary about the case of the two women, recorded here.
The birth certificate forgery
The leading Nepali newspaper The Himalayan Times published another controversy concerning the Buddha Boy on 14 June 2012:
"VDC Secretary Ansari is accused of recommending citizenship certificate to Bamjan by forging a birth certificate in the name of Dharma Sangh, a body formed for his protection. According to CDO Birendra Kumar Yadav of Bara, Ansari has been handed over to the district police office for necessary investigation in connection with the birth certificate forgery case, against which Bamjan’s family had moved the administration. Ansari has pleaded guilty. Ever since the forged birth certificate was made, the sangh has been demanding that Bamjan be issued a citizenship certificate on the basis of his recent birth registration."
The 2012 violent clash
The Himalayan Times writes on 14 June 2012:
"To press for the fulfilment [sic] of their demand, the sangh has also hit the street of late. Yesterday, police clashed with Bamjan’s supporters who were obstructing the Pathlaiya-Nijgadh road section, which left some of Bamjan’s supporters and security personnel injured."
The leading Nepali news provider Ekantipur had detailed the incident:
"BARA, JUN 12 - Twenty-four people were injured in a clash between local people and followers of Ram Bahadur Bamjan ... at Piluwa in Bara district .... along the East West Highway to press the government to provide a diplomatic passport to Bamjan by recognising his status as a 'religious guru'. It is learnt that the local youths intervened in the demonstration after Bajman's followers started smashing up parked vehicles. Police personnel from Simara, Nijgadh and Jitpur sent to clear the traffic obstruction charged batons and lobbed teargas shells to disperse the demonstrators. Police also fired a few rounds in the air. Twelve security personnel were injured when Bajman's followers clash ed with them. Police said the injured were taken to Narayani Sub-Regional Hospital in Birgunj for treatment. Witnesses said the followers of Bajman who were armed with sticks started protesting since early morning and did not pay heed to locals' request to not create any inconvenience to the public. Eventually, the local people decided to retaliate. The police also confiscated 36 bicycles, seven motorcycles and a tractor used by Bamjan's followers."
Bomjon attacks his own family members
The Himalayan Times gave a detail about the incident on 3 April 2012:
"Bamjan thrashed his brother after he, along with his two brothers and some others, reached the Halkhoriya jungle to urge him to initiate action against those who had ‘sexually harassed’ the Slovak woman in captivity. ... Those who had gone to meet Bamjan accused Limbu of wielding a sword to chase them away and Bamjan of thrashing the eldest brother Ganga Bahadur and holding Ganga and other two brothers (Dil Bahadur and Babulal) hostage. ... Bamjan’s sister Raj Kumari said her three brothers had visited Halkhoriya to tell Bamjan that unruly behaviour of some of his followers was tarnishing Bamjan and Sangh’s image. Bamjan’s mother and sisters had reached the Halkhoriya jungle this morning. Bamjan’s younger sister Asali Lama said even she was thrashed by Bamjan. “He beat me up when we reached there to free our brothers,” said Asali. “Guru (Bamjan) hit me on my head but said nothing.”
Attack on journalists
The Himalayan Times details the incident on 22 March 2012:
"Volunteers attending to Ram Bahadur Bamjan ... today beat up five journalists. Bibhu Adhikari of News 24 TV, Resham Tiwari of NTV, Prakash Lamsal of Image Channel, Binod Pyakurel of TTV and Basant Khatiwada of the Mofasal Dot Com Weekly fell victim to the wrath of the aides of Bamjan,...Following the attack, the journalists rushed to an Armed Police Force camp in Piluwa. “We were filming Bamjan’s sermon but suddenly his aides attacked us and seized our cameras,” said Adhikari."
The documentary's title is Prime Story - Shanti ki Aatanka.
Buddha Boy's eviction from Halkhoriya
The Himalayan Times writes on 28 June 2012:
"District Forest Office, Bara on Thursday demolished illegal structures in the Halkhoria forest area after Ram Bahadur Bamjan, popularly known as the Buddha Boy, left the forest and headed to Sindhuli in the night of June 5. ... “We have started demolishing the structures illegally built by Bamjan and his henchmen in order to discourage any encroachment of forest land in future,” said district forest office chief Ramanandan Sah. The forest office has also removed the barbed-wire fence erected by the Bodhi Shrawan Dharma Sangh, a body formed to provide protection to Bamjan, around the mediation site. The forest office has also taken control of the Ratanpuri forest area, which is said to be Bamjan’s first meditation site and is learnt to be preparing to hand over the forest to a community forest."
The Sarlahi violence
According to an article of The Himalayan Times from 8 July 2012, Maitriya Guru Maha Sambodhi Dharma Sangha had settled in Nepal's Sindhuli District, in 2012. From here he had moved to the Sarlahi District the same year. According to The Himalayan Times, here another violent incident made the headlines:
"Injured Mohan Gurmachhan complained that Buddha Boy’s assistants took them to Bomjan’s abode and thrashed them. Mohan said 13 youths including Sushil Lama, and Min Bahadur Biswokarma were injured in the incident... Irate locals have demanded the perpetrators offer apology and quit the village at the earliest. Area Police Office Pattharkot in-charge Santosh Shrestha said they had decided to ask Ankit Lama, one of the Bomjan’s aides, to apologise and quit the village. “We will not allow people to break the law in the name of religion,” he added."
Bomjon soon after this incident had to leave Sarlahi in 2013, settling in the Northern district of Sindhupalchok. Here he had announced the start of his New Dharma "from zero".
The ownership dispute of the Halkhoriya Jungle
One of Bomjon’s reasons to attack individuals was their alleged breaching of his private ban to enter his compound, fenced with a 13 km barbed wire fence. Yet the Halkhoriya Jungle is a Government owned land, and as such, according to the Nepali law, everyone is free to visit it and stay in it, locals being allowed to use its resources as well. According to the system of the Community Forestry system (see Wikipedia), the residents of surrounding villages had the right to enter such jungles and collect herbs, fire-wood, fruits or let their animals graze. It is well-known among villagers in the area that certain high grass are suitable for grazing or a special expensive herb, like the Kurilo (Asparagus racemosus), as well as a green vegetable called Niuro Saag (Fiddlehead Fern), can be found in the area of Halkhoriya Jungle, where Bomjon's compound had been built.
Bomjon’s victims had not breached the law when visiting the public jungle, which had been available for many other people in the same time of the incidents, including tens of his own followers, residing in his compound. On the other hand, the Nepali media had repeatedly pointed out that Bomjon had constructed many concrete houses on the Government owned jungle land without permission, destroying trees and water-systems. Yet the Buddha Boy’s presence also kept away hunters, poachers and illegal wood-cutters from the area, providing protection to wild animals.
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