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I remember, when I was in college, taking a course in Indian philosophy, reading some articles about the wonderful, otherworldly serenity of Nepal. These articles, written by Western devotees of a syncretic faith that mixed the synthesizers of John Tesh with a few keywords from Buddhism, described Nepal as an Earthly paradise where the enlightened ideals of the Buddha permeated every aspect of life. The wise souls of the Nepalese, so the articles read, were peaceful and unselfish, and the very land of Nepal had mystical waters, the milk of the mountains, which gave extraordinary long life.
Now, the milk of the Himalayan mountains’ breasts comes in fits and starts, running fast from shrinking glaciers through deforested hillsides to flood the lands below. At the same time, the news is showing us another side of the mythically serene inhabitants of the kingdom of Nepal. More than 30 people were killed in Nepal yesterday, in bloody violence that is growing to match the scale of the unrest in Iraq. Nepal’s monarch has abolished the foundations of democracy, and communist rebels are fighting a little version of last century’s Long March.
And then, in the background, huckster Ram Bomjon has been lost, then found, and then lost again. A video shows 15 year-old Bomjon meeting with his committee of protectors before running off again, very much in motion and well fed, promising to return in six years. Ram Bomjon’s committee is accused of creating a hoax of fantastic meditational feats by the teenager, who claimed to have sat in the same place under a tree for ten months straight without eating or drinking a single thing – kind of a Himalayan version of Europe’s medieval pole-sitting saints. There are also unconfirmed rumors swirling that some of the money collected in the camp that developed around Ram Bomjon’s place of vigil might have been sent off to the communist rebels.
Bomjon’s supporters say that he is a new Buddha, but the most recent proclamation from Ram Bomjon is distinctly un-Buddhalike. Explaining why he left his place of meditation and went into hiding, Bomjon told his committee of supporters, “I left because there is no peace here.”Well, when the Buddha discovered suffering in the world, he walked straight into it and resolved to try to end it through his meditation. So, if Ram Bomjon is a new Buddha, then he has a distinctively different philosophy: The way the end suffering is to run away from it.
What’s the lesson I take from all this news in Nepal? There is no Shangri-La, other than that groovy clothing store in downtown Ithaca, New York. All those stories of Nepalese enlightenment are belied by what is now in plain sight: Nepal is suffering from the same kind of conflicts, conspiracies, scams, betrayals, and bloodshed endured by the rest of humanity.
Was there once some kind of eden in Nepal that has been ruined? I doubt it. My suspicion is that we are now able to see, with a broader eye into Nepal, the same forces of human corruption that all nations share.
—Video of New Buddha Ram Bomjon Here
—Ram Bomjon’s Handlers Under Investigation
—Ram Bomjon and the Development of Myth
—Photos Show Ram Bomjon Moved
—Is Ram Bomjon the AntiChrist?
10 Responses to “Shangri-Boom: Nepaliraq Reality Defies Mystical Hype”
- Layla Says:
March 21st, 2006 at 9:30 amjCliff,
“There is no Shangri-La” I suppose there is no tooth fairy, no Santa Claus and no Fourth of July either. You will see what you look for.It looks to me like Bomjon’s handlers took the money and bought some bullets, sort of a plowshares-into-swords operation. No doubt they will be reincarnated as something vile.Do you know if westerners are warned away from the country? Did Peace Corps pull out? You would think the tragic events in Tibet would be a lesson.While I was in Nepal I witnessed the blood sacrifices to Kali near Katmandu. They have been killing things and giving blood to the goddess for thousands of years in that spot. And the Buddhist monasteries have elaborate pictures of destructive monsters. Their sacred stories are equally bloody. No, they just look at it differently in a way that our western minds have a hard time with. They don’t see good and evil. Their circle of life encompasses both beauty and destruction.
- J. Clifford Says:
March 21st, 2006 at 9:42 amJust keep in mind that your own Christian religion has some equally bloody imagery, Layla.
- HareTrinity Says:
March 21st, 2006 at 10:28 amBut evil and good separately, which really doesn’t work so well…
- Layla Says:
March 21st, 2006 at 1:24 pmIn Methodism, the worshippers get the blood and body.
In the tradition of your religious background, jCliff, the priest gets the blood.
At Dakshinkali, the goddess gets the blood, the worshippers get the carcass and picnics at the site are common.
I rather like the Tantric goddess Vajra Jogini, a sort of female buddha particular to Nepal. But I actually sacrificed to Saraswati (scholarship) and Ganesh (wealth), they prefer cash to blood.
Hare, to me it makes great sense to make ethical choices. What I don’t understand is the apparent acceptance of destruction by these religions. The Bhagavadgita in essence tells us it’s okay to fulfill a caste obligation to kill (as a warrier) since everyone gets reincarnated anyhow. This to me is too much like ‘kill them all and let Allah sort them out’, yet another example of how religions can be used to justify keeping the ruling party in power. Maybe the concepts are just too alien to my western mind and the religion just isn’t accessible to me.
- J. Clifford Says:
March 21st, 2006 at 1:49 pmMy religious background? Why don’t you tell me more about what my religious background is, Layla? I’d love to learn about it.
- James Says:
March 21st, 2006 at 1:59 pmWhatever articles you read during college were written by people other than this “new Buddha boy.” So whatever inaccuracies or exaggerations they contained having nothing to do with this boy or what he has personally said or done. It seems a bit unfair to mix the two together as though potential issues with one are from the other.As I recall from most published articles, any “claims” about “feats” of Bomjon are remarks by people other than him personally, i.e. his “handlers” or visitors. It’s possible that he knows in details about each remark and story of every person, and its possible that some people say things he’s unaware of or wouldn’t agree with. Is it hasty to say here that he has claimed all the things you claim he did?A different take on this discussion of an “eden” in Nepal is a “relative eden.” Those who claim Nepal has “eden like” qualities and a pervading Buddhist peacefulness, may be speaking figuratively. There may be more Buddhists per 1,000 of population there than in many other countries, and there may be more of these reclusive meditating people there than found in many countries. Anyone who sees those as good things may well view Nepal as a “relative eden” compared with other places. By analogy, one might say that America is an eden of democracy. In a figurative or relative sense that may be true, even though one finds violence, imperfect voting arrangements, and etc. in America. Most people mean what they say in a reasonable sense. It would be a good thing if you also looked for a reasonable intention on their part.
- J. Clifford Says:
March 21st, 2006 at 2:36 pmJames, how is it unfair to discuss a hoaxster in Nepal in an article summarizing recent events of note in Nepal? What rule of fairness am I breaking?Also, you’re overlooking the fact that the central outrageous supernatural claim of the Ram Bomjon experience is made by Ram Bomjon himself: That he went for ten months without eating, drinking, going to the bathroom, or moving – yet he says that he’s made a journey of walking 5 days and nights to a place of solitude, and back, right after that ten month near paralysis mixed with fasting.These teenagers seem to be having a great deal of fun with people who are eager to believe any sensational story that comes along. People are buying it hook, line and sinker.That’s disturbing, especially in a world where we have people like George W. Bush exploiting the very same gullibility. What’s real matters. Critical thinking makes the difference between war and peace.
- James Says:
March 21st, 2006 at 3:11 pmIf bears can hibernate for ten months, and then get up and carry on life for another year, maybe some similar physiological principle allows a yoga practitioner like Bomjon to lower his metabolic rate for a long time, and then raise it at will. Just because you aren’t familiar with the explanation doesn’t mean there isn’t one.The claims about Bomjon’s activities, length of time meditating, etc. are to my knowledge statements by visitors and people around him, and news reporters. If he has made these statements himself, then please list here the full URL’s of the articles that purport to quote him directly. I haven’t seen those yet. My sense is that he’s attempting to mind his own business. There are others around him of varying levels of knowledge who answer questions put to them by thousands of visitors. That is a lot of chatter to filter through to go back to the real truth, verifiable truth of what he directly said.
- James Says:
March 21st, 2006 at 3:39 pmHere is a quote from a cancer research website about hiberation….that they have reason to believe that humans may have the latent ability to hibernate.———
Buying Time Through ‘Hibernation on Demand’
Landmark finding in mice may lead to new approaches for cancer and trauma care in human
Media ToolkitSEATTLE — April 21, 2005 — Scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have, for the first time, induced a state of reversible metabolic hibernation in mice. This achievement, the first demonstration of “hibernation on demand” in a mammal, ultimately could lead to new ways to treat cancer and prevent injury and death from insufficient blood supply to organs and tissues.“We are, in essence, temporarily converting mice from warm-blooded to cold-blooded creatures, which is exactly the same thing that happens naturally when mammals hibernate,” said lead investigator Mark Roth, Ph.D., whose findings will be published in the April 22 issue of Science.“We think this may be a latent ability that all mammals have — potentially even humans — and we’re just harnessing it and turning it on and off, inducing a state of hibernation on demand,” said Roth, a member of Fred Hutchinson’s Basic Sciences Division.During a hibernation-like state, cellular activity slows to a near standstill, which reduces dramatically an organism’s need for oxygen. If such temporary metabolic depression could be replicated in humans, it could help buy time for critically ill patients on organ-transplant lists and in operating rooms, ERs and battlefields, Roth said.“Manipulating this metabolic mechanism for clinical benefit potentially could revolutionize treatment for a host of human ills related to ischemia, or damage to living tissue from lack of oxygen,” said Roth, also an affiliate professor of biochemistry at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
- Layla Says:
March 21st, 2006 at 5:03 pmjCliff,
I’ve been pretty forthcoming about my religious background and adventures. If you want to be coy, that’s up to you. Everyone gets some personal introduction to religion, positive or negative, from their family. Often people reveal their family religious background by the language they use to talk about religion. In the Middle East a person’s religion is automatically the same as the father. If you don’t know which one to pick, pick that one. You obviously know SOMETHING about religion and you learned it somewhere.