Am I the Buddha?
Nepal Travel Blog› entry 2 of 32 › view all entries
Am I the Buddha?
How to tell if you're the reincarnation of Siddhartha.
A teenage boy rumored to be the reincarnation of the Buddha reappeared in the Bara district of Nepal on Sunday after vanishing nine months ago. How can you tell if some kid is the next coming of the Buddha?
First, get your terms straight. Some Buddhists believe that Ram Bahadur Bomjan, the 16-year-old Nepali known as the "Buddha boy," could someday become a Buddha. But there's no way that he could ever be a reincarnation of the Buddha. That's because, according to religious teachings, all Buddhas attain the state of nirvana, or perfect enlightenment. When this happens, they leave the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, and they are not reincarnated again.
Whether Bomjan could have a legitimate claim to being a new Buddha depends on your school of thought. There are two main types of Buddhism—Mahayana and Theravada. Mahayana Buddhists, who predominate in Bomjan's homeland of Nepal, believe that anyone has the potential to become a Buddha. To go this route, Bomjan would have to devote his life to meditating and overcoming earthly desires, angers, and cravings; once he experienced this state, known as bodhi, he would become a Buddha.
In contrast, Theravada Buddhists believe that there cannot be another Buddha until the teachings of the previous Buddha have been completely forgotten. (Most Buddhists believe that Guatama was simply the most recent and best-remembered of 28 Buddhas, many of whom lived billions of years ago. Other sects put the number of enlightened ones at five, seven, or thousands.) Because Gautama Siddhartha's teachings are still known, Theravada Buddhists would not believe that Bomjan—or any other contemporary person—could be a Buddha.
If Bomjan is trying to become a Buddha in the Mahayana sense in this life, he'll have to demonstrate that he is an old soul who possesses the 10 spiritual characteristics of a Buddha, which include being an "unsurpassed knower of the world.
Bomjan's followers claim that before his disappearance, he spent 10 months meditating under a tree without eating, drinking, or defecating, proving his spiritual ability to overcome his body. Skeptics have noted, however, that Bomjan's followers shielded him from public view each night of his fast, making it impossible for independent observers to validate these claims. Furthermore, Bomjan has said that he intends to pray for six years; if true, this would allow his followers to draw a further parallel between him and Gautama, who spent six years on a quest for enlightenment.
Nepal is on the northern border of India and is home to 8 of the 10 highest mountain peaks in the world, including Mount Everest.
I will start with a day in Kathmandu. I'll then spend January 7-9 in Pokhara, ending with three days in the Kathmandu valley.
Kathmandu is thought to be the site of Shangri-La and is home to many palaces and temples. Back in the day, this is where all the hippies would go to seek enlightenment.
Some of you may have heard of Swayambunath in Kathmandu by its other name, the Monkey Temple for the monkeys that are allowed to climb around it. The stupa of Boudhanath is also in Kathmandu.
In Nepal, the main religion is a form of Tibetan Buddhism which is different from Buddhism in other parts of the world. This is the form of Buddhism that has the Dalai Lama who currently resides in a city in northern India.
When Buddhism was introduced to Tibet, it was combined with the symbols from the religions practiced in Tibet. So on many of the buildings, you'll see pictures of monsters and other strange symbols. Some of these are out of the Tibetan Book of the Dead which is supposed to teach the dead how to be reincarnated.
There's also a great emphasis on meditation and yoga with ashrams all over the area. In addition to temples, some of the Buddhist monuments are called stupas which look like big mounds and eventually evolved into pagodas. You'll also see prayer flags which are put up to bless the countryside, thangkas which are religious paintings, prayer wheels which are wheels on spindles, and sand mandalas which monks spend days creating as a meditation exercise and typically destroy as soon as they finish.
The main tourist area in Kathmandu is called Thamel.
Just north of Kathmandu near the Tibetan border is a place called the Last Resort where they have Asia's largest bungy jump at 160 meters (525 feet) in the mountains.
Pokhara is west of Kathmandu on Phewa Tal and is the starting point for most treks into the Annapurna mountain range.
In walking distance is the World Peace Stupa which overlooks the city, lake, and mountains.
In Pokhara, they invented parahawking. Parahawking is parasailing with trained hawks and eagles in the mountains.
If I have time, I also plan to take a walking tour of Patan, a city on the other side of the river from Kathmandu.
http://www.sacred-destinations.com/nepal/kathmandu-swayabunath-stupa.htm Monkey temple info
http://www.nepal-buddha.jp/en/about_nepalbuddha/houyou.html Info on Mandalas
http://www.visitpokhara.com Info on Pokhara