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Buddha boy in Nepal re-emerges after a year
By BINAJ GURUBACHARYA, AFP, Nov 12, 2008
KATMANDU, Nepal -- A teenage boy who many believe is the reincarnation of Buddha has re-emerged from the jungle in southern Nepal, attracting thousands of devotees, officials said Tuesday.
After retreating into the jungle for more than a year, Ram Bahadur Bamjan, 18, re-emerged Monday near Nijgadh town, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of the capital, Katmandu.
Upon hearing the news, thousands of Bamjan's followers, some from as far away as India, traveled to the site Tuesday to see him, police official Abhaya Joshi said by telephone.
There has been no formal declaration by Buddhist authorities that Bamjan is the reincarnation of the Buddha. But people have worshipped the teenager since he was first seen in 2005 meditating in the jungle, where he sat for months, motionless with his eyes closed among the roots of a tree.
Joshi said Bamjan plans to talk to his followers for a few hours every day for a week before returning to the jungle to meditate.
The long-haired Bamjan, dressed in a white cloth, appeared to be in good health as he spoke to his followers about peace and ending discrimination, according to the Rajdhani newspaper.
"It was an amazing experience to hear and see him. I have no doubt now he is the reincarnation of Buddha," said Sangeeta Lama, a woman who met Bamjan for the first time.
Buddhist priests have been divided on whether the boy is truly the reincarnation of Siddhartha Gautama, who was born in southwestern Nepal around 500 B.C. and later became revered as the Buddha, which means Enlightened One.
Buddhists strongly believe in reincarnation, the doctrine that every soul reappears after death in another bodily form.
Min Bahadur Shakya of the Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods in Katmandu said Buddhist priests have not reached a conclusion about Bamjan because they have not been able to fully investigate the boy.
"Meditating without food does not prove that he is reincarnation of Buddha. There is much study needed to be done," Shakya said.
Buddhism is practiced by about 325 million followers, mostly in Asia.