EDMONTON (CUP) — In southern Nepal there was a 15-year-old boy named Ram Bahadur Bomjon who had apparently been meditating, without food or water, for over ten months. Despite the fact that that’s impossible, and he was screened from public view every night, he was believed by many to be another Buddha. Many claimed a warm light emanated from his forehead, and, after having apparently been bitten by a snake, it was claimed he refused medical attention and meditated away the poison. Over 100,000 people came to see him, then he mysteriously disappeared.
Similarly, in Russia, there’s a one-time traffic cop named Sergei Torop who’s now touting himself as the reincarnation of Jesus. Upon meeting the director of a Russian UFO research centre who saw in him a “divine nature,” he changed his name to Vissarion and started a commune.
Many of his followers think he has extrasensory powers and believe, among other things, that cancer is caused by aggression. Fittingly, one of his religion’s maxims is “an untruth which brings good is wisdom.” This new religion has 5,000 members living with Vissarion, and some 50,000 adherents scattered throughout Russia.
There are a few problems here. The first is that you wouldn’t expect a reincarnated wise man or deity to be so concerned with money. There was an entrance fee to see Ram Bahadur, and money was also made from donations, and the sale of books, pamphlets, and audio tapes.
Likewise, Sergei Torop has been accused by many jaded followers of pilfering money, and often delivers his messages from atop a snowmobile. I guess this is the modern equivalent of a donkey.
The second is that you’d expect a reincarnated wise man or deity to be a little bit more awesome. The last Buddha was a prince, a master of martial arts, a skilled lover, and a knowledgeable scholar. Jesus walked on water, turned it to wine, and raised the living from the dead.
Now, we have a grubby teenager sitting under a tree, hawking audio tapes and trinkets, and probably sneaking meals at night, and a grubby middle-aged man wearing loose robes and preaching the virtues of farming.
The last problem with all of this was already mentioned. Hundreds of thousands of people have bought in to this nonsense. Despite the fact that the evidence supporting either of these people’s claims is ridiculously flimsy, many people seem to find it compelling.
Despite the fact that many eyewitness locals deny them, rumours and legends have spread well beyond the region immediately surrounding these two.
And, despite the fact that these two, at present, are almost comically ridiculous, their influence is quickly growing. It reminds me of the spread of the world’s major religions.