The Incredible Buddha Boy

I had not really heard of George Saunders until a few days ago, when I came across his fascinating article The Incredible Buddha Boy. His writing style is incredibly easy to read, and he’s got this wonderfully casual voice that makes you feel like you’re moving alongside him the whole time.

Saunders gets an assignment to visit a 15-year-old boy in Nepal named Ram Bahadur Bomjon who, apparently, has been meditating for seven months without any food or water. Additionally, the rumors are that the boy was bitten twice by snakes and, having refused medication, cured himself through meditation. Finding himself too curious about the stories, Saunders traveled by plane (and minivan and motorcycle) to find out.

There are some really fantastic paragraphs all through the essay, and I’m trying hard to just fine a few to cite here.

The mind is a machine that is constantly asking: What would I prefer? Close your eyes, refuse to move, and watch what your mind does. What it does is become discontent with that-which-is. A desire arises, you satisfy that desire, and another arises in its place. This wanting and rewanting is an endless cycle for which, turns out, there is already a name: samsara.


The Hyatt lobby is empty except for rows of Buddha statues: a maze with no guests. The Business Center manageress not only has heard of the boy but is also of the opinion that he is being fed by snakes. Their venom, she says, is actually milk to him.

I read the essay a few days ago, and found myself re-reading it again just because I enjoy Saunders’ writing so much. His attention to detail and his internal monologue is what captivates me, and it’s just a great, great read.

[photo by Jeff Riedel]

Buddha Triptych

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