Some believe missing Nepalese teenager is Buddha

Buddhist monks and a Hindu priest prayed in a jungle in southern Nepal for the safe return of a missing teenager who many believe is the reincarnation of Buddha, an official said Monday.

A search continued for a third day on Monday to locate Ram Bahadur Banjan, 15, who disappeared Saturday from a forest where he had meditated for the last 10 months, without food and water, according to his supporters.

Harihar Dahal, a government official in Bara district, said the day-and-night search of the jungle had yielded few clues as to the whereabouts of the missing teenager.

The religious prayers were to last three days.

"How is it possible for humans to know where god is?" the Kantipur newspaper quoted a follower, Bet Bahadur Lama, as saying. "All we can do is pray that he will return to us."

Banjan disappeared from his meditating spot in a niche among the roots of a tree in a jungle in Bara, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of the capital, Katmandu. He had been sitting cross-legged and motionless with his eyes closed since May 17, 2005.

Thousands of Hindus and Buddhists flocked to see him every day.

Many followers believe Banjan is a reincarnation of Gautama Siddhartha, who was born not far away in southwestern Nepal around 500 B.C. and later became revered as the Buddha.

Visitors were only allowed to view Banjan between dawn and dusk, reports the AP.

I.L.