Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Was Buddha Nazi bit of work or just out of this world?

Inexplicably, my attention was drawn to the following headline: "Nazi Buddha 'came from outer space'." Buddha? Nazi? Space? Outer? What could it all mean? The headline was on the website of the BBC, surely the world's least untrustworthy media source after the Bel Tel.

Many of you will know that putting inverted commas round something in a headline indicates that it is bilge. It's also a way of putting political spin into a headline while affecting neutrality. Just quoting a claim, d'you see?

I saw that, once clicked on, the headline changed to: "Ancient statue discovered by Nazis is made from meteorite." Well, that made a little more sense. I couldn't conceive of a Nazi Buddha, let alone one who'd waddled in from ooter space.

Pictured was a statue of a slim, western-looking chap with a backwards swastika on his blazer or tunic. Ah, you have come across this sort of thing before.

The swastika is actually an ancient Hindu symbol and the word itself means "to be good". Pity that one didn't work out. Maybe it was because the Nasties turned it backwards and so it read "to be bad".

I'm getting into the realms of uninformed speculation here and, while that's a fine basis on which to build an entire journalistic career, there are times when it's uncalled for. And the discovery of Nazi Buddhas from ooter space might just be one of those.

It sounds like something from yon Indiana Jones and, indeed, there are echoes of the whip-cracking galoot in the tale. The 1,000-year-old statue is made from a meteorite that crashed to Earth, somewhere around the border of Siberia and Mongolia, 15,000 years ago.

It was discovered in Tibet in 1938 by German scientist Ernst "Nobby" Schafer. He was funded by top SS loonologist Heinrich "Stinker" Himmler, who believed the Aryan race originated in Tibetshire. Hitler told him: "You're having a yak, right, Stinker?"

But once Himmler got an idea into his head it was hard to shift it. He was odd that way.

After the war, the statue disappeared into a private collection - sounds like there's a story there, but I'm far too busy and frightened to investigate - only to reappear in 2007.

Now, scientists have pinned down the very meteorite from which the statue was made and have even claimed it has an "aura" - I've put that in inverted commas for your benefit as a possible bilge indicator.

It's believed to portray the god Vaisravana, yet another one that didn't exist. I haven't been able to find anything about him, even after extensive undercover research on Wikipedia, except that he was often portrayed with a mongoose. Well, everyone likes a little carnivore to pat upon the head.

But, still, it's a great story, even if - as so often - it gets more prosaic the further you get from the headline. Closer to home, across England and the Other Bits, or the UK as it's known, objects from yonder cosmos have been crashing through the Earth's atmosphere, spreading fear and alarm among the lieges.

My colleague, Frances Burscough, wrote about slamming the brakes on her car as she drove through Bangor and caught sight of a bolt of vivid light streaking across the heavens.

The authorities have offered no convincing explanation. However, I'm sure no Nazi Buddhas from outer space were involved.

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