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Ugandan college student returns home, baffles family with scuba gear, saffron robes

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In June 1990, Steven Kaboggoza,24, left his home in the African nation of Uganda to attend college in India.

His family and kin expected him to return as “a rich businessman with a briefcase,” writes Marjorie Chiew, writing for the Buddhist Channel.

Seven years later, he came home with a shaven head, wearing saffron robes, carrying a pink paper umbrella and announcing that his name was Bhante Buddharakkhita. He also carried scuba gear — which was just as puzzling as everything else since Uganda is land-locked.

It seems that while at college, he made friends with Thai monks also studying at the university. He abandoned the academic path for the spiritual one, making a pilgrimage to Nepal and Tibet, meeting with the Dalai Lama and eventually settled in southern Thailand, on the island of Koh Tao.

To earn a living, he became a diving instructor.

Returning home to Uganda had its adventures, he recalls. Two frightened children took one look at him and ran away screaming: “This man is going to eat us!”

“Some Ugandans thought I was a traditional medicine man (or witch doctor) when they saw me with my monk’s bag and asked what I was selling,” he told Chiew, who reports: “When he carried a big Buddhist fan from Myanmar, some thought it was a shield to protect the body, and yet others wondered if he was the royal bodyguard of the king.”

His alms bowl became a constant source of inquiry as he went on his daily begging rounds. It has been mistaken for a jembe or African drum, as a bomb … and a football.

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