Conveying the message of Buddhism through tourism
It was tourism for relaxation and seeing places when the industry
began in the 60s.
The beach that attracted a large number of tourists into the country,
still remains the main location sought after by the tourists
particularly the Westerners.
Sri Lanka has not fully explored its potential by offering the
real benefits of Buddhist philosophy to foreigners
Tourism recovered immediately after mid last year and now records
growth every month not only relieving the industry from long years of
survival games but also enabling them to look for appropriate
The upward trend will continue until Sri Lanka hits the peak and the
new plans are aligned to the current product line.
That is the long story short. But for those who see beyond the
horizon, may raise the question of differentiating Sri Lanka from her
competitors and reaching up market visitors who are high spenders.
This is due to the fact that every other country in the region offers
the same attractions through various communication methods and modes.
Being an Island and gifted with a vast amount of diversity of
locations is no doubt a strength for those who have experienced holidays
elsewhere where repeat visits may not be desirable.
Therefore this proposition is based on this premise where the
industry needs support to identify reasons for potential tourists to
visit Sri Lanka.
The West is producing a large number of visitors who are seeking
peace and tranquillity within, after having battled with the rush world
for years. The United States alone has over 16.5 million adults
practising some kind of Yoga for this reason.
Bali gets 1 percent of this number so that they receive 160,000 yoga
tourists from US alone.
Sri Lanka Tourism, through a preliminary study had identified about
18 meditation centres in the country. There are locals and foreigners
who patronize these places for their own benefits.
However very little information is available to know the trend in
Europe, our primary market although the potential to grow these numbers
For spiritual tourism - which should come first? developing products
or marketing? is an egg or chicken question. But there is one particular
area which needs attention in terms of what Sri Lanka could offer in
Yoga, spiritual development programs, Meditation are known and
practised in Sri Lanka.
The numbers may not be large enough at present.
We live in a period in which Buddhism thrives. Apart from the
majority of the people being Buddhists and there are vast number of
Buddhist temples in the country, most pilgrim visits are confined to
site seeing of places of interest and historic value. Visits to Kandy,
Anuradhapura are mainly part of the round tours and giving the
opportunity for visitors to witness heritage or historic value of the
There are many scholars and teachers in Buddhism whose skills
need to be pooled for a major development of Buddhist teachings
and practice for tourists. Pictures courtesy the writer
There is a growing need to find places and programs particularly for
westerners and Europe in particular, who are desirous of seeking inner
peace during their vacation and experiencing spiritual development
within. This segment is said to be growing. Buddhism provides exactly
that in simple language.
There are several pre-requisites to reach this target segment. No
doubt the ritualistic part emanating from Buddhist culture is important
for preserving the heritage.
The present visitation to Buddhist sites is also vital. The writer's
view point is that Sri Lanka has not fully explored its potential by
offering the real benefits of Buddhist philosophy to foreigners.
The answers are found in Buddhism itself. There is no one path for
everyone. Each person has to find his or her own way of finding the true
nature of things and gaining freedom and happiness.
Taking this as primary lesson, the teaching part becomes vital
Between the two main Meditation techniques of Samatha and Vipassana,
the practitioner could eventually pick what is most suited based on the
predominant hindrance that prevents the progress for inner peace. There
are many scholars and teachers in Buddhism whose skills need to be
pooled for a major development of Buddhist teachings and practice for
tourists who travel for this purpose. If the technique is not flexible
enough for them to find out their own barriers to progress, mere
offering a course on meditation, would be futile exercise.
Misinterpretation of Dukka or suffering conveys a wrong message to
anyone trying to understand Buddhism.
The focus on happiness deriving from being in the present and seeing
everything to be illusions needs translated into communication to draw
this segment of tourists into the country.
Amarawathi in the UK and Wat Pah Nanachat in Thailand are famous
monasteries that offer Buddhist meditation practices. They are however
not for visiting tourists but for people who are seriously into Dhamma
after having given up worldly living at least for a short period.
Most of the meditation centres in Sri Lanka are also viewed in the
light of similar perception which should be corrected.
That's where attention is needed as conveying the true message of
Buddhism should take pride of place while enlightenment in any stage is
left to the practitioners.
The improvement of such infrastructure in centres outside the city
requires to provide basic facilities to visitors. If the staying is so
strenuous, that itself would discourage the practice thereafter. The
assumption that practitioners have to go through rough life during the
program may drive the potential visitors away from the purpose.