Sri Lanka moots Buddhist pilgrimage trail

by R.K. Radhakrishnan, The Hindu, Feb 21, 2006

It will wind its way through India and end in Sri Lanka

CHENNAI, India -- Sri Lanka has mooted the idea of a Buddhist pilgrimage trail to attract tourists from China, Japan and Korea.

Its Tourism Minister Anura Bandaranaike told The Hindu that Nepal, India and Sri Lanka had the potential to attract tourists from these countries if they got their act together.

Mr. Bandaranaike, here on a personal visit, said earlier Sri Lanka had tried to sell itself as a sun-sand-sea destination. Despite being cheaper than many countries, the response left much to be desired. "I visited China twice last year. There is a growing middle class in China. But they are not interested in merely the sand and the sea. They want something more. After some research, we found that the Buddhist pilgrimage trail would work."

The minister said the trail would begin in Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, and wind its way through Bodh Gaya, Saranath and other destinations in India before ending in Sri Lanka. In his country, there were many sites, including the Temple of the Holy Tooth Relic at Kandy. "We now have direct flights from Colombo to China, and I think it would work well." Lumbini is at the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal, and is one of the four holy places of Buddhism. The sites of his enlightenment (Bodh Gaya), first discourse (Saranath), and death (Kusinara) are in India.

He had held exploratory talks with Renuka Chowdhury, who was the Tourism Minister till the recent Cabinet reshuffle. "I plan to speak to the new Minister, Ambika Soni, as soon as possible to see how we can take this forward."

The main problem was at the starting point, Lumbini. Mr. Bandaranaike said he was told that the airport there would get ready only by December. "Without the airport, that leg cannot take off. I do not think that people will want to endure a tough road journey to reach there." There was a possibility that the Buddhist trail would have to go ahead without Lumbini, at least initially.

Sri Lanka was also keen on promoting south Indian destinations as a package. "I think destinations in Kerala, such as Kochi, and places in Tamil Nadu could form part of a package. We have to work on it." His Ministry would talk to the State Governments after the Assembly elections. He said the recent spurt in violence in the island nation had impacted tourist arrivals. He hoped they would pick up in the next few months.

"I do not want to be optimistic. To be optimistic is foolish," he said when asked about the impending Geneva talks. He cited past experience with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, but added that he "hoped against hope" there would be some headway in the talks. "We all want peace in Sri Lanka." He was willing to "do anything for Sri Lanka" if asked.The talks would have a definite impact on the Sri Lankan Government, he said. The far-right Sinhala elements, which supported the Government, had so far "behaved better than I thought. I do not know how long it will last."

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Omniscient Robotic-Being for Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: