Buddhism and its influence in Tourism Industry
The term Buddha is derived from the Pali root Budh, meaning ‘awakened from the ignorance.’ The Buddha preached only about the true law of nature. He never taught Buddhism as a religion, as religion is conceived today, and the term ‘philosophy’ was not coined in those days. After his first enlightenment, the Buddha continuously preached his belief for 45 years. But he never wished to establish Buddhism as a religion.
Born in Lumbini 563 BCE, Gautam Buddha, is regarded as the founder of the world religion of Buddhism, and revered by most Buddhist schools as a savior, ‘the Enlightened One’ who rediscovered an ancient path to release clinging and craving and escape the cycle of birth and rebirth.
In his teachings, the lotus flower represents enlightenment described in the poem.
The lotus has its roots in the mud,
Grows up through the deep water,
And rises to the surface.
It blooms into perfect beauty and purity in the sunlight.
It is like the mind unfolding to perfect joy and wisdom.
As the Buddha says, “In this body, with its perception and consciousness, I declare the world of pain, its origin, its ending, and the practice that leads to its cessation”.
Journey of Pilgrimage to being Tourist :
Buddhism is one of the world’s most influential religions, 10% of world’s population and fifth most popular religion in the world. Nepal presents a rich illustration of Buddha’s philosophy, preaching, and Buddhist pilgrimage. Buddhism also contributes to the global recognition of an exotic pilgrimage of Nepal.
Devotees visit sacred Buddhist shrines in pilgrimage for forgiveness of their sins, peace, prosperity, good health and happiness in present life and rebirth in higher realm as the Buddha himself told the importance of pilgrimage to Ananda. Hence, there is a deep relation between Buddhism and tourism but it has not studied yet.
Pilgrimage is understood as travelling to a sacred religious place as a devotee and is a form of tourism. He opines that pilgrims and tourists share four common concerns that are:
Both demonstrate a concern for space and deeply attach to special places.
They have an articulation of identities.
They keep pervasive concern with aesthetics; they regard much to the beautiful, uplifting and edifying things.
And further, he opines that all things, all places and all experiences become potential commodities in the tourist economy; and Buddhism (religion) also becomes commodities without exception (Bremer, 2004)
According to the survey, Total of 1193828 tourists visited in Lumbini in 2014. Category-wise tourist numbers in the year were: Nepalese (902621), Indian (154216) and Third country (136991). Lumbini received 12,51,346 Nepalese, 1,55,444 Indian and 1,45,796 third-country tourists in 2017 totaling 15,52,586 that make 20.76 % increment to the previous year’s total tourists’ arrival. Lumbini had received total of 1,534,110 tourists in 2018 which increased to be 1558326 in 2019. 1178140 Nepalese, 206171 Indian and 174015 third-country visitors visited Lumbini in 2019 that makes 1.58 % increment in total comparing to 2018.
Tourists, irrespective of their color, caste, or faith around the world are attracted by Buddhist heritages as the Buddha’s teaching of compassion, non-violence, peaceful co-existence and fraternity has become more relevant in today’s chaotic world than ever before.
The Lumbini area is composed of multi ethnic, multi lingual, multi religious and cultural group of people with majority of the Hindus and the Muslims. The fairs and festivals are the byproduct of religions and socio-economy existing in the society.
Tourism promotes Buddhism on the basis that it not only helps to generate income but also
Conserve Buddhist heritage
Tourist events and festivals are promoted for tourism consumption
Non-Buddhist people know about Buddhist cultures and heritages
Infrastructures are developed in and around Buddhist sites
State funding is encouraged
And Tourism businesses campaign in publicity and marketing of Buddhism .
Besides, Government of Nepal has taken some initiatives to develop tourism through excavations of historic sites and conservation, infrastructure development and publicity campaigns.
The government enforced Lumbini Development Trust Act, 1985 and established Lumbini Development Trust for the implementation of Lumbini Master Plan and the exploration, conservation and development of greater Lumbini Area.
To publicize and promote the Buddha and his teachings in national and international levels,
The Government has also established Gautama Buddha International Award in 2011 and commenced to award from the same year. To further accelerate the promotion of Buddhism and Lumbini, the government organized Visit Lumbini Year in 2012.
Thus, Buddhism and tourism are inter-related, Tourism is an act of self-expression and freedom, while Buddhism is an awareness of self-existence. It is concluded that there is a complementary and positive relationship between the Buddhism and tourism. Buddhism helps promote tourism and tourism conserves Buddhist cultural heritages and propagates Buddhist teachings of eternal peace, harmony and non-violence.
Text: Nijesh Budhathoki