Casinos, Tourism, and the Buddhist Monks.
Posted on June 15th, 2014

By Charles.S.Perera

 So much is being said about Casinos these days that one begins to wander whether Casinos are the only thing that will mar the peace and serenity of the well disciplined, very Buddhist Sri Lanka, where every thing is being happening according to the teachings of the Buddha.  

 One is made to come to that conclusion as it is the very Buddhist JHU and Wimal Weerawansa that seem to be anxious about the danger to Buddhist morals by the introduction of Casinos.  Casinos spell gambling , games of chance. But in case of a Buddhist it is not forbidden in the five  precepts, though it is against a right livelihood in  the noble eight fold path.

 If Casinos are condemned for making it another marketable addition to make Sri Lanka  attractive to tourists as a place for pleasure and entertainment. Why only Casinos ? Nobody seems to complain that putting  all cards for economic development and financial stability on tourism, is by itself an issue that needs rethinking as it is tourism that keeps increasing entertainment projects, and with them  that come all evil, such as sex, drugs, crimes and gambling. The fear perhaps is because this reminds of pre Castro Cuba which was a gambling den controlled by the American Mafia.

 But unfortunately tourism is an  all  important item for Sri Lanka’s economic growth as  industries and even agriculture as potential foreign exchange earners are limited and slow in development. Hence tourism and foreign  employment are the primary foreign exchange earning industries in Sri Lanka.

 There are three types of Casinos.  The Casinos open to the public at large, Casinos in Hotels which are open to the clients of the Hotels, and on line Casinos which are open to any one using computers with internet connection.  The Casinos in Hotels cater for the tourists for whom the Hotel industry is being developed. 

 Is James Parker’s 400 million Dollar  Casino complex open to any one or just to tourists  and others who are clients of the Hotels ?  In the news item it only says , once constructed, the resort will have  450 rooms , restaurants and gambling spaces.”  It seems to be restricted to the clients of the Hotel and restaurant complex.

 If it is open only to clients of the hotels and not to any Dick, Tom and Harry, that would not affect the morality of the Buddhists.  If that factor is not considered, those who manifest against Casinos should then manifest against tourism itself, which would be like biting the hand that feeds you. If it is a case of ordinary Citizens of Sri Lanka getting ruined playing in James Parker’s casinos, then we will also  have to consider blocking  internet online  Casinos.

 Then why is all this furore about.  If its only to preserve the sanctity of the Buddhist Sri Lanka, the priests who have taken to roads to protest against Casinos should rethink what they the Buddhist monks as the protectors of the Buddha Sasana should do to stop the declining morality of the Buddhist laity without seeking to make Sri Lanka commit  economic suicide by not developing  the country to attract foreigners as a place for entertainment and thus get the much needed foreign exchange for development projects. 

 The Monks may for instance demand that the tourist industry should  give foreign tourist a Sri Lanka style vacation with attractions such  as  sight seeing tours, restful beaches, enjoy Sri Lankan peace and serenity by visiting Buddhist and other religious places of worship, provide them with entertainment respecting Sri Lanka’s cultural values. Provide the tourists with Sri Lankan fruit juices, or Sri Lankan beer instead of  other alcoholic drinks such as wines that are available in plenty in their own home countries. The tourists love health resorts, therefore encourage opening Ayurvedic health centres and bath spas etc.

 But yet that is not the role of the Buddhist monks, there are the laymen qualified to make tourism in Sri Lanka a different experience for foreign tourists.  But  those who are in charge of developing tourism in Sri Lanka are trying to make tourist entertainment in Sri Lanka an overbearing  imitation of  what it is  in  the countries from where the tourists  come. 

 There are night racing.  Normally car racing are in automobile producing countries to compete with different marks of automobiles  produced by different producers.  There are very few  car racing courses outside  automobile producing countries.  Sri Lanka should not go all out to make car racing a  Sri Lankan experience. Even Golf links are not a profitable venture.  There is even a proposal to set ice rinks and even making an artificial island for a racecourse.  There is also a proposal to invest on a cable car service to Adma’s Peak.  Where is this madness going to end ?

 These are excessive considering that while main roads, bridges and flyovers have been constructed  certainly for the greater benefit of the country, the village roads have been neglected. The transport board has no suitable small  buses to ply on small village roads and roads linking towns in the interior of Sri Lanka.  The big Leyland buses plying on village roads not only damage the roads, but also become a dangerous nuisance to villagers who have to take the same roads to move from one place to another.

 Therefore, Casinos within Hotels are not that much of a danger to the life of the people of Sri Lanka if they are properly controlled.  But the role of the monks is to teach the people to live a Buddhist way of life without seeking  activities that is not in keeping with their effort to follow the noble eightfold path to purity and emancipation from the bonds of Samsara. 

 The Buddhist laymen should be taught to keep away from vice, as  vice by itself cannot be removed. During the life time of the Buddha, pigs were slaughtered outside the Jetawanaramaya.  The Buddha did not ask the King to stop the butchers from killing pigs, but taught the people why it is wrong to eat the meat of slaughtered animals.  In the discourses of the Buddha we note that there had been liquor addicts. But the Buddha taught the monks to be an example for others, and  required lay Buddhists to refrain from taking intoxicating drinks.

 It is an indisciplined mind that seeks out vice, therefore the duty of the Buddhist monk is not to manifest on public roads to make people good Buddhists, but to teach them what is good and what is bad in their temples by making the temple a place of sanctity where the monks practice meditation, and conduct retreats or meditation sessions to the people. The monks should make their temple where people come not only to worship, but also to seek  solace and advice.

 While our learned Buddhist Monks who have donned the yellow robes, are dabbling in matters that are outside their vocation as monks, some demand driving licences, and employment in the public administration,  others get into politics even seeking to be candidates for the Presidential elections, it was announced that 450 Buddhist temples are to be closed for lack of Buddhist Monks.

 Buddhist culture is entwined with the temple and the people.  If the temple gets away from the people or the people gets away from the temple it would be to the disadvantage of the existence of the Buddha Sasana.  Therefore the Buddhist monk should cultivate closer contact with the people to be their guide and protector.  Today what we see is that a greater number of  Buddhist Monks  is preoccupied with matters that are best left for the laity, becoming thus laymen in yellow robes.

 Buddhism had a smooth uninterrupted  existence in Sri Lanka for 2300 years since Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka by Venerable Mahinda Thera.  Therefore , Buddha Sasana as much as the Sinhala Buddhists have to be protected  from religions which do not  teach their followers ways to get away from suffering, but make use of  them to assure their existence,  are spreading like weeds. 

 Therefore, the Buddhist Monks associating to fight against these enemies as protectors of the Buddha Sasana cannot be condemned.  But they should not be divided as Budu Bala Sena, Sihala Ravaya, and Ravana Balakaya, but  should form into one large Association. They should conduct themselves as the  disciples of the Great teacher the  Buddha, disciplined in their thoughts, words and actions according to the Dhamma.

 Protecting the Buddha Sasana is a greater issue on which the Buddhist monks should take an active interest, leaving aside manifesting against setting up Casinos, abolition of the Executive Presidency , or presenting themselves as common candidates for Presidential elections.

11 Responses to “Casinos, Tourism, and the Buddhist Monks.”

  1. dhane Says:

    Charles you have not included anything about “horse racing bookies” addicted to our ordinary people on daily basis own by leading rich Buddhists preaching to others.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    And DAILY lotteries that consume MOST gambling rupees.

  3. Nanda Says:

    “Therefore, the Buddhist Monks associating to fight against these enemies as protectors of the Buddha Sasana cannot be condemned. But they should not be divided as Budu Bala Sena, Sihala Ravaya, and Ravana Balakaya, but should form into one large Association. They should conduct themselves as the disciples of the Great teacher the Buddha, disciplined in their thoughts, words and actions according to the Dhamma.”

    -Yes, but when a monk behaves like Ganasara Thero Buddhism is very badly affected and it is playing into the hands of the enemy. It is the fault of the leadership of the country letting this to happen. That ONE association shall be JHU, which has links with deaf and dumb SLFP and is able to assist. JHU should take leadership and initiative to unify this lot.

  4. Lorenzo Says:

    BBS and RB have taken matters in their hands (NOT good) because GOSL, SLFP, UNP, JHU, NFF, etc. are playing politics with the Muslim vote.

    Charles stops short of blaming all powerful MR.

    Casino Act was BR’s invention.

    But good if casinos are pitted against Islamaniacs particularly in Al Maradana.

  5. Nanda Says:

    Hope Charles has seen Champika face to face at Paris to realise the truth.

  6. ranjit Says:

    “Protecting the Buddha Sasana is the main issue” Yes Charles that is what our venerable Monks must do not acting like gangsters and use bad words not fit for Buddhist monks. Buddhism is a great religion and the monks who are the deciples of this great religion must act and do things as per his beloved teachings. Let the politicians do the political work and our great Monks teach our young generation how to serve their beloved Motherland.

    Casinos were there from the beginning and night clubs too. I do not know why the fuss now. These UNPers are the ones who started all these white man hobbies here and now they want to become saints. These Traitors must be hanged at Galle Face. We have so many things to worry about than casinos. Our children needs good education,good jobs, Good future.We all must find ways to give good life to our peoples not Terrorism,Drugs and Prostitutes. Our Buddhist Monks must go in every corner of the country and should spread the teachings of Lord Buddha because our enemies are spreading evil among our society by bringing outside religions and bad habbits to destroy our Motherland. Be on alert. Safeguard the Motherland. Dont allow another blood bath to happen.

  7. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Unless Sri Lanka is like Monaco Sri Lanka better consider the negative aspects of Casinos’ The Grand daddy of them all is the US city of Las Vegas. It has ruined more lives, cost more misery and bled the savings of so many people it is a “sin city’ as it is nick named. Now it is close to bankruptcy.

    Sri Lanka may rely on tourism but Sri Lanka also survived 30 years of war with hardly any tourism. When tourism was practically nil and the resources of the nation were being channeled to fight India’s proxy war with Colombo in Asia’s longest war.

    Tourism only became a significant economic issue AFTER the war. It was not a significant economic issue even BEFORE the war. The exports of Rubber, tea, coconut products, spices and gems maintained Sri Lanka’s economy since the time of the end of the British Raj.

    Just like any segment, too much dependence on such a volatile segment as tourism is dangerous for Sri Lanka. Any social upheaval would dry that avenue of wealth IN A HEARTBEAT. If India, the Tamil Diaspora, the US, to the UN manage to destabilize Sri Lanka in any way see how fast the tourist can run OUT OF SRI LANKA. and with that flight goes Sri Lanka’s main source of revenue.

    Break that stranglehold. Here are some suggestions.

    – Become an export nation of arms. It is one of the most lucrative markets in the world. It will also make Sri Lanka a regional military power.

    -Become an export of other products by inviting Japanese to South Korean manufacturing companies to manufacture and export heavy duty items like cars, trucks, planes, etc. Eventually create manufacturing companies in Sri Lanka that do the same. India has successfully done that (her Maruti) so can Sri Lanka.

    Take a page from Israel, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, India, etc. and learn from them how they became an export driven nation where tourism is not that vital.

    One simple example. In the late 19th century when a (British or US – I do not remember at the moment but it is irrelevant to the issue) docked in Japan, the Japanese emperor sent scribes to board that ship and they copied every bolt, every aspect of that ship and literally “stole” the technology from the west. The Japanese soon learned everything of the Western military’s and emerged as the first Asian nation to defeat Russia in the early 20th century.

    If Sri Lanka wants and is determined to become a power where Colombo and not New Delhi or Washington D.C. or the UN makes decisions for her she needs to think in the long run. Sri Lanka needs to develop alternatives to the tourist industry for if it is effected Sri Lanka’s economy will not be crippled.

    I would like to conclude that like Iran Sri Lanka should pursue an atomic program for greater energy for the country. Sri Lanka is rich in Thorium. Sri Lanka should also develop her space (and by that her missile) program so that one day not in the distant future Sri Lanka can be “concerned” about the “human rights” issues of India to the US.

  8. douglas Says:

    It is no strange situation to see the involvement of Buddhist Monks in Political, Social and Economic matters in the country. That involvement has a long history starting from the time Arahat Mihindu brought Buddhism to then Tambapanni and now Sri Lalnka. From that time onwards the Buddhist monks have participated in many, many historical situations that came about from time to time. In that respect, it is not correct to condemn or reject whatever they have done and thus contributed to avoid calamitous situations that arose and existed in the past.

    So today, we see a continuation of this participation by the Buddhist Monks in building this country maintaining a “Buddhist” based cultural values. In today’s context there are many situations that have given rise to change that cultural base of the country, as far as the Buddhists are concerned. One of these, is this Government “patronaged” Casino Tourism cum “Gambling”.

    Charles point of view is that this “Casino Tourism” is a necessary tool to attract “quality (high value) tourists to the country and it will be to the advantage to our economy. Those opposing this point of view are of the view that building the economy (Tourism) will be at the expense losing our cultural values. It is noteworthy to view the “side effects” of these ventures, in that, there will be very many sociological aspects that would have to be taken care of. It is not enough to say that there will be many “restrictions” placed in position to address those issues. In our country we have seen and are experiencing such a whole host of restrictions in place to arrest situations harmful to the society. Yet, those “safeguards” are more in breach than followed. The authorities have “deliberately” or “ignorantly” ignored the side effects of these “Mega Ventures” and the country has already begun to feel the results.

    The most “dangerous” of these side effects would be the creation of a “MAFIA” style class in the country who would not care a hoot for the peoples’ opinion. It would lead to a situation; where a “MAFIA CLAN” would be the “Dictators” to the Governing and Governed. We already have this in “MINI” form spread over the country taking shelter behind the Local Government Institutions and they will be the “MAFIA AT GRASS ROOT” levels. In this whole “GAME” the basis would be making “MONEY” and “AMASSING WEALTH” by hook or crook. The first victim of this game will be the “Governing Class” who would invariably depend on their backing to come to power and once that class is placed in power by this MAFIA there is no ESCAPE. The second and the most important class will be the ordinary citizens who would have also to eke out a living by whatever the means are. So we will see all our value systems, whether it is religious, cultural etc. eroded to extinction.

    In the “short term” it is economic gains; but in the “long term” it would be the MAFIA controlled society right down to the simple village life. Unfortunately, people like Charles do not see it that far and coin a “Headline” like “Casinos,Tourism and the Buddhist Monks”. Well this what we are “LEAVING” to our future generation.

  9. Nanda Says:

    Our Prince Charles must give up his newly found boyfriend MR and try and identify what and who is really working for the country.

  10. Lorenzo Says:


    Good suggestions but SOME are NOT feasible in the short run.

    Our DETERRENCE should be based on AFFORDABLE weapons. SLAF plans to retire ALL its KFIR and MIG27 fighters. They plan to buy the Chinese-Pakistani J-7 or J-17. VERY BASIC but enough. We should buy PLENTY of BM-21s (MBRLs) and the Russian multi GRAD rocket systems. Buy only the WEAPONS and mount it on a LANKA LAYLAND truck.

    We CANNOT have our own defence exports. But we can IMPORT from China and EXPORT to Endia, etc. with Chinese approval. This is what Endia does in Afghanistan. Buy Russian weapons and sell to Afghanistan with Russian approval.

    We can EXPORT defence EXPERTISE to Nigeria, Endia, etc.

    We can LEASE a military PORT to China, Russia, even USA at a HEFTY price tag under strict conditions.

  11. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    I disagree on the premise that all nations who are weapons exporting nations were not that way. They started as importers and that included the US to Israel. Israel is a singular issue. No one even thought that slice of land would even survive. Yet Israel is now into weapons R/D and exports.

    Outside of the export issue it is the R/D that would make Sri Lanka independent in this key area. Remember at the start of the war Sri Lanka had to beg weapons from other nations and face the humiliation of some rejecting Sri Lanka as in the case with India. There is a saying and I paraphrase “In order to preserve peace be prepared for war”. Depending on other nations means they have leverage with Colombo when the nation is in a crisis. That is the worst situation for Sri Lanka to be in… again. If you note the nations that helped Sri Lanka a large number of them were Arab Muslim nations. Now Sri Lanka is paying the price as Islam is spreading unchecked.

    If Sri Lanka had her own R/D weapons sector she would be in the position not only to win wars but to save her culture as well. China is another example. During the time of Mao her military was derelict. Now China has emerged as a weapons developing nation with her own Research and development. By that she is not beholden to anyone and can protect her nation and her culture on her own terms.

    Many articles have been written about India’s policy of being the world’s largest buyer of weapons. Unlike China India has not put much into developing an indigenous weapons manufacturing sector. It has led to hundreds of Billions of dollars being spent buying weapons from the USSR during the cold war and now the US, while China not only has her own manufacturing base but exports them as well. Unlike India China is making a profit of her weapons manufacturing sector.

    One more point about exports. Sri Lanka already has a traditional pool of gem cutters due to her history in this area but Sri Lanka has not cashed in on the processing of world wide diamonds. India has. India imports raw uncut diamonds and processes them for export to the world. She is now the dominant nation in this segment. Sri Lanka can easily grab a section of this lucrative market for her economic growth.

    Regarding Sri Lanka’s aspirations be they in the weapons manufacturing, Space technology, or Atomic technology SHE IS LIMITED ONLY BY HER OWN PRECONCEIVED CONCEPTS OF WHAT SHE CAN DO. SRI LANKA CAN ACHIEVE ANYTHING NATIONS FAR SMALLER THAN SHE HAVE ACHIEVED IF THAT IS HER VISION.

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