“Inner Peace is the Best Foundation for World Peace”

The Spiritual Dimensions of Tourism: One Road map Towards Peace

Presented on the occasion of the 
IIPT Spirituality in Tourism Conference
La Citadella - Assisi, Italy
from the 13th to the 17th of October 2001

Professor T.Y.S. Lama Gangchen



In Support of the
United Nations


Dear Friends:

I am very happy to be here today. Thank you very much for this invitation to speak. 

We are living in a very special moment of human history. Many of you feel shattered these days by the major events of September 11th in the United States which nobody can ignore or disregard. But we know there is more, like the events in Switzerland and in Southern France. All, just in the last few days. 

Now that some time has elapsed since the original incident in Manhattan, we should be able to share some deep reflections, not only with the view to focus on what happened - as we are saturated by the media - but more importantly, to see why did it happen and how can we, together, eliminate any form of terrorism in the future. 

  • This is the time to go far beyond the surface of what actually happened.

  • This is the time to heal and to love.

  • This is the time to care and to serve.

  • This is the time to be one and to respect our differences.

  • This is the time to share our souls and to expand our tolerance.

Of course, I care about the victims, their relatives, and all those suffering and who, directly or indirectly, have been touched by those events. 

However, everyone here should know that there is no process of human transformation that does not have ‘a victim’ or ‘victims’. And, you know that there are millions of them as a result not only of the physical forms terrorism, but also as a result of economic, financial and social terrorism; cultural and institutional terrorism; and political and religious terrorism. Maybe the physical terrorism of the type we have witnessed is the direct result of all other forms of terrorism. 

For many of the disadvantaged people, globalization also represents some form or another the expressions of collective terrorism. This is terrorism against the poor, minorities and the powerless. 

But, there are many other forms of sophisticated terrorism which result from the destruction of the environment, the use of inappropriate language, the making available to children of violent movies and pornography, the different forms of gender inequality, the progressive marginalization of indigenous people, the constant violation of human rights and so many more.  

Terrorism is everywhere and it must be corrected now. 

The tragedy we are living today is one where we tend to accept only some forms of terrorism and not the others. The tragedy is also one where we assign to life a different set of values, depending on who the victim is. Obviously, to me no form of terrorism is acceptable. There is no room for terrorism in my life. And all forms of life are of the same value.  

This is why I believe the time has come to ask ourselves the following questions:  

  • Is it possible to live in a world free of terrorism?

  • Is this simply a utopia these days?

  • What are the conditions to be met so that we may attain a world of peace and security?

I will come back to this in a moment. 


It is also important to note that this meeting is taking place in a very special and sacred place: Assisi.  

I wonder what Saint Francis of Assisi would have said today in relation to the tragedy we are all confronted with.  

  • Would he cry?

  • Would he pray?

  • Would he meditate?

  • Would he forgive?

  • Would he forget?

I know that the most beautiful prayer of Saint Francis expresses, among other things, the need for all of us to become an instrument of peace. An instrument of love. An instrument of healing. An instrument of inner realization. 

  • What would Saint Francis say to someone like Bin Laden, or any other terrorist, if they were face to face for a few minutes?

I do not know, but it would not be difficult to imagine that his first approach would never embrace any form of violence. Saint Francis would never use the same paradigm of the terrorists to resolve the problem. He would not use the paradigm that created the problem. He would have used a paradigm that can resolve it!! We know that violence cannot be addressed with more violence. Again, any form of violence. 

  • Would he listen to him? or

  • Would he teach, and dictate, to him what to do, when to do it, and how to do it?

I strongly believe that the first thing Saint Francis would have done is to listen with love, compassion and rectitude. He would have entered into the spiritual dimensions of the problem at hand. 

And, when I say spiritual, I am mean listening to the foundations and reasons defining a racist, terrorists, and violent behavior. 

Of course, there are many explanations. But one explanation central to this phenomenon, is  

  • A crisis of identity.

  • A crisis of human identity.

  • A crisis of identity with respect to the sacred aspects of our lives.

This conference is taking place at the right time, when both spirituality and tourism are in deep crisis. This is not just a crisis, this is a deep rooted crisis on some of the most complex dimensions of human existence. It is a crisis of values and beliefs. It is a crisis of identity and direction. This is a crisis that touches on our fears, our commitments, our own existence. 

We all know that tourism and spirituality are essential to build up a new global identity. A pluralistic and transparent identity. An identity with a new set of values. 

But, How do we do it right now when one of the sectors most hit by the terrorist attacks is tourism. Just look for a moment to the airlines, hotels, and the problems faced by tourist companies and businesses. Many international meetings have been cancelled. Many tours have been cancelled. But, even within this context, there is no doubt in my mind that tourism must play a fundamental role in attaining a way free of terrorism, a world at peace with itself.  

It is my contention that to bring back spirituality and tourism we must all become warriors of peace. Until and unless peace is attained, it will not be possible to move towards a sustainable path for humanity. 

Thus, let me talk about peace for a moment. 

  • The first thing I would like to say is that peace is not the absence of war and conflict. Peace is a state of being. Peace is a very beautiful and fulfilling state of consciousness. Of absolute consciousness.

  • The second thing I would like to say is that if you want to attain peace you must understand the unique process of self realization you have to experience.

In simple terms, you cannot buy peace in the supermarkets. 

Peace as a process of self realization is the key to focus on during this meeting. We need  

  • Peace with the next door neighbor,

  • Peace with the environment,

  • Peace with all beings (including animals and plants),

  • Peace with our individual existence, and

  • Peace with our collective existence.

But, we know that:

‘Peace Is All And All Is Peace’ 

In the interim, there is no doubt that in order to recover and strengthen our identity we need a major process of healing and reconciliation. Healing of the most profound nature and reconciliation with our selves and others. 

All our activities have a healing quality. The existence of this quality and the character of it depend exclusively on us. We know that being in love is a healing experience. We know that serving is also a healing experience. We know that respecting and being respected is also a healing experience. 

But even if you cannot imagine what I am going to say today, economics can also be a healing experience. The source of healing would come from a mayor change in values. When human and spiritual values begin to dominate the process of wealth creation, of economic development and progress, we will be in a constant healing process. 

Let me finish by saying that the only time when there will be no victims of a transformation process will be at that moment when we become invincible. Invincibility is the only way to eradicate terrorism and all forms of violence. 

My friends, I did not say “ex-vincibility”, but “in-vincibility”. It is that state of our existence that also comes from within.  

It is essential we eliminate our inner terrorism. And by eliminating our inner terrorism, all forms of external terrorism will be eliminated. 

Let us join our hearts and move forward. We move towards that horizon which rejoices in peace and invincibility. 

Thank you very much.