The worst guides are the drunken ones or drug users. Its easy to spot them and I wouldn’t talk to them if I were you. My worst one is a young boy (in his twenties) who used to follow by my side like he was my friend. He did this every time I went into Kandy. I knew he took drugs and was beyond reason, even the threat of police didn’t deter him. In the end I had no alternative but to threaten him and as I have big hands was able to hold him by the waist with one hand. To my surprise he got scarred, called me a womanizer, which is the ultimate Sri Lankan insult (I’m not by the way) and went away. Since then I haven’t seen him, apart from once seeing him thrown from a moving car by tourists.
It’s hard to tell who is genuine. If I don’t know someone and they say hello or "good morning," I will also say the same. If they then say "where are you going" I say "to the moon or nothing at all."
"Where are you going" is the literal translation of the common form of greeting in Sri Lanka. As an English man I still find it a little intrusive, even though I haven’t lived in England since I was 20. Don’t worry even if you go around ignoring people like me, you will still meet lots of interesting Sri Lankan people.
First, I think I should write that if there is such a collective representation of a nation, then it is best to observe (any observations I might make should be taken in good humour or as coming from someone else) Wars are started over such things and vague ideals defended with vigor. There are for main religions in Sri Lanka and since they all got amplification systems compete for volume throughout the day. All along the Muslims have been ahead, because their speakers are higher and so resonate over a larger area. The other advantage is that there congregation seem to take turns on the mike and so the quality of sound has variation, often poor lamented but sometimes, the occasional "Elvis."
Now the Buddhist (the silent religion) temples also have amplification. The sound is usually of a softer quality, but there are also lay worshipers who recite a list throughout the night of those contributors to such and such a cause, these recitals often seem to given in a state of intoxication. I should write a section about Buddhism. In Sri Lanka we have Theravada (the strictest of the three main branches). The philosophy can easily be found for those interested. The very basics are; Karma is cause and effect i.e. we are responsible for all our actions/ thoughts and all things are related, therefore quality of life is determined by our behavior, which is sound advice. Through meditation and awareness life can be improved so that there is ultimately no suffering. There is more detail and some things might not be to every ones ideals but discussion and questioning is all part of it so it sounds good. Anyway you would think an ideal foundation for a caring society.
In Kandy there is a very good Buddhist publication society shop with very cheap English books and pamphlets. I have many of these and the things I have discovered, to my surprise, is that:
1. They are nearly always written by Europeans, (and the occasional Australian)
2. That, only the basic notion of the religion is the same as what Singhalese people believe.
What children in schools here are taught and so the basic beliefs of Singhalese people is based mostly on stories and fables (similar to bible stories) Hindu gods are also central to the religion and many monks and religious people also read horoscopes, which is regarded with great reverence. Nearly all Sri Lankans have at least one transcription of there life in the form of an astrological guide. Marriages, building houses, times for interviews and almost every aspect of life depend heavily on what the horoscope tells. I think this is one reason why very little ever happens. Not one of the Tsunami victims was pre-warned by his her horoscope.
Like everything, it is personal interpretation and consideration which lead to knowledge and progression. The basic Buddhist philosophy is a good way and in like all societies there are those that are able to benefit from purity and those who need to look for glitter. Meditation is very beneficial. One thing I would like to say about the religion is that I would have preferred if the Buddha was not a "Lord." If he actually were a "beggar Buddha" instead of a "Lord Buddha" I don’t think it would have caught on in Sri Lanka. The best thing about Buddhism is that animals are should be considered and cared for. Seeing all the stray dogs and there condition you may not agree but generally people here live in close proximity to nature. As with everything, there is contradiction to any generalization but there is so much wild life that some sort of care and appreciation must prevail and this is probably due to Buddhism. My advice it to read the books, the philosophy can be as detailed or intense as you wish but it’s all interesting.