Originally, Susil, who is now 55-year-old, trained as a hotel specialist: “Room boy, cook and waiter, sales representative and independent tour guide… I’ve worn so many hats!” In the 1990s, Sri Lankan tourism was part of the first commercial Ayurveda wave.
In the centres where Susil worked, he met many highly respected Ayurveda practitioners and began to soak up their extensive knowledge: “Ayurveda is not a miraculous art of healing, but guidance for a lifetime of physical and mental balance. It is knowledge that exists in all cultures of the world and is fed by thousands of years of experience. Such knowledge was the reason why women in Central Europe were once persecuted as witches, but which can also be traced back to Hildegard von Bingen.”
These days, Susil Kannangara is critical of the enormous commercialisation of Ayurveda. That which is offered today in many centres throughout India and Sri Lanka is usually very profit-oriented: “You want to attract tourists and earn money. But Ayurveda simply means to treat your body sensibly. For this you don’t necessarily need cure programmes. Quite often it’s just a matter of common sense.”
One can sense that Susil relentlessly questions systems as soon as he smells hypocrisy: “That’s right,” he admits with a laugh. “‘Why?’ has always been my favourite question!” Susil first established contacts in Vorarlberg through the Austrian owner of the Hotel Lotus Villa, where he worked in the mid-1990s. In 1996, he travelled to Europe for the first time, though not to the Bregenzerwald where his friends had invited him, but to Switzerland. For it was here that he was granted a residence permit for three months: “At that time, a nine-year-old boy from Mellau came to me, whose crooked cervical spine caused severe visual disturbances.” Susil managed to help him avoid a serious operation. The boy remains a family friend to this day.
Although he never planned to move to Europe, during the past few decades, Susil has become a wanderer between different worlds. Since 1998, Susil has lived and worked as an Ayurveda therapist in Germany, Crete, Ischia and Majorca. He has plenty of stories to share about his constant fight for residency and work permits, about perseverance, resilience and patience. In 2008, he moved to Austria, where he became responsible for his own Ayurveda programme in a hotel near Vienna. However, due to the economic crisis, he returned to Sri Lanka in 2010. Throughout that time, he remained in contact with the Bregenzerwald region: “I have always felt a special connection to this place and experienced strange things that brought me back here again and again.”
Since 2015, he has lived with his second wife Cornelia in Egg: “It always feels as if I belong here. Who knows, perhaps I lived in the Bregenzerwald in a previous life?” In December 2018, he published his first book, “Ayurveda & Körperlesen (Ayurveda & Reading the Body).” Susil sees his talent to recognise and treat misalignments of the body as more of a calling than a gift. “My life is dictated by the fact that I can help people,” says Susil. “According to Buddhist teachings, it’s something I must do. So I try to fulfil my obligations in this life to prevent a subsequent reincarnation.”
Issue: Winter 2020-21 Bregenzerwald Travel Magazine
Author: Babette Karner