AHANGAMAGE TUDOR ARIYARATNE was born on
November 5, 1931 in Galle, the major city of the south of Ceylon. Said to
hang like a pearl from the tip of the Indian subcontinent, and famed for its
gems, and coconut, tea and rubber plantations, the island was still part of
the British Empire when ARIYARATNE was growing up and attending school.
As befit a child of Buddhist parents, he was sent to the village priest for
his first formal education. The temple was adjacent to the family home in
Unawatuna, a village just outside Galle, and young ARIYARATNE began lessons
there at the age of three. At five he started in the village school but was
taken upcountry in 1939 as the clouds of World War II gathered. He remained
in Meddakanda at the Buddhist Mixed (coeducational) School until he
graduated at the age of 13.
Lessons at the Meddakanda School were in the medium of Sinhala, the
Sanskrit-based language of the Sinhala ethnic majority, although English was
the official state language. When ARIYARATNE returned to the coast in 1944
he began to study at Buona-Vista Senior School where instruction was in
English. In 1945 he joined Mahinda College, Galle, which was "the premier
Buddhist educational institution in the south" also using English as the
medium of instruction. In spite of changing languages, ARIYARATNE had a
"brilliant career, always coming first in class and winning almost all the
prizes that came his way as the best student of the school."
ARITYARATNE came from a deeply religious middle class family, steeped in
Buddhist culture and tradition, and with strong literary leanings. Several
of the family elders had written books in Sinhala. His parents believed that
the best thing they could do for their children was to give them a good
ARIYARATNE’s father was a successful businessman who, according to his son,
made "big money" but immediately spent it on the poor so that "he came home
virtually penniless." He died in 1970 at the age of 87, devoted to good
works to the end of his days. His mother was equally unmaterialistic and
selfless. Although she was neither midwife nor nurse, she was always
available to care for the ill or assist at a birth, leaving her own
household chores until later. Today at 70 she lives with her son and is
active in his work, going on field trips and camps with him whenever she
can. ARITYARATNE, a middle child, has two older sisters, both teachers, a
younger brother who is an engineer in the United Kingdom, and two younger
sisters who are housewives.
Passing his Senior School Certificate with a First in Science, ARITYARATNE
was exempted from the London Matriculation Examination. He began the study
of medicine but a sudden illness on his part and economic difficulties at
home stopped these studies. He left school in 1953 and helped support the
family as a science teacher at Buona-Vista, his village alma mater. He
continued to study privately and passed the London University Intermediate
Examination in Political Science and Economics as an External Student after
which he entered the Government Training College for Teachers where he
majored in English and General Science and graduated as a science-trained
Secondary School Teacher. He then went on to Vidyodaya University where he
obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree.
Obviously influenced by his parents' piety and concern for the
underprivileged, ARITYARATNE spent his evenings as a teenager teaching at
night what he had learned at school during the day to youths not attending
school. He assisted in organizing temple ceremonies, conducted Sunday
classes to instruct young people in Buddhism and engaged in rural
development activities. While he was in the Senior Form at Mahinda College
he had an experience that made a great impression on him and helped direct
the course of his later life.
He had been in the habit of sharing his lunch money with an old woman who
was a coir worker—twisting coconut fiber into rope 10 hours a day, six days
a week—yet she did not have enough money to feed herself. ARIYARATNE assumed
either she was a lazy worker or the price of coir was badly depressed. On
inquiring into the situation he found that neither was true—a greedy
middleman paid her starvation wages and sold her work at a tidy profit.
Finding she was not alone in these circumstances, he organized the first
Coir Workers Cooperation Society in the south, made up of 80 women workers,
and became its secretary. As a result of these activities he was waylaid one
night in an alley and stabbed. The wound, fortunately, was not serious.
In 1956 at the Maharagama Government Teachers' Training School he founded
the school's Social Service League and became its first president. He
engaged in lectures and radio talks in support of League activities. While
at Maharagama he came to the attention of Principal M.W. Karunananda of
Nalanda College, Colombo, the second most prestigious Buddhist college in
the country. Karunananda had requested that the staff at Maharagama
recommend a person with a sense of social responsibility to join the faculty
of Nalanda, a school which had a history of social involvement. ARITYARATNE
was recommended and has been teaching there ever since.
Karunananda found in ARITYARATNE the qualities he was seeking—a highly
qualified teacher who was not just interested in preparing students for
examinations but was dedicated to instilling in his students an
understanding of the problems of their times and their ethical
responsibilities to themselves and to their fellowman. He considers that
ARITYARATNE has "rare qualities of leadership" and, although he himself
encouraged and helped in the development of student work camps which grew
into the national Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, he recognizes ARITYARATNE
as "unquestionably the leader of the Movement who works with a missionary
zeal" and as the "only one who can reach the hearts of villagers."
In his first year as a teacher at Nalanda, ARITYARATNE spent his free time
making a socioeconomic survey of the so-called "backward communities" in the
Northwestern, Uva and Eastern provinces. In most cases these communities are
made up of the Rodiya caste, untouchables from ancient times who live in
utter poverty and degradation, with even the Buddhist priests unwilling to
In 1957 he extended his education in rural and social problems and their
possible solutions by an extensive study tour of India, traveling from
Madras State in the south to Uttar Pradesh and the Punjab in the northwest.
The main purpose of his visit was to meet and talk with Acharya Vinoba Bhave,
a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi (and the 1958 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for
Community Leadership "for inspiration and help to the man on the land"), who
had carried Gandhi's principles of non-violence a step further and had
developed the philosophy of "giving" into a political and economic system.
His movement, known as the Bhoodan (landgift) Movement, was sweeping India.
In April 1951 Acharya Bhave had walked into an area troubled by
Communist-led terrorism against landlords—where more than 3,000 people had
lost their lives—and asked that gifts of land be given him to distribute to
the landless. The response was both unexpected and immediate. By 1956 over
4,000,000 acres had been given throughout India. Recognizing that
fragmentation of land had its own disadvantages, Bhave later proposed
gramdan—the pooling of land—by villagers and reorganization of the villages
along cooperative lines.
When ARITYARATNE arrived in Madras and began seeking the leader of the
Bhoodan Movement, everyone knew of Bhave but no one knew where, on his
continual walking-and-asking tour of the country, he was. Finally in Delhi
ARITYARATNE learned that Bhave might be found in the Punjab. Although this
was December and cold and he had come from the tropic climes of Ceylon,
ARITYARATNE boarded a train for the suggested destination. Arriving there at
night, a foreigner, alone and chilled to the bone, he cried out to the crowd
on the platform asking if anyone knew where he could locate the Acharya. A
Bhoodan worker stepped out of the
melee, wrapped a blanket about his shoulders and walked him to a distant
village where the leader was in residence.
After prayers the next morning ARIYARATNE learned that Bhave was maintaining
silence. Desperate after looking for him across India, ARITYARATNE
approached the great man, explaining that he was seeking to understand the
concepts of Bhoodan in order to apply its principles in Ceylon. The Acharya
broke silence and conversed with him for over an hour.
ARITYARATNE walked with Bhave for a week, and as he tells it, he was in
great physical discomfort all the way, but in a state of unparalleled
exhilaration. Bhave explained that the Bhoodan Movement was based on the
principles found in all great religions of truth, non-violence and
self-denial, and his own perceptions that "all the present ills. . . result
from possession" and "cooperation without co-sharing is a mere mirage." "As
I spoke to the great man," ARITYARATNE has said, "I began to realize the
oneness of humanity and all barriers between man and man seemed to
Back in Ceylon and determined to introduce the benefits of the Bhoodan
Movement there, ARIYARATNE decided to ask, instead of land or renunciation
of self or property, for shramadana, the sharing of labor. This fit the
Buddhist tradition of the "middle way"—an avoidance of extremes—and the
ancient Sinhala customs of "gifting labor" for community projects such as
building roads and water channels, and of "kaiya," where a whole village
would organize itself cooperatively to plant, harvest and thresh rice.
The Sanskrit words sarvodaya shramadana explain fully the meaning of the
movement that he began at this time. Sarvam means totality or whole, and
udayam is uplift or all-around progress, thus sarvodaya means the total
uplift of all. As ARITYARATNE interprets it, in an individual sense it means
"fulfillment of the human being, realization of the purpose of his existence
on this earth, and is not different from the attainment of the Supreme Goal
often referred to as Mukthi or Nirvana or Self-realization or the Kingdom of
God." In a societal sense it signifies "the greatest good, not of the
majority, but of all."
Shrama means physical and mental energy, and dana means gift; shramadana is
sharing or giving your mental or physical labor. "Man is not the master of
what he possesses," ARIYARATNE says, "but only a trustee of what in reality
belongs to society. Therefore giving back to society a part of our physical
and mental energy is not charity but elementary honesty, a simple duty."
In December 1958 ARIYARATNE was ready to test his ideals. With the
understanding and support of the college, ARIYARATNE and the Nalanda
students and faculty whom he had organized into a Social Service League were
ready to do shramadana work in a village. They had prepared over a period of
three months by visiting the Rodiya village of Kanatoluwa where they had
taken a socioeconomic survey and discussed and planned with the villagers
what the villagers themselves felt needed to be done. Material and equipment
had been collected; both the shramadana volunteers and the villagers were
This was no "do-good" effort to "spoon feed" the villagers. It was a
cooperative attempt to involve the village in solving its own problems, in a
true self-awakening to their own abilities and their self dignity.
In Kanatoluwa the 75 volunteers found 40 poverty stricken families with 67
school-aged children—and no school. Nearby villagers shunned the
inhabitants, who lived mainly by begging. Their hovels were dilapidated and
their fields deserted. For 11 days shramadana workers lived and worked side
by side with the villagers, building wells and latrines, clearing fields,
repairing houses and starting a school. They danced with the villagers,
bathed the children and tried to explain to the people the rudiments of
health and maternity care. Several government departments, particularly the
Department of Rural Development, cooperated by supplying materials and
training. Nearby higher caste villages were astounded to see the "elite" of
Colombo—the educated and the professional—mingling with outcastes; they came
to see and, toward the end, to help. Today each family has a home, well and
latrine. The village has a center for training residents in the making of
rattan items, a school and 19 acres of productive land.
The work at Kanatoluwa was recognized as a social breakthrough. Prime
Minister Bandaranaike sent his congratulations by way of his wife: "The
progressive step taken by the Nalanda Vidyalaya Social Service League in
selecting for development a village inhabited by a community which is cast
out by others and condemned to languish in misery, is acclaimed as a
National Service of the Highest Order. . . . I hope that this . . . .will
serve as a foundation of a national movement of social regeneration." Mrs.
Bandaranaike, herself to be prime minister when her husband was
assassinated, added that "the wonderful spirit of service and the enthusiasm
displayed by the students of Nalanda Vidyalaya are very praiseworthy."
One of the results of Kanatoluwa was requests from other backward
communities, including two aborigine villages, for similar help. As more and
more asked for help, more and more came forth to give assistance— primarily
teachers, students, monks, social workers, doctors and similar
professionals; the concept of shramadana was in tune with the basic culture
During 1959 ARIYARATNE was busy teaching at Nalanda College, organizing
further shramadana work camps and lecturing throughout the island. In 1960
he was instrumental in establishing the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement (SSM).
In that same year he organized the First International Shramadana Camp in
Ceylon and co-sponsored the Ceylon Saukyadana (Medical Aid) Movement. Now a
national association, the SSM moved its headquarters from Nalanda to central
Colombo. People of all faiths—Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems and Christians—who
would subscribe to the principles of the Movement (truth, non-violence and
self-denial) and give seven days of voluntary annual labor were welcomed as
members. Dues were nominal or non-existent.
In 1960, also, ARITYARATNE married Neetha Dhammachari. They had met a few
months earlier at a work camp. Only 18 when they were married, Neetha has
been his devoted helpmate ever since, even giving up a teaching career to
work with the Movement. Today she is responsible for the Sarvodaya Education
Section, the Sarvodaya Library, and often for the food supply and the
welfare of women at the camps. They have three children, a daughter aged
eight and sons aged six and two. The children have been carried to camps
since they were three months of age and have been workers since they were
old enough to help. "In a good family," ARITYARATNE has said, "there are
four elements—sharing, kind words, constructive activity and equality."
These are very evident in his.
The work camps require a tremendous amount of preparation as well as
on-the-site labor. Requests must be investigated and an analysis of the job
made. On their part the villagers need to have a clear understanding of what
they want and what is entailed, i.e., how much work they are willing to do
and how much material they can supply. The SSM provides the balance. Once a
survey of village needs has been made by the SSM staff, accommodations for
the shramadana workers have to be obtained or built; food, tools and pure
drinking water have to be stocked, and sanitary arrangements provided for.
Aid is often solicited from nearby villages, particularly ones which have
already experienced a SSM work camp.
The most effective working unit is a village of 100 to 150 families. Camp is
inaugurated in the evening after village chores are finished and after all
the workers have arrived, usually by their own means. At 6 p.m. (the sun
sets early because Ceylon is close to the equator) an elder or a young child
lights a coconut oil lamp. The national and the Sarvodaya flags are raised
and the assembled village joins—with a Buddhist priest if one is
available—in prayers. All sit in a circle and sing village and Sarvodaya
songs. A sense of closeness having been achieved, each person is asked to
express his views or tell something about the village and its needs. One of
the goals of the camp is to create a sense of oneness among the villagers
and between villagers and volunteers.
Often village problems stem from lack of unity within. Family may be against
family and all against the outsider. As Bhave has said of modern India, even
in a village of only 100 families there is often no cohesion; each one lives
for himself, exploiting the others and all are exploited by the trader,
moneylender, doctor and lawyer from town.
ARIYARATNE sees as a basic problem of the village a loss of faith in self.
Through the 450 years of colonial rule and in the early years of
independence people were taught to look to government for problemsolving. At
the same time government more and more gave its attention to the cities at
the expense of the rural areas, although even today 80 percent of the people
live in the countryside. Moreover, disintegration of the social structure
because of party politics, use of immoral means to achieve presumably moral
ends, materialism, greed and loss of religious values have eroded village as
well as town life. "The world today is the cockpit of many warring
ideologies, political doctrines, different faiths and the struggle for
economic prosperity," ARIYARATNE wrote in 1962, but the SSM is the "exact
opposite of party and power politics and organized religion in that it has
no barriers of any sort whatsoever. It aims at the attainment of utmost
happiness through doing good without expectation of reward. . . its concern
is the welfare of all." The state is not in the position to make changes in
the hearts and minds of men where the change is necessary, therefore the
need exists for sarvodaya, the total awakening of the mind, spirit and body
of men. This, then, is the goal of the work camps, to establish a network of
internally democratic, self-supporting and self-reliant villages by
maximizing the villagers' potential.
Camp life is divided into four segments—work, study, religious activity and
recreation. Normally six to eight hours are spent by village and shramadana
workers in manual labor: building roads; repairing tanks (reservoirs);
digging drainage ditches, water channels, wells and latrines, and sometimes
building a school. Two to three hours are spent in the study of the
principles of sarvodaya and of more healthful, prosperous ways of village
A major concern of ARIYARATNE has been to involve youth in the Sarvodaya
Shramadana Movement. As of 1969 over 60 percent of the population of Ceylon
is below 25 years of age and 19 percent is between 15 and 25; the latter
constitutes a potential work force of 2.3 million. To his great credit, of
the 250,000 persons who have worked in SSM camps, 90 percent have been young
people—and discipline has never been an issue. ARIYARATNE states
unequivocally that "any country that considers youth to be a problem can
never progress because youth is not a problem. It is an asset." However,
with free rice, free education and free medical care in Ceylon today, youth
does not have the same incentive to work as before when families were often
dependent on their extra earning power, and society does not place goals
before the young that demand their best. ARIYARATNE is determined,
therefore, that young people be included in policy making and policy
implementation, thus giving them the opportunity to understand and be
involved in solving the socioeconomic problems facing society.
The working hypotheses of the Movement are that man is fundamentally good
and that love begets love. The principles as enunciated by ARIYARATNE are,
in the personal sphere: 1) live a simple life, 2) employ only pure means to
a pure end, 3) be concerned for the good of all, and 4) be aware of the
oneness of all men. As a social being one should: 1) "steer clear of party
affiliations" (party politics he feels are self-seeking, divisive and a
remnant of colonialism), 2) help—do not add to the burden of the state—by
depending less on centralized planning and decisions and 3) achieve village
Until 1962 the SSM was the only shramadana movement in Ceylon. The idea of
sharing one's labor was so well accepted by then that other shramadana
groups sprang up, although most died because they did not have the backup
philosophy of sarvodaya. They gave free labor but did nothing to awaken the
villagers to a new and meaningful attitude toward themselves and one
In 1961 the Department of Land Development and several other government
agencies (which had actually used voluntary labor in the 1940s and 1950s)
took a close look at shramadana, noting that "the potential of labor and
service latent in human beings who are unemployed and underemployed is
non-monetized capital awaiting investment." The government study pointed out
that there were approximately three million in the rural work force and most
of them un- or underemployed. If each would give seven days labor annually
it would mean 20 million man/days of work. At the minimum wage of rupees
four per man/day, that would represent rupees 80,000,000 of capital
investment per year, and would necessitate a minimal amount of external
(state or foreign) aid as catalyst. In 1962 the government formed the
National Committee of Shramadana under the umbrella of the Freedom From
Hunger Campaign, which non-government organizations were invited to join.
The Department was pleased that "the 'Sarvodaya Shramadana,' with perhaps
the widest experience in harnessing volunteers for rural work designed to
promote intercommunity harmony," affiliated itself with the Committee.
ARIYARATNE was unanimously reelected in 1962 as the National Convener of the
SSM, which involved his voluntarily undertaking "to make maximum sacrifice
of his . . . time, thought and energy to promote the movement" by: 1)
maintaining records, 2) publishing Sarvodaya, the Movement's monthly
magazine which he had begun in 1961, 3) coordinating the activities of
various councils and boards, and 4) convening the councils of Elders and
The National Council of Elders was selected by the National Council of
Workers to guide and advise the Movement and to act as liaison between the
Movement and the state. The National Council of Workers, which included
representatives from other welfare agencies as well as SSM volunteers, had
the responsibility of coordinating and implementing programs; organizing
training sessions seminars, classes and conferences; circulating SSM
literature (which ARIYARATNE considered of the utmost importance), and
selecting the National Convener and the National Council of Elders, all of
whom were volunteers.
In 1964 at the Fifth All-Island Conference of the SSM, the Movement
organized itself into the Lanka Jatika Sanodaya Shramadana Sangamaya (LJSSS)
in order to meet government qualifications as a state-approved charity. A
light red open lotus blossom was chosen as the symbol of the new
organization and the motto, "Let us go from village to village and do
service to all." ARIYARATNE was to be its Secretary until 1967 and after
that its International Secretary.
Work undertaken by the LJSSS was similar to that done by the SSM. For
example, for the year April 1964 through March 1965 the LJSSS was
instrumental in building eight main and approach roads to villages; cleaning
up two hospital areas and planting flower and vegetable gardens; clearing
jungles; engaging in a soil conservation project; building public wells and
latrines, a school playground, two irrigation projects and new houses;
repairing tanks, and assisting in government cyclone (hurricane) relief
measures. Over 1,700 volunteers participated, giving 19,550 hours of labor.
In June 1695 the National Shramadana Service decided at its annual meeting
to ask the LJSSS to initiate a leadership training course. The Director
reasoned: "if the Shramadana Movement was to be meaningful as a national
endeavor, these high standards [taught to their own volunteers] should be
introduced to the other shramadana groups as well."
The Shramadana Leadership Training Course, first offered in July 1965, was
conducted in Sinhala (as most LJSSS programs still are since the Movement
operates primarily in the southern, Sinhala, portion of the island; it
eschews English since English is not the language of the villages, although
some of its publications are in that language in order to reach the
townspeople). Courses were offered to Trainers, Camp Organizers and Student
Leaders. All courses extended over an 18-month period and were devoted to
both theory and practical work. The Student Leader Course is an example.
Under theory, 40 hours were devoted to sarvodaya shramadana concepts, 30 to
human development, 30 to the economic and political structure of Ceylon, 50
to language training (elementary Tamil, the language of the Indian minority)
and 80 to special lectures on such diverse matters as UN organization and
juvenile delinquency. Practical work was devoted to social skills and
technical know-how, educational visits to various institutions (e.g., home
for the handicapped and police stations) and shramadana camps and field
Even before he became International Secretary of the LJSSS, ARIYARATNE made
several trips abroad in connection with the organization's work. In 1965 he
toured Israel for three months assessing kibbutz and other rural cooperative
settlements. In 1966 he attended a three week Asian Experts Conference on
Voluntary Service in Bangkok at the invitation of the International
Secretariat for Voluntary Services. In April 1967 he attended a Regional
Seminar on Urbanization in Singapore by the World Assembly of Youth (WAY)
and the following year he was invited to speak at the South East Asian Youth
Seminar on Rural Development in Bangalore, India. In his speech he pointed
out that the Third World is a world of youth and the need is to present the
young with ideals and vision. "A soul force lies dormant in all of us," he
said, and "no human life is worth living if this inner man and treasures are
not discovered and experienced." An Indian clerk who heard him speak was so
moved he took leave and went to Ceylon to work in a camp.
ARIYARATNE participated in the WAY Assembly in Belguim in 1969 and was
elected to the WAY Executive Committee. He followed the meeting with a
lecture and fund-raising tour of Belgium, France, Holland and England where
he has built up a network of cooperating organizations.
During these years ARIYARATNE also served, always as a volunteer, on the
Ceylon Advisory Committee of Rural Broadcasting and the Advisory Commission
of National Services Schemes of the Education and Land Development
departments. He conducted shramadana classes at the request of police,
probation officials and others, gave uncounted lectures and radio talks and
wrote numerous books, booklets and articles on youth, rural development and
the principles and program of sarvodaya shramadana. With all these
activities he continued to earn a living for himself and his family as a
teacher at Nalanda College. This was possible because he allowed himself no
more than five hours sleep a night—writing and reading while others slept.
He sets aside 15 minutes of each 24 hours for reading on a subject that has
no obvious bearing on his work.
Although he attempts to lead others by the precepts of the "middle way,"
never demanding more of them than they are willing to give, he drives
himself to the point that his health often fails. Arthur Hopcraft, who wrote
of the developing world in Born to Hunger, says that "following him
throughout Colombo's street traffic was like chasing a terrier through a
Slight and unprepossessing, with a high-pitched voice and wearing clothes
"lent by a friend," ARIYARATNE was then working out of a single room in his
extremely modest house in a Colombo slum. "It was piled all over with
pamphlets and files so that there was barely room to open out a couple of
folding chairs. From this mass of matter Mr. ARIYARATNE would pluck
documents from time to time with sudden and unerring snatches."
ARIYARATNE has come to recognize the need for a regular office and full-time
paid organizers. In June 1966 he wrote the Asia Foundation, which had been
giving assistance in cash and equipment for several years, listing basic
LJSSS requirements. Besides office space and furniture he suggested five
paid full-time Senior Field Organizers and 25 paid full-time Junior
Organizers—an indication of the growth of the Movement and the perceived
need to see that gains made by the camps arc solidified; five vehicles
(jeeps and/or lorries); audio visual equipment, and capital for material,
equipment and for publishing 10,000 copies monthly of the Sarvodaya. Some of
these needs have been met. The LJSSS organization has its own office and a
fair amount of equipment, including vehicles. It has some paid staff.
Until 1966 the Movement had undertaken only specific projects in requesting
villages. At the Annual General Meeting of that year, however, a change in
policy was made. It was decided to join in celebrating the Birth Centenary
of Mahatma Gandhi by undertaking the "100 Village Development Scheme," with
roughly five villages to be chosen from each of the island's 22 provinces.
(The Scheme has already embraced 182 villages and is now being planned for
1,000.) It was to be carried out, officially, during the calendar years
A widespread newspaper and radio campaign began immediately, inviting
village applications. All applicants were sent data sheets to list location,
size, access, volunteer organization in existence, government agencies in
the village, crops, employment conditions, number of families, main economic
and social problems, ways villagers would participate, names of local
leaders and a date and place for village and LJSSS workers to meet and
discuss the projected plan. A volunteer team then met with village leaders
and took a socioeconomic survey of the village, family by family.
The Executive Committee makes the final decision as to which villages to
include, with preference going to the most needy. A program is chosen
necessitating the least capital and the most labor, such as road building,
tank repairing and ditch digging. Villagers are involved in the program from
the planning stage to eventual evaluation; "the least difficult task has
been that of getting community cooperation."
Unlike the earlier work camps which set out to accomplish a specific task,
the 100 Village Scheme is long-range. The targets for the first year
following the initial shramadana camp are:
1) a continuing series of camps to complete the tasks begun, demonstrate to
the village its own "latent strength," and train the villagers in skills,
community action and social values;
2) discover and train village leaders and bring into existence a Village
3) link the village with nearby educational and welfare institutions to
provide continuous training opportunities and "mutual help and fraternal
4) conduct a census on economic, social, educational and cultural life;
health and medical needs; and expectations;
5) develop three workers from each village who can become National
Reconstruction Resource Personnel;
6) link each village project with one private voluntary and/or supporting
agency possessed of financial resources;
7) evaluate the work done, the outside resources utilized and the ability of
the village to "shoulder the stresses and strains of such a consciously laid
down Plan. . ."
This is a new and much more sophisticated approach, recognizing that village
problems are interdependent and require an integrated solution. Economic
backwardness, disease, civic indifference, educational numbness, social
disintegration and organizational inefficiency are interrelated and must be
met by changing attitudes and providing—besides a spiritual and cultural
awakening—continued access to scientific knowledge, leadership techniques,
financial resources and health services.
Selection of the 100 villages was completed by December 1966. Work actually
began on December 22. The first village was Kuttikanda, southeast of
Colombo. Encircled by hills, it consisted of 90 families with a total of 600
people. It had both a temple and a school, but access was by footpath only.
Typically the first project was to build a motorable road. Of the first 14
villages in which work was started, all but one lacked road access, all had
severe un- or underemployment problems, and most lacked health services and
Other projects with which the Shramadana Movement has been associated over
the years have been the "weeding program by school children," promoted by
Upali Senanayake who credits ARIYARATNE as his inspiration. The LJSSS
responded to the Ceylon Tourist Board's request to "help clean up Colombo"
in October 1967 and "more than 1,000 people, mostly working people and
senior students, participated." They removed posters, cleaned pavements,
planted flowers and shrubs and even painted boundary walls if the owners
supplied the paint.
Since 1958 when the centuries-old racial antagonisms between Sinhala and
Tamil flared up, ARIYARATNE has constantly sought ways of reconciliation
through the Movement. In the early years Sinhala shramadana workers joined
with the Tamils of the Gandhi Sevah Sangham to form Shanti Sena (Peace
Camps) and work together as brothers. In April 1964, on the "fourth occasion
that we are encamping in the north for this sacrificial act," 300 SSM
workers helped build a road linking two Tamil villages. ARIYARATNE
commented, "We recognized no barriers except those of Good and Evil. We
strive to bring together the good of all men and to banish evil from the
minds and hearts of all." In August of that year the Gandhi Sevah Sangham
came south to assist the Sinhala in a similar project.
ARIYARATNE has had some disappointments along with his successes. A village
cooperative started in 1962 in a remote pare of the country had to be given
up because of difficulty of access. The Movement's monthly, Sarvodaya, his
special concern, frequently suspended publication because of lack of funds.
Money was a problem because the Movement in the beginning urged chose
seeking to make financial contributions to distribute the funds themselves.
As the work of the Movement became more systematized, money raising became a
necessary chore. The government did not always fully approve Movement
projects. One government agronomist suggested that using children to weed
paddy fields undercut the country's effort to double rice production by
reinforcing the farmer's idleness and his dependence on others, and by
discouraging him from adopting new seed varieties and modern methods. Family
planning was not incorporated into village health services and population
increase often neutralized economic improvements.
ARIYARATNE himself was sometimes difficult to get along with. He has been
accused by Movement personnel of "wanting things done his own way," and has
been rebuffed or reproved on occasion by the bureaucracy. All recognize him,
however, as "a good and dedicated man." He never disparages anyone and when
he talks with villagers he can identify completely with them and "gain their
confidence and support." He uses simple words and speaks in terms of local
traditions. At a Rodiya village where he earlier organized a road building
camp, the people say that he alone cares for them. "ARIYARATNE is a great
man. Nobody came here or looked on us, only ARIYARATNE."
K. V. Reddy, Asian Secretary of WAY, thinks ARIYARATNE’s approach to rural
problems is the "best he has seen adaptable to societies which are very
traditional and whose way of life revolves around the paddy field." He is an
"exceptionally dedicated man who has made use of a philosophy which has
roots in the culture of the people."
Senanayake comments, "I consider him even greater than Gandhi because Gandhi
only gave non-violence as a philosophy to the world but he was not able to
make India practice Gandhian principles. ARIYARATNE is different. He has a
concept based on tradition and actual practice by the villagers."
ARTYARATNE himself has no time to listen to what people think about him. He
is too busy pushing forward, firm in his belief that "peace within man and
peace among men," if developed, can work its way up from village beginnings
to national and international spheres until the prayer of the Buddha, "May
all beings be well and happy," is answered.
Annual Reports. April 28, 1966—May 15, 1967 and May 16, 1967—May 4, 1968.
Colombo: Lanh Jatika Sarvodaya Shramadana Sangamaya.
Ariyaratne, Ahangamage Tudor. Introducing Sarvodaya Shramadana. Colombo:
Lanka Jatih Sarvodaya Shramadana Sangamaya. N.d. Pamphlet.
______. Letter to N.G. Noyes, Asia Foundation, explaining organization and
listing needs. June 6, 1966.
______. Presentation made to Group Discussion. Transcript. Ramon Magsaysay
Award Foundation, Manila. September 3, 1969.
______. The Role of Voluntary Organizations in Development Assistance.
Ceylon: Kularatne & Co., Ltd. 1969,11 p.
______. Sarvodaya Shramadana Movemnet of Ceylon. Maradana, Ceylon: Sarvodaya
Shramadana Movement of Ceylon. 1962, 32 p.
"Award Money to go for Village Scheme," Ceylon Observer. August 12, 1969.
Description of organization accompanying letter to Asia Foundation from the
Sarvodaya Shramadana National Association of Ceylon. 1965.
Fonseka, C. de. "Shramadana: Mobilization of Unutilized Human Resources,"
International Development Review. Washington, D.C. March 1965.
Hopcraft, Arthur. Born to Hunger. London: Pan Books Ltd. 1968.
100 Villages Development Scheme. Colombo: Lanka Jatika Sarvodaya Shramadana
Sangamaya. 1967, 8 p.
Lanka Jatika Sarvodaya Shramadana Sangamaya. Projects and Field Training
camps Organized by the Central Organization from 1.4.64 to 31.4.66. 4 p.
______. The Training Scheme for Shramadana Trainers, Shramadana Camp
Organizers and Shramadana Student Leaders. N.d. (Mimeographed.)
Mahatma Gandhi Centenary Celebrations 1869-1969, Programme of the Ceylon
National Committee. Borella, Ceylon: Y.M.B.A. Press. 1969, 8 p.
Maldeniya, Henry. "Shramadana Movement, One Man’s Idea Is Sweeping Through
Ceylon—The Idea of Voluntary Labour." Newspaper clipping. No publisher, n.d.
Nadarajah, K. "Bringing Out the Good in Man Is His Aim," Ceylon Times
Weekender. August 12, 1969.
Noyes, James H. "Ceylon's Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement," Program Quarterly.
San Francisco: The Asia Foundation. No. 48, June 1968.
Ratnayake, Premil. "Ceylonese Whom Manila Honored," Ceylon Daily News.
August 19, 1969.
Sarvodaya (Magazine). Ceylon: Sarvodaya Shramadana/Lanka Jatika Sarvodaya
Shramadana Sangamaya. Issues 1961-1969.
Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Ceylon. Colombo: Sarvodaya Shramadana
Movement of Ceylon. 24 p. (Mimeographed.)
Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Ceylon. Colombo: Lanka Jatika Sarvodaya
Shramadana Sangamaya. Sarvodaya Publications No. 5, 1967, 41 p.
Sarvodaya Villager Leaders' Confenrence, Conference Plan. N.d.
Sarvodaya Village Leaders' Conference 1969 Jan. lst-2nd. 4 p.
Shramadana (Organ of FAO Freedom from Hunget Czmpaign in Ceylon). Colombo:
National Shramadana Service. Govt. of Cqlon Press. Issues 1967-1969.
"Story of Shramadana," The Freedom From Hunger Campaign in Ceylon. No
author, publisher or date. 13 p. (Mimeographed.)
"UNESCO Gift Coupon Program," WAY Information Bulletin. World Assembly of
"Youth Activates Ceylon's 'Hundred Villages,' " Manila Daily Bulletin. June
Letters from and interviews with people acquainted with A. T. Ariyaratne and
the work of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement and the Lanka Jatika Sarvodaya