I met Aryaratne over twenty years ago in Cambridge, had a wonderful dialogue with him about Buddhist and Jewish approaches to compassion. Laurence Simon of Brandeis University, my old colleague and friend, introduced us, and I have been grateful ever since. Here is an honest article about this extraordinary man and his movement, the Sarvodayah Movement.
© Marc Gopin
A.T. Ariyaratne: Leading Sri Lanka’s Largest Civil Society Movement for 50 Years
By Anuradha K. Herath
The meek 77-year-old Ariyaratne, often called the “Gandhi of Sri Lanka,” has become popular for his massive meditation sessions in which hundreds of thousands of people converge to pray for peace. His Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, which Ariyaratne established 51 years ago, is based on Buddhist and Gandhian principles — Sarvodaya in Sanskrit means “awakening of all” and Shramadana “to donate effort.” The organization is the largest civil society movement in the country. By its own estimations, it works in 15,000 villages and attracts nearly a million volunteers annually. Some scholars have described its network of organizations with 3000 paid employees as the world’s largest peoples’ participatory development movement.