‘Gandhi of Sri Lanka’ Dr. Ariyaratne passes away

NL Today

  • Read Time 2 min.

Kathmandu: Founder of Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka, Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne, has passed away. He was 92. Late Ariyaratne organised the first shramadana (voluntary labour camp) in 1958 which eventually led to the establishment of the largest non-government organisation in Sri Lanka.

He received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 1969, the Gandhi Peace Prize from the government of India in 1996, the Niwano Peace Prize in 1992, the King Beaudoin Award and other international honours for his work in peace making and rural development. In 2006, he received the Acharya Sushil Kumar International Peace Award for the year 2005. In 2007 Ariyaratne received the Sri Lankabhimanya, the highest National Honour of Sri Lanka.

Ariyaratne, a strong believer in Gandhian principles of non-violence, rural development and self-sacrifice, shaped the Sarvodaya Movement in ways that forged a significant link between secular principles of development and Buddhist ideals of selflessness and compassion. As a devout Buddhist, he led tens of thousands of “family gatherings” and meditations with millions of people throughout Sri Lanka and other parts of the world.

“(Dr Ariyaratne) articulated and practised sustainable development long before the term was coined,” Nalaka Gunawardane, a senior journalist and honorary board chair of Himal Southasian magazine, said.

When Dr Ariyaratne received the Hubert H. Humphrey International Humanitarian Award from the University of the Minnesota Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs in 1994, Dr. Patrick Mendis described his former mentor as the “Gandhi of Sri Lanka,” Financial Times of Sri Lanka reported.

‘We build the road and the road builds usCo-founder and CEO of Teach for Nepal, Ms Swasti Shrestha, expressed heartfelt tribute to late Ariyaratne. Writing in social media, Ms Shrestha said, “I am so grateful for all the causes and conditions that led me to Dr. AT Ariyaratne and Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement in Sri Lanka.”

“He inspired the philosophy of Sarvodaya that is at the foundation of Teach For Nepal. The stories of his life, his work, and his courage are a significant part of how Teach For Nepal Fellows are nurtured into lifelong leaders.  His words – “We build the road and the road builds us” is etched into each and every member of Teach For Nepal family,” Ms Shrestha said adding, “We know that our work in communities is not just about changing the country but also changing ourselves. Our welfare is reliant on the welfare of all. He has helped root our work in utmost humility and compassion.  He passed away yesterday leaving behind a life of legacy that not only impacted Sri Lanka but inspired the entire world.”