Born November 5th 1931, Dr. Ahangamage Tudor Ariyaratne founded Sri Lanka’s Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement. The concept of “Shrama-dana” directly translates as “donating your labour”, a concept adopted by A.T.Ariyaratne when working as a high school teacher at Nalanda College, where he organised the first Shramadana work camp which would eventually become the largest grassroots people’s movement in the country. Since then, he has led tens of thousands of “family gatherings” and meditations, alongside millions of others throughout Sri Lanka and beyond. The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, at its core, is a grass-roots humanitarian organisation based on the ‘sharing of labour, thought and energy for the awakening of all’.

Tudor Ariyaratne, his wife Mrs.Neetha Dhammachari Ariyaratne, their family and close collaborators, developed the concept inspired by Gandhi, as well as Buddhist philosophy, to promote the grassroots movement in Sri Lanka’s villages. He brought together village youths, under what was initially known as the ‘100 Village program’, which saw itself expand gradually over the years to over 15,000 rural communities active all over the country.

Sarvodaya’s development approach flows through the ‘six-dimensions of awakening’ i.e., spiritual, moral, cultural, social, economic, and political expanse, the actualisation of integral-development solutions leading to the transformation of entire communities. Development is achieved through a well-planned process that taps into the potential of individuals as well as inspiring communities to co-create development-based solutions to the unprecedented challenges faced by humanity and the planet, stimulating a community embedded approach in bringing about the rich wisdom and potential in people and communities.

Silo’s Visit to Sri Lanka

After moving to Colombo in 1979, to establish ‘The Community for Human Development’ in the country, I soon recognised Sarvodaya Shramadana movement as the most significant people’s movement in Sri Lanka. I proposed Silo visit the headquarters in Moratuwa and Dr Ariyaratne himself when visiting Colombo.

When mentioning this request to Dr Ariyaratne and inviting him as a Guest of Honor to the core event of the visit, Silo’s address at Kathiresan Hall in Wellawatte, his answer was as spontaneous, positive and welcoming as it was  his natural manner.

When Silo visited Sarvodaya in 1981, he was deeply impressed by the warm welcome he received from Dr Ariyaratne and his family. During the visit, he was given tours and explanations of each department within the compound; accommodation for abandoned children, workshops, a printing press, and training and education facilities were just some of the initiatives that were taking place… He also participated in a joint meditation and profound dialogue with members of the Buddhist Sanga, who were invited for the occasion. Silo later wrote about his experience there in a chapter of his book “Silo Speaks”.

Sarvodaya’s philosophy and Humanism

Humanist thought and Sarvodaya’s philosophy share many core foundations, namely their common inspiration from Buddhist and Gandhian teachings, where the “golden rule” of ‘treating others as we like to be treated’, is a central pillar. Today, the similarity of our shared values and ideas makes it an obvious reason for collaborating together for the growth of the World Humanist Forum – a world permanent forum dedicated to the dissemination of the ideas of nonviolence within the individual and society at large, as well as the elimination of poverty, wars and arms races, and the full implementation of Human Rights. Another key forum partner in this mission is the Pressenza International Press Agency for Peace and Nonviolence.

The life and work of Dr Tudor Ariyaratne has been a model of meaning, purpose and compassion, with profound faith in the human being and consistency of action.

He was an inspiration to all those who had the privilege of knowing him, and will continue to be to all future generations that familiarise themselves with his efforts.

Dr.Tudor Ariyaratne had recently retired from active leadership of the Sarvodaya Movement  and his son, Dr.Vinya Ariyaratne is at the helm of the organization.

International Awards:

  • Mahatma Gandhi Peace Prize, India 1996
  • Hubert Humphrey Award, USA 1996
  • IL-GA Memorial award for Public Service, Korea, 1995
  • Niwano Peace Prize, Japan 1992
  • August Forel Award, Good Templar Movement for Promoting Temperance, Denmark, 1990
  • Alan Shawn Feinstein World Hunger Award, Brown University, USA 1986
  • King Baudouin Award for International Development, Belgium 1982
  • Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, Philippines, 1969

Antonio Carvallo Interview Dr Vinya Ariyaratne