INDIAN ACADEMY OF SOCIAL SCIENCES
XXXV Indian Social Science Congress from 27.12.2011 to 31.12.2011
Theme: “Working for Peaceful Co-existence and a Just World”
Venue: Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University-Wardha
Address at the Inaugural Function by the Guest of Honour Dr.A.T.Ariyaratne
Dr.T.Karunakaran, Hony. President of the Indian Academy of Social Sciences, Distinguished Academics, Researchers, Scholars, Social Activists, Ladies and Gentlemen,
To me, this is a memorable opportunity I have got, to express some of my thoughts about the contemporary problems we face, before a very exclusive audience of social scientists of India. The venue itself brings to memory the greatest social scientist of our times Mahatma Gandhi. It is also from Wardha that Gandhiji experimented with his theories in education, social and economic development and participatory politics. Being present here itself brings me new inspiration to continue my Sarvodaya mission at home for many more years to come. Dr. Karunakaran, please accept my sincere thanks for inviting me to this congress.
The only reason that may have prompted the leaders of the Indian Social Science Academy to invite me to be the Guest of Honour, I believe, is my association with the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka from its inception and the worldwide reputation it has received as an innovative attempt based on Dharmashakthi (Power of Righteousness) and Janashakthi (People’s power) to transform our society from grass root upwards. Certainly I will share with you as much useful experiences from our movement for over fifty years as relevant to the Theme of the Congress during the short time available to me but please don’t take me as someone who came to teach you. Rather I came to learn from you. My inspiration mainly came from the Buddha, Emperor Ashoka, Mahatma Gandhi, Acharya Vinoba Bhave, Sri Jayaprakash Narayan, Prof.G.Ramachandran, Swami Vivekananda and Shri Krishnamoorthy, all of them great sons of India.
I am failing in my duty if I don’t remember on this occasion late Professor Sugatha Das Gupta and Shri Tarlok Singh both of whom visited Sri Lanka and gave their valuable advice for our work. The late Prof.Nandasena Ratnapala, the best known social scientist and research scholar of Sri Lanka, was my guide and colleague for almost 50 years and we owe him much for whatever theoretical contributions Sarvodaya has made into the social science field.
Let me now express my thoughts on the subject of Working for Peaceful Co-existence and a Just World. In the context of the present world situation and the immense power the main actors in the political and economic arena wield over humanity and her planetary home, there is hardly any hope for peace, co-existence or justice, unless we can together bring about a radical transformation in their consciousness and the economic and political structures they control. Under the theme 0200 ‘Context’ of the XXXVth Indian Social Science Congress you have correctly recognized the existence of a deepening social, economic, ecological and political crisis in India and the world. Also, you have clearly diagnosed the causes that have brought about this dangerous situation harmful for our planet as well as to all of us sentient beings and non-sentient life on this planet. I need not repeat what you have mentioned there with which I whole heartedly agree.
However, I like to quote from your Context one strong sentence which fascinated me and on which I thought I should express my thoughts today. That is : I quote: “ ……neo-liberal theory based global capital appeared accelerating and intensifying the processes of enrichment of the few and impoverishment of the majority. The process of globalizing growth of the capital overthrew all the constitutional growth of people’s sovereignty, democracy, socialism and secularism in the dustbin of history.”
In the Constitutions, or the Supreme Law of our countries, which we have adopted, it is stated that the sovereignty is with the people and is non-alienable. In the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, for example, in the Article 3 it is stated that:
“….Sovereignty is in the people and is inalienable. Sovereignty includes the powers of government, fundamental rights and the franchise.”
Although this inalienable sovereignty is given to the people under Article 3 of the Constitution, from Article 4 onwards the sovereignty is delegated or passed on to various bodies of elected representatives to whom the power of exercising legislative, executive and judicial powers are given. I presume the Indian situation may not be much different from ours.
I have been in the voluntary social work field from my student days for the last 64 years and have been serving under the Sarvodaya banner for over 53 years. I am no constitutional lawyer or political scientist yet with my decades of experience in grappling with socio-economic problems in my country I can boldly state that in my honest opinion, elected representatives of the people have knowingly or unknowingly taken away the sovereignty of people to acquire and keep state power with themselves, their party and those related or loyal to them.
At the beginning, immediately following the independence, our inexperienced representatives may have blindly and innocently imitated their former western mentors through ignorance of our own value based systems of good governance and economic management that prevailed in our countries. They would not have realized at that time the long term damage they were doing to our civilization. Later of course, I have no doubt in my mind that taking away the sovereignty of the people by politicians who were entrusted with the management of the State temporarily by forming a government was deliberate. Once they and their near and dear ones tasted power with all the worldly benefits coming with state power they naturally gave in to the greed to enjoy eternal power, increasing wealth and fame. They used every mean method like raising caste, communal and religious issues to divide people and win their votes. Today of course it is an open secret that intimidation, buying votes, impersonation, violence and other illegal acts are common features we can see during an election.
The State became synonymous with the Government in the minds of the people and people themselves forgot that Sovereignty in reality belonged to them and not to those who were elected by them for a limited period. The government which was run by these elected trustees intruded into the state and its constitution with necessary amendments from time to time and also enacting parliamentary acts enabling them to behave as the state’s proprietors who could even handover their rights to whomsoever they wished.
At this stage I venture to state that not only the sovereignty of ordinary citizens but also the freedom and dignity of state officials including those who belonged to the judiciary, armed services and police lost their freedom to act according to the sovereignty they also should enjoy under the law and the spirit of the constitution. They came under the control of politicians thus causing irreparable damage to the sacred institutions which were meant to work for the weal and welfare of the people, maintain law and order and dispense justice impartially. That is not all. I will attribute the decadence of our educational systems, the destruction of our natural and poison-free agricultural and food production, the deforestation and much of environmental and ecological hazards to this power oriented party political system to which our sovereignty has been permanently entrusted.
My conclusion as far as my country is concerned, is that the people’s freedoms have been taken away by their representatives leaving people only with the right to exercise their vote once in a few years. The citizens have been reduced to be voters only. As you know, power and party political system which presents to the voters choice of candidates to legislative bodies, nominated by them, is a system that breeds all forms of malpractices and crimes, promotes corruption, bribery and nepotism. This system is immoral, unclean, unjust and violent. Unless and until we, especially all of you who belong to the social science field, research into this and place before the people the fact that the root of all social, economic and political injustices, violation of fundamental rights pertaining to freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship and inequalities, can be traced to the taking away of the sovereignty of the people and advocate them to innovate non-violent ways for remedial action, there is no hope.
Both our countries show that representative democracy does not work for the well being of all people. It not only perpetrates the existing divisions in our societies but also make them worse. In the political field, party and power politics have eroded the people’s participatory democracy and is promoting hegemony and supremacy-mongering. The economic system makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. Even the judicial system has lost its credibility and respectability. I consider the root cause to be the representative democracy losing its capacity to be responsible to the people. We should now think of direct people’s participatory democracy where we do not have to delegate our sovereignty to levels beyond our immediate reach.
In the past, when communication systems were poor and there was a need to have representatives elected to higher and higher councils including parliament. Today conditions are different. Within seconds we can communicate not only with our own people but also with anybody outside our country or even globally. Advanced communication technologies make it irrelevant to have the present systems of government which cannot deliver good governance to the people. These systems have outlived their usefulness. Let us get together and evolve a system of direct participatory democracy so that the enjoyment of sovereignty is not alienated to anybody, but remains with the people. This will ensure transparency, justice and efficiency in all governing bodies.
I think time has come for us to give serious thought to Gandhiji’s concept of Village Self-governance or Gram Swaraj.
Sri Lanka is a small country where we believe the implementation of a direct people’s participatory democracy is a possibility. Perhaps for India, a huge country with over a billion people a different approach has to be innovated to realize the same goals. Whatever it is a radical transformation of existing institutional structures is needed even for our mere survival. While you in India are having a flourishing economy, as a nation you can claim to be a super power and also produce a large number of billionaires every year, I am sure you are very concerned about the teeming millions of poor and other national problems. We in Sri Lanka are also said to be a flourishing economy and we also do produce a few dozen billionaires every year under the existing super capitalist system. Their needs (or greed?) are also catered for by the system with all the luxurious services they desire. But my concern is firstly with the poor and powerless and then about the future of us all. Our target is Sarvodaya – to Awaken All.
In the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka we have, after 53 years of experience now launched what is called Deshodaya Movement. Deshodaya literally means awakening of the nation. We inaugurated the Deshodaya Movement in January 2010 immediately after the war ended. We had already carried out Purna Paurushodaya (Total personality awakening), Kutumbodaya (Total family awakening), Gramodaya (Village awakening), and Nagarodaya (Urban community awakening) programs before we embarked on our latest awakening program Deshodaya. Time constraints prevent me from describing all the above programs which have been made their own by communities. So, I will confine myself only to the Deshodaya program which I consider to be most relevant to the theme of peace, co-existence and justice.
Sarvodaya itself has over 15,000 village and urban communities where we are actively engaged in integrated self-development or community awakening programs. Out of these villages 3000 villages are working on a village/community self-governance or Grama Swarajya program. Similarly, there are other civil sector organizations who are working in certain rural and urban communities without getting involved in party and power politics. We network our Sarvodaya societies as well as the non-sarvodaya societies into what we call Deshodaya or National Awakening Councils at the divisional and district levels. So, in 25 districts and nearly in 300 divisions we have organized 300 elected Deshodaya Councils. From January 2010 these Deshodaya Councils brought down to a selected district every month 1,000 representatives from all the 25 districts nominated by them and started conducting a three day study and training program. On the third day they become members of the National Deshodaya Assembly and take a pledge to voluntarily serve the society in three integrated sectors, namely, the transformation of consciousness, the economy and power.
To date, we have had 18 meetings of the Deshodaya Assembly in 18 different districts of the country. Even though we exclude members of parliament and members of provincial councils, from becoming formal members, we admit to the Assembly 50% of non-Sarvodaya members who come from even political organizations, but accepting Deshodaya principles, specially the principles of non-violence and non-sectarianism in performing their services. Our target is to recruit and train 100,000 volunteers to join the Deshodaya National Assembly. So far we have hit only 20% of our target and yet they have started implementing our 30 point Deshodaya program to transform the consciousness, economy and power in their own areas of which I am not into details.
I would only say that this is not a confrontational attempt to get rid of all those who wield unjustly political and economic power today but a non-violent people’s struggle to build a new civilization, based on our own indigenous and ancient value systems, replacing the negative aspects of western industrial civilization that was thrust upon us. As Mahatma Gandhi pointed out to us over 100 years ago in his ‘Hind Swaraj,’ all evils we are confronted with today are “intrinsic to industrialism” which he called modern civilization. Ecological and environmental crisis, hunger at one end and chemically or otherwise poisoned food consumption causing innumerable diseases at the other end, increasing poverty and powerlessness in the common people while rich and the powerful increase their privileges, and a myriad of other global evils including climate change and defective nuclear reactors releasing harmful radiation; can be attributed to aping indiscriminately this modernist illusion and consumerist madness.
The new movement you are contemplating to initiate to be called ‘ACADEMIC SOCIAL RESPONSIBILTY,’ is an urgent need for our times. We cannot any longer confine ourselves to our intellectual pursuits in our lecture halls, research laboratories or to our professional discussions and limit ourselves to our own specialized fields. All barriers between scientists, be it physical or biological, psychological or social, economic or political should be transcended and all experiences should be collectively pooled together to meet the global challenges. That is not sufficient. We should go to the people and learn from them. Their Intuitive Wisdom may be much richer than our accumulated knowledge. While a head of state may not realize that by taking away or abusing the sovereignty of the people he has dug his own grave as revealed in many of our nations today, an ordinary citizen, believing in karma and karma vipaka and the cycle of births and deaths we all are subjected to, has intuitively realized this truth in a life born to suffer.
So the time has come for every responsible member of the elite class to go the masses, to live with them, discover with them innovative solutions to the immediate problems they are facing and implement them at all possible levels. Even judges and jurists should leave their chambers and mix up with those poor and powerless people to realize the illusive world in which they live thinking that citizens are enjoying sovereignty and there is freedom of the judiciary to dispense justice.
In conclusion, I like to draw your kind attention again to the following issues I raised in my presentation. If I may summarize, while trying to fight the system as it exists today to make some changes like in transparency, accountability and right to information, bringing corruption to the centre stage, we also have to pay attention and find ways and means to innovate new structures in every field we can conceive of which will contribute to peace, co-existence and justice. For example, we have to transcend religions and make them to be bridges to spiritual awakening where greed, aversions and ignorance of the people can be reduced to a minimum, preventing those individual evils in people getting institutionalized as organized greed, organized aversions and organized ignorance.
International flow of global capital is a form of organized greed doing an immense damage to our local and national economies and freedoms. Neo-liberal concept of free movement of global capital is the most detrimental invasion on our freedoms and cultures since the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British invaders reached our lands with their most modern weaponry of those times. In the same way there were vested interests who held on to their self-interest above national freedom and dignity to welcome them, even today in the official and private sectors there are such anti-national elements who welcome foreign global capital in the name of investments for so-called growth in the economy. The corrupt practices and unjust treatment of local residents who are adversely affected and the impact on the ecology and environment are forcefully hidden using legal arms of the government or when necessary underworld gangs.
Militarization and building of so called armed forces in the name of national security and defense is an organized form of ill will or aversion which is an extension of greed for acquisition and retention power and benefits some people get out of it. Lasting security can come only by reawakening our spiritual and moral stature as nations and not exclusively by armed strength. Keeping the people mesmerized about the physical wonders the rulers are achieving by macro projects involving high technology is a part of the deception carried out by the control of media. People are misinformed or left uninformed by not revealing the truth about increasing degeneration of spiritual, moral and cultural life. Coming to the social, economic and political fields, I have expressed again the need to transform the existing systems without delay. The fault is not in persons but in the systems which tempt them to give in to greed, ill-will and ignorance which we all possess in different degrees.
I am all with you in the formation of a Movement for Academic Social Responsibility, preparing a Compendium of Social Issues and getting countrywide Youth Movement mobilized under the guidance of scientists. I wish you the very best in deciding upon a Wardha Vision of Peaceful Co-existence. I am looking and learn from your collective wisdom.
May I thank you for patiently listening to me.
From here I am rushing to Madurai for the 44th Sarvodaya Samaj Sammelan where I have to make the inaugural address. So, I ask your forgiveness for my not being able to stay to the end of the Assembly sessions. May you all and the entire living world be Well and Happy in the coming New Year.
Dr.A.T.Ariyaratne,Founder and the President of the Sarvodaya Movement of Sri Lanka, DamsakMandira, Sarvodaya Headquarters, No.98, Rawatawatta Road, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka.
44th All India Sarvodaya Samaj Sammelan – 29th to 31st December 2011
At Gandhi Memorial Museum – Madurai.INDIA
The Inaugural Address
Dr A. T. Ariyaratne,
President of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka
Namaskaram, Vanakkam, Asslamallakum, Ayubowan, May You All Live Long, Sarvewysukhinassanthu,
Most Respected Shri Bal Vijay, the President of the 44th All India Sarvodaya Samaj Sammelan, Dr N. Mahalingam, Chairman of the Gandhi Museum, Madurai, Dr T.R. Dinakaran, Treasurer, Gandhi Museum, Dr S.N. Subba Rao, Convener, Sarvodaya Samaj Sewagram, Shri A. Annamalai, Tamilnad Sarvodaya Mandal, Shri K.M. Natarajan, Tamilnad Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, Sarvodaya leaders who have arrived from different parts of India and other countries, dear elders, brothers and sisters,
At the inception of my inaugural address to the 44th All India Sarvodaya Samaj Sammelan I wish to thank very sincerely, my dear brother and inspirer, Advocate Shri M. Mariappan, Chairman of Sarvodaya Ilakkiya Pannai who came to Sri Lanka and invited me on behalf of the organizers, to inaugurate this Conference. This is an honour that I never expected. I have addressed many important meetings and conferences in India as well as in other parts of the world. But to be invited to inaugurate the Sarvodaya Samaj Sammelan in the land of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth and of the Sarvodaya Movement, is something unique in my 80 year old life span. It is an honour as well as a great responsibility you have bestowed on me by entrusting me with this assignment of making the Inaugural Address.
Why do I say this? I am one of those unconventional Sarvodaya workers or followers of Mahatma Gandhi. Yet I have sacrificed my entire adult life to work towards achieving a Sarvodaya social order of my conception on this planet. I must confess that while I will continue to carry on with this mission to the very end of my life, I am very disappointed with the elite class of India as well as with those of other newly independent countries for their failure to grasp and implement with people’s total participation the Sarvodaya Ideal that Gandhiji placed before them, to build a new social order that works for the welfare of all. Instead, what they promote to this day are the social, political and economic systems which we inherited from the colonial times, of course with certain modifications. They completely ignored the philosophy, principles and objectives which were outlined clearly by Mahatma Gandhi in his historic publication Hind Swaraj.
I would like to quote the last few sentences with which Gandhiji ended the book. I quote:
“………..I BEAR NO ENMITY TOWARDS THE ENGLISH BUT DO TOWARDS THEIR CIVILIZATION. In my opinion, we have used the word “Swaraj” without understanding its real significance. I have endeavoured to explain it as I understand it, and my conscience testifies that my life henceforth is dedicated to its attainment. “
We all pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi for initiating the independence movement towards freedom from colonial powers, beginning in South Africa, continuing in India, opening a way to freedom for all of us, in Sri Lanka, other Asian countries and even African and Latin American countries which were subjugated by imperial powers. Without exception nearly all these newly independent nations have ignored the path to real freedom shown to us by Mahatma Gandhi. It begins with every single one of us following a path to freedom or self-realization which is principally a spiritual concept. RELIGION MAY BE A PATHWAY TO IT AS LONG AS THE SPIRITUAL CONTENT IN RELIGION IS NOT OVERSHADOWED BY ITS EXTERNALITIES SUCH AS FORMS OF WORSHIP AND RITUALS. Secularism should not imply absence of spiritual and moral values. Our post independent political masters have cleverly manipulated secular representative democratic politics and have adopted constitutions and passed legislation making the sacred principle of Sovereignty of The People an empty phrase. I will come to this subject later in my speech.
It is my duty, before I go further, to introduce the background from which I come, how I got drawn to the Sarvodaya Movement and what we have been trying to do in Sri Lanka for the last fifty years and what our future plans are. I will do this very briefly though it is a long story. Your critical understanding of our approach and your wise guidance will be much appreciated and will be helpful to us in Sri Lanka.
I come from a Buddhist family background. My parents, elders, relations and all others in my village were devoted and practicing Buddhists. As a child the first lesson I learnt was to Respect and Protect all Life. As I grew up and shifted from my village environment to the urban area for higher education, (those days in the English medium,) this central thought that was almost in my blood was disturbed by various extraneous influences that were prevalent in our society conditioned by caste, race, religion, language, power politics, consumer economics and many other man made constraints. However, I , with my colleagues held on to this thought of respecting and protecting all life and being of service to all living beings some times in the face of tough opposition .
Propelled by this idea, I engaged myself in all kinds of social service activities while I was still studying. I completed my Junior, Senior and Higher education quite satisfactorily without my social service work interfering in any way with my studies. On the contrary, studying and social service complemented each other in my life so much so the concept of Study Service became a fascination to me. In my village, in the Teachers’ Training College, in the University I studied, and as a teacher at Nalanda College, Colombo, I was engaged in a variety of Study Service activities with my colleagues and students.
It was at this time, with a fellow teacher, who is working with me even now, I travelled to New Delhi to participate in the New Education Fellowship Conference held in 1960. As young teachers we were inspired to see and listen to great Indian leaders like Shri Pandit Nehru, Dr.Rajendra Prasad, Dr.Zakir Hussein, and many other top most Indian leaders of the day. As young people we were quite inspired and were enthusiastic to learn as much as possible from this Conference. A lecture by the celebrated founder of Gandhi Gram University, Prof. G. Ramachandran at this Conference made all the difference to my life’s mission by one word he uttered - Sarvodaya.
What I conceived from my young days as the central thought that could build a society that works for all was expressed by him in that one word, ‘Sarvodaya’. The moment I heard this word, the thought of working for the well being of all living beings, Sabbe Sattha Suki Hontu, as taught by the Buddha, came to my mind. At the same time I felt that to bring back to our society the values and ideals that existed before the advent of colonization, namely, what the ancients called land of Righteousness Dharmadweepa and land of plenty Dhanyagara could be realized again only by applying Buddha’s teachings that are relevant to spiritual, moral, cultural, social, economic and political sectors to our society. After I returned home to Sri Lanka what we called the Shramadana Movement at that time was renamed as the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement.
I had read about Gandhiji, but I never saw him. I was fortunate to walk and talk with Acharya Vinoba Bhave on three occasions and associate with and learn from Shri Jayaprakash Narayan, both in India and when he visited Sri Lanka on two occasions with his wife Prabhawathie Devi, during which period I coordinated all his travels and activities in Sri Lanka. I remember with gratitude Shri E.W. Ariyanayagam, the Sri Lankan born educationist who implemented Gandhiji’s Nai Talim or New Education or Basic Education Programmes. His wife Asha Devi Ariyanayagam inspired our Shanthi Sena Movement. There were many other Indian leaders to whom we are indebted in developing Sarvodaya philosophy and programs to build a Sarvodaya social order.
I am happy to announce to you today, after 53 years of continuous work, we in the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement in Sri Lanka, have found a practical and non-violent path on which we are proceeding to build a Sarvodaya social order as relevant to our country, our people and our needs. Perhaps our colleagues in India may also be able to get some benefit from what we are doing, as much as we got benefited from what Gandhiji , Acharya Vinoba Bhave and Shri Jayaprakash Narayan, and all the other great Indian leaders achieved in this country. Therefore, I am going to outline the way we have developed the Sarvodaya philosophy, laid down the Sarvodaya principles, managed to get legislative recognition and popular support for the work we are doing, the organizational structures we have created, the variety of integrated programs we are implementing, how we are co-existing and partnering with other organizations which may have different objectives and our relationship with the government.
Arahant Mahinda, the son of Emperor Ashoka and his sister Bhikkuni Sangamittha came to Sri Lanka to deliver the Buddha’s message 2300 years ago. Listening to the Buddha’s Dharma he preached, the King, the Queen and the people of Sri Lanka embraced Buddhism. After the whole nation was converted to Buddhism our king asked Arahant Mahinda whether the Buddha’s dispensation and teachings have taken root in Sri Lanka. Arahant Mahinda replied , “No Sire, not until some of your sons and daughters of Sri Lanka have entered the Order of Sangha, (Bhikkhu, the monks, Bhikkhuni, the female monks, Upasaka, lay male devotees, Upasika, female lay devotees. “) After Sri Lankans joined the Sangha and received higher ordination the Buddha Sasana was established in Sri Lanka and it is flourishing to this day in spite of hard times under foreign invasions from the 12th century to 19th century.
Similarly we wanted to make Sarvodaya philosophy and practice to be our own. Like Buddhism we wanted Sarvodaya to have our own indigenous character without losing its universal appeal and application. Taking an example from the above historic event we in Sri Lanka defined, Sarvam + Udayam = Sarvodaya, as awakening of all in addition to being of service for the welfare of all. The word “awakening” is of foremost importance in relation to spiritual development. Buddhi means Intelligence. Bodhi means to Awaken. Buddha means the Awakened One. So, all of us have taken to live a life according to the Buddha Dharma and have as our ultimate goal the awakening or total liberation from suffering caused by an endless chain of births and deaths which we call the samsaric cycle. To break this cycle of suffering we have to awaken our personality to the fullest until every trace of greed, aversion and ignorance is eradicated from our mind. So the Movement is founded on a strong spiritual foundation of Dana (Beneficence or Sharing), Sila (Morality) and Bhavana (Meditation).
For five decades we tried out numerous educational, community development and social transformation programs. We had no doubt that all these programs benefited thousands of people and hundreds of rural and urban communities in several ways. Self-reliance was awakened in them. They experienced people’s power that arose when they collectively participated in their own self-development. They discovered their historic Vision which was blurred for over five centuries by a foreign civilization that was imposed on them. They learnt the art and science of differentiating between their greed and needs at Basic, Secondary and Tertiary levels. Thus they found in Sarvodaya thought and practice a Mission with which they could easily identify themselves.
After five decades of trial and error, to facilitate programming and formulating an integrated practical agenda taking us towards a Sarvodaya Social Order today we work at six levels to achieve the Awakening of All – SARVODAYA. All these six levels are interrelated.
1. Purna Paurushodaya ( Total Personality Awakening )
2. Kutumbodaya ( Family Awakening )
3. Gramodaya ( Village Awakening )
4. Nagarodaya ( City or Urban Community Awakening )
5. Deshodaya ( National Awakening )
6. Vishvodaya ( World or Universal Awakening )
There cannot be any Sarvodaya wherever there is no holistic approach. Awakening at any level is related to and influences all other levels of awakening. A good human personality is an asset to his/her own family and community as well as to his/her nation and the whole of humanity. We substituted the word ‘awakening‘ to the often used materialistically biased word ‘development.’ For us in the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement in Sri Lanka development is an awakening process. Without spiritual awakening, materialistic development is counterproductive and even destructive. The three cardinal principles of Truth, Non-violence and Self-Denial which guide all our actions in the Movement can be meaningfully applied when we as individuals and groups remember the critical indicator to measure our success or failure is our own inner transformation for a spiritual goal and not so much our external materialistic achievements.
To successfully achieve our principal objective of building a Sarvodaya Samaj from the individual level to the universal level we have to re-orientate or re-construct wherever necessary our existing value systems and structures related to our spiritual, moral, cultural, social, economic and political life. We have been engaged continuously for over fifty years doing this constructive non-violent action all of which cannot be described in a short presentation. I would only say that a comprehensive people’s participatory program is being implemented integrating all the above mentioned six levels and six sectors which is in reality a silent non-violent total revolution going on in 15000 communities. Over 5600 community level Sarvodaya Shramadana Societies have obtained legal status. Most of them have started their own savings, credit and microenterprises programs. Over three thousand communities are working on an integrated self-governance or Grama Swarajya Program. There are eleven independent incorporated Sarvodaya specialist units helping the above Grama Swarajya Program.
They do not participate in election campaigns or confrontational party and power politics. Instead these communities are trying to build self-reliant, self-managed and self-governing communities, purely on moral principles without violating state laws. They call themselves gram-swaraj communities. In the face of a financial regime that benefit capitalist interests these communities are struggling hard to get statutory approval for their self-managed finance centres which help them to get the much needed capital for their agricultural, cottage industrial, trade, services and other need satisfaction activities from their own savings.
All of you must be aware of the nearly three decades of an armed conflict between the government and the LTTE, generally known as a terrorist outfit. During the entire period Sarvodaya implemented a five-fold program which was popularly called the 5R program, which involved Relief, Rehabilitation, Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Re-Awakening. During the 2004 Tsunami that struck most coastal villages in the South and East of Sri Lanka Sarvodaya was the first and the largest civil sector organization that continuously came to assist affected people for over two and a half years. With this kind of track record in development and peace our Movement launched what we call the Deshodaya (National Awakening) Movement two years ago.
Sarvodaya is continuing to make progress under its holistic concept of development of the individual, the family, the village and urban communities, the nation and even the world. When our Grama Swaraya program reached the 3000 village mark we started organizing Deshodaya Councils at Pradeshiya (Divisional Levels ) and District Deshodaya Councils. Today we have got councils elected by the members of the Deshodaya Mandalas in all Districts and Pradeshiya Divisions of Sri Lanka totaling over 300. Our next step which we started two years ago was to train 100,000 members from among the Deshodaya Mandala members and form themselves into a National Deshodaya Sabha (Assembly) and dedicate themselves voluntarily to take non-violent direct action to educate people, various governmental and civil society organizations on national issues.
Under our national constitution various organs of the State coming under the three broad categories of the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary are supposed to deliver GOOD GOVERNANCE to the citizens. Good Governance means a system of administration which guarantees every citizen fair and equal treatment under the law, protection of fundamental human rights and one which takes initiative to overcome anti-social practices such as bribery, corruption, fraud, violence etc.; a government which preserves and promotes spiritual, moral, cultural and social values; a government which consistently provides for the conservation of natural resources such as rivers, streams, other water resources, clean air, ocean, soil and ecological and biological systems endowed by nature for the continued sustainability of humanity, as well as fauna and flora.
In Chapter 1 Article 3 of the Sri Lankan Constitution it is stated that “In the Republic of Sri Lanka sovereignty is in the People and is inalienable. Sovereignty includes the powers of government, fundamental rights and the franchise.”
Then in Chapter 1 Article 4, the manner in which the Sovereignty of the People shall be exercised and enjoyed is stated; legislative power to the Parliament, executive power to a President who will exercise it with a Cabinet of Ministers in terms of Article 43 and the judicial power exercised through courts set up by parliament etc. From that clause onwards a careful in-depth study of our Constitution and the manner in which it appears to operate in reality brings me to the conclusion that the People’s Sovereignty is limited mostly to exercising their franchise or the right to cast their vote once in several years. Although these divided and separated sovereign powers are meant to be held “in trust” for the people, the ultimate repository of these powers and only exercised by these institutions as “ temporary guardians” on behalf of the citizens, in reality it appears that these are further limited, when one carefully goes through the amendments to the constitution and numerous other Acts passed by the Parliament. We the citizens are reduced simply to be voters and we have lost almost all of the powers given to us as citizens by that so called sovereignty in the constitution.
I am sure this same situation prevails in most of the so called democratic countries. Their elected representatives have manipulated the Supreme Law, the Constitutions, of our countries to enhance and perpetuate their power and positions to the detriment of Good Governance and People’s Sovereignty. This I consider to be the root cause of progressive deterioration of so called democracy and multiplication of all evils in the social, economic and political sectors of our nations. Perhaps Mahatma Gandhi foresaw this situation one hundred years ago and later in his struggle for freedom, when he stated that post independent India should not follow the western systems and structures but create a Commonwealth of Village Republics.
Every day at all levels where ever people meet formally or informally and in countries where there is freedom of the media, instances of criminal mismanagement of state resources, fraud, bribery, unlawful conduct and corrupt practices by leaders and their henchman are discussed and highlighted. While I admire and stand in solidarity with all those who had the courage to struggle and pressurize our parliamentarians and legislators to pass legislation for people’s right to information and enforce transparency and accountability, or conservation of our natural habitats, non-renewable natural resources, the ecological infrastructures, environmental purity and cleanliness and against invasion of global capital to further impoverish our already dispossessed and powerless people in rural areas and urban slums, I do believe that we have a greater cause for which we should stand up in solidarity, while continuing our struggles to clean the top.
The greater cause I am referring to is the need to lay a foundation to build a new civilization in place of the one we inherited from our former western masters. I think that I am fair by Mahatma Gandhi when I say so, because I believe as much as he believed over hundred years ago, that even today we have to identify the cause of the disease rather than merely grapple with the external symptoms. Modern civilization is the cause. In spite of all the desperate attempts made by those who benefit by it to sustain this civilization it is collapsing from all sides. The majority of humans inhabiting this planet have rejected this civilization in their own consciousness. They dream of a new way of life, a new civilization, that works for all. Similarly the majority of human beings in the world reject the existing exploitative, unfair, violent, unstable and wasteful economy and yearn for an alternative system. Lastly people have lost all confidence in the twin brother of the economy namely the power political structures.
I am not saying that the present civilization will collapse overnight and a new one could be built in a few years. On the other hand if we realize that every one of us as individuals, families and communities follow a clear Sarvodaya path certainly we can make a beginning in that direction. In Sri Lanka while keeping in mind a transformation we need in the civilization, we implemented projects and programs which were beneficial to the people in the short run. Through Study Service programs, Shramadana Camps for Basic Need Satisfaction, Integrated Community Development Programs, A Ten Thousand Villages Development Scheme, Development Education Programs for people of all ages, Mass Meditation Walks to build Peace and the Grama Swarajya Promotion Program slowly but steadily we succeeded in building a psycho-social environment and a leadership who can now take up the challenge of building a new civilization. Our next step, in this process, is the Deshodaya Movement we have already launched.
Village or Community Self-governance / Grama or Praja Swarajya will be a beginning to make the Sovereignty of the People a reality. Similarly people will have a direct hand in contributing to Good Governance. If this movement spreads to cover a critical mass of communities in the country then instead of representative democracy, a system of direct participatory democracy will evolve over a period of time, the exact modality of which we are now in the process of discussing, without harming or in any manner transgressing upon the laws and regulations that govern and bind us ; so that we will once again have the “spirit” of Constitutionalism in a more functional form for the benefit of the citizen; the ultimate repository of state sovereignty. As the Deshodaya Movement has a strong spiritual base, revival of better moral and cultural relations among people will be easy. Similarly the availability of Communication Technology to coordinate our works horizontally is a great advantage we have. At this point Vinobhaji’s saying about science and spirituality working in harmony comes to my mind.
Earlier in my speech I mentioned about the newly formed Deshodaya Sabha or National Reawakening Assembly which will have 100,000 members representing all districts and every community or ethnic group in the country. Already in 18 district meetings of 1000 representatives in each from the entire 25 district were held. For three days they hold a residential training and study program on three related subjects, namely, Transforming the Consciousness, the Economy and Power Structure in the country. Under each topic 10 activities are discussed so that when they return to their residential areas they educate others to add to their already existing programs these 30 new portfolios of activities. In Deshodaya Sabha there will be an equitable gender representation as well as 50% of the membership will come from non-Sarvodaya sectors including politicians who accept our general principles such as non-violence and non-sectarianism.
What I have said so far is our conception of a non violent revolutionary change of the existing social order in our countries and in the world. Those nations who feel that they too have lost their sovereignty in their own societies or there is much to be desired in the field of good governance, could implement and design a similar kind of non-violent philosophy and programs according to their spiritual, moral and cultural norms. The same is true with regard to the economic crises most of them are going through. Such a world reawakening program could be named as Vishvodaya.
We the Sarvodaya practitioners in India, Sri Lanka and in other countries where there are Sarvodaya chapters can assist them to build personality awakening, family awakening, group and community awakening and national awakening programs as relevant to their problems and their national needs. Already in almost all the countries there are various people’s organizations which are well organized and working for the conservation of ecological and environmental infrastructures, meeting the challenges of climate change, economic collapse, political mismanagement in the field of good governance and so on. The long track record the Gandhian Movement in India has and the increasingly important recognition that Gandhiji’s teachings and practices are receiving in the world, the time is ripe to incorporate all of them into one universal movement of world reawakening – VISHVODAYA.
I am sure this land of Bharat, or what in Sri Lanka we called Jambudweepa, will have at least one Philanthropist, among her large number of Billionaires, who will come forward to support Vishvodaya, to save the present human civilization from its chaotic situation, and build a new world civilization founded on the eternal teachings of the Upanishads, Vedas, the Buddha and the unique examples set by Emperor Ashoka the Great in Good Governance and Mahatma Gandhi in People’s Participatory Direct Democracy.
Thank you, Dear Friends.
May You All be Well and Happy!
The Inaugural Address delivered by Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne, Founder of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka on 30th December 2011 in Madurai, India, at the 44th Sarvodaya Samaj Sammelan.
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