The Sarvodaya Research Institute began collecting Mr. A.T. Ariyaratne’s writings most of which published either as pam-phlets or in local and international journals are not readily available to those interested in his philosophy that gave rise to the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement. The numerous pamphlets and articles depict the seeds of Sarvodaya philosophy and its gradual maturation with the progress of time. As Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka has become synonymous with A.T. Ariyaratne, an understanding of his writings is necessary to understand the rapid growth of this formidable people’s Movement in rural Sri Lanka.
We at the Sarvodaya Research Institute hope to collect all what Mr. Ariyaratne has written, and publish them volume by volume for the benefit of all those interested in this unique philosophy and grass-root technology which Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka brought into being. In this first volume Ariyaratne’s foremost articles written at different times beginning from the sixties are represented. They were selected carefully with an idea to give the reader an assortment of Ariyaratne’s philosophical writings that would enable even a reader not conversant with Sarvodaya to ‘taste’ Sarvodaya’s basic concepts.
The contribution made by Ariyaratne, judging from any modern academic standards, surpasses both in quality and quantity the contribution made by any other individual in the field of Community Development and Social Work not only in Sri Lanka, but may be in entire Asia. He has undoubtedly brought in “New thinking” into the field of Community Development. What distinguishes Ariyaratne here from other contemporary philosophers is the fact that he, unlike most others, never built his philosophy only on an academic foundation. In other words he is not an armchair philosopher who dreamed about problems and probable solutions to them. He is, (as it is often unashamedly given utterance by him), a rugged villager who worked with the rural people and working thus, gained experience learning from the common man in order to form his philosophy. It was not a strategy and a philosophy that was fashioned by him through intellectual labour but a strategy and a philosophy born out of his grass-root work among simple people. Ariyaratne says that his philosophy is still growing amending itself to suit experience and modifying itself when practical necessities dictate it so.
As the Director of Sarvodaya Research Institute, I am particu-larly glad that we are able to bring out this first volume with the help of NOVIB – the Netherlands Organization for International Development Co-operation, our partners in Development. We hope this volume will present both readers in Sri Lanka and outside, a representative but varied collection of Ariyaratne’s writings. My introduction is for the purpose of providing a guide line of Ariyaratne’s thinking to those not conversant with it. I have taken the rare liberty to analyse his writings in the light of his personal experiences which I believe has been instrumental in shaping the total personality that is A.T. Ariyaratne. In the subsequent volumes we hope to collect the rest of his writings, so that all what he has written will be there for easy reference to all those interested in him and the Sarvodaya Movement.
I am personally grateful to Mr. A.T. Ariyaratne, who never interfered at any time with my selections or with the ideas that I have expressed about him or the Movement, although sometimes I was extremely critical in my outlook. This attitude of his endears him to me and I am happy that a people’s leader of his type and stature is still amenable to criticism – even when it is scathingly hostile to him. May be the Buddhist Philosophy where one is taught to regard both “Blame and Praise” with an equanimous frame of mind has tremendously influenced him. Sarvodaya Movement’s future as well as the maturation of Ariyaratne’s eclectic philosophy owes much to this attitude of mind which if maintained as during the last two decades, would undoubtedly sustain the Movement in the foreseeable future.
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_Special thanks to Krishna for preserving this and thousands of documents in digital form_