Sharing and Making

Full Title: *Camping For Sharing and The Making of a New Human Being*

_From a talk delivered at the Asian Pacific International Seminar of the Girl Guides Movement – Colombo, October 1974_

What I mean by psychosphere is that every moment we release a thought energy – whether it is during the time we are awake or asleep, there is a stream of thought energy that we continuously release – this thought energy is generally impregnated with so much of hatred, greed, anguish, and ignorance, that in the result there is an envelope of psychic energy in our what you may call the thinking sphere which influences our thoughts. The result is that whenever somebody says, I want to do this good thing for humanity, there will be thousands who will say, no, dont do it; you cant do it. This is due to the influence that a bad psychosphere has on our thinking. Therefore, in development there is a very much neglected aspect we have to think of – the aspect of releasing a spiritual energy that can counteract this corrupt and polluted psychosphere. This is where Meditation comes in

I wonder how many of you realise that nearly 90% of the peoples of the world live in village communities. I would say that there are 2 million villages in the world and that most of the problems that humanity is facing today you will find in these villages. If, however, you see the fruits of science and technology you will see them mostly in the cities. In other words, though the majority of the people of the world live in rural areas, they are the most neglected areas of the world. If we are to develop a nation, therefore, we believe that we should develop the villages of that nation. Taking my own country, Sri Lanka, over 80% of our people still live in a little over 23, 000 villages.
Now, what do we mean by village development? Is it modernisation, is it bringing in new methods and techniques to make life easy for the people in the village or is it the creation of an economic, social and psychological environment where each individual in a community can realise the total personality development of such a person and make for a worthwhile community life? We, in this part of the world, who are still steeped somewhat in a spiritual and cultural past believe that development should be total. It should not be confined only to the production of more goods and services catering to the needs of people. It should also have its spiritual, cultural and ethical components. What is most important is the happiness of man. Looking at the problem in this manner you will agree with me that the villages are the ideal places where a balanced development programme could be initiated.

*Camping for Sharing*

Speaking through my own experience in the villages of Sri Lanka, we are used to making a beginning by laying a very strong psychological infrastructure in the village. Villagers must think together, plan together and also implement programmes together. For this, the most essential thing is to lay what I called a psychological infrastructure. How the Sarvodaya Movement is doing this is as follows: A group of us who are interested in helping the people to help themselves to build up their community, go and encamp in a village and have a planned programme of activities going on for a weekend, for a week or for even a longer time. We called it a Shramadana camp-a camp where you share your labour for the well-being of all.

A Shramadana camp provides the psychological, social and physical environment where the individual and the group can find a totality of life. What do I mean by this? According to our culture we believe that if a human personality is to awaken there are four requisites. Firstly, our mind and heart should be full of respect for all life and friendliness towards all beings. We call it Metta. You may call it loving kindness.

*Conquest of Suffering*

Loving kindness towards all is the thought that an awakening personality should have. But this thought is not enough; it is only the motivation which should lead us to compassionate action. When our minds and hearts are full of love for humanity and for the living world, then we are quick to see the suffering that we witness around us. Nearly one-third of humanity is starving; nearly one-third of the children in the world do not attend school; nearly one- third of our brother human beings do not have the basic amenities of life. In other words, there is so much suffering going on around us that those who are mindful of respect for life should go in search of those who are suffering and try to help remove the cause of their suffering. We call this Karuna – compassionate action. The thoughts of Metta or loving kindness and Karuna or compassionate action, result in unselfish joy which is the third component for an awakening personality. You see people starving and you find out why they are starving. You see they have land but they have no irrigation facilities. The Government has no money to put up a Tank or water reservoir or to open up irrigation canals. We go into the village, find out how many people are needed for how many days to put up the tank and also to give irrigation facilities. We all encamp in the village, working with village people and we help them to complete this project on self-help. People get the water; they cultivate the land but now they find it difficult to get loans, or to have capital until they get an income. Through a revolving fund we try to find them the necessary money to do their cultivation, to buy their seed, to buy their fertilizer and to subsist till they get their harvest. All this leads to the solution of a basic problem that the people were faced with. Once they solve the problem they are very happy. When we see their joy, we ourselves get an unselfish joy because we have helped to remove the cause of their hunger. This is what I call unselfish joy or altruistic joy.

Fourthly, in a world full of organised greed, hatred and ignorance, this type of altruistic action is not quite appreciated; people attribute motives. So as social workers when we go into the villages and try to help our brother human-beings, we find lots of people who will be indifferent to what we are doing. Their indifference will lead to ridicule. They may abuse us and even feel repressed but finally they will respect us. All this should not discourage us or make us arrogant. We must look at all this, or experience all this, with a sense of equanimity. Therefore, through Shramadana camp what we expect to do is to motivate human beings to live up to these four principles or to make these four principles an integral part of their life. The principle of respect for life, compassionate action to remove the causes that lead to suffering in human beings, learning to get unselfish joy, and ability to have a psychological balance to face loss and gain, fame and blame. These four principles lead to personality awakening.

*Driving out Social Unrest*

Similarly, we have four other principles of group behaviour. These four principles are Sharing, Pleasant language, Constructive activity and Equality. In our world, unless we share our wealth, share our power, share our responsibilities, conflict will invariably arise. Today, through educational systems, through political movements, through economic arrangements, the individual is all the time running after power, position and wealth. This leads to an almost inhuman type of competition and all types of social unrest. The only answer to this situation lies in human beings learning to live together and sharing together. That is why in a village community, when we start a project, we give a lot of emphasis to this concept of Sharing – the sharing of our labour, the sharing of our intelligence, the sharing of our knowledge, the sharing of our wealth or land, or responsibility or power. This is something that happens in a family Within a family there is sharing; if there is no sharing the strongest gets the biggest share of the income in a family and such a family can never be happy. So sharing, as we practice in our family life, we try to practice in a Shramadana camp. Secondly, we talk to one another in a very pleasant language. Elder brother, elder sister, younger brother, younger sister, son and daughter, father, mother are the terms and words we use to address one another.

Thirdly, every minute in a camp between 5 in the morning and 10 in the evening is used for constructive action. Not a minute is wasted and fourthly everything is done as equals – equality in association. So these four principles give the necessary guidelines for group behaviour.

*Discovering Real Leadership*

Now, based on these eight principles – four for the individuals and four for the Group, we encamp in a village for several days. We do seven to eight hours of physical labour in opening up of a new road to the village, or repairing the old road in the village, in bringing them irrigation facilities, in helping people to solve environmental sanitation problems, in soil conservation, in opening up a new co-operative agricultural farm and things like this – so that in addition to the spiritual and cultural content in this whole programme there is an immediate physical benefit that the people get.

One result of all this activity that is going on for several days in the year is that an indigenous leadership is built in the village.

Normally the village has certain traditional leadership which is not at all times the best type of leadership. For example, when the British left our country they left us a colonial type of administration, where the village level administrator was responsible to his superior in the area and not to the village people. This man, therefore, represented outside interests and not the aims and aspirations of the people in the village. This type of leadership is a very superficial type of leadership. In a Shramadana camp another type of leadership springs up. These are the people who love the members of their community; people who want to sacrifice for the welfare of other people; people who are intelligent and capable of handling a village level project; people who can command respect; people with integrity. Mostly, the young people come up and show their potential during a Shramadana camp. Another type of traditional leadership is in the form of money-lender, or the landlord, or the local political representative of a Party that is based in the city. All this leadership is a superficial, artificial type of leadership. So an indigenous leadership is brought up from the village itself now.

Secondly, without slavishly waiting until the Government does everything for them, people themselves try to build up their community on self-reliance and the people begin to feel that they are also capable of planning out a project that is beneficial to them, without waiting till distant bureaucrats and politicians come and plan for them. In other words, development from below, development from the village upwards become a reality. As you know, in our country as well as other countries of the developing world, most of the development plans were drawn up in cities, away from reality. In actual fact, development programmes should be drawn up within the village itself; then only these programmes become realistic and capable of being implemented.

*Showing Path to Own Potential*

A Shramadana Camp in a village therefore is an awakening process, a consciousness awakening process, a process of building up an awareness about their own potentiality for self-development. Once you bring about this change in attitude-psychological foundation as I call it-then you can come to the next stage where a thorough social and economic survey can be carried out because the people have confidence in you. You have shown them the way and they feel that they are the people who are planning and implementing the programme. Now, having gone through this first stage of laying a psychological infra-structure, we can come to the second stage of village development. I would call this physical infrastructure. Every village needs its environmental sanitation facilities. They need a source of water both for drinking and washing purposes; they need water for irrigation; they have to conserve their soil to prevent soil erosion. This physical planning can best be done by the people themselves.

The third stage of the village development programme is the laying of a social infrastructure. Development must not only be brought to the people; it must be a process: it must be an exercise undertaken by the people themselves; and by people I mean not only the bureaucrat, the politician and the educated people but all men, women and children in the village. We have several formations that are organised in the village.

*Catering to Needy Children*

We have childrens schools where children below the age of six are organised. They are divided into two groups – children between 3 1/2 to 6 and children below 3 years of age. For the first group we organise a pre-school. There without teaching them reading, writing and similar skills, we prepare them to go to school, but the emphasis is on health, nutrition and socialisation. We have over 200 pre-schools already organised in various parts of the country. Pre-school helpers are trained girls from the villages themselves – trained at the Sarvodaya Headquarters. They learn how to make use of various herbs, plants and foodstuffs available in the locality itself, so that they can find the children a diet containing enough proteins and vitamins. This is done especially through what we call Community Kitchens for needy children. At the moment we have about 120,000 children who are getting one balanced meal a day from these community kitchens. These children are periodically examined by visiting medical teams.

In Sri Lanka we have a satisfactory network of Health Clinics. So we approach these Divisional Health Officers and also private medical practitioners both Western and Ayurvedic (indigenous), and request them to visit our Pre-schools or the Community Kitchens and regularly examine the children and give whatever medical assistance is necessary, and also to carry out immunisation and such programmes. Organisation of library facilities, recreational facilities, out-of-school care and assistance are some other programmes which are conducted for the benefit of this group. The third is the out-of-school youth group and this youth group will be the backbone of the entire development process in the village. These are the people who get a training in social economic surveys, village community leadership, organisation and conduct of Shramadana camps, and follow up the planning and carrying out of a development strategy for the village with the peoples self-help.

*Training Centres*

Then these young people are also trained at our training centres for varying periods of time, may be three months or six months or one year or two years, depending on the type of training they undergo. They are trained in carpentry, village technology, various arts and crafts, community leadership, etc., and when they go back to the village they train other people and undertake responsibilities in the village.

The fourth group we organise is a Mothers Group. Now all the family welfare programmes are implemented through them. Then we have the Farmers Group. As you know, in Sri Lanka we have nearly 1.2 million farmers out of a population of 13 1/2 million, and a farmers average family is 6.5 which means nearly 8 million people are dependent on agriculture. So in every village we form a group – a Farmers Group – who also become an integral part of the development programme.

Then we have an Others Group of Government Servants and various people having their special skills. They are also formed into a group. So all these grouped together form a sort of an adhoc village re- awakening council and these are the people who take over the local functions of village development.
When a village is set in motion in this manner for self-development, outside organisations, whether they are governmental or voluntary have to put in certain inputs namely, new skills, capital and new organisations for example in buying and selling – in other words, co-operatives, so that the middleman could be eliminated.

*Freeing Villagers from Exploitation*

Now here a complete cycle is gone through beginning with a certain non-economic foundation and going in to the economic. And of course all these activities are interwoven with the song and the dance and the culture, the ceremonies, the customs, the habits, which are all interwoven into this whole force so that there is a humanising effect to the development programme. All this is necessary because unfortunately in our world today, development means increasing the growth- economic growth so as to measure it in terms of per capita income, growth rate and what-not- a very unintelligible language to the villager.

We, however, bring development right to the doorstep of the villager, so that he can understand what the whole exercise means. When we start a programme in several villages, like for example our hundred villages development programme, it has now expanded to over 600 villages- to cater to the needs of these village programmes we have to have other programmes – training centres, a revolving fund which can provide loans on easy terms and without delay to the village people, and outlets for their produce, so that they would not be exploited. So all these ancillary activities have to be organised to service the new development process in the village.

Now coming back to the place where we started, what is the role of the voluntary agents in this whole business? In fact all that I spoke now has nothing to do with official development programmes, because I don’t believe that Government should be the main Agency that should bring about development. Undoubtedly they have a key role to play. People must plan out and Government should assist, because in this world Governments have become too powerful. Those who wield power become easily corrupt and as they say, the more power you have the more chances there are for you to get corrupt. The result is, today in the world we have come to a situation where all the findings of modern science are used mostly for destructive purposes. You take any developing country and you have more bullets than human beings in those countries. Take the world as a whole, we have amassed so much of explosive power that this earth can be blasted to pieces, several times over. We have polluted our biosphere; we have polluted our atmosphere and also we have polluted our psychosphere.

What I mean by psychosphere is that every moment we release a thought energy – whether it is during the time we are awake or asleep there is a stream of thought energy that we continuously release – this thought energy is generally impregnated with so much of hatred, greed, anguish, ignorance, that in the result there is an envelope of psychic energy in our, what you may call, the thinking sphere, which influences our thought. The result is that whenever somebody says I want to do this good thing for humanity, there will be thousands who will say, No dont do it, you cant do it. This is due to the influence that a bad psychosphere has on our thinking. Therefore, in development there is a very much neglected aspect we have to think of – the aspect of releasing a spiritual energy that can counteract this corrupt polluted psychosphere. This is where meditation comes in

*Cleansing Mind of Evil Thought*

Now we as volunteer workers should be motivated by the highest altruistic motives. Our minds should always vibrate, as I mentioned earlier, with love for the entire living world, which we call Sarvodaya, the awakening of all. In the Sarvodaya movement we practice this by meditation on breathing in and breathing out, with the idea of concentrating our thoughts.

Secondly, meditation on loving kindness, where we start with our own body and our own mind, let my body be healthy, let my mind be healthy, let my mind be free from greed, hatred and ignorance. Similarly I think of my mother, my father, my wife, my children, my friends, the entire human family in this entire living world. When you do this you lose yourself and as the Bible says, when you lose yourself you find yourself. There is a terrific energy now, a thought energy you have concentrated and you have universalised.

Then, thirdly, you have what is called conscious willing – may my country be a land of righteousness, may my country be a land of plenty, may my world be a peaceful world where everybody lives like brothers, may my world not have any rich or any poor, let all have their needs satisfied, let all live as members of one family. Now this type of thought energy has to be constantly liberated by us if we are to clear up the psychosphere. This is the first force that the Volunteer Movement should release if they are to build up not only the villages but also the people who inhabit those villages.

Secondly, we have to release a force of production – people must get into a mood of producing and sharing what they produce. Production and sharing should go together.

Thirdly, people must make maximum use of their culture. Every society has its cultural roots. Because of the impact of modern materialistic civilisation most people cannot see these cultural values. I have been to many developed countries. In spite of all the skyscrapers and all the modern gadgets that save labour and please your senses, I have seen certain cultural traits which can still be made full use of for the happiness of man. So culture is a very important component in the development process.

*Lion Flag-Symbol of Self-Reliance*

Particularly in the so-called third world or the poorer part of the world, we are still steeped very much in culture. We must revive this culture in such a way that it would supplement our efforts in economic development. In the Sarvodaya Movement in Sri Lanka we are doing this very much. For example, we give the cultural message through our flag – a flag where you get a lion symbolising self- reliance, dignity, courage, discipline, the four Bo leaves symbolising respect for life, compassionate action, altruistic joy and equanimity, and again, sharing, pleasant language, constructive activity and equality, the sword symbolising righteousness. The ten principles of a good ruler namely sharing, morality, ability to recognise and promote talent, straightforwardness, impartiality in administering justice, composure in conduct, non-hatred , non-violence, patience and forgiveness, and non- revengefulness, are all characteristics which are given by culture. Now this cultural force is the third force we have to release – firstly the spiritual force, secondly the production and sharing force, thirdly the cultural force.

*The New Human Being*

Fourthly we have an integrational force where we cut across all man-made barriers of caste, race, religion and nationality and think of humanity as one, because physically we have come so close to one another. Psychologically also we must come close to one another, otherwise there will be a contradiction that will lead to ruin.
Fifthly, we must build up a new ideology – an ideology of self-reliance, an ideology where you believe that development is not only the production of material goods and services, but also the building up of a new human being, the joy of living and that development is something to do with people. In other words, it should be human – being centred. There must be human values in development. The whole development process should have a humanising effect. Development should start not from cities or capitals of countries but from below, from the grass-roots. We must develop those who are most depressed first, from the lowliest, the lowest and the lost. It is like that, that we have to give a new ideological force.

Now these five forces – spiritual, cultural, production and sharing, integrational and ideological forces can build up a new village. building a new village means building a new world, where we shall banish everything that is evil and promote everything that is good for happiness and well-being and peace of humanity.