Title: Bhava Thanha, An Autobiography, Volume 1
First Edition, 2001
When I visited Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne once, (somewhere in 2007?) he gave me his autobiography, Bhava Thanha Volume 1 (English) as a gift with his signature on it. For some reason I did not read it immediately. I read it completely only a few months ago.
This volume illustrates the life of Dr. Ariyaratne’s life between 1931 and 1972. It exposes his humble beginnings, education, challenges, inspirations and adventures in his life.
I still prefer his biography, The Revolution Under the Breadfruit Tree written by veteran writer Gunadasa Liyanage (Guli) than this autobiography. Though Dr. Ariyaratne writes in an eloquent language, I still prefer Guli’s simple language and the approach to the book.
I personally don’t understand the reason behind Dr. Ariyaratne putting long lists of names of people in many places in the book as it diverts the reader’s attention away from the main story. Maybe he put the names as they were historically important for him. But I feel that he could have added them in an appendix or in footers.
He has mentioned in many a place how Buddhism influenced his personal life and his movement, the Sarvodaya. He has been an ardent Buddhist from a young age and is practicing it throughout his life. And he seems to believe in superstitious incidents as well.
Dr. Ariyaratne has had a close relationship with late Rohana Wijeweera after he was imprisoned as a result of 1971 insurrection. Dr. Ariyaratne has also met Che Guevara in Europe.
It is amazing how he built the Sarvodaya Empire with such a resistance from various critics and made it a national level movement with international fame. Winning the Ramon Magsaysay Award at a young age tells it all.
He has been making speeches around the world without using a script. This is mainly due to the knowledge he acquired from reading and moving with the society. He has a vast knowledge in many fields though he did not obtain a university degree.
He married a girl who helped him throughout his career which is a rare privilege to most of the social workers. She not only raised his kids but also helped his work whenever needed.
To be frank, the first parts of the book was very boring for me but towards the middle I started liking it and towards the end I started loving it so much so that I am looking for the Volume 2 of the book now. I think the second book reveals the rift he had with the late president R. Premadasa. Perhaps, who knows, if the rift could have been avoided Dr. Ariyaratne would have even won a Nobel Prize for his work on community field.