Bhava Thanha, An Autobiography, Volume 1 – Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne

Bhava Thana, An Autobiography, Volume 1 - Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne

Bhava Thanha, An Autobiography, Volume 1 – Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne

Title: Bhava Thanha, An Autobiography, Volume 1
First Edition, 2001
Pages: 496

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.

Revolution Under The Breadfruit Tree: The Story of Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement and Its Founder Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne – Gunadasa Liyanage

Revolution Under The Breadfruit Tree

Gunadasa’ Liyanage’s “Revolution Under The Breadfruit Tree” is among one of the earliest English books I read. I had not started Horizon Lanka Foundation by the time I read this book. So, the book did inspire when I worked at Horizon Lanka up to some extent though my approach to community work was little different from that of Dr. Ariyaratne. I had the opportunity of meeting Dr. Ariyaratne in 2008 at his residence in Moratuwa. He is an extremely humble, unassuming character.

The book covers both the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement and its founder Dr. Ariyaratne’s life. It details how he spent his childhood, the link between him and the village temple and the education at school.

The way he started his community work is interesting. He started the movement with 40 high school students and 12 teachers from Nalanda College on an educational experiment to an outcaste village and helped the villagers to fix it. Similar ventures continued and he faced many an obstacle through the journey. The writer mentions in the book that Ariyaratne was forced to marry because working with young girls and boys could give a bad signal to the world if he stayed unmarried.

Ariyaratne focused the village because for him “The village represents the heart of the nation and the source of its spiritual and moral vision.” Sarvodaya empowered the villages with Buddhist and Gandhian philosophies.

Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne was born on November 5, 1931 in Unawatuna village in Galle District of Sri Lanka. He was educated Mahinda College, Galle. After completing his school education he entered a teachers college. He became a high school teacher until 1972 at Nalanda College Colombo. Dr. Ariyaratne initiated his work on Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement in 1958. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Vidyodaya University of Sri Lanka and later received an honorary doctorate of D.Litt. from the same university. He also received an honorary doctorate of humanities from Emilio Aguinaldo College in the Philippines. Ariyaratne is a devout Buddhist and continues to be active in Sri Lankan politics and community development.

He received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 1969, the Gandhi Peace Prize from the government of India in 1996, the Niwano Peace Prize in 1992, the King Beaudoin Award and other international honors for his work in peace making and village development. In 2006, he received the Acharya Sushil Kumar International Peace Award for the year 2005. Other recipients of this award include John Polanyi and then in 2004, his Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. In 2007 Ariyaratne received the Sri Lankabhimanya, the highest National Honour of Sri Lanka. Ariyaratne is a strong believer in Gandhian principles of non-violence, rural development and self-sacrifice. He has shaped the Sarvodaya Movement in ways that forged a significant link between secular principles of development and Buddhist ideals of selflessness and compassion. As a devout Buddhist, he has led tens of thousands of “family gatherings” and meditations with millions of people throughout Sri Lanka and other parts of the world. When he received the Hubert H. Humphrey International Humanitarian Award from the University of Minnesota‘s Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs in 1994, Dr. Patrick Mendis described his former mentor as the “Gandhi of Sri Lanka.” (From Wikipedia)