Seeking practical survival strategies to tide over the present difficult times due to the recession has been the vision in the Sarvodaya Movement during the last five decades, particularly with the participation of the rural people.
The Sarvodaya Movement founder Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne spoke at a seminar by the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) recently on ‘A New Life Style for a New Era’ in which he addressed concerns which extend beyond the economic or market situations because not everyone is occupied with profit making enterprises. “A holistic approach has to be innovated where citizens, community organizations, businessmen, local bodies and civil society organizations play the key roles in its realization while speculators, predatory financial institutions and rapacious banks have to be cautiously kept away from such an exercise,” he said. Dr. Ariyaratne added that the crisis can be turned into a golden opportunity to create new, people-friendly institutions, sustainable economies, modest and satisfying styles of living in a transformed society.
Access roads to the village, a tank to store water for agricultural purposes, an irrigation canal, and reforestation projects are examples of achievable goals by the community without any outside help. The road, the tank and the irrigational canal are real wealth that communities create pooling together of their own resources.
“We take a holistic view of our planet, its natural resources, sustainability of life on earth including the human, social economic and political structures that serve humanity to ensure freedom justice and fairplay for all, morality and value systems that we have inherited for civilized living over centuries and spirituality, which we consider, to be the essence of highest human happiness,” Dr. Ariyaratne said. Many scholars point out that the present global crisis is the result of a spiritual and moral decline of the human community. Hence, a transformation of the human consciousness should be brought about initially, followed by economic and political transformation.
“A lot of illusions are embedded in human consciousness which have to be removed by educating people,” Dr. Ariyaratne said. “Let me take an example. People are made to think money is wealth. So everybody is chasing after all kinds of activities to acquire money. They pay little or no heed to moral principles or spiritual values in their mad rush to accumulate money mistaking it for wealth.” Dr. Ariyaratne added that while producers, middlemen, buyers, sellers, businessmen and consumers are all engaged in creating real wealth, those who exclusively deal with money as another commodity to make more money and take full control of it as time goes on are the real beneficiaries of all the hard work done by the rest. False wealth is thus created paving way for collapsing of national economies.
Dr. Ariyaratne said newspapers were full of horrible stories of illegitimate financial transactions that have taken place in Sri Lanka which are not only Sakvithis, Danduvam Mudalali’s and such other smaller frauds but also highly reputed economic giants were involved in these rackets.
“What are the real actions that have been taken by the Central Bank and the economic advisers of the government to go into the depth of this national malaise apart from sending teams of income tax collectors to those depositors who got cheated for their own greed and dishonesty?” he questioned.
“Probing into their incomes and assets appears to be the only action they have taken so far. Some depositors have taken legal action in this regard. Is it ignorance or stupidity on the part of those in authority to treat this situation lightly and ignore the root causes of this malady?”
The Sarvodaya Movement is meeting this crisis in a holistic way by starting with the individual to understand one’s own personality awakening from conception through infancy, childhood, youth, adulthood and old age up to death. “A human being who fails to understand the physical, mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual processes that his or her own personality is going through every moment will never find true happiness and the joy of living in this life,” Dr. Ariyaratne said. “For all above stages of human development we have scientifically developed practical programmes from which thousands of people are benefiting daily. No man-made divisions among human beings will interfere with these learning processes and hence the human consciousness will progressively revert back to its original form to realize the highest goal of human evolution – the realization of the truth that all living beings are interconnected and interdependent.”
The myriad of intractable global problems cannot be resolved without changing the consciousness that created it in the first place, Dr. Ariyaratne said. It is for this reason that Sarvodaya takes communities as a whole and organizes various age groups and facilitates learning processes to result in creating a critical mass of transformed consciousness that would influence the building of a new economic order and a new political system in the community. This is taking place in 15,000 village communities in our country at various levels of implementation.
Dr. Ariyaratne said individuals and families living as a community in a particular ecological setting are the initial target population that Sarvodaya is helping to get into a path of self development. Self reliance and community participation to satisfy their basic human needs are the two qualities with which they begin their process of change in the community. Basic needs are related to Environment, Water, Food, Housing, Healthcare, Communication, Energy Needs, Education, Culture and Spiritual needs.
“A well organized community of people under a trained and visionary leadership can harness the traditional skills, free labour, land, and other natural and community resources to fulfill one or more of their basic human needs progressively,” he said. “Thus access roads to the village, a tank to store water for agricultural purposes, an irrigation canal, and reforestation projects are some examples of achievable goals by the community without any outside help. We called this action of sharing everything they have for common good Shramadana. The road, the tank and the irrigational canal are real wealth that the community created by their own pooling together of their own resources. No money transactions at all were involved in this work.”
Dr. Ariyaratne said there are two roads to economic recovery. The first is the conventional road which is to bail out the banks and fuel consumerism, put more money in mortgages and hope to get back to business as usual. However, the second more genuine option is to think holistically and invest in land and agriculture, in renewable energy and practical skills. “The earth is our true bank. We are at crossroads – which path are we going to choose? The answer should be obvious,” he said.