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THE SARVODAYA SHRAMADANA MOVEMENT

Sarvodaya thought or philosophy, overall then, is put into concrete action by an integrated threefold programme: an educational programme, through Shrama/dana; a community development programme, through Gramodaya (village re-awakening); a direct participation programme (through village self-government).

The shramadana camp, which Ariyaratne first instigated in the 1950s with his students, at senior school, had two objectives: experiencing traditional social living based on the principles of sharing, pleasant language, constructive activity and equality; sharing labour to complete a physical task that satisfies a long felt community need.

A youth leader who was assigned to conduct proceedings invited a village elder or a village child to inaugurate the camp by lighting the traditional coconut oil lamp and hoisting the Sarvodaya flag. This was done to the chanting of religious stanzas by monks or to the singing of a Sarvodaya song. This ceremonial opening was followed by a "family gathering". The pupils-volunteers had come to learn and not to teach. At the same time, a mass education programme was set in place, under Ariyaratne's instigation, where the history of the village, their habitual customs and beliefs, their problems and aspirations were discussed. Relevant questions from great religious teachers and other great men were read and explained. Song and dance items were intermixed with serious discussions regarding community, national and international problems. Family get- togethers were held daily. Hence one saw the rare sight of a university professor seated on a mat with an illiterate villager.

VILLAGE LEVEL ORGANIZATION

Through their direct participation in organized activities, the Sarvodaya movement in each village has made an attempt to:

• bring about a change in their ideas, attitudes and objectives according to the Sarvodaya philosophy;

• bring about improvements in the methods and techniques adopted by people in their day-to-day life, especially in economic production, distribution and consumption;

• bring about change in their existing organizations and institutions for the better.

The first activity of the children's group was to start a children's library. The children's organization becomes the starting point for the formation of other groups. The second group organized in the villages is the mother's group. Some of its objectives are bringing up children in a proper manner, home improvement, religious work, moral re-awakening and activities to supplement the family income. The third group is the youth group. They begin with what they can do in the village such as community development, education and sports projects.

The fourth group, the farmers' groups, has five clear objectives:

• ensure unity among farmers;

• win freedom from exploitation and right of participation in framing policy and implementing programmes;

• safeguard agricultural values;

• make occupational recognition of farmers a reality.

For Sarvodaya, it was, overall, an endeavour to achieve “dynamic harmony" through non-violent direct action by the threefold programme of education, development and participation. Calling a halt to exploitation or violence in all fields – economic, political, administrative or social – by non-violent direct action was the duty of all who believed in total freedom. The movement today, moreover, some 50 years later, has its own Development Educational Institutes, Village Re-awakening Centres, Co-operative Economic Enterprises and other such bodies.

 
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