Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Evening with 'Gandhi of Sri Lanka': Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne

An "underworld" gangster named Choppe hired a man to bomb and kill him. The night before the assassination, A. T. Ariyaratne went to Choppe's house; when he arrived, in the dark, he could hear the voice of a man angrily saying, "Who is this little man who thinks he can say and do all these things? Who does he think he is, this Ariyaratne?" Hearing that, Dr. Ariyaratne walks in the front door and in his high-toned voice, says, "I am Ariyratne. If you wish to kill me, kill me now, not amidst those children tomorrow."

Over the course of their conversation, Choppe not only called off the bombing but guaranteed that no one else put Ariyaratne in danger.

In 1958, A. T. Ariyaratne was a high school teacher in Sri Lanka who wanted his students to experience the reality of the poor in their country. Initially, people ignored him; then they ridiculed his "Sarvodaya" movement to uplift education, economics and ethics of the common man. Politicians feared him because he was teaching the poor to believe in themselves; they tried to kill him and harass his family with threats and investigations, but he still kept on serving. Today, Sarvodaya is active in over 15,000 Sri Lankan villages and is directly affiliated with millions of natives.

Known as the "living Gandhi", recipient of many international awards and nominee of the Nobel Peace prize, Dr. Ariyaratne has redefined Sri Lanka's history and shined light on a nonviolent future. Yet if you ask him to describe himself, he would simply say, "Tell them I am no one in particular."

In the spirit of Martin Luther King, Dr. Ariyaratne has led peace marches and meditations with millions of poor people. In the mold of Mahatma Gandhi, he has quieted angry masses through his personal example. Like Jimmy Carter, he has successfully mediated intense conflicts and helped build hundreds of homes. Like the Dalai Lama and the world's greatest spiritual leaders, he has an impressive ability to rally ordinary citizens to see the spiritual wisdom of looking beyond their own needs and serve others.

On <$DATE>, we will have the honor of hosting Dr. Ariyaratne amongst us, as he shares stories from his incredible life of service. This event is hosted in our home and there is no cost to attend; please RSVP for more details (as always, we can only accommodate the first 80 RSVP's).

Quotes by Dr. Ariyaratne

"In thinking of various ways of empowering our people, we think of social empowerment, economic empowerment, and technological empowerment. But we begin with spiritual empowerment. Without that, it is very difficult for a nonviolent movement to progress because in any movement, people can lose their control. When 200,000 people get together, if they don't have 100 percent spiritual discipline, if someone throws a stone, the whole group can go astray. That.s why you need a very strong spiritual foundation, and also a very strong scientific and technological foundation to bring about, from bottom up, an awakening.

I believe that poor people in the world have to take their destiny into their own hands, not in a violent foolish manner, but in an intelligent, organized, scientific, and philosophical manner. Sarvodaya is trying to do that in a small way." --Dr. Ariyaratne, in A Wake Up Call

Of all the people you have met or come to respect, who do you admire the most?

A.T.A.: Those who make sacrifices to make other people.s lives happy and in peace. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela.

And on a more personal level?

A.T.A.: That old woman who collected money from her children, got onto a bus for hours and hours and came to Anuradhapura to join us in the peace meditation, and who brought a small flag on which she wrote: .May peace be on earth.. She asked us to hang it on the Bodhi tree.before she left.

Do you have any regrets in life?

A.T.A.: The time I wasted with technocratic donors. If there was one donor who said .Ari, you do your work, we.ll do the rest,. I would have done 1000 times more. I also made the mistake of trusting partisan politicians and tried to work with them.

If you had five minutes to reach every human being on earth, what would you say or do?

A.T.A.: To reach this level of being a human being you have spent billions of years. Through births and deaths, from the lowest status going through other levels of the animal kingdom and reaching this highest level, it is like reaching the very top run of a long, long ladder. So you are the most precious being on earth. On you depend the lives of all the other living beings and nature. All this is because you have the highest developed mind. So don.t waste a moment!

With complete awareness of your five senses, abstain from all that is evil according to your conscience. Cultivate goodness according to your own judgment. Purify your mind. Contain the highest level of happiness by eradicating your ego centeredness, your cravings and your ill will.

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