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Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne

Founder of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka. Humanitarian. Peace Leader. Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Recognized and honored internationally for a lifelong contribution towards peace, development and human wellbeing on a grand scale.

Dr. Ariyaratne is often called “Sri Lanka’s Gandhi,” a fitting title in many ways for a man who has won the Gandhi Peace Prize (1996), the Niwano Peace Prize, the King Beaudoin Ward and many other international honors for his work in peacemaking and village development. His leading of peace marches and meditations with millions of poor people, his ability to quieten angry masses through his personal example and his helping to build hundreds of homes have also seen him likened to the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, and Jimmy Carter. 

While those impressive comparisons are valid, the truth is that Dr. Ariyaratne is very much his own man, one who has made a tangible difference for millions of people through the Sarvodaya Movement.  Since his work on the movement began in 1958, he has created a unique, nationwide brand of “development from the bottom up,” with an enviable track record of success that endures. His belief in Gandhian principles of non-violence, rural development, and self-sacrifice, has shaped the Sarvodaya Movement in ways that forge a significant link between secular principles of development and Buddhist ideals of selflessness and compassion. 

Despite the fact that Dr. Ariyaratne and the movement he founded have survived years of government harassment and intimidation, assassination threats and malevolent neglect by politicians, Sarvodaya has continued its service as the largest non-government humanitarian movement in Sri Lanka. 

Based on the concept of ‘sharing of labor, thought and energy for the awakening of all’ the organization energizes people in more than 11,000 villages to rediscover their power to influence their own destinies. They have been galvanized to build over 5,000 pre-schools, as well as community health centers, libraries, and cottage industries. They have established thousands of village banks, dug thousands of wells and latrines, promoted biodiversity, solar energy, rehabilitation, and peace.

While rooted in Buddhism and other ancient Sri Lankan traditions, the movement is open to anyone, regardless of religious and cultural divides. At the core of Sarvodaya is a belief in one another and the power of community. 

Dr. Ariyaratne has received many national and international awards in recognition of his commitment to the nation and its people. He received the highest national award, the Sri Lankabhimanya Award, from the President of Sri Lanka in 2007 and many International awards such as the Ramon Magsaysay Award (Philippines) 1969, King Baudouin Award for International Development (Belgium) 1982, Niwano Peace Prize (Japan) 1992 and Mahatma Gandhi Peace Prize (India) 1996 for his contribution to Human Wellbeing and Peace. 

Dr. Ariyaratne was also honored with a Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.) degree from Sri Jayewardenepura University and a Doctor of Humanities (D.H.) degree from Amelio Aguinaldo College of Medicine in the Philippines.