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NEWS : Pandurang Shastri Athavale wins Magsaysay award
Subject: NEWS : Pandurang Shastri Athavale wins Magsaysay award
From: Ajay Shah <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed, 17 Jul 1996 09:24:21 -0500
Resent-Date: Wed, 17 Jul 1996 09:48:35 -0700 (MST)
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
MANILA, July 16: Indian reformer Pandurang Shastri Athavale, leader
of a spiritual movement which accepts followers of all castes and
religions, was awarded this year's Ramon Magsaysay award for
community leadership, the award foundation announced today.
Athavale, 76, was cited for ``tapping the ancient well-springs of Hindu
civilization to inspire spiritual renewal and social transformation in
Athavale was born in Maharashtra into a Brahmin family. A religious
scholar without any formal education, he mastered Sanskrit and the
Hindu classics. However, disturbed by a query posed to him at a
religious conference, he was challenged to put into practice ancient
Vedic teachings into the present day life, the foundation said in a
He founded Swadhyaya(self-awareness) in 1958, which advocates
that ``barriers of caste, gender, and religion must be transcended in
order to recognize the true equality of all people.''
Its followers, numbering in the millions living in villages throughout
India's countryside, have given up alcohol, gambling and petty crime,
while fishermen and farmers share their daily harvests with the
hungry, the citation said.
``Swadhyaya-imbued villages are clean, tidy and prosperous. Villagers
of all castes, men and women, worship side-by-side,'' the citation
The Indian leader will receive a 50,000-dollar cash prize along with
four other awardees in other categories in ceremonies to be held on
Fondly called dada by his followers, Athavale has been carrying on
his mass movement bestowing dignity on the underprivileged and
bringing about social harmony cutting across the narrow grooves of
caste and creed for the last four decades.
Athavale, whose spiritual base is the `Bhagwad Gita', calls his
movement Apourusheya Lakshmi (impersonal wealth), which differs
from the Marxist concept envisaging compensated labour, based on
protection of self-interest.
The concept of impersonal wealth, according to Swadhyaya activists,
struck dada when he was studying the Hindu scripture Ishovasya
Upanishada. The labour of those who had faith in God, the creator,
would contribute to the making of a vibrant, self-sufficient and
morally strong society, he believed.
Athavale said, ``The Bhagwat Gita teaches the way of life and helps to
eliminate differences between human beings.''
As a child, he hated to see caste differences prevail in society. ``A
Brahmin would take bath twice even with the touch of the shadow of
a lower caste person (mahar), he said. ``If we follow the principles of
the Bhagwat Gita that all humans are the children of God, there will be
no differences or hatred in society,'' he added.
Athavale, was earlier honoured with awards like Gandhi Bhasha
Prachar Award, Tilak Award, Sawarkar Award and Gujarat
He believes that development of language reflects the development of
culture. At the Tatvagyan Vidyapeeth (philosophical college) in
Thane, emphasis is laid on the development of Hindi, English and
Athavale, who has just returned from the United States, looked
cheerful as he accepted greetings from the Swadyaya parivar and
hordes of press photographers who came to capture the peak moment
of his glory.