NEWS : Pandurang Shastri Athavale wins Magsaysay award

                                    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
    modern India.''

    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
    August 31.

    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
    Government Award.

    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
    Sanskrit language.

    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.