Publication Date

2005

Abstract

In recent years, spiritual development has begun to be considered in relationship to the theory and practice of sustainable development. This spiritual approach attempts to (1) build communities based on spiritual principles and values as a way to counteract the influence of globalization which overemphasizes economic and material concerns, (2) create communities of peace to spread alternatives to violence, and (3) further expand participatory development practices to strengthen leadership skills for the members of society most marginalized within socioeconomic and political systems of their countries. Using a phenomenological method of naturalistic inquiry to explore how, if at all, a focus on spirituality makes a difference to the practice of sustainable development, this study highlights the experiences of practitioners from the Sarvodaya Shramadana movement in Sri Lanka and others working from the basis of their own commitment to and practice of spirituality while providing insights into the community level practice of development. It engages participants in a dialogue about the relationship between spirituality and development and considers the cost and the impact of an approach based solely on materialist concerns. The data collection consisted of four, hour-long, in-depth interviews that did not rigidly follow an interview guide, but let the interviewees talk freely to allow rich insights to emerge. The exploration into how and why spirituality is becoming a framework through which to practice development indicates that spiritual development tends to encourage the involvement of individuals in the development process in meaningful ways and fosters leadership and community building as a way to generate peace in the world. Through the stories of individual practitioners, it becomes evident that the process of relating spirituality to community development is creative, contextual, experiential, and ultimately human.

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