Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Return to Delhi and Thoughts on Auroville by Kathleen

Yes, I know, we haven't been blogging. For those of you who were pinned to your seats, my apologies for the wait. I would say there was nothing to blog about but that would be wrong. Perhaps there was too much to blog about. There was also really poor internet connections in Auroville and it was generally really hot wherever a computer was which left me disinclined to stay in place and type.

But really, mostly the reason we have been so silent is we were immersing ourselves in the experience of Auroville. Blogging or staying connected to the outside world was taking us out of our experience and for that reason we shied from it.

There is so much to say about Auroville that I cannot possibly cover it all here. I don't even know if I can graze the surface. It was a very powerful experience for both the good and the bad. We went to Auroville searching for answers. Its a badly kept secret that we fancy starting our own eco-spiritual community at home and it was for the reason of research into what worked and what didn't that Auroville first caught my attention.

There are many examples of intentional communities, Western Mass. is full of them. The world abounds with them, even if you didn't think so. But Auroville is by far the largest in terms of their physical land size, population size and the scope of their vision. This size factor we found was more often a curse than a blessing and their vision was sometimes too grandiose, however, you had to be impressed that they were trying against the odds to pull this vision into reality.

That they were really struggling to anchor it down was often apparent, but that they were anchoring it down, with all its faults was amazingly powerful. A week into our time there we got up at 5 in the morning to celebrate Auroville's 40th anniversary. Simply put Auroville endures and prospers and is growing. Whatever you may say against it, and there is a lot to say, you cannot argue with the physical evidence of their continued existence which is in itself noteworthy.

Auroville strives to be a universal city, a place where men and women from every nation, race, creed and background can live together in peace. Auroville strives for human unity. The one main thing you need to be an Aurovillian is a willingness to serve the Divine Consciousness. I think that the core of the vision is more than admirable I think it is also my vision. To see humanity rise above its present issues and become whole. World Peace is never a trivial thing.

Because perhaps of our aligned visions I found that the spiritual side of Auroville was very open very welcoming and very, very powerful. This is all culminated for me in the experience of the Matrimandir. The soul of Auroville.

A giant golden, golf ball like, structure that looks like it just came off the set of a space age movie. At first you think the Matrimandir is strange but its beauty radiates from within and it grows on you. By the time we left I was in love with it. Inside is a big, silent, white "concentration" chamber which houses, as its focus the world largest crystal ball. Into the crystal is beamed a ray of direct sunlight. It’s pretty fucking cool.

Surrounding the Main structure are twelve "petals" which are in fact separate meditation chambers each devoted to a different quality needed on the spiritual quest. It starts with Sincerity, Humility, Gratitude and works its way through Perseverance and Generosity, Courage and others finally ending with Peace. Each room is a different color and has a yantra on its wall. It’s like meditating in the future, accept the future is now. Quite simply the Matrimandir is mind blowing.

The Matrimandir is where the love affair starts but it was also where it ended for me. While the Spiritual heart of Auroville was very easy to access and admire the same cannot be said for almost any other element of the city.

There were very obvious infrastructure problems. Namely the roads, which were all red dirt and dusty as hell and dangerous. It is a right of passage to crash your motor bike at least once( which we did) and its common to see visitors limping around with bandages. So getting around is not so easy and mobility is central to community. Transport is especially essential when your city is spread over 25km.

Disappointingly Auroville is misnamed as an eco-village. While some communities certainly strive to be eco friendly, namely the organic farms. Others, like our guesthouse were undoing the good as fast as it could be done. For example, Water, fresh water is a big problem. Auroville is by the sea and as its aquifer gets lower they run the risk of the salt water rising and flooding in. This will be a VERY serious problem. It could be the end of the community, once salt water gets into an aquifer you can’t really get it out.

So, while some places are taking messages to reduce usage and restore the water table. Others leave giant hoses running, wash their sidewalks and generally seem unconcerned. While Auroville can't account for waste on the part of local villages they certainly can within themselves, or so you would think.

There in the last sentence lies the two biggest problem of Auroville. The first is that while they may be working collectively towards human unity, they are not a unified collective. Each community has its own focus and aims, and (worse) its own interpretation of the vision.

You see, Auroville is the brain child of a woman known as "the Mother" ( ignore the creepiness for a moment) she was the spiritual counterpart( lover?) of Sri Aurobindo and both were pretty important in India in their day. (The Mother happens to be French btw). Now the Mother is no more and while she was really big on the no religion, find your own way, as most spiritual people are her words and teaching fell on deaf ears, as most spiritual teachings do. Now there is a quite well developed cult about her.

Everywhere in Auroville there are pictures of her, every time somebody wants to justify anything they quote her. Devotion to the Mother is the religion of Auroville, but don't you dare think that too loud.

As any Aurovillian will tell you there are not religions in Auroville. The Matrimandir means in Sanskrit " Temple of the Mother" but they will tell you it is no such thing " this is not a temple". In order to make sure that no religion has precedence over another they have banned all outward display of religion. No prayer beads, no bowing NO INCENSE! Ironically all their stipulations against ritual end up making.... ritual. It’s pretty funny, accept that the Aurovillians don't seem to realize what has happened.

That was a long tangent to say, as in all religions not everyone agrees on what the prophet said and this naturally divides the whole and makes progress difficult. The Mother, in her wisdom, saw this and I think this is why she had the whole " no religion ban". In short I felt that Auroville was not a living city, in the sense that it wanted to be, there were no visible leaders and it seemed mired in its own directionless-ness.