Auroville/ Finding another way

auroville-3Situated just outside of Pondicherry in South India lies Auroville. A self sustained community for those who ‘thirst for progress and aspire to a higher and truer life’. Back in the 60’s a French lady, known a the Mother, believed that as humans we have a greater purpose to develop our souls, to evolve. She believed that ‘man is not the final goal- is evolution of particles, dinosaurs, monkeys, just for us to create a washing machine?!’ Taking learning’s from Sri Aurobindo, ‘man is a transitional being, we are here to find the great passage towards a new being’. They believed that the power to do this comes from within, the consciousness, the power of the spirit. Auroville therefore was created to aid this purpose, with all focus being on developing and evolving the conscthe-motheriousness. A place for human unity, where no nation or person had ownership. Peace and harmony and the concern for progress triumph over the satisfaction of desire, please and material enjoyment. As a gesture of such unity, in 1968 the inauguration of Auroville brought representatives of 124 countries and 23 Indian states together, each placing a handful of Earth from their homeland at the center of the town. With this the the first Aurovillains would plant trees, turning the once baron land into the forest which is now home to 2,500 permanent residents from over 50 countries.

Having heard many positive things about Auroville I was intrigued to see how the community worked and if I would leave with intentions of abandoning my London lifestyle for something much different. Being dropped off by my taxi driver in the middle of the forest, I wondered through the trees, feeling slightly like I had entered ‘the beach’ unsure what I would find. Past a map carved into a stone and convergence signs, I found a collection of tree houses where I would spend the next week. Here lived around 20 people, including two families with young children. Walking around there was the main community kitchen, where everything was recycled, the power run by the solar panels in the center, the toilets all bio compose. There was also a bakery and a horses stables which generated business for the owners.

Evergreen was situated on the edge of Auroville, so first things was to get myself on to a moped to get around the sparse city.  Auroville was designed into five sections, a green belt for environmental regeneration, a cultural zone for artistic, cultural and sports activities, the international zone for celebrating the diversity of cultures, the industrial zone for the generation of money and the residential zone. The center of all of this the matrimandir, the soul of Auroville, designed to be a cosmic meditation space. Despite being told on arrival by an aurovillain ” I don’t know why tourist would come here”, there is plenty to do. Each week a community ‘new and notes’ is issued, outlining discussion points, notices and a schedule of activities from yoga, meditation, tree climbing, talks, dance, pottery to name a few.

Everything in Auroville is designed to develop the consciousness, so creativity is valued. The Auroville school system too encourages one to develop and nature their true soul, giving the tools to learn rather than being taught, teachers are but guides. They do not want to encourage competition and the scoring system that we understand, but one of collaboration. Similarly, they elect key representatives to work with the Indian government to run Auroville, however it is believed that everyone should serving the divine consciousness and community, rather than looking to create their own titles and hierarchy. Similarly, money is not used. As nothing is owned, everyone is expected to volunteer to the good of the community, encouraging a gift economy, creating an equality among the people.. Though as volunteers they then earn auro points, arguably creating a currency in its own right? Essentially, that focus’s on the outer- materialism, titles, grades, should be ignored, it is the development of the inner being that will accelerate change.

As I talked to people they were all very much creative types, looking for a different way a different way of life. To do better by the environment, spend more time doing the things they loved then being a slave to the system. There is certainly a lot to be said by this, to gain perspective on what is actually necessary, what truly brings value to your life, who to enrich your life and those around you. Though in practice, there are certainly some challenges, Auroville at times felt very culty, for a group talking of human unity it didn’t always feel very accepting, and having talked to some long term residents they explained how insular it can be and how you can become stuck there. One man explained having invested all his money in building a house on the land, he now has no way to leave as he has no ownership rights and therefore no equity in outside society. This aside though, I do think a lot can be learnt from the ambitions of Auroville and would encourage anyone to spend some time there.

 

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