Monday, 3 August 2009 Auroville: City of Dawn (or, Darwin + Indian Guru = Bizarre Experiment) Today, for example, we decided to visit the weird and wonderful place that is Auroville. Now what is Auroville? The answer to this question is rather long and circuitous.
Pondicherry is dominated by an Ashram that was begun by Sri Aurobindo and his greatest devotee, a Frenchwoman who became known simply as The Mother. These two developed a philosophy that built Indian philosophy into the theory of evolution. I am still hazy on the details (and who really understands how this philosophy really works…) but essentially the idea is that as man has been developing evolutionarily, his mind has also been developing a divine consciousness. They believe that we must continue this process of development so that we can reach our greatest potential as human beings.
To develop our divine consciousness, people need to spend a lot of time meditating, laboring hard, protecting the earth and living peacefully with their neighbors. These principles are taught at the ashram in Pondy. However, this ashram alone did not satisfy Aurobindo and The Mother. Thus, Auroville was born.
Auroville was conceived as an utopian new city, 10 km from Pondy, that would exist entirely according to these principles. In a way, this bizarre experiment has worked: 5000 people live there now, from all over the world, laboring hard with one another. There are no hierarchies and everything is done in the most sustainable manner possible. Basically, it is Berkeley on crack.
We walked around the center of Auroville today. The whole place has a strange New Age vibe to it. I am impressed by the way that Aurovillians earnestly attempt to live out their values. How many of us can say that we believe so firmly in our value system that we would be willing to devote our life to living them out? Still, the otherworldly nature of this place struck a strange chord with me.
We visited the soul of Auroville, the Matri Mandir, which is a giant gold globe that serves as a sacred meditation hall. Apparently inside everything is white, save the focal point, which is a crystal stone that reflects sunlight. We were not allowed to enter, but we did get to see it at a distance in the gardens.
While I enjoyed observing this experiment in alternative living, I am glad my feet are firmly planted in the messy real world and not in this artificial one. I would rather ameliorate the world as it exists, warts and all, than build a colony elsewhere. I also like the fact that multiple belief systems float around me - one way of life is not hegemonically imposed (at least not as obviously). I feel safe in this world where each of us can construct, tear apart and then reconstruct our own reality. Posted by LizSegran at 21:14