Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Auroville is the world’s largest commune

Senior Religion and Philosophy Major at LVC Wins Fulbright Scholarship Lebanon Valley College - Annville, PA, USA Ironically, when Devine first studied Aurobindo in a class in Hinduism at LVC, she was not attracted to it. “I was much more cynical at the time, ...

Senior Religion and Philosophy Major at LVC Wins Fulbright Scholarship Carissa Devine of York was just 15 years old when she became really interested in religion. Her world had turned upside down that year. Her mother and step-father divorced, they lost their home to bankruptcy, and she had to leave her friends at East York High School to return to the Dover School District in York County, where she had attended first grade. “Stuff I had always taken for granted suddenly wasn’t there anymore,” Devine said. Some less resilient teenagers might have buckled. Not Devine.

With things changing so radically for her family, it made her question another institution that she had accepted without question until then—the church. To seek answers, she told her family that she wanted to study religion and philosophy in college. They doubted her resolve would last, but three years later she was accepted to the University of California at Santa Barbara, known as a national leader in the study of religion and philosophy, and to Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa., where she found she could study non-Western religions closer to home. Her LVC Vickroy scholarship, which covered half the cost of her tuition, sealed the deal, and Devine enrolled at LVC, where she became a self-described “nerd,” never earning anything less than an “A.”

“I’ve had the best professors here you could ever ask for. Every single one of them has been encouraging and supportive,” she said. And her commitment to her studies has paid off. This week, Devine learned that she has received a Fulbright Scholarship, which will allow her to study in a utopian community in India for 10 months, beginning in August.

The Fulbright Scholar Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international exchange program, sends 800 professors and professionals from this country abroad each year. To win her Fulbright, Devine competed with graduate students and faculty. She is the second person at Lebanon Valley College to win a Fulbright Scholarship this year. Jared Larson, a visiting instructor of Spanish, plans to use his Fulbright to conduct research at Universidade de Lisboa in Lisbon, Portugal, on the effects of Muslim immigration in the Iberian Peninsula. Over the last few decades, 16 undergraduates at LVC have won Fulbrights. Fulbright grantees lecture and conduct research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

Devine will study how the 2,000 people in Auroville in southern India observe and honor the philosophical tenets they say they believe. “I want to get a more authentic reading of how people really feel about it,” she explained. She will live in a guest house in the Auroville, which she says is the world’s largest commune, home to an international community of 2,000 people drawn from 35 countries. Devine is already familiar with the community after making friends there and even living there during part of the time she studied in India during a semester abroad during her junior year. With the help of Dr. Jeffrey Robbins, an associate professor of religion and philosophy at LVC, Devine had found a program at nearby Pondicherry University in Tamil Nadu, India, where she could study the philosophy of one of India’s most prominent figures of the 20th century, Sri Aurobindo. It is his thought, a synthesis of important tenets of both Western and Indian religious and philosophical traditions, that is basis for the ideals of the Auroville commune.

Ironically, when Devine first studied Aurobindo in a class in Hinduism at LVC, she was not attracted to it. “I was much more cynical at the time, and it was too flowery for me—I disregarded it as silly, naive, too metaphysical.” But, once she was in Pondicherry near Auroville, she thought, “I think I want to check this out. While doing that, I fell in love with the ideals,” she said. In addition to interviewing Aurovillians, she will teach at a high-school-level Future School and take courses at the Sri Aurobindo Center for Advanced Research. Eventually, she hopes to pursue a master’s degree program offered by the Peace Corps in international communication. Devine, who graduated from East York High School after returning there for her senior year, is the daughter of Melanie Myers of Dover and Mark Devine of Red Lion, and the step-daughter of Eric IJff of Wrightsville. Return to latest news Lebanon Valley College 101 N. College Avenue Annville, PA 17003

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