9 Oct 2017. We enjoyed another delicious breakfast in our wonderful hotel. They have gotten used to us, and bring us bigger pots of coffee (me and Derek) and masala chai (Abbie and Matt), and sooner in the process. After that, we arranged an appointment with a guide, Gopi, a second generation Aurovilian, to learn about this community of international dreamers near Pondicherry. A taxi driver was arranged, and he got more than he bargained for in the end – as we didn’t just need a return trip but also a lot of driving around the community while we were there. He nearly missed another appointment of his own in the evening, arranging another driver to meet us on the road home and switch places!
I’m not sure how to describe Auroville that will not make it sound like a cultist utopia. I grew up in southwest Washington state, where many figures from my childhood were involved with the cult of Ramtha, an Atlantean warrior supposedly channeled by a middle-aged American woman. Further, my work in and study of Thai traditional medicine and my experiences studying Chi Nei Tsang with Mantak Chia and his Universal Healing Tao organisation have made me very comfortable with the sometimes heavy woo factors in idealist philosophies. So read further with whatever grain of salt level you prefer. For example, did you know that “living water,” which is basically aerated and treated with music and lighting, is essential?
Auroville was founded after a French soul-seeking artist met an Indian teacher and began interpreting his philosophy and teaching herself. She is now simply referred to as the Mother. In a dream, she saw a community laid out on a grid of principles and ideals, a large lotus in the center. I’m simplifying extremely.
The first Aurovilians attempted to create this vision using only their own labors, but almost no progress was made in the first couple of years, until an architect suggested that they incorporate local paid labor into the actualisation. Applying their ideals to the hiring of labor, however, is what makes this community so worthwhile. Everyone working at Auroville, in any capacity, is entitled to eat at the community kitchen for free, and receive health care and education for their families. There are many other ways that Auroville improves the lives of the people in their area. They teach skills and provide an outlet for entrepreneurial endeavors. Each craft workshop is staffed by individual freelancers, who can choose their work and their pace, selling when and where they like, all while receiving the kinds of benefits usually enjoyed by employees.
I’m sure there’s a lot more to the story. We talked to a man laboring onsite who still asked us for money for food, while agreeing that he is fed onsite. But Gopi told us that of the 2nd generation of full Aurovilians who’ve gone away (such as returning to the countries of their parents for college), 80% have returned to make their homes in Auroville. I could see the appeal. They are researching and engineering new techniques for a sustainable community. Part of the science campus:
An arch-building class for architecture students. The frames are removed after the bricks are set.
The spirulina beds:
Aurovilians are still working to realize the dream of the Mother. They have completed the Matremandir, which is a beautiful meditation space and the center of the lotus. There is a pleasant walk to a viewing space, but visits inside are only granted on in-person advance application.
When the location was founded, there was a large banyan tree, and it has been incorporated into the idealistic layout.
To produce the gold segments, they studied the techniques of the Golden Buddha in Bangkok, another monument we have visited. It is truly beautiful in the sunshine.
We saw mongeese (mongooses?) on the walk back, and everyone was tired and impressed by our day during our much quieter taxi ride home to the hotel.
The women’s restroom shows a sari!
The others took a rest in the hotel, but I felt energized. I went for a stroll to see the shore during daylight.
For dinner, we enjoyed a trendy place with the most delicious spicy cocktails, then a last walk on the beach and back through town. We were adopted as pack by a yellow dog. None of the other dogs we passed liked him, and we defended him from a pack of 10. He followed us all the way home, and howled all night long, lonely outside our window. Poor guy. We never fed him or petted him, but I guess he liked us anyway.
(I forgot to turn off the dramatic tone.)