One of the things that drew me to Auroville was my connection to an old friend, Madhabi: Over 20 years ago she stayed with me as young student volunteer with Cascadia Quest, an evolution of Peace Trees. I had such a deep heart connection with her which I am delighted to report is still there. Here is a picture of me with Madhabi – we have enjoyed many adventures now together and relished our reunion.
I have heard about Auroville for so many years: the first Peace Trees project took place there and Danaan Parry’s spirit is alive and known there. At Verite, the community where I stayed, there is a marker and a tree dedicated to him. (Danaan was one of my earliest mentors and teachers about peace building and citizen diplomacy and in that sense the spiritual father of Global Citizen Journey. It was upon his early and unexpected death that I resolved to carry on his work … which evolved to be GCJ).
The founding of the community was inspired by the work of Sri Aurobindu and his spiritual partner, The Mother. She was the amazing manifester who created the plan and attracted the people and guided the energy. I found Auroville fascinating and inspiring (and a bit disorienting as while it could only exist here in India, its dedicated host, it is not India!). It is complex and diffuse and emergent and self organizing… so takes a while to get a beat on. There are about 80 little rural settlements – each sort of an intentional community with a particular project. And about a half dozen Tamil villages are within the boundaries Over 40 nationalities. By the end of our week I was starting to get it. I will probably be back! They are fully engaged and devoted to a grand experiment that so intrigues me
Auroville’s heart is their amazing temple, the Matrimandir (the golden globe temple). My visit to the Matrimandir was one of the most extraordinary experiences I’ve ever had. Every detail of the grounds and building, inside and out, are exquisitely planned and executed to perfection – and brilliantly designed to open your heart and bring you deeply in touch with the soul’s deepest yearning for wholeness, purity, love, peace, aspiration to evolve to highest self… The globe is surrounded by lotus leaf shaped earth colored brick buildings, each of which is a meditation room, one for each of the core values (each with its own color to go with that value). You approach the globe by passing between two of these ‘leaves’, descending to bottom of the glove. The globe is made of golden disks (enough to represent all the countries of the world plus the states of India.) Beneath it is an exquisite white marble lotus. You enter the bottom of the globe (all in silence) and feel embraced as if inside the earth itself, with a golden glow embracing and holding you… There are four columns in this vast interior space, with water noiselessly flowing down in a ribbon of movement, its source mysterious. You begin to climb, rather steeply… midway you are on another level where everything is white… you put on clean white socks and continue the climb on white carpet – white marble columns… at last, you enter the meditation room – round – all white – cushions (and a few chairs if requested) placed symmetrically all around – with meditators sitting – At the center is a crystal globe seated upon stars of david (universal sign – “as above, so below”) – with a lotus at the base of the crystal… There is a beam of sunlight coming in from above reflecting on the crystal…. wowowowowowowow…. I was moved to tears, my heart so opened, so deeply touched…
Sadhana Forest project
One evening I went to Sadhana Forest project – an inspiring community started by an Israeli that is dedicated to sustainable living and reforestation. Every Friday they host open house, giving a tour, showing a film (like our Friday Night at the Meaningful movies!), and serve a wonderful veggie meal. I had heard the bus leaves promptly at 6 pm from the Solar Kitchen (the large community cafeteria where Aurovillians take most of their meals). I mistakenly thought the Solar Café at the Visitor Center was the starting point… and in a panic grabbed a rickshaw at the last minute to head over there at 5:50… Along the way a group of young folks was trying to flag the taxi to ask directions… I’m anxiously saying ‘we have to hurry’ – but when I heard them ask ‘Solar Kitchen’ I said, stop! Let’s give them a ride or they’ll never make it… so the 5 of them squeezed in our tiny vehicle, the driver with kind humor… (The kids were doubtful they could all fit: I told them I used to head to the beach in LA days with 16 kids packed in a car!!) When we arrived it turned out there was (why was I not surprised) a mix up and we’d have to wait for another bus… It turned out to be a great wait. The kids showed me how you use twigs of the neem tree to whiten your teeth. And Madhabi called me on the phone and said “I’m coming right now” and 2 minutes later she putted up on her motorbike: what a delicious embracing hug of reunion!
The Sadhana Forest project was very inspiring: they have innovated many methods to conserve water and support the new trees planted such that nearly 90 % of their trees survive vs. the usual 35%. Even the way they have set up to wash your hands and wash the dishes were carefully designed to maximize sustainability: For example, for the hands: You place a cup of water in a tin can with a small hole that allows a slow trickle, just right for soaping (100%biodegradable) and washing… the water is running off to feed a banana tree. They serve as an education center, with many volunteers getting trained – and they have projects going on in Kenya and Haiti. A very worthy cause – check out their website.
As I’ve learned about the struggles of this pioneering community – just 40 or so years old with only 2,000 permanent full time residents – it seems truly a miracle that they could have managed to not only design such a wonder but to manifest its completion to create this community dedicated to Unity and Peace for all of humanity.