A Large Intentional Community Turns 50
Auroville is the second community besides Findhorn that I visited, which has made it to such a commendable age.
What happens in a community if it exists for such a long time and how does it affect its surroundings?
If you look at Auroville today you see a flourishing, manifold area, a lush green oasis with a rich culture, solid administrative structures, great education possibilities, creative and sustainable businesses, impressive buildings and a lively community going into its 4th generation. It consists of 120 settlements, 19 farms and 6 Tamil villages inside the area and another 2 adjacent.
Auroville is a playground and experimental test field for new ecological and sustainable technologies that the world needs: large and small scale use of solar energy, electrical engines of all kinds, water retention systems, water purification and dynamisation, non-invasive farming and permaculture and architecture with materials that fit the tropical climate, as well as exciting field research and inventions in many other areas. Everybody in the right spirit who feels moved by the Charter of Auroville can come here, get seriously involved and develop and prove their ideas and projects in a practical way.
You can also encounter the most interesting, individualistic, striving and ever learning variety of beautiful human beings you can think of – the Mother spoke of the Aurovillians as: ‘the Youth that never ages’. I have had wonderful and deep conversations with people that have lived here for more than 45 years, young people that were born here and are deeply connected to Auroville, very fresh Aurovillians, Newcomers (people in their try out phase before they become permanent residents). Most of them are really committed to their town and to its spirit, and work for the good of Auroville in their own way and at the place of personal and spiritual development they are at.
But like everything else Auroville also has its shadow sides. Diversity means cultural differences and a colorful variety of life concepts and visions. So conflicts are part of the agenda. Auroville is unique in the way, that it unites also an indigenous culture within, that is partly still very near to their tribal origins (besides the peculiarities of the other 53 or so nations). More and more Tamils become also part of Auroville: they just grow into it because they live and work here, or they feel drawn to the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, or they just hope for a better life for themselves and their children (which is reasonable enough). So it is the most complex community I have ever looked into.
The question is always how we deal with the given challenges in a community, to bring things forward and keep our inner and outer development and growth in motion without leaving people behind or creating blockages, or insurmountable antagonisms.
The mere size of Auroville – nowadays the community has about 3000 members according to the last statistics, is a challenge in itself and makes decision processes that involve everybody very difficult. New ways of participation have to be found and established to make processes and decisions more transparent and inspire more people to invest their energy and time for the good of the whole.
As I see it, communities also go through waves of being more or less united and together, with rejuvenation processes at unpredictable intervals. There are always times of a certain complacency and need for recreation or just exhaustion or frustration because things seem to move so slow. This is also my deepest personal fear: that the inner processes don’t keep pace with the seemingly frantic changes our world goes through. But often obstacles dissolve serendipitously and dark clouds vanish. To get to a certain point of unity it also seems sometimes important to have some pressure from outside.
We can always only create and act from the point of our limited understanding and ask for help.
During my visits in communities I also observed that the people involved often can’t value what they have already created and achieved or the progress taking place – and it is usually small steps that happen (while we are waiting for the quantum leap).
The bigger terrain of Auroville benefited a lot by the growing city, besides the regeneration of the land, the innumerable trees planted and the water management. Thousands of local people find employment in the business units, on the farms, settlements, restaurants and guest houses of Auroville. Most of the children in the villages get a good school education as well as professional training’s nowadays, and hygiene and health care, as well as social security means are much higher than average. Also Tamil and Indian businesses, small enterprises and services flourish and spread in Auroville and around.
Nonetheless there is also some pressure from outside. Politics in India changed to a more nationalistic flavor, like in many other countries around the world. There are some issues with visas and volunteer work permits, and it seems that Auroville is under stronger supervision than it used to be. I even heard of cases, that people that have their home and relatives in Auroville, were not allowed back into India.
In times like this, it is even more important for a community to get your act together and put the things that bond and unite you in the focus of your feelings and deeds. I really hope that the quantum leap will come and transform ourselves and our lives in a way we can’t even comprehend or maybe only dream of or envision sometimes. The spirit and inspiration of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo are a deep source of inner learning and a beautiful focus point that can be felt here strongly. Auroville is definitely one of the places that have the potential to be a leverage point for „the more beautiful world our hearts knows“ as Charles Eisenstein calls it.