Guiding Light of The Month

THERE is a great difference between being in the midst of active work, of external action, while keeping one’s thought constantly fixed on Thee, and entering into that perfect union with Thee which leads to what I have called “absolute Consciousness, true Omniscience, Knowledge”. - The Mother

My experience at Auroville

This month Auroville celebrates its 43rd birthday. Founded on February 28th, 1968 by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, this “city of dawn” is emerging as what I believe is one of the most remarkable, inspiring, and important projects put forth by mankind.

Since childhood I have always felt myself drawn to the place and grew to treasure the few hours my family and I took to visit the Matrimandir during most of our yearly trips to Pondicherry. As I grew up and began my undergraduate studies in International Development and World Religions, it took on a new dimension of interest for me as I grew curious about the practical as well as the spiritual levels of the Auroville experience, and decided to devote the month of July 2010 to revisiting the place with more mature eyes and see what new insights staying there rather than taking a brief day-trip could bring me.

I arrived in Auroville on July 2nd, 2010 to begin my one month long volunteering in the Deepanam School, staying in the Mitra Youth Hostel. Auroville’s main goal, embedded in its charter, is to achieve a true spirit of human unity, devoid of artificial boundaries of race, class, politics, and religion.

Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville one must be the willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.

Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.

Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations.

Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual human unity.

- 28 February 1968, The Mother

(‘The Auroville Charter’, ‘Collected Works of The Mother, Vol. 13 - Centenary Edition’, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1980, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, Pondicherry).

The Deepanam School is central to the project and was central to my own experience. Deepanam is a relatively new school and responds to the needs for good educational institutions that are present now that more and more Aurovillians are having or arriving with children. It was here I witnessed children of various ages from a multitude of different ethnicities and backgrounds transcending these man-made distinctions to form a united, beautiful whole dedicated to Sri Aurobindo’s educational philosophy that aims to foster creativity and encourage an active engagement with learning rather than simply imbibing information. Children at this school were only restrained by a few guidelines put forth by the inspiring, cheerful set of teachers, and it was an environment for true learning that I have yet to see anywhere else. I began to appreciate more the relationship between Deepanam and Auroville: Deepanam is somewhat of a microcosm of Auroville, embodying the emphasis on unity and the constant strive to keep learning more about ourselves and about our own potential. During my stay I was able to attend a talk by India’s Union Minister for Education Kapil Sibal who was appreciative of Auroville’s unique education system, and stated that in a perfect world every school in India would be able to function as Auroville’s schools do, but the rest of India simply is not yet ready.

My time in Auroville was spent helping out with Deepanam during the weekdays and exploring Auroville in the evenings and weekends. I met people from everywhere, with different motivations for coming to Auroville, and developed many close friendships that I know I will always treasure. One of my favourite activities was my weekly visit to Sadhana Forest every Friday for their “eco-film” night where they would offer a tour of the forest for those not staying there, provide a delicious free vegan meal, and screen a usually environmentally-focused documentary. Sadhana Forest is a project started in 2003 that has produced a rich tropical forest out of what was previously dry, dead earth. It is constantly growing and maintained by many volunteers who come flooding in from all over the world to live in this 100% vegan environment and devote their mornings to planting seeds and maintaining the forest and the community. Having only lived in big cities (previously Singapore, now Montreal), I found it incredibly inspiring to see people living in thatched roof huts, washing their dishes with ash, using only biodegradable toiletries and a small bucket of water each day to shower, using only solar and human-powered energy (exercise bicycles are to be used when it is a cloudy day to power the communal area), not eating anything that has caused harm to animals in any way (including honey and any and all milk products) and even using human compost to generate soil. In today’s world when we are witnessing the slow destruction of our planet, it is incredibly inspiring to see a project such as this one thriving .

When I told my friends about all that I had experienced in Auroville, someone vaguely criticized it saying it seemed a bit overly idealistic and unrealistic to expect these seemingly lofty goals to be realized in a real human community constricted by time and space and not simply as a thought experiment. However, and with the slight disclaimer that I am just a twenty year old with minimal life experience, I would disagree. The vision of Auroville for everyone to live free, peacefully and spiritually without boundaries is of course idealistic, but I fail to see this as a bad thing. Idealism is the invisible thread that binds us, without which we are mired in a world ruled by earthly distinctions that will perpetually divide us. Are their goals fully realized yet? Does each individual that inhabits the place truly believe in human unity and spiritual advancement? Is Auroville a light for all humanity? Perhaps not, or rather, not yet. It is not my place to comment on the practical criticisms of Auroville that certainly exist (and I am not under the impression that I know everything there is to be known about Auroville with my relatively short stay, however, I will say this: Auroville is a new project. Being only 42 years old, it is unfair to expect these standards to be fully realized at this moment. It is a work in progress, as is every human institution, and ultimately, every human being, and Auroville’s particular brand of progress is something to be aspired to. Anyone who has ever had the chance to sit in the Matrimandir (as I did whenever I could) and has felt the waves of pure silence and peace envelop them will agree that Auroville is a very special place indeed.
- Maya Ranganath

(The Deepanam School is currently struggling with a lack of funds to complete their projects, and any donation big or small would be much appreciated. Their website can be found at Please email me at for further details)

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