“There should be somewhere upon earth a place no nation could claim as its sole property, a place where all human beings of goodwill, sincere in their aspiration, could live freely as citizens of the world, obeying one single authority, that of the Supreme Truth; a place of peace, concord, harmony, where all the fighting instincts of man would be used exclusively to conquer the causes of his sufferings and miseries, to surmount his weakness and ignorance, to triumph over his limitations and incapacities; a place where the needs of the spirit and the care for progress would get precedence over the satisfaction of desire and passion, the seeking for material pleasure and enjoyment.”
That sounds like my kind of town, doesn’t it? Well, it also has the reputation of being a hippy town…
Well, that sounds like my kind of town, doesn’t it?!!!! Haha.
So off I went to the city of Auroville. I even decided to make this a solo trip, because my agenda is probably not going to make my friends happy.
The first stop is typically the Visitors Center, where I spent almost three hours just walking around and watching documentaries about sustainability, Auroville’s purpose of realizing human unity, and the culture there.
The funny thing about Auroville is that even though it’s all about unity and openness, it’s not a tourist-friendly town. Apart from the visitors center, there is a very small chance of exploring the community. It is as if the visitors center is built to distract tourists from the real Auroville. Kind of a strange concept, but I think there’s some truth to that. Even the locals aren’t all that willing to talk to tourists. I could understand why, as they probably get the same questions over and over again.
So I ended up walking around and exploring the city mostly through my own eyes and through books and audios. One of the highlights is the Matrimandir, Sanskrit for The Mother’s Temple, a place where one comes to seek a higher state of consciousness.
From the outside, it looks like a magnificent golden sphere, which honestly leaves a lot to be desired since it seems like it’s hiding something really important inside. Fortunately, tourists are allowed to go in on the next day after signing up the day before. So that’s what I did. Too bad photography wasn’t allowed inside, because it was mesmerizing. I’m going to embed pictures from online here instead:
We were given 15 minutes to meditate in the inner chamber. Just to be there felt like an honor.
But there’s something wrong. This concept just seems so perfect, but in reality it’s far from that.
First, the element of human worship (of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo) bothers me. Although my humble and limited exposure to The Mother’s teaching tells me that she actually has found the Supreme Truth, I always like to see people worship that very Supreme Truth rather than the person who’d found it. Aurovillians seem to love her too much–something I don’t quite comprehend.
Another interesting–and ironic–thing about this town is that most people outside Auroville actually dislike Auroville! I found no satisfactory reason for this, but speculation includes
1) Aurovillians came in wanting to make this place “better,” but never really took enough time to ask what the locals think is “better.”
2) Aurovillians are full of rich and wealthy people who just come to settle down at the end of their lives looking for spiritual awakening. They know nothing about the local livelihood around Auroville.
Whichever it is, it’s really really interesting to think about how there is no guarantee that such a beautiful concept can come to fruition easily. Regardless, Auroville’s philosophy, in my opinion, serves as an important and timely reminder of how our society has become so out of sync, so disunited. Being there to explore the concept alone was worth it for me. Getting to CouchSurf overnight at a local organic farm was a bonus that brought me a glimpse of the local livelihood close by to Auroville. It felt great to be close to nature.
Although this trip leaves so much to be desired, if you’re into this kind of hippy-ish/spiritual/unusual type of thing, I’d highly recommend doing it anyway. You won’t find this kind of experiment anywhere else. I remain optimistic of Auroville’s concept and potential to change our world, but there are obvious kinks that have to be sorted out before Auroville can truly embrace–live and breath–the concept for the world to follow suit.
Tip: Auroville is best seen combined with Pondicherry into a weekend trip. To ensure that you will get to go into the Matrimandir, I suggest that you arrive by noon in Auroville on a Saturday, as you have to see the Matrimandir from the outside first before you can register (registration is 10-11am or 2-3pm) to go inside on the next day. So you can take the morning to explore Pondy, get to Auroville in late morning, stay overnight through CouchSurfing or one of the guest houses there, then leave back for more exploration of Pondy after you’ve visited the Matrimandir on Sunday.