15 March 2008


"Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity."

Thus saith the Mother, a crazy Frenchwoman who moved to India a hundred years ago, shacked up with a guru, and then decided to personally direct the future evolution of humanity (into a realm of experience she referred to as the "supramental" which sounds to me like a joke from "Catch-22") by establishing an international, non-profit city in the countryside north of Pondicherry. The original plan called for an ultimate population of 50,000 people (all further applicants would be left to remain in the mediocre-mental state?). Right now, the figure stands just shy of 2000. Given that India's population has, what, quintupled over the same period of time, I'd say that I am fully justified running my sarcasm blasters on high. Here's some more. Part of the plan called for the construction of an enormous monument at the center of the (naturally, "galaxy"-shaped) city. Called the Matrimandir, it looks like a giant, golden, slightly-squashed golf ball (Google "Auroville"), which, located as it is in the Tamil countryside of South India, can only be described as "incongruous." Do you know what's inside? Of course, non "Aurovillians" are not permitted to enter without special permission (by the way, they still haven't finished building this thing after 30 years), so I didn't see it myself, but I did see a video that shows the all-white, air-conditioned meditation chamber within where residents are invited to discover/explore their consciousness or something. The chamber is lit by a single shaft of sunlight that enters through an aperture in the ceiling and is diffused by the (world's largest?) crystal ball mounted in the center of the room. I can say, with all honesty, that I've never had so much fun since I went on a tour of the Mormon temple in New York City.

But please don't take my jibing too seriously, friends. I do find Auroville, its founder, and its inhabitants to be silly and deluded, but I also happen to believe in almost everything they are doing. Their construction practices and energy sources are ecological, they try to have sustainable lifestyles, and organic spirulina-lemon-honey shakes are widely available (oh God are they disgusting). I am not willing to "be the willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness" as mandated by the Auroville Charter, but I do believe the spiritual side is missing from most of our lives. I think the experience, for me, is akin to an experience in reality of something you've always dreamed about. When the dream becomes a reality, it is not exciting, but traumatizing. I am so glad someone spared me the trouble of going through this process myself, because I wanted to build my own city once, too ("Stevetown". I was 9.).

To join Auroville, you need a minumum of $35,000 in order to buy property for the city (you can't personally own it) and support yourself. Once a resident, you are not allowed to work for profit. The Mother decreed that the city would function without money, beyond the greed and striving of the capitalistic world. Nevertheless, you are expected to continue making regular financial contributions to the group cause for as long as you live there. So, to a certain extent, these people are full of s.

Tomorrow morning, I leave Sebastien and Pondy for Bangalore, whence I will take a train to the ancient ruined city of Hampi. I have found, my friends, that I don't properly belong in any visionary city of the future. Where I truly belong is in the cities of the past.

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