From the beginning, Sri Aurobindo entrusted the Mother with full material and spiritual charge of the ashram.
Devotees of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother hosted several events in the capital to celebrate the golden jubilee of the founding of Auroville namely exhibitions, panel discussions, display and sale of products, talks by eminent personalities and offering of delicious cuisine — all bearing a distinct stamp of Auroville. The inspiration and motivation provided by Sri Aurobindo for human unity and living in harmony with one’s natural surroundings was carried forward by the Mother.
For decades people from all over the world have been visiting Puducherry to bathe in an atmosphere full of peace, light and joy, to live a life of sadhana and yoga, to imbibe a new spiritual force that can embrace a perfect life. The central piece of convergence is the Matrimandir in Auroville, established by the Mother in 1968 as a laboratory for human endeavour for “learning to live together”. Indeed, such an experiment is also being tried out by members of the Baha’i Faith since they believe that the Hindu belief system of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam and Baha’u’llah’s mission of translating into reality “the earth is one country and humankind its citizens”, would be realised in this age of globalisation.
From the beginning, Sri Aurobindo entrusted the Mother with full material and spiritual charge of the ashram. Everything in the ashram is her creation; every initiative draws inspiration from her and moves towards her vision. Interestingly, the Mother was well acquainted with the Baha’i Faith, having met ‘Abdu’l-Baha (son of Baha’u’llah), in Paris in 1913 during his second visit to France. This period according to her own testimony was the most important for her spiritual growth. She attended a number of meetings held in Baha’i homes. In one of the public meetings she said: “But ‘Abdu’l-Baha is not content to give us this teaching, he is living it, and therein lies all his power of persuasion.” And she continued: “Indeed who has seen ‘Abdu’l-Baha and not felt in his presence this perfect goodness, this sweet serenity, this peace emanating from his being.”
When the Mother was to give up her home and hearth in France and dedicate her life by moving to Puducherry in 1920, she wrote: “…my only aim in life is to give a concrete form to Sri Aurobindo’s great teaching and in his teaching he reveals that all the nations are essentially one and meant to express the divine unity upon earth through an organised and harmonious diversity.”
It was the Mother who, along with Sri Aurobindo, planted the seeds of a new way of life founded on the higher consciousness. It was her drive, her force and her guidance that made things happen. From the smallest insignificant detail to the overseeing of every aspect of maintaining the ashram, from interacting with the children of the Centre of Education to the supervising of the athletic competitions in the sports ground — she was there, fully present, to see that everything is raised to its utmost perfection.
She considered the Sri Aurobindo ashram a veritable laboratory to work out the future society and this was the rationale for the founding of Auroville in 1965 that took formal shape three years later on February 28, 1968. It gave birth to a community of people beyond national borders and creed, united by their common aspiration for human unity and diversified ways of living that are in harmony with nature and spiritual values. Today, 50 years later, in the words of Dr Karan Singh, chairman of the Auroville Foundation: “Auroville is poised for significant growth while moving towards its golden jubilee for which a broad array of projects has been planned. The occasion presents an unprecedented opportunity to honour the birth and vision of Auroville, to increase the recognition of its relevance for India and the world, to attract people of all ages from India and abroad to visit Auroville and participate in the events and to document and share its journey of 50 years.”
The celebrations in New Delhi happened, thanks to the support from the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts and Unesco. Having been to Puducherry several times and witnessed the manifold activities of a uniquely diverse social milieu one begins to understand the long-drawn struggles, successes and failures, and the many ups and downs of human endeavour. For, “Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But, to live in Auroville, one must be a willing servitor of the divine consciousness.” A consciousness that the Baha’i sacred writings describe as “consciousness of the oneness of humankind”. Baha’u’llah says: “The tabernacle of unity hath been raised, regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch.” With people from more than 50 different nationalities dedicating their spiritual and material resources, Auroville is a community of people beyond national borders and creed, united by their common aspiration for human unity and diversified ways of living that are in harmony with nature and spiritual values. The basic structure of the community with its participatory processes as well as the search for an economic system of prosperity outlines the overarching impact of progressive and sustainable development. Offering tangible evidence to Unesco’s vision of how education in the 21st century must shape our hearts and minds to live together. For learning is all about discovering the spiritual treasures potentially present in every human being. Auroville is the place of spirituality; it is the bridge between the past and the future.
Let me conclude by quoting, P. Shiv Shankar, the then minister of human resource development, when the Government of India passed the Auroville Foundation Act 1988: “Auroville is to be looked upon as a vision which has a great potentiality and this can be tremendous service to our country and the world at large.”
A.K. Merchant is a national trustee of the Baha’i community of India and its Lotus Temple in New Delhi as well as the chairman, Baha’i Spiritual Assembly of Delhi