Opening speech – AV International

Mar 2, 2023 | Aims & ideals, International Advisory Council

About the spirit of Auroville

AVI Board chairman’s opening speech of Auroville International’s General Assembly held on February 21st, 2023 at the Unity Pavilion in Auroville

Posted on Auronet by Christian Feuillette, 25 Feb 2023 / 08:17 am

Dear Friends,

I would like to start by thanking you for attending this meeting. Let me thank the members of AVI who have travelled often from great distances for this occasion, and especially my colleagues on the Board, who make their unique and fruitful contributions throughout the year. But I would like to talk to you about a subject that is very much on the agenda: “the spirit of Auroville”. It is even on the front page of the February issue of AV Today. I will borrow from this article this quote from Mother:

In 1967 the Mother defined the spirit of Auroville: “And the concrete materialization of the spirit of Auroville hasn’t taken place yet, it doesn’t exist, there isn’t in the earth atmosphere a formation of the “spirit of Auroville,” which is a spirit… At bottom is “The art of building unity out of complexity.” Without uniformity, you understand: unity through harmony in complexity, with each thing in its place… It’s very difficult.”

Does the spirit of Auroville exist 56 years later? Yes and no. Yes, because Auroville radiates with all its achievements, with its unique atmosphere, with its courageous residents who were once called “Warriors of Light”. It is a jewel, which must be preserved and protected.

No, because the spirit of Auroville is still in the making, it is still to be built, it is not a goal to be reached, it is obviously a “work in progress”.

Let’s hear what Aurovilians have to say about this spirit of Auroville. Here are, among others, some extracts from letters addressed by Aurovilians to the Governing Board’s Chairman, and published in this same article of AVToday:

  • “The whole magic of AV is what the physical eyes cannot see.”
  • “The two only explicit conditions mentioned by the Mother for becoming an Aurovilian were goodwill and to offer one’s work in all sincerity.”
  • “Auroville being a representative microcosm of the entire world, the living laboratory of human evolution as Mother would say, we seem to have to deal with every possible obstacle before real change can take root.”

This last comment explains well why the elaboration of the Auroville spirit is so arduous, and why Aurovilians have to go through crises like the one they are going through at the moment. This is not the first crisis, nor the last one, that Aurovilians experiment, but we have to keep faith in the wisdom of this emerging Auroville spirit so that harmony may return. Despite the apparent lack of progress in the reconciliation processes among Aurovilians, the Auroville Dream is more alive and relevant than ever, the strength of this Dream will transcend all obstacles, and we are confident that the goodwill of all will succeed to find the way to a fruitful collective development. The Mother precisely provides us with the key to recover the lost harmony:

“Come to an agreement, all of you. That’s the only way to do a good work. In order to agree, each one must climb to the top of his consciousness; it is on the heights that harmony is created.” The Mother – April 2, 1970

It is a delicate matter for Auroville International to intervene in the debates taking place in Auroville. It is understood that only the Aurovilians can decide on the road to follow concerning the development of the Town, and consequently, on what constitutes the spirit of Auroville. However, the involvement of several AVI members goes back to the sixties and seventies. Some were captivated by the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and Mother in the Sri Aurobindo Centers or Auroville associations around the world and, like your humble servant, had a personal encounter with Mother, which transformed their lives. Several of our members have even lived part of their lives, as Aurovilians, the Auroville experience. Others have also lived the life of Ashramites at the Ashram in Pondicherry. We all consider ourselves, so to speak, “Aurovilians at heart”, and there are therefore certain observations – or evidences, if you prefer – that we, as members of Auroville International, feel entitled to make:

  • First of all, the spirit of Auroville is not found in the verticality of a power coming from above, but in the horizontality of a collective spirit. Aurovilians are servants of the divine consciousness, that resides in us, not servants of any guru, leader, group or interest of any kind. Vertical power belongs to the old world, and it seems that in its most extreme form it is living at this moment its last harmful shakes in the world.
  • Secondly, freedom for the residents to grow and develop activities and institutions should be respected – naturally inside the frame of the laws and rights of India. If the freedom to think, express oneself and create is not assured, fear will creep in, joy will disappear, and creative power will fade away. As Sri Aurobindo puts it: “Without the freedom to take risks and commit mistakes, there can be no progress…. Growth of Consciousness cannot come without freedom” (Talks – 25th December 1938)
  • Thirdly, in addition to the necessary framework of freedom, Aurovilians must be granted of a framework of security, both legal and economic. That is why the intimidation of residents, the censorship of the various medias of Auroville, the arbitrary restriction of maintenances, the establishment of narrow rules of conducts, the pressure on visas and other repressive regulations, mainly for opinion differences, all these liberticidal and insecure patterns are manifestly contrary to the spirit of Auroville.

And I would also add that the spirit of Auroville is not also a spirit of blocking, of a systematic blockade to all good ideas and projects. Some suggest that the current crisis would be the consequence of a certain negativity on the part of a few residents, fostered by deficient decision-making processes. All must agree that collective work processes need to be dusted off and rejuvenated. There must also be an acceptance that infrastructure, construction and beautification work in a city will inevitably be accompanied by inconvenience and disruption. It is the same in every city of the world.

All must work together with the greatest possible goodwill to build and develop the city. Consultations and debates must take place, but once a broad consensus is reached, the work should proceed without hindrance or delay. All residents must obviously be included in this process. If someone feels rejected or excluded from the process, it is a signal of failure.

Auroville International will in any case continue to support the Aurovilians in every way, to support the harmonious development of Auroville and to give concrete help to concrete projects.

Did you happen to know the allegory – which can be an illustration of another chapter of the Auroville spirit – that a speaker had used to illustrate the actual situation in Auroville. We remember that Mother loved Japanese art. This researcher reminded us of the story of the Japanese emperor’s broken bowl. To remake this bowl, the emperor found a way to re-weld the pieces with gold threads. The result reached such a level of beauty that a new art was born, “kintsugi” or “gold jointing”. This researcher used this story to evoke the situation in Auroville. There has been a break. Rather than lamenting the situation, can we find that golden thread that will glue the pieces back together? To glue back together to go further, in a more beautiful way…

And now I leave the voice to our dear secretary Friederike, who is the soul of our group and has been doing so for a long time. Thank you for your complete dedication to Auroville and AVI.

Christian Feuillette (Pragna) – Chairman of AVI-Board