Updated: Feb 14, 2022
Not surprisingly, the core of the issue is not mentioned anywhere by the angry mob. This "battle" is not about saving trees. There are trees cut all the time in Auroville, and god knows how many were cut in total silence to create the enormous frisbee field, the existence of which was never announced as far as I know. This "battle" is not about due process. There isn't a place with more contempt for any kind of process than Aurovillage. Nobody can keep up with what the latest agreed process is anyway. Only ONE thing remains always the same: whatever the process is, there will be endless discussions. Before, during and after. Talking until our last breath is the central creed here, in total and utter disregard of one of the Mother's first messages: "NO WORDS, ACTS!" If Aurovilians gave two hoots about any process, they would make sure that it would result in actual change and action. While, as I said in the former part, when a real change actually happens, the "process" is being used to quickly undo whatever progress was made. If anything at all, the "due process" is created to ensure nothing ever happens. People can always block or stall any proposal by "following the process". This "battle" is not about saving Auroville. It might be about saving Aurovillage, but it can never be about saving Mother's Dream or any real manifestation of Auroville, as the present reality is an insult to what the Mother wanted when she founded Auroville. Everything the Mother said about Auroville is eagerly used for propaganda and fundraising, and totally pushed aside in the actual lives of the Aurovillagers. (When Muriel, Antim and Joel were appointed as the new Entry Service 5 years ago, they found a calligraphy of Mother's words about the requirements to join Auroville tucked away behind a cupboard. They stuck it on the office door.) There is nothing to be saved here, nothing to lose, and also, nobody has any intention to end the project's existence. So what is it then about? It's about the exact same thing that the war against the Sri Aurobindo Society (SAS, the administrator of Auroville appointed by the Mother) was about. Property. Ownership. The first words of the Auroville Charter read "Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole." That sounds very beautiful, but will obviously be hard to realise in a global society that has ownership of pieces of land, of our Mother Earth, as one of its core principles. So how can Auroville not belong to anyone? There is no patch of land on the Earth left that is not claimed as someone's property. Politically, the land is located in India. It was the SAS that bought the plots of land that local owners were willing to sell. Who was the legal owner? I suppose that it was the same SAS, but with the intricacies of the legal structure of the Ashram, I'm not totally sure who was the name in the registers. With Mother's passing, a war about the ownership of Auroville broke out, during which the rebellious Aurovilians who wanted to do away with the fact that Auroville was administered ("ruled") by the SAS, went to ask Indira Gandhi for help. This move resulted in the Government of India taking the legal possession of Auroville as a project and of its assets (the Auroville Foundation Act,1988). This whole takeover war lasted for a decade. (And was an extremely nasty affair with book burnings, mobs threatening and children told to throw stones at some dissident Aurovilians (who did not buy into the cult narrative) to emotionally break them so they would leave this lovely spiritual paradise to the people who were "united"in the crusade.) Now what instigated all this primeval behaviour? Believing the cult narrative (told a million times and still the official narrative today) at face value is for obvious reasons not an intelligent move: "History is written by the victors". It's a bit hard to know exactly what the catalyst was, but obviously, the hippie colony did not get along very well with the very obedient, old-fashioned Ashramites and administrators of the SAS. Note that the Ashram population was and still is made up mostly of very devout Indians from central and northern states, logically with a majority from Bengal (Sri Aurobindo's home state). Foreigners were a rarity, let alone in positions of "power". Hippies, identifying at their core as rebels and anti-establishment, would clearly not have much respect for these outdated figures. The arrogance of the hippie movement must have clashed seriously with the administration of the Ashram: for the Indians, the hippies behaved in a regressive way instead of spiritual, and for the hippies, the devotees were completely not getting that we were here to build a new world on the ashes of the old. Let's note here also that as far as I know, Navajata had come up with the idea of Auroville during the SAS World Conference of August 1964, as a location where the "Ashram families" (who are not ashramites but were living around the Ashram since WWII (too long a story to explain here), influenced and guided by Sri Aurobindo's teaching) could be comfortably housed, without much interference from ordinary society. Seeing that beautiful project being populated by hippies with questionable morals instead of Indian devotees might have added to the resentment. As if that wasn't enough of a powder keg, mix in the presence of eternally revolting Satprem (Bernard Enginger) – who had a huge personal axe to grind with the Ashram –, and we have a very ordinary recipe for a nasty fight. But let's now look at the situation from a different standpoint, a bit higher, a bit more spiritual. Granted, many of the present-day books with the words of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were not yet published. The hippies were mostly very young, and above all rebellious, so how much of that teaching was understood? It is obvious from the now available material that the Mother always pushed for a higher attitude in ALL actions. Surrender to the Divine is a central tenet. It is key. But we also are part of ordinary, daily life, in which we need to act. So the "surrender" asked of us is clearly not a stepping back from the world, a retreat into some personal space with nothing but contemplation or meditation. In the contrary, the Mother made it very clear that that was absolutely NOT what Aurovilians are supposed to do! So we need to find the correct understanding of where we need to act, and what needs to be surrendered. If we look at things without judgement but with a wish to understand, it will not be so difficult to see that both the Mother and Sri Aurobindo warned to not interfere in the outer circumstances that are beyond the scope of one's work field. The task clearly is: "Do your work for the Divine, trust that all difficulties are known and taken care of, and trust that with the correct inner attitude, outer circumstances will adjust themselves in time." How did that play out here? Rather differently. The Aurovilians felt that the SAS abused its administrative power, violating the first words of the Charter. The spiritual attitude promoted by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is to let that be, focus on the work and the inner attitude, and trust that things will fall in place: what's not in your responsibility is taken care of by the Divine. However, the Aurovilians were taken over by righteous indignation, and quickly decided to take matters in their own hands. The ownership of Auroville had to be wrought from the grip of the SAS. This quickly became a crusade, where "at all costs" was added to the formulated goal. I don't think the SAS was a club of holy men. I am very willing to believe that mistakes were made, and that egos grew bigger with the responsibility of this unique project. Still, be that as it may, the spiritual attitude promoted by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo strongly advises us to stay away from conflict. The Mother had entrusted these people with Auroville's administration, and the least bit of sincere faith brings the assurance that She will take care of it, whether physically present or not. But that's clearly not what happened here. With medieval religious zeal, the Aurovilians jumped into the mud, because if Auroville was to belong to SOMEONE, it would belong to THEM and nobody else! With the help of some shady government officials, and after many years of living and breathing in the mud pool, the war was finally "won". At least, that's what they believed. The Friends in High Places had their own agendas, but it was clear that they sold the takeover by the Government of India as a total victory for the Aurovillagers: they would – and effectively were – be left to play kingdom in their hard-won mud pool. Without too much interference. If any at all. Now what exactly the motives of these Delhi people were, I have no clue. But I find it extremely doubtful that they would have misjudged the motives and intentions of the Aurovillagers, in spite of all the spiritual blabber. Still, for three decades, there came little to no interference from Delhi. A society born from a violent and dirty fight doesn't come without its inheritance. The Aurovillagers were drunk with victory and hubris, "owned" the land and did not feel much urge to realise the original goal: if you own something, it's yours to do with as you please. Over the years, the comfort grew. Not only the material comfort, also the emotional comfort. There was no hurry to get anywhere: for many, the victory over the SAS had become the main goal. Which was achieved. From now on, quiet and joyful life were the reward! And they lived happily ever after! Until... Huh? What's THIS? After three decades of procrastination and steadily moving away from "Mother's City" of 50,000 to an ecovillage of maximum 5,000, suddenly we're told it does NOT belong to us??? Clearly, someone's not up to snuff about the details here: it's OURS!! What do you mean, you have the authority? SOS AUROVILLE!! And we are back where it all started. Until the lesson is learned. Will we learn it this time? Will we step out of the mud pool and let the Mother deal with it all, while we focus on our work and inner attitude?