An inner urge to serve
To be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness is quite a tall order for anyone to live up to. Aurovillians take up different responsibilities not only to gain experience but out of some inner compulsion to do so, say ANNE and ANNEMARIE.
THE FIRST two lines of the Auroville Charter, "Auroville belongs to nobody in particular, Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole," are about the identity of Auroville to whom this place belongs. This we explored in our previous article (Friday Review, May 3).
The third line of the Charter of Auroville, "But to live in Auroville one must be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness," is about the qualities a person should have, according to the Auroville Charter in order to live in Auroville.
To be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness is quite a tall order for anyone to live up to. It is a unique requirement too, because where else in the world can we find a city where the conditions for living are such that one has to be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness? A willing servitor is not someone who has been degraded in rank to that of a servant; what is implied is a willingness to serve. Servants usually have no choice in what they do; the only way for them to earn a living is by serving someone else. But a willing servitor is one who chooses joyfully to give service. It is an offering up of oneself in service to the Divine Consciousness.
The Mother carefully chose the words `Divine Consciousness' when she wrote these lines. She said that it explains why the Matrimandir is at the centre of Auroville, because what the Matrimandir represents is the Divine Consciousness. The Matrimandir is the soul of Auroville. The inner centre of Auroville is named the Peace area of Auroville and the Matrimandir is situated at the very centre of the Peace Area. It is only in the peace of our being that we can really know the truth. The Divine Consciousness is also called Truth Consciousness.
Standing close to the Matrimandir is the Banyan Tree. There are many banyan trees in India, but the one at the centre of Auroville is special, and is simply named the Banyan Tree. This tree was the reference point that Mother gave the first pioneers when they went out to find the land she wanted the city of Auroville to be built on. The Mother sent out those pioneers to find the Banyan Tree, which she said stood at the centre of the future Auroville.
It was not so difficult in those days to find a particular banyan tree in that area; the future land of Auroville was then an ochre-coloured barren landscape. Around the trunk of the Banyan Tree is now a large copper ring on which has been engraved in Tamil and French: `Auroville, the City at the Service of Truth'. These words are the Mother's; she had the ring put around the Banyan Tree on February 28, 1968, the day of the Auroville Foundation ceremony.
Work, done in the service of the Divine Consciousness, plays a crucial role in the life of Auroville. "To live in Auroville", the Mother says, "means to do the yoga of works. So all Aurovillians must take-up work and do it as a yoga." She described Auroville as a place where ideally "money would no longer be the sovereign lord; individual worth would have a far greater importance than that of material wealth and social standing. There, work would not be a way to earn one's living but a way to express oneself and to develop one's capabilities and possibilities while being of service to the community as a whole, which, for its own part, would provide for each individual's subsistence and sphere of action."
These are truly words of great inspiration, but we have a long way to go towards achieving this ideal in Auroville. Nevertheless, we do hold the ideal before us as a goal. Work is seen as a service to the community and obligatory for all Aurovillians to be engaged in. Those Aurovillians with some private financial means financially support themselves, while those without financial means receive a maintenance allowance from the community.
Although the condition for receiving maintenance is that the person must be working the minimum of hours deemed necessary for the community, the maintenance allowance is never called a wage. There is an air of exploration and enterprise to work done in Auroville. For instance, many members came to Auroville with particular skills and qualifications but then chose to work in a different work area. Examples abound someone who studied mathematics is now a potter, an opera singer became a homoeopathy doctor and a doctor a science teacher. And so on. In this way work becomes a means for self-expression.
Many Aurovillians too have more than one work area. They may, for example, have a mentally demanding job and choose to complement it with a physical one, like for instance, combining forestry work with editing the Auroville newspaper. Others will just take up an extra responsibility out of a necessity to get some job done. Aurovillians may also change their work from time to time, taking up different responsibilities, not only to gain experience but out of some inner compulsion to do so. This clearly demonstrates that attitudes to work are different in Auroville.
Auroville has approximately 100 business units, but apart from six that are large, the rest are mainly small units. A wide range of products are manufactured by these business units; they include garments, household goods, solar panels, furniture, small crafts, candles and incense, and many of these are sold in overseas markets. There is a definite spirit of entrepreneurship to Auroville business units; people are engaged in making goods they never dreamt they were capable of creating before coming to Auroville.
The Auroville business units are expected to contribute at least 33 per cent of their profit towards the maintenance of Auroville. Some business units contribute much more than this.
The Auroville economy has undergone many reforms over the last 35 years, since its inception. The economic goal for Auroville is to be a self-supporting community, even if grants and donations are coming from all over the world, to help build the city.
The challenge facing the Auroville economy today is the introduction of new methods for growth that are compatible with the ideal of being "willing servitors of the Divine Consciousness". One of the ideals has always been that goods and services should be available to all without the exchange of money within the community, and experiments are on to achieve this ideal, but for the present that is a distant goal.
This attempt to find new forms is what makes Auroville a different city. Auroville wants to find and manifest the new forms that the Divine wants to manifest in life. It can be seen as a vast experimental ground where human beings are given the freedom to explore the new forms that are needed for the future. Auroville has to find another way that which already exists through experimenting in new dimensions. Elsewhere, people are afraid to fail so they move from one safe step to another.
In Auroville, the Mother has given us the freedom to make mistakes, and Mother herself has set an example by daring to create ideas far ahead of their time. The entire project of Auroville is one such idea.
Sri Aurobindo, whose ideas are the inspiration behind Auroville put it this way: "Not to go on forever repeating what man has already done is our work, but to arrive at a new realisation and undreamed of masteries.
Time and Soul and World are given to us for our field, vision and hope and creative imagination stand for our prompters, will and thought and labour are our effective instruments." For the full Charter and more information on Auroville please visit the Auroville web site: www.auroville.org
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