Between 14th – 18th January, an Auroville International (AVI) meeting was held in Auroville. This was the third time it had been held here and it was, by all accounts, the most successful so far. This was undoubtedly due to thoughtful planning, but it also had a lot to do with the perception of AVI members that Auroville was at last really opening its heart to those who live outside the community and who work so hard for its manifestation.
The theme this year, ‘Auroville's conscious connection with the world' was introduced most profoundly in Sraddhalu's keynote talk. “Auroville is a consciousness, is a revolution,” he noted. “Those of you who live elsewhere in the world but are part of this consciousness are also living in Auroville. What you do, the way you live, the way you think, has its effect on the world as if you were here, has its effect on situations here, because you're part of the consciousness and for this consciousness distance doesn't matter...your being away from here has also an effect on the world. Your constant contact with your inner beliefs in life creates the kind of communication, communion, by which this consciousness spreads out to other hearts, other minds. You may not speak it in so many words, you may not even give literature, ‘Here, this is Auroville, read about it,' but what you are, somehow, sprinkles into their hearts and minds like a possibility for them, a newness.”
The highlights of the 5 day meeting included a presentation on the International Zone as an educational project by Shraddhavan, an introduction by Raman to the planning challenges and opportunities represented by Bharatipuram village (an encroached area close to Bharat Nivas in the International Zone), a walk around Matrimandir led by the Matrimandir Coordination Group, an inspiring talk on environmental studies by Joss, presentations on formal and informal education initiatives, and a traditional south Indian lunch followed by a cultural performance at Mohanam Cultural Centre. For the first time there was also an opportunity within the programme for AVI members to meet with visitors to Auroville and explain their work to them.
And, of course, there was the ‘business' end of the meeting. One of the knotty issues this year concerned decision-making in the International Zone. During the last AVI meeting in Auroville two years ago, an agreement was reached that the International Zone group would be expanded to include representatives of pavilion groups living outside Auroville. However, it was never decided exactly how decisions regarding the adoption of projects in the International Zone would be arrived at, and this led to some AVI members feeling that their input was being ignored or rejected without proper consultation. After several intense discussions between Aurovilian International Zone members and members of AVI, it was agreed that one key was improving communication between residents and those living outside Auroville. This could be done through conference calls and by each national pavilion group located outside designating a member of the International Zone group in Auroville to be their contact and information channel. (On the wider level, it was agreed to improve Auroville-AVI communication by creating an expanded team of three Aurovilians – Kathy, Tine and Lela – as AVI representatives.)
During this meeting the AVI Board, which had reached the end of its tenure, stood down and a new, expanded one was elected. This was not without its difficulties. Indeed, one of the honorary Aurovilian Board members noted with dismay that the process was becoming politicized and that the traditional AVI spirit of fraternity was in danger of being superseded by narrower interests. However, on the final evening in the Unity Pavilion differences were submerged as attendees spoke movingly of the ‘gifts' they had received over the past few days. These included a renewed sense of family and of ‘coming home', and a feeling that Auroville now is both a more dynamic and compassionate, welcoming society than they remembered from their last visit.
The members of AVI should not undervalue their own contribution to this. For in their extraordinary dedication to realizing Mother's Dream under often adverse circumstances, they are a source of inspiration, even wonder, to many Aurovilians. As Sraddhalu noted, their contribution, wherever and however it is made, is indissolubly part of the special force field which is Auroville. At the same time, as Soleil and Wolfgang among others pointed out, it's important for Aurovilians to remember that the evolutionary movement is now a world movement: while it may take many different forms and guises, the spirit underlying it is one.